They aren't really a new breed, these Far White activists. The ones on the streets being visible and breaking laws aren't a new breed. Nor are the "respectable" ones occupying boardrooms and seats in the Senate. They're a very old breed indeed: a typical elite caste fighting to maintain their dominant position in a hierarchical society; a typical splinter group of barbarians rebelling against the rule of law and the complexities of an organised society.

Gotta remember that racial equality in the US is a very new idea. It was 1955 before the law of the land banned segregation in the public school system. It was 1965 before racial discrimination in voting was outlawed by the Voting Rights Act at the Federal level.

It was as late as 1967 that the Supreme Court finally ruled that states could not criminalise interracial marriage (yep you heard me, in the first half of 1967 in certain States of the Union, a White person could be arrested and jailed for marrying a person of a different race-- especially Black, and vice versa).

See, the US has for most of its history been a classic apartheid state -- with islands of tolerance and diversity here and there. During the great struggles of the 1950's-1960's, noble attempts were made to correct that situation via national-level legislation overriding states' rights and prohibiting "racial discrimination" (a politer name for apartheid and segregation).

But old habits die hard, and racism is just as hard to quit as chain-smoking. It was 1973 when the Trump Organisation (then a father-and-son operation) was sued at the Federal level for discriminating against prospective Black renters in their New York apartment buildings. Discrimination in housing and hiring continued; after the reforms of the 60's it was at least possible to mount (expensive and time consuming) legal challenges to it, but the underlying racism was not solved or erased even by victories in court.

And the racists found ways around the new laws, of course. Not every private school was founded because the public school was integrated; but many were.

Just as there are neoliberal revanchists who spit at the initials "FDR,"want his head taken off the dime, and would like to roll back every aspect of the New Deal and return US financial systems to the Wild West ambience of the roaring 20's -- just as there are patriarchal religious zealots who would like to rescind all civil rights advances for women -- of course there are white people among us who would like to roll back the advances of the Sixties and restore the default apartheid that characterised most of US history. This shouldn't surprise us. Culture has a long memory. Family feuds carry on for generations.

Because -- let's ditch the quasi-religious national mythos for a minute, shall we -- Democracy in any meaningful sense is still a pretty new and tender plant in the US, and needs defending. The US is not the most democratically advanced nation on earth; in fact it's starting to show a few symptoms of state failure. And Francis Fukuyama could not have been more wrong: one thing history really doesn't do, is end. We err when we look back and say "the struggles of the Sixties" like they're over; it's never over. The victories of the Sixties were tangible and important but like all political victories, also contingent and potentially fragile.

Democracy and civil society require maintenance; eternal vigilance really is the price of freedom. And I don't mean vigilantly defending borders against dusky Others.

As we've seen all over the world and in many different epochs, the forces of barbarism are inside as much as outside. We don't need to fantasize about absurd comic-book conspiracies against our democratic system: the enemies under our beds are us. Our good ol' monkey brain -- plus ignorance, inequity, and a bit of well-timed demagoguery-- is ever ready to reduce us to the lowest-common-denominator (failed) state of humanity: charismatic strongmen recruiting followers to raid each other's territory for slaves and loot. That's the real swamp, the one that we never fully drain, the one we need legions of civil engineers (so to speak) to keep us out of.

The mob that raided the Capitol behaved like every strongman's loyal henchmen in history. They staged an incursion on "the enemy's" territory and ran off with some trophies. They kidded themselves with all the usual song and dance about great causes and manliness and heroism, but in the end -- like most armies most times throughout history -- they were just a mob loyal to a charismatic leader, waging war on the neighbouring chimps. Learning not to behave like that is the hardest, the never-ending task of becoming humane, not just human. Clearly we aren't there yet.

[update: shortly after writing this, what should pop up but an Atlantic story that says it all better and with more footnotes: The Capitol Riot Was An Attack On Multiracial Democracy. The story of Wilmington is of particular relevance here.]

Retired; ex-software engineer. Paleo-feminist. Sailor. Arduino tinkerer. Enviro. Libertarian Socialist (Anarcho-Syndicalist, kinda). Writer. Altermondialiste.

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