Bunny Mailbag: "Class Treason show lacking hugely!"

Added on by PS Cat02.

We just received a very provocative e-mail from someone who's obviously thought a lot about some of the issues we talked about in our Re: Power, Structure, Agency episode. However I disagree with many of her points and since she's posted at various places around the internet I thought this would be a good opportunity to respond in order to clarify where we are coming from. My responses are interspersed in dark blue:

To: The Pinky Show
From: diana
Subject: 'Class Treason' show lacking hugely!
[I] wrote the following on youtube, and on Facebook:
"I have some issues with this instalment: the attention aimed at women (who reinforce but are not the power-brokers in the system) and the focus on personal change (too-minimally challenged), and the trashing of theory. But most of all, the absence of class consciousness - "all classes of people just looking out for ...their own interests"??? WTF? Pinky - of all beings - just presumed a level playing field? OK, at just short of 18 minutes, it gets better. But I still hate the invisibilizing of working-class people."
Bunny: 1) Everybody, including women, who help maintain harmful social structures should be critiqued. 2) This episode is not so much about 'personal change' (a very ambiguous term) but rather the question of individual agency and its relationship to exploitative social/institutional structures. 3) We trash theory? Where did we do that? We use theory all the time. No further comment. 4) You quote out of context in order to make your own point, then accuse us of saying something we never said as a counter-example? Not cool. In the section of the video you reference, we were pointing out how society is not only broken up into political-economic binaries (bourgeoisie/proletariat, ruling class/working class, etc.) but also many other social, ideological, and other class-forms. We in no way imagine that society is a level playing field. Please re-watch the video more carefully. 5) Regarding our supposed rendering of working class people as "invisible" - and this is the most important point - Why do you think we've chosen not to speak to or about working-class people in a video about stucture/power/agency? Is it possible that our decision to focus on privileged people was a strategic one? Do you really think working class people need to be lectured on the logic of class treason?
In all fairness, the people who comment well on classism are ... either dead or not born yet?  but since we're all in bad company, it'd be useful to challenge the worst of our offerings.  And I suppose if you-all weren't so exceptionally good under other circumstances, I wouldn't be SOOO disappointed.  But I am.
Bunny: Actually there are lots of people who are very much alive that do talk about class struggle all the time. They're not often on t.v., especially here in the U.S., but they're out there. Please do not render them invisible.
Soccer moms?  These moms' SUVs?  Yes!  Because *women* are murdering the planet with their heavy industrialization, these goddesses of capitalism!  (No, we were a one-car family until I had to carpool to the alternative elementary school, a decent option for a working-class family - and even soccer was carpooled-to.  But even so, those other moms?  They didn't singlehandedly trash the world.  And my contribution meant nothing - it's *industry* that does 97% of the polluting, and all the moms in the world doing zero-waste processing still don't account for the 97%.)
Bunny: Yes, soccer moms are not solely responsible for destroying the planet - so what? Does that mean that we should not point out that an enormous number of ordinary people - including supposedly non-threatening soccer moms who may or may not resemble you in some way - actively contribute to the destruction of this planet on a daily basis? Like it or not, American soccer moms are a fair example of the kind of family-minded 'good citizens' that politely assist this planet toward Epic Planetary FAIL as they dutifully go about their daily activities. For you to imply that "Industry" (Who or What is this monolithic "Industry"? Does anybody work in it? Does anyone consume its products or services?) is The Real Culprit responsible for 97% of the destruction - as if it doesn't require a ravenous appetite by ordinary, not-fabulously-rich, relatively affluent First Worlders to consume and demand more of that production - your argument makes little sense to me. They are intertwined via the broader logic of capitalism, and you and me and probably everybody we know are firmly planted within it. And by the way, I do applaud you with my little cat-hands for carpooling and supporting alternative forms of education.
College means something very different for working-class people with activist backgrounds.  It's still problematic, but it's about the only way to get recognized by those who otherwise won't listen.  I'm an activist.  I write fairly awesome political theory, from which I work diligently.  I have one fan, maybe two, in Seattle.  I now have the attention of the head of the Gender & Women's Studies department of the local college in this small midwestern town - the college where I work as a clerk in the convenience store, so that my daughter has lowered tuition and can earn a degree that gives her credibility when she goes out to make social-justice change.  I know how far I can get.  Um, did I mention cashiering?  I can't guarantee she'll have better access, but it gives her a shot at it!
Bunny: Until there is some kind of radical transformation in the structure of society, it's likely that universities and other kinds of hegemonic institutions will be seen by most people as the only legitimate game in town. With this in mind, we do not go around telling oppressed people that they should not go to school. Instead, we are focused on telling privileged people of conscience to find creative ways of devaluing the social, political, and economic currency of hegemonic institutions. The one example given at the end of the video was the school teacher - he leaves his current position within an establishment institution in order to form a different (i.e., more ethical) kind of institution. It isn't easy and there are many complications AND it is not an instant societal fix. But we think it is a reasonable first step that ordinary people can actually do. Please try to consider the political utility of what this could produce if in every town and city several hundreds or thousands of people would actually do something like this.
What really frustrates me is the presumption that you're only talking to the elite.  Facebook, especially, is full of working-class activists who are either retired from their w-c jobs or are winding down into greater activism.  The one person who's commented on FB so far (and to whom I gave your link) is a retired gentleman several years older even than me, and decidedly working-class as well.  Please don't render us invisible!  We exist!  And please don't paint us as ineffective, either.  There are lots of us, and though the media writes us off, we don't expect it from 'our side.'  Please.
Bunny: I don't think we're rendering working class people invisible by creating a video aimed at privileged functionaries of the state. Class treason is a political strategy to change society. It's logic is rooted in an analysis of structure and power. It wouldn't make sense to make a video urging working class people to commit class treason. Oppressed people of all different kinds are already on the move - have been for quite some time - and don't need us to speak for them. And finally, just to be clear, we are not using this video to argue that the goal of transforming society should be to redistribute wealth in the U.S. so that the U.S. working class can have all the goodies they want or deserve. The question of the relative privilege enjoyed by most working class people in the U.S. - compared to what working people in so-called Third World countries experience - is an important reality that must be directly addressed by any vision of a more just future. What would be the point redistributing wealth here in the U.S., if in the end, it still required millions or billions of expendable people worldwide to exist under the weight of our desires?
Thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to write us. I hope you will consider my responses.

Posted by Bunny.

May 12 Update, posted by Bunny: We receive a lot of criticism via e-mail. Most of it is ridiculous and not worth responding to, sometimes it is more thoughtful (like the e-mail above). I responded to diana's comments because I think it's very important to examine how something can be thoughtful and wrong at the same time - especially when spoken by someone on 'our side'. We received a reply today and so I am adding it below - if we're misogynist and classist then hopefully it is all more fully explained. Or this may be an example of how difficult it is to recognize or understand other arguments once we've claimed the positions from which we speak. Either way, the struggle continues. - B.

May 12 e-mail response from diana: "Everybody ... should be critiqued." Yeah, well, sure, if you're writing a book. But if you're not, then singling out certain people, and making others invisible, these are terribly political acts - for which you can expect to face the consequences. And targeting soccer moms, or any other group of women, is downright coerced, because the cultural feeling against women who've relatively made it is too easy to tap into. It's misogyny that makes it so easy. Target CEOs and senior execs? Well, no, rich white men don't get the same kind of indignation that wealthy/ish white women do. And "individual agency" - seriously? You've simply renamed 'personal change.' And you haven't added much, because any genuine foray into personal change will still examine it, if briefly, in relation to the structures of the culture around it. The reason my claim that you trash theory is even made, above, is because you have previously regularly used and promoted theory that was breathtaking in its clarity; I recommended Pinky to people *because* of the excellent theory. The fact you 'use it all the time' is a straw argument. And your 'where did we say that' right next to 'the section of the video you reference' is an odd pairing, showing that I really have told you 'where.' But most of all, to say *clearly,* if in essence, that 'all classes of people are just looking out for their own interests' truly flattens the perspective and renders invisible a great deal of dissimilarity in privilege and power. You can't choose not to speak about a group, and then leave it at that. That is exactly what renders a group invisible.

You know, I really don't want to do any more of this. You've been a great resource for gently explaining theory at a depth few others, short of authors of thousand-page books, have managed. You hit upon two of my areas of disprivilege, and I called you on it. Let's don't spend time arguing. Take a look at your own stuff, and either you'll see it over time, or you won't. I found this episode terribly, oddly misogynistic and classist, and way below your normal standard. I keep the bar pretty high for you guys because your show is normally so very good. Everyone - every single one of the people I initially posted to - knows that I have recommended your show repeatedly. And now are they gonna see your defensive response with some pretty weird claims back at me ("quote out of context ..."), and my challenges? Doesn't help clarity; doesn't help dialogue to have to engage in defensiveness. You can keep the last word (or not, your call). What I don't want is to drift toward a more-horizontal hostility. We eat each other up on the left, do the dirty work for The Powers, in getting locked into such engagements.

Take a look at the stuff I've called you on ... over time (and no, you haven't, it's in your defensive words). Or don't. But the revolution, or life post-collapse, or whatever it is we're all looking toward, will be much richer (in real wealth - Earth health) if misogyny and classism are also understood, and not furthered, and not accepted-in-passing. Thanks, diana