I Know I Am, But What Are You?

Honore Daumier, L’Accusation (Morgan Library & Museum)

A lot of epithets get slung around like spitballs in the highly polarised politics of the crumbling American Empire. After a while, they’re just angry noises and we hardly pay attention to their meanings. But if what if we slow down and consider them seriously…?

When you call someone a name, and by doing so assert that they are sad and bad and simply awful, you necessarily imply that the opposite of that name must be a good thing.

Obviously when someone disses eco-activists as “tree huggers”, the implication is that the speaker doesn’t give a toss about any tree and would happily cut them all down — and that this is the correct and sensible attitude. Similarly, the ugly old “n****r lover” can be wielded as a verbal bludgeon only by someone who hates Black people and feels righteous about it. When men jokingly, or in rage, call each other c*nt or b*tch or f*g, they are always making a statement about being the opposite; they’re declaring loudly “I’m male, I’m straight — and that’s better than the alternative”.

So when the US Far White gets its knickers all in a twist about Antifa being the villain du jour, and Antifa becomes the new all-purpose put-down, what does that imply? Antifa is a trendy little abbreviation for “anti-fascist.” So if we hate and despite people who are anti-fascist, doesn’t that make us just a little bit, ummm… pro-fascist? around the edges maybe?

How about “social justice warrior”? If we think social justice warriors are the scum of the earth, then by implication are we not some kind of social injustice warrior? If we dismiss someone as a “bleeding heart,” are we not making some kind of claim that our own is made of stone, or at least mummified and carpet-safe? Are these things to brag on?

And if we hate, loathe and despise “socialism” and “socialists” and all their works, doesn’t that make us at heart and in practise… antisocialist? Are we not declaring ourselves fundamentally anti-social? If our hatred for everything social and cooperative runs deep enough, doesn’t that start to verge on sociopath territory?

By the names we call others when we feel anger or fear towards them, we actually describe ourselves: our beliefs, our phobias. By what we hate, we describe what we love. By what we scorn, we describe what we value. Name-calling is always a mirror of the self.

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