Thursday, May 05, 2005

Reflections On A Culture of Cruelty

By Jodi Dean
May 03, 2005

What underlies and unites neo-liberalism and neo-conservative, in its realist/US supremacist modes as well as its Christian dominionist mode, is a culture of cruelty.

In general terms, it is a cruelty towards the vulnerable, as if through cruelty one can make oneself (one's nation, one's family, one's religion, one's sexuality) invulnerable.

It's a way to eliminate vulnerability, to push it from view (I'm reminded of efforts to 'clean up' NYC by eliminating the homeless, by pushing them away from view, so that one doesn't have to be reminded of the inequities and instabilities of a system designed to support corporate profit, so that one can see only a nice, disneyfied Times Square, squeaky clean like the mall next to someone's gated community).

Cruelty is thus a response to vulnerability. And, the current formation encourages this cruely, hailing us all as righteous or powerful or justified in our cruelty--the weak get in the way. They remind us that we are all vulnerable.

Neoliberal economic policy relies on cruelty--sweatshop labor, disposable populations, the degradation of work and wages... Neoliberalism is Darwinian--survival of the fittest. And, this is without taking into account the way that neoliberal policies are forced onto countries via debt and IMF strategies as well as militarily.

Neoconservatism is also oriented around cruelty. US support of torture and participation in torture is but one example. Closer to home--what is the homophobia of the so-called Christian right but a culture of cruelty? Permission to enforce, however cruelly, a set of restrictive sexual norms in favor of a narrow set of practices?....



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