Catch of the day: red herring

Suppose there was a group of Jews in a concentration camp during the Holocaust—or choose a similar situation, Number Four Prison at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg under Apartheid, for example, or Guantanamo Bay under Bush and Obama, or pretty much the entire Gaza Strip. I keep returning to the Nazi abomination only because the special status it has been granted by Euro-Americans (Oh my God! It can happen to light-skinned people too!) makes it such an easy rhetorical tool. Anyhow, suppose that this group of Jews became angry and upset because there was another group of Jews in the same camp who were given slightly better access to bread and water. How would you go about convincing them that their anger was misplaced?

Further suppose that some of the Jews who were experiencing the (very relative) bread-water deprivation, perhaps along with some justice-minded members of the group with better access, pooled what little energy and political resources they had to petition the guards for more equitable bread and water distribution. If you were a guard, what would you do?

If you were a guard who had to deal directly with the prisoners on a day-to-day basis, you might acquiesce to the prisoners’ demands, and take the steps necessary to ensure more equitable circumstances in order to keep the death machine running smoothly.

On the other hand, if you were a particularly savvy guard, if you were concerned with keeping the prisoners from confronting the actual reality of their situation, if you wanted to keep them from actively revolting against their loss of freedom and dignity, if you wanted to keep them from directing their energy and intelligence toward the true source of their troubles, you might go out of your way to encourage the presence of privilege and enhance their perceptions of inequality as a potent form of distraction.

Modern civilization is corporate death camp. Civil rights issues are red herrings. While we continue to struggle for LBGT rights, women’s equality, minority access, etc., the gas chambers are becoming increasingly efficient.

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Author: Mark Seely

Mark Seely is a writer, social critic, professional educator, and cognitive psychologist. He was formerly employed as Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology at Saint Joseph's College, Indiana, where for twenty years he taught statistics, a wide variety of psychology courses, and an interdisciplinary course on human biological and cultural evolution. Originally from Spokane, Dr. Seely now resides in Lynnwood, Washington.

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