January 26, 2005

Zero Sum Game

I would like to talk a little bit about economics. I tend to be the type of thinker that starts from the premise of human biological instincts and drives. Such is the root of all our behavior. The two pillars of human drive and instincts are the seeking of nutrients and the seeking of reproductive activities, which leads to a competition for survival and progeny. Economics is actually both a competition for nutrients, as well as, a competition for mating. It provides the system, means and rewards by which are able to feed ourselves, plus, acquire material things to help the males compete for mating opportunities over alpha females. Hence the ultimate drive or motivation for economics is eating and copulating and the disproportionate allocation of income and wealth is born from this competition, which is profoundly unfair.

In our economic system of capitalism, success and failure are the opposite wings of the same bird. It is the creation of the system, for the system and by the system. In other words, wealth and poverty, to a large degree, are the creation of the other in a competitive system under the laws of supply and demand. The primary proof of this is that all competition produces winners and losers, if not a draw. The nature of competition is the creation of relative phenomenon of success and failure, the opposite wings on the bird of competition. Hence, any competitive system or construct, as capitalism is, produces the equal and opposite reaction of success and failures, in relative analysis, if not absolute. Moreover, the nature of competition is that in the absence of equality, which is the draw, everyone cannot be winners; some must have a lesser status than others.

The law of supply and demand in the free market is what determines the rewards in economic competition under capitalism. The value or reward for the possession of a resource or asset is increased based upon the supply relative to the demand. If demand for an asset exceeds supply, then the value or reward for that asset increases above the equilibrium point of value or reward (units of supply matches units in demand). If demand for an asset is less than the supply, then the reward or value of the asset falls below the equilibrium point of equality. Reward and value is generally measured in income and price variables. Hence, we are talking in terms of wages and prices. Wages and prices are what determine the level that one is able to acquire nutrients for survival and material possession for survival and competition for alpha mates.

The illusion or propaganda of the system is that it is not a zero sum game. True, it is not an absolute zero sum game, but it is a much closer to being a zero sum than the propaganda of “win-win”. The “zero sum”, for those who may not know, means that there is no net gain or that gains are always offset by losses equal losses. As an example, take the National Football League (NFL). The NFL is a zero sum game. The number of losses always equals the number of victories in the league. Every team in the NFL cannot be winners simultaneously. It is a mathematical impossibility. If there are currently teams with losing record and teams with winning records and the league wanted to promote parity, the only way that such could manifest is that currently elite teams harbor more losses, while currently losing teams harbor more victories. In essence, parity or equality, as a goal, requires a loss for the elites, in a zero sum or near zero sum system.

In our economic system, the economic elite essentially have power to shape the game and competition through politics. Their goal is to preserve their status and rank and to fight against equality, because as shown, equality in a competitive construct and system can only be achieved with the lowering of the status of the elites and a redistribution of reward and value to those at the bottom rung. There are many things that obfuscate and camouflage this reality, because the system is so complex and have so many variables and the elite uses the complexities to hide the root realities. The goal of everyone is at least maintain, if not strive for a better life. Thus, one should expect fear and intransigence on the part of the elites to take a loss in a zero sum game. The only difference between the desires of the rich and poor is that the desires of the rich are backed by power to manipulate and shape the game in their favor, where the poor have no such power and are often dived to fight among each other and not unify against the elites.

Beyond the theoretical, let me provide some practical manifestations of what I am saying about supply and demand and zero sum. Let us take a profession such as Engineers. Engineers command a pretty decent salary. But what would happen if all of a sudden more people became educated increasing the number of people with engineering degrees way over Demand? The long term free market resultant is that Engineering salaries would stagnate and being eroded in real dollars going forward due to inflation. Thus, the direct resultant of people gaining education and Engineering skills, created a loss to for existing engineers. That was just one example. If you take the entire economy and what it demands for in terms of labor and skill sets, it is estimated that only around 26% of that demand requires a college degree. These degreed jobs offer the most reward in terms of compensation, due generally to the supply of the college educated relative to demand. However, if the educational system was overhauled to produce a labor pool where 80% of the population held marketable degrees, while the economy only demands that 26% of the labor pool be educated, the salary of the educated elite would plummet over time. Again, thee rise of the uneducated would come at the expense of those currently educated…a zero sum.

As the great Carthaginian General Hannibal once notes”. “It is not that I must succeed, rather, it is that others must fail”. The nature of competition is such that one can promote their victory and rewards by sabotaging others in the game. No one wants to take a step backwards and everyone is striving to take step forward. No one is striving to have less, if not striving to have more. The power of the incumbency of the economic elites gives them the motive, means and opportunity to ensure that they continue to maintain, if not strive for more. The only way that such can be accomplished is by using such power to sabotage the chances of the poor. They cannot sabotage in such a way as to create a caste system or the people will see the system for what it is and rise against authority and the system. Thus, it is not made so hard that some cannot rise from the bottom to the top. Rather, it is made so that probabilities will keep most from being able to reach the top.


At 11:09 AM, Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Another illustration of this point could be the shipping of the worst American jobs overseas.

For example, pre-1865, America used slaves to produce it's goods. The slaves were the "losers;" the masters were the "winners." After slavery became untenable, sharecropping was used. After that became untenable, America shipped its most brutal jobs overseas to Mexico, Asia and other parts of the world. Now, those people are the "losers" and we Americans are the "winners."

Capitalism, and therefore, America, cannot exist without an endless stream of uneducated, underpaid labor. While that labor used to be provided by we blacks, it's now provided by other people of color throughout the world. In essence, slavery has been outsourced.

At 11:20 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

Tadaaaa...BINGO!!! you hit the nail on the head!

At 12:06 PM, Blogger NmagiNATE said...

And it's amazing how people rationalize how those other people (of color) are "better off" because they have jobs they didn't have before...

That type of thinking, IMO, is like the rationale that says "slaves had it good" and not all masters were brutal.

It goes without saying that all that talk is missing the point, entirely.

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any thoughts on how this impacts black folks today?
-Jean Michel

At 3:21 PM, Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

I think black Americans, by our mere presence here in America, are on the "winner" side of the scale. I'm typing this on a computer that was probably put together in Taiwan, wearing a tie that was made in China.

For "poor" blacks, the problem is that they do not have to skills to move squarely into the "winner's" circle, but American labor laws prevent them from being hardcore "losers."

At 5:02 PM, Blogger Noah TA said...

Justin, are you including our ancestors in the calculation that we are the winners? Our existence here is only the product of slavery. We would not be “winners” if not for our ancestors being the losers. In fact, our lineage in America contains many more generation of “losers” in the game, than “winners”. I tend to not analyze things based upon a moment in time, but rather on the summation of time. In the aggregate summation, black people in America are the losers, notwithstanding our present benefit from being in America.

That having been said, when our civil rights were won, the trend of America as winners began its descent. When I speak of America I am referring to workers and not the elite owners of capital. The gain of jobs in Asia, Mexico and other places, from American capital investment, comes at the expense of the loss of those jobs in the USA. Thus, as the elite nation, the rise of the third world will come at the loss of the first world…and there is none currently ahead of the US. As a person born and reared in Michigan, I know first hand the effects of the rise of Asia on employment, opportunity and income in the heart of the American Auto industry, which provided employment for thousands of poor blacks fleeing the South with little education and simply the desire to work. That era is over, thanks to the gains for people in Asia.

What it takes to get something is what it takes to keep it. The window that laws provided protection and allowed the American worker to ascend to a high standard of pay and living is now the number one cause of the loss of opportunity developing nations and cheaper sources of labor. It is not just happening with the unskilled either. I am in the IT field and East Indian programmers, many off shored, has changed the dynamics and pay scale of the industry, as well as the number of available opportunities. Technical expertise can also be found in China and India at 3 times less the pay than here in America. As the global supply of technical expertise increases, and bandwidth communication channel issues become a thing of the past, the traditional “office” will be replaced by people telecommuting. Telecommuting and teleconferencing will eliminate much of the need to physically be in a location, which means that the work can be done nearly anywhere on the globe…with the only major obstacle being the time difference where some peoples days start when other are sound asleep. Thus, although we are “winners” at this point in time, our victory will be in steady erosion, as American workers. Soon, American will have a very small middle class, a large underclass and a constant percentage of elites.

The 60’s was the pinnacle of Americas economic strength globally. Post civil rights, the last vestige of legal exploitation was removed, compelling profiteers to look outside the USA for profit maximization through cheap exploitable labor.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Obviously slaves were the biggest "losers" of all. I am not including them. I only speak of us today.

Part of the problem is that we have to deal with the reality that business will always seek out cheap labor. For example, in your field, if an Indian programmer can do it cheaper, then the businesses will chase him. There's nothing we can do to stop that.

I agree with your analysis of the problems, but I just don't think there is a real solution. Robert Reich would argue that for all blacks have lost in union-type job gains, they've made up for in lower prices. Whether that is true or not I do not know.

At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think your suggestion that contemporary blacks have moved into the "winner's circle" is interesting. Can you elaborate on that? Also, what do you think is preventing blacks from gaining the necessary skills to move forward... historical inequities, institutionalized racism (i.e. academic, employment, etc.)?

-Jean Michel

At 6:46 PM, Blogger NmagiNATE said...

The way Noah presents the overall American Decline dynamics... it is of little if any consolation that we are now "winners".

Yes!! We'll celebrate for a moment that we are "winners" as the walls start to tumble.

What "winners" we are (or will be)...

(I think that's all the more reason to re-examine and stop disconnecting things we think are unrelated...)

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Scott said...

"The 60’s was the pinnacle of Americas economic strength globally. Post civil rights, the last vestige of legal exploitation was removed, compelling profiteers to look outside the USA for profit maximization through cheap exploitable labor."

please learn some history. America was at the top of its game till then because every other modern economy was bombed to hell in WW2. Get a clue.

At 6:28 AM, Blogger NmagiNATE said...

Scott, what you said doesn't negate what Noah did.

The fact that other nations were bombed to hell is very much connected to the exportation of American Capitalism... that and other similar things, of course.

Obviously, you need to GET A CLUE because your comment doesn't contradict what Noah said. It stands to be blatantly obvious that if other nations were economically crippled by WWII (as they tried to recover from it) that, by comparison, America was at a far greater relative economic height because of those other countries economic struggles.

And, that is THE HISTORY!!
That's how historians lay that bit of info. out.
Get a history book then maybe you'll GET A CLUE!

At 7:03 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

Justin, I have been thinking more about your pointing out that we (black Americans) are “winners”, by virtue of living in America in the point of time of 2005, notwithstanding our history. This therefore creates a dilemma and moral testing of black folk who have been the historical losers, much longer than recent winners. It puts to the test whether our struggle was/is against injustice and unfairness or rather not being the “winners” in an inherently unjust construct.

I would venture to guess that had blacks in America been allowed to profit from the owning of slaves, black, white, Indian, that there would have been less black resistance to the unjust agrarian system of producing profits. In fact, there were a few black men who owned black slaves in New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina. Of course, this was a rare anomaly to the general rule of white masters black slaves. Yet, given that these black men adopted and co-opted the system, it stands to reason that there vested interest and benefit made them supportive of the system.

Thus, the salient issue is whether or not the black struggle is anti system or anti our ability to benefit or be winners in the current system? Was our problem in America the system of slavery or our position as slaves in the system of masters and slaves? Does simply allowing blacks to become winners in the game eliminate our discontent? Although we have definitely become winners today, by virtue of being American, the system most certainly is still promoting failures or losers, in order to profit from their need and lack of options. If our struggle was really about not being allowed to benefit, to the degree that whites could and did, from an unjust system, then our goal was not to beat an unjust system, but rather, to join and benefit from it, while others become the beast of burden that our ancestors were for centuries.

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, now I think we’re really getting somewhere. This is the dilemma that we are facing as a people today. As Africa-American’s gain access to the “means of production” (and cultural capital), they will further join the ruling classes and become conservative. This is less the result of “racial treason” or a desire to forgo any sense of “group belongingness” than it is the natural outcome of shifting class dynamics and power relations. African-American’s have largely fought for inclusion and a right to “participate” in America’s continually thriving market economy. One of the big questions is whether or not we, as Americans, feel a sense of “belongingness” to this country – or do we feel like (or want to be) outsiders? That will determine the degree to which we participate, as well as how we will relate to one another in the wake of increasing African-American economic prosperity. This is also what makes Hip-Hop culture (and I’m talking about more than music) so disturbing for many in the black community. Hip-Hop has completely abandoned history and previous forms of grass-roots activism. Resistance in Hip-Hop has reconfigured black resistance: encoding within the matrix of rugged individualism in the global marketplace. No oppressed group’s goal is to eliminate an unjust system – but rather to change the conditions within a given system that oppresses their particular group. Once they have achieved agency and cultural capital, they join the ruling class elites.

So yes, I believe that our struggle was “not” anti-system, but rather “pro” agency and inclusion. Regardless of black prosperity, someone else (most likely Latin American immigrants/Third World laborers/Muslims) will continue to take the brunt of exploitation and hatred. This also taps into the earlier thread regarding black unity. In America, economic rapacity and the trope of rugged individualism go hand in hand. As African-American’s prosper, many will feel a declining sense, or “need” for rootedness and group belongingness. What this means for traditional notions of “unified” black resistance… only time will tell. Many think it has outlived its usefulness.
-Jean Michel

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

I think that this is true, Jean, by virtue of the power of conditioning of the System, playing on the human sinful emotion of greed. One can see such rationalization in the black conservatives already as they choose to represent class (theirs) interest over the racial interest.
They then try to rationalize this, while also trying to maintain the appearance of black collective interest, by propagating that the policy of the elites are in the black masses interest.

Let me make another point clear, however. Everything is relative. In the global context, blacks are “winners”. However, in the national context, blacks are still “losers” relative to whites in the aggregate. That having been said, I do not see the BIG issue to be weather or not one feels a sense of belonging to America. Rather, I see the big issue is whether or not blacks see a sense of belonging to our ROOTS, which is Africa and African peoples.

If we see ourselves just as black Americans, we ignore the struggle of the vast majority of black people who are still suffering from the effects of white supremacy, its militarism, imperialism, colonization, exploitation and subjugation of millions of black people. To me, this is what I see as the BIG issue that will determine our emotions and hence our behavior and actions.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Jean Michel,
When I say that we are are "winners," take it with a grain of salt. We are still part of the American lower class, but when you put our situation up against most of the people in the world, we are living in the lap of luxury. I recently went to South Africa. Trust me, even the hardest Harlem project can't compare to Soweto. We are winners, but we feel like losers because the ultimate winner is right around the corner, and he's got a Benz while we have a Datsun.

Regarding what is "holding us back." I think we have to view ourselves in a historical context. Slavery was more terrible than any of us can imagine, and we are only a few generations out of that system. Up against that backdrop, we have come a VERY LONG WAY.

That said, Black Americans, in general, receive a far inferior education, when compared to white Americans. This leads to a whole host of problems, most notably a loss of self esteem, particularly among the black males. Most black people that I know that are poor, want to do better, but they don't have the family structure/support or the education to get meaningful work.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

Justin...I am looking to visit South Africa soon...any hints, tips or warnings? I hear JH is not the place to visit. I hear Durban is the city I should pick as it is tropical and in the Zulu land. I hear that cape town has much scenic beauty though. I hear that there is no good reason to go to JH as it only exist because of the nearby Gold mines.

At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve been to South Africa many times, and I suggest that you see as much of it as you can. I personally like Cape Town, but any place is good. The worst poverty I’ve ever encountered was in Bosnia and Croatia (It’s a real head trip to see white folks that destitute, dysfunctional, violent and nihilistic). It’s as bad as Brazil, India, Cuba, Vietnam and Compton in my opinion. Even the worst “stabbing” parts of Kingston, Jamaica are better. I’ve heard that there are some terrible parts of Africa, but those places you can’t get access to unless you’re a journalist or politician (and even still you might get your head cut off). The places I’ve been to in Africa were very cosmopolitan for the most part.

I agree that African-American’s are winners from a global perspective. However, I don’t believe we (the black community) will really appreciate our unique historical context as time progresses. I encounter young black kids everyday that have no real sense for, or knowledge of, they’re historical past. Of course, I find this distressing. On the other side of things, I observe that these kids are often free of the debilitating self-doubt, and that “broken” quality that so many American blacks are plagued with. When I went to London for the first time, I noticed immediately how black folks carried themselves differently. They had this prideful, proud elegance about them. I didn’t fully realize how the effects of racism had manifested themselves physically in black American’s until then. Poverty stricken black American’s tend to skulk around as if they have fully embraced they’re alterity and second class status. Even in the Third World, blacks don’t carry themselves this way.

My point is this; the more African-American’s achieve in this society, the further away our contentious history is going be from their everyday lived realities. Part of the achievement of freedom and access is that our children will be free of the psychic trauma and historical baggage of our parents (and they’re parents before them). I think this a good thing. Although, this creates a contentious generational conflict; but this conflict is the bumpy transitional phase that is an inevitable component of social change and the radial re-distribution of wealth. I say radical, because just a few short years ago black wealth was viewed as an impossibility. Now it’s an ever-present reality.

Nothing expands your concept of the world more than traveling. I think every black parent should send they’re kids abroad starting at a very young age, and they should also be taught at least three foreign languages from birth…. Mandatory!

The link below is for a wonderful essay by leading black feminist scholar bell hooks. It’s in regard the issue of White Poverty (it's fairly short). I think you will find it compelling.


-Jean Michel

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Noah TA said...

I think that for those who have a cursory understanding of word entomology, that they would know that the term slaves in derived from the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe and their condition. It is not lost upon many of us that there are poor white people in this world, as well as here in the USA (Appalachia for example). That having been said, I think that our mind plays tricks on us based upon our conditioning. When we are accustomed to seeing whites in affluence, the displacement from that image by seeing poor whites makes their poverty seems worse, due to relativity (their poverty relative to our expectations or stereotype of whites). It’s kind of like when we see a white boy who can jump or play basketball. His skills are made to seem all that more remarkable, due to the conflict with our expectations and conditioning that white boys can’t jump or play ball with the athleticism of brothers, as the general rule.

I also believe that our history is an emotion inspiring reality. It is emotions which give us our motivations and hence actions. When we cut off our history, we cut off our emotional fuel source that shapes our motivations. It is true that this history impacts different emotions in people. In some it creates the emotion of self loathing. In other, it inspires desire to kill the enemy with our own success. I am sure that he emotions generated from our history inspires many of our people. The stagnation of our struggle is born from the void of emotions from the disconnect of our history and ancestors.

At 2:56 PM, Blogger Faheem said...

I believe there will always be a fine line between the ruling class elite and upward mobile Black men and women to the degree that those Black men and women choose not to abandon the struggle of Black people and enter the ruling class. One thing I have learned in my study of Black history is that there have always been Black men and women that refused to acquiesce and capitulate to the whims of white folk and fought back with everything they had and there have always been Black men and women who sought capital be it land, money, animals or whatever and these folk were willing to do whatever it took to get that capital to live the life they thought they deserved to live. I do not buy into the notion that success and upward mobility is the path to conservatism, being that most successful Black men and women have not become like the Negro-Cons we see out front attacking Black men and women. I further do not believe that going from one tax bracket to another and then abandon the interest of Black people is a natural outcome of having more money.

There is a big difference in working against the interest of Black men and women and simply attaining wealth and living in a predominantly white community and being a neutral Negro. As I noted above there have always been those amongst us that cared more for the community than attaining all the wealth for themselves so that they can live like and be amongst the elites. This thinking and willing to do whatever it take to live and be amongst the elite is what I believe produces the outcome that has been attributed to success and upward mobility in regards to that which leads to conservatism and Black folk abandoning the interest of Black people. This is not to say that some of those who are conservative do not actually believe the crap coming out of their mouth but it is to say, a deeper look at the road they traveled and the nurturing it took to get where they are in life is needed before we accept a belief that moving from one tax bracket to another and then abandoning the interest of black people is natural outcome of shifting class.

At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a great deal of appreciation for your healthy attitude toward black history. I agree that for some the rich legacy of African-American struggle and triumph is a source of motivation. However, for many others, this legacy is repugnant and they find nothing inspiring or redemptive in it. But this attitude does not inherently lock them into a cycle of self-destructive, anti-black, behavior. That psychic distancing often can produce a variety of effects, may of which are not regressive, or counter-productive to collective black uplift. Many successful blacks I encounter simply are ambivalent about our history. They’re primarily motivated by their desire to become doctors, lawyers, architects or whatever. I personally find African-American history uplifting (as do you), albeit maddening and problematic – but I don’t necessarily believe that historical consciousness is the solution to black uplift – I find that notion to be a bit dogmatic. It can be both helpful, or a hindrance depending on the complex psychology of an individual’s will.

-Jean Michel

At 3:55 PM, Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Noah TA,

South Africa will amaze you like no other place in the world can. First, Johannesburg IS the spot. Most people don't like it because it does not have a beach, but I found it to be my favorite city. JB is beautiful, with rolling hills and lush trees. Soweto, the black township, is a few miles outside the city, and is a must see. The apartheid museum is there too. It was so intense, I couldn't finish. My wife cried the whole time she was in there. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Stay in Sandton. It is safe, and just like America. Don't stay in downtown, and don't walk around at night alone. You WILL get jacked.

Durban is a heavily Indian City, so the flavor is different. I didn't like Durban. The beaches sucked, to be blunt. The Zulus live in that area too, and the urban Zulus are a lot different than the Xhosas. They were less friendly, but I hear the countryside areas are very nice. I didn't go there. I did, however, meet their leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi(sp), who is the most irrelevant polician I've ever seen. Cape Town is by the far the most beautiful city I've ever seen. Table Mountain is incredible. Also, Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned, can be toured in just a few hours time. That is a wild tour. Read Mandela's autobiography on your trip; it provides great context.

I am going to post a story on thestateof.com soon about my trip. All and all, the trip was great, but the economic inequality between white and black there had me losing sleep--literally. Man, I was ready to kill somebody down there!!! I have friends that live there that I can hook you up with. Just let me know.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was not suggesting that “all” successful blacks turn conservative. What I said was that the rise of black conservatism is related to African-American’s rather recent access to the means of production. I also said that black conservatism is not always the result of retrograde, anti-black attitudes, or a desire to rid themselves of “rootedness” to their historical legacy. That would be a gross oversimplification. Many conservative blacks certainly do feel a sense of responsibility to their communities, but that doesn’t prevent them from being ridiculed and distrusted by that very community. One other point that I will reiterate is that “individuality” is a foundational component in the way capitalism is configured in the United States. So, when blacks attain wealth, they tend to embrace the type of individualism that complicates traditional notions of community solidarity. I’m sensitive to this issue because many of my close buddies from college are very successful black conservatives (doctors, lawyers, professors, business owners). When we get together our conversations mirror those in this forum. All of them are dedicated to collective black uplift in their own way. Some of my friends and colleagues are also steadfast Leftists and Marxists, but they are all successful monetarily. All of us have differences politically, but we share an abiding desire to see black people succeed – even though we differ as to how this can, and should be achieved. Interestingly, we all find that financial success is often at the root of intercultural black conflict – more so than political affiliation. Wealthy blacks are often met with suspicion and dislike on site. It is assumed that their success came as the result of selling out of some sort.

Actions perceived as, anti-“black progress,” is a matter of personal opinion; precisely because there has “never” been any consensus regarding what is best for our community. Similarly the charge leveled against some individuals of abandoning the black community is extremely subjective as well – it is “extremely” subjective actually. No one in our history has ever distinguished what is best for us as a people. I’m not presumptuous enough to impose my personal view on others. What worked for me may not necessarily work for others.
-Jean Michel

At 4:29 PM, Blogger NmagiNATE said...

I'm a little late getting into this... but I'd like to echo what FAHEEM has said to a certain extent.

I, too, am not buying the equation you present JEAN...
Particularly the part that suggest that AGENCY and being ANTI-system are somehow mutually exclusive. Perhaps that is so for a certain School Of Thought. But it does not summate the focus of struggle from start to finish.

IMO, at best, it reflects a compromise. And, actually, it has come to be a false hope. I certainly don't see any AGENCY coming from the Accomodationist "We Want Inclusion" mindset. That would seem to be the anti-thesis to AGENCY, IMO. Inclusion foregoes AGENCY.

(At least complete or meaningful AGENCY... This has to be put in real-to-life context and not spoken of in the abstract. Where is the AGENCY being articulated? Where is the AGENCY in merely wanting inclusion?)

And upon what do you base the idea that the struggle does not require or desire the complete elimination of the unjust system?

I think you need to identify your bias or own your perspective and give examples of who or what informs your view when it comes to that.

***No oppressed group’s goal*** is to eliminate an unjust system – but rather to change the conditions within a given system that oppresses their particular group. Once they have achieved agency and cultural capital, they join the ruling class elites. - JEAN


That's a sweeping statement. One that again must be based on something. Plenty of leaders, activists, etc. have called explicitly for the complete elimination of the unjust system.

Again, you must own your perspective or credit it properly to the ideology/philosophy it belongs to. There are any number of oppressed groups the world over and throughout history that have called for just what you claim not to be their goal. There's a simple word for it. It's called REVOLUTION.

Now, those who advocate revolution or revolutionary change, emphatically desire the elimination of the (unjust) system that oppresses them. The American Revolution to the extent that it can be argued that they were oppressed didn't simply want inclusion.

The Haitian Revolution either. And that's a clear case of oppression.

These divergent Schools Of Thoughts and how the power structure plays on them are easily excessible bits of history.

I always say this when it comes to this kind of discussion. The very first African who was enslaved (here in America) wasn't struggling to be included in American society. Nor was he/she pondering how they would like to join the elites in American society.

That's where the struggle began. That's where the dye was cast. Anything else is an adulteration of the original Liberation Imperative and Objective. That's were the keys to AGENCY lies. Not in joining the Elites...

At 4:51 PM, Blogger NmagiNATE said...


As far as what's subjective...
There is an objective way to determine what our struggle is for. Consensus is not necessary for that.
The truth is not contingent on consensus.

When you objectively examine how our "struggle" began then there are logical conclusions you can come to when you don't subjectively interpret what that was.

Again, the first African wasn't talking about inclusion or joining the Elites. What Noah presented illustrated how absurd that idea is. Joining the Elites means joining in with the unjust system. The only change you've articulated is a relative change of residence within that system. Again, the definition of the absurd.

This relativism and your subjective idea of "What's Best For Us" is ridiculous. There is sparkling consensus on having a focus on self-help and self-reliance. There are varying extents, degrees, interpretations on what that means but there is a consensus on that.

People have determined, as you say, What's Best For Us from very different subjective rationale. The presence of White Supremacy (Dominance), for one, causes a lot of the differences.

As you have stated, in essence, some have taken the:
"If You Can't Beat Them, JOIN THEM" attitude for perhaps a number of reasons. Some have fought for inclusion because of a similar "joining" mentality, though for other reasons arguably. Yet others have stood on absolute principles in spite of them not being popular or supposedly practical. But, practical is the biggest relative and subjective term there is.

Regardless, none of those views change what is the objective objective. Freedom has an absolute meaning. It only becomes relative or subjective when it is compromised. Equality has an absolute definition. It, too, only becomes subject to a subjective interpretation when other motivations exist and thereby compromise (adulterate) the meaning of it.

So, I ask you in order to get more specific:
WHAT'S BEST FOR US based on what rationale? What objective? Defined by that definition of the objective?

At 6:24 PM, Blogger Faheem said...


What do upward mobile and successful Black men and women have in common with poor backwards evangelical white folk in the south? How is it possible that they can see eye to eye politically, culturally and socially. It is done by way of tricknology being used on both of them. The upward mobile Black man and women have bought into the whole individualism that is part and parcel to capitalism as you pointed out but diametrically opposed to the uplift of Black people. The poor white belief in white supremacy and Black inferiority causes them to be politically and socially conservative and interesting enough they feel the same about upward mobile Black folk as they do poor Black men and women from any of the major cities. The lack of interactions between these two groups is what makes their alignment with one another persist.

When we are talking about the rise of the Black conservative we must be specific in that Black men and women have a history of being culturally conservative more so than white folk, and much of their sick and twisted behavior has infected our lives to a point where now they in many ways seem more culturally conservative than us. However, socially Black men and women have been communal since time immemorial. The rise of the Black political conservative is a new phenomenon that is not rooted in our cultural conservativism and is by far closer to white political conservatism and propaganda. Even if you take the debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois, there fundamental disagreement with one another was not rooted in either of them repeating the platitudes and mantras of white think tanks or white folk in general although white folk tried to side with one over the other. Today, the Negro-Con has not one original thought, he or she parrots the beliefs and ideas of their white counterpart albeit some of them truly believe what they are espousing but the root of such ideology can not be found in Black Thought. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois as well as Malcolm X and MLK made white folk choose which Black thought they will support, this is not the case today. Black Conservatives are forced to accept ideas from the Heritage Foundation and all the other white think tanks and they have no seat at the table that come up with the very idea’s they will be expected to support.

If a Black man or woman believe their class status have somehow made them a different person in the eyes of those whom we struggle against, it is only because they have accepted this belief by way of the treatment they receive from white folk that says to them, you are not like the rest of them thus they begin to believe they are actually different and eventually they become what you describe earlier as race traitors and conservatives.

At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t recall saying (or suggesting) what’s best for us, I simply said that I do not presume to know – and that I would not dare dictate to others “my” view of what is best. I believe that there is no definitive solution or “best.” I stand by my notion that there currently isn’t, and never has been a consensus on how black people should succeed in this country. Nobody knows what’s best beyond they’re own opinions. The subject of race in America, even if we limited our discussion to intercultural debates would illustrate the lack of consensus – especially what is considered “true” based on our experience. You may begin by examining the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and Alain Locke. You will find no consensus there. Re-visit the critical texts of Harlem Renaissance Literati figures such as Claude Mc Kay. Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Weldon Johnson, Jean Toomer and Nella Larsen -– and you most certainly will not find consensus there. Black intellectuals, political figures, academics and revolutionaries have never agreed – in fact they have bickered endlessly. More specifically, look at Du Bois’ 1897 lecture “The Conversation of the Races,” and read it against Locke’s “Race Contacts and Interracial Relations.” Locke and Du Bois were the preeminent black thinkers of their day, and though they worked together, they often disagreed sharply.

Further, I would read both Locke and Du Bois against contemporary Afro-British intellectual Paul Gilroy, specifically his hugely influential text “The Black Atlantic,” in which he re-considers Du Bois’ formulation of “Double Consciousness.” From there I would go to Cornel West where you will find even less agreement. Another example is Frantz Fanon, the Martiniqean psychiatrist and anti-colonial activist, who is one of the most important black intellectuals ever to ponder the crisis of race, For more lack of consensus read Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth,” and “Black Skin/White Mask.” This doesn’t even touch on the vicious black intercultural debates waged during slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. The same thing is going on today.

If you look at anti-colonial resistance movements in Africa (India, Algeria etc.), you will see that the formerly oppressed tend to join the elite, and then oppress others (often they’re own). Read any sound history book about sub-Saharan Africa. This has been documented and theorized endlessly, in political, cultural as well as in psychoanalytic terms. Check out Fanon and Paulo Freire. Of course, at the time of oppression, people in this dehumanizing position rally against the very “concept” of oppression. Often times they join forces with resistance movements in other countries. But the phenomenon that occurs once the oppressive force has been removed is that the leaders of the newly liberated party now become the oppressor. This conundrum has been written about extensively by just about every important black intellectual worldwide. You may also explore this subject as related to Jewish American’s. It is widely discussed that newly liberated Jews in America, have now become oppressors. They’re situation has been considered extensively in relation to blacks in America. This issue is probably one of the most talked about in regard to race. The reason why resistance efforts stagnate is because they are not unified (this isn’t just my opinion, just read about every resistance movement in global history, as well as the scholarship about them). Each claims to be against “all oppression” in principle, but they do not fight for others beyond they’re own community. I don’t even have time to give you all of the examples of this – but you can read about this extensively. If you want a list of texts of historical examples, let me know. All of the individuals above are/were dedicated to black uplift (and the fight against white supremacy), but they never managed to agree beyond that.

Frankly, I don’t see African-American’s fighting on behalf of Muslim’s around the world. Nor do I see the gay community fighting for the rights of Mexican immigrants and day laborers. I certainly don’t see black’s fighting against the ban on gay marriage, even though it’s a civil rights issue. I could go on and on… All oppressed groups appropriate the rhetoric of past resistance efforts that champion the dismantling of “all oppression.” But they are primarily engaged in the liberation of they’re own kind. Fragmented struggle certainly does not require the total elimination of an unjust system to be successful. The documented examples of this are too many to list…

Whether “agency” and being “anti-system” are mutually exclusive is not a concern to me. (Even though that’s a flattened reading of what I said) Assimilationist or not, many (arguably most) blacks in America just want to participate in this country economically and they probably couldn't care less about (or are simply naïve in regard to) anyone else’s oppression.

I can bring this around to the issue of Bayard Rustin’s legacy. While Movement leaders were fighting against black oppression specifically, Rustin (who was engaged in global resistance efforts) illustrated that oppression was not simply a local (black American) phenomenon. He effectively linked our struggle with global struggle – and decidedly out of the essentialism that King was trapped in. Despite Rustin’s sense of a global community and belief in “Universal Humanism,” he could not get blacks to fight for the rights of oppressed gay American’s, even though they (black leaders) purported to be against “all” forms of oppression. As a result, they abandoned him, even though they’re resistance efforts would have failed without his expertise.

I can list more historical examples, as well as seminal texts from political philosophy, critical race theory, psychoanalytic texts etc. etc. etc… My views are grounded in extensive reading and searching for knowledge. I hope I have been more specific. To end I’ll say that slavery, white supremacy, racism, segregation, oppression; are all historical realities of our experience in this country – but there has never been a consensus in regard to resistance efforts. But the greatest intellectuals, political figures, revolutionary figures, etc. have left us a rich legacy of debates/strategies that we can absorb and contemplate. What we do with it is up to us…

What sources are your generalizations based on?

-Jean Michel

At 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think I pretty much agree with you, but remember that Du Bois is largely remembered as the original black conservative. He was a part of the West Indian elite class and championed the whole "Talented Tenth" thing. Many blacks felt that his mantra of resistance was rooted in white/European intellectual strategies and that he was a black apologist. I understand the critique of black intellectuals, and we'll just have to see what happens in the future. Time will tell...
-Jean Michel

At 8:23 PM, Blogger NmagiNATE said...


You inserted this "What's Best" stuff.
I told you there are Objective, unchanging truths about what is at stake and at issue that your relativism skirts.

Methods don't have to be the same. The OBJECTIVE does.
Certain methods may have a pretense of achieving said objective but by way of other, non-objective compromises they fail to go as far. They merely equivocate and claim to be about the objective.

So, first... I never said you mentioned a Best Way.
Nor have I said there is one. I've said there is an Objective Objective. An objective truth.

It's simple math. Simple philosophical geography.
It matters not whether we're all leaving from the same point and taking the same route. The destination, however, has to clearly be the same.

That's the Objective. How everyone gets there is irrelevant. There is such a thing as UNITY OF PURPOSE.
People knowing their roles and doing what they are inspired to do towards a specific end.

There is nothing subjective about what the objective is. Nothing except equivocating (settling) compromises to the absolute objective.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger NmagiNATE said...

Nobody knows what’s best beyond they’re own opinions.

This is ridiculous. There is an objective objective.
People's opinions are informed by a lot of things. But regardless to all that there are absolutes and there are imperatives. Both of which are things that can objectively be ascertained.

** Black people need to build their own businesses. **

That's an objective objective. That's an absolute.
That a categorical imperative regardless as to what people's opinions are about it and how to go about doing it.

There are others... one's that because of differing motivations and other types of programming and interest people will disgree on.

** Black schools are one such thing... **

That's an objective objective. A categorical imperative.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Faheem said...

Jean, I will not cite the literary works of this intellectual and that intellectual to make my points, it is not necessary and give off the notion that we are engaging in intellectual masturbation versus trying to iron out our respective positions; furthermore I do not think citing the literary works of others buttresses my position or yours. We can reference their works to show how it correlates with what ever it is we are espousing but simply pointing to this intellectual or that intellectual to say their position supports mine will only lead to us pitting one intellectual against another and ignoring what we are discussing here.

My fundamental disagreement with what you have written is I do not believe it is a natural process for upward mobile and successful Black men and women to become race traitors and political conservatives that support policies, ideas and agenda’s that are inherently opposed to the needs and uplift of Black people. The one thing we will find true of all successful Black revolution regardless of the eventual fall out of those revolutions is that unity amongst the people involved in the revolution was necessary. I will not argue with the truth behind the idea that in many instances the once oppressed becomes the oppressor but I know for sure when we take a cursory glance at what transpired during the oppression of those who now oppress others we will see that their oppression is in fact revenge being exacted upon those who willingly supported external enemies who came in and gave a small minority power they did not deserve nor were they more qualified in regard to how they compare with those who would be oppressed. This is what we seen happen in Rwanda and this is what we will see in Iraq in a few year when the Majority Shia seize power and exact revenge on the minority Sunni who has been the oppressor for decades in Iraq.

It is also true that oppressed people for the most part champion the cause of their people, but they do not simultaneously actively work against the cause of other oppressed people simply because their cause is different. Clearly something like homosexuality will cause fragmentation being that many of the oppressed are religious men and women and have a religious disagreement with homosexuality, and the enemy of both of these oppressed groups recognizes this and uses it to fragment the oppressed even more to a point where the oppressed are fighting the oppressed and the oppressor passes go and collect a few billion. Black Unity is just that, it encompasses all aspects of our life, we must see our activism as part of our social and political behavior and not limited to heated discussion and debates. We do not have to agree on everything, that will be impossible but the foundation of our unity must be understood. People often get Noah and I mixed up when conversing with us via this Blog, But Noah and I are two very different people but yet so much alike because we love our people and see our unity as being key to our success in this country and in the Diaspora. We do not allow our personal conviction or our separate Faiths to separate us from the simple truth, Black condition today is not the result of us being inferior to white folk it is the direct result of action taken against us both externally and internally. We do not wrap ourselves in any particular banner and refuse to think outside the ideology of that banner. All truths must be explored, all Black men and women must be willing to drop what ever silly banner we have wrapped ourselves in for the sake of our people.

You rattled off several Black intellectuals that have studied our struggle if not were in the center of it, and I bet the single thing they all have in common is the goal they set out to accomplish and their understanding of the unity it would take to accomplish said goal, and the second thing they have in common is that some folk from amongst those who for the most part would benefit from their work seen in their work something that was not benefiting them personally and actively worked with the enemy to fight those who fought for us. This as I see it what the Negro-Con represent and I will espouse more on this tomorrow in a op-ed I will prepare.

At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spoken like a true gentleman!
-Jean Michel

At 7:03 AM, Blogger Noah TA said...

I would like to say that I most certainly appreciate the contributions of Bombsoverbagdad and Jean to this discussion. In particular, I appreciate learning; I am learning things from their contributions. That is why I group with my Brothers Faheem and Nmaginate, because we are always on the same page, if not paragraph and I always learn something from them.

I think that it is clear that socialization and acculturation is simply the product of emulation. It is the conditioning of our “mirror neurons” that creates this “copy cat” behavior in us. It seems counter intuitive that a people who were abused and who understand the pain that it causes first hand, would turn around and do the same thing to others, but it is more often the case than not. If you look at the statistical probabilities that a person raised in an alcoholic abusive household, would subsequently become alcoholic and abusive themselves, it is great. Thus, from all observations, whether group or individual, the tendency and probabilities that the oppressed and abused will become oppressors and abuses is great, but not an absolute rule. The tendency can and is often overridden by remaining cognizant of the paradigm and working to counteract it.

I would say that from my standpoint, the fight is against the system and also for inclusion. If the question comes down being the humped or being the humper, I would choose the latter. However, at the same time, I would be working towards a more equitable system or construct where one person’s pleasure does not come as the result of another persons rapping and abuse. It is not contradictory to have “agency” and “militancy” (against the construct), at the same time. If you have to exist within the system, you have to do what you have to do to survive until such time that the system can be morphed into something more righteous or entities can build a separate viable construct away from the old construct.

At 8:17 AM, Blogger NmagiNATE said...

Noah, I agree with you on two counts.

First, BombsOver~ and Jean are definitely welcomed additions. They bring knowledge (I was unaware of the Civil Rights info. they shared) and well articulated perspectives. Whether I agree with them or not on certain things is irrelevant. I respect their ability and willingness to articulate their thoughts.
(And, of course, Comrade is down too!)

I also agree that being "anti-system" and seeking inclusion are not mutually exclusive. But, part of what we have here is a difference in how we define the Terms of Inclusion. And, I suggest that a great part of that difference exist on the question(s) of:

Seeking Inclusion On Who's Terms?
Seeking Inclusion Into What? How? Towards What End?

I'm a self-determinationist, a Black Nationalist by ideology (if you want a label). But, I have no problem with Inclusion. But it can't be Inclusion For Inclusion Sake. And definitely not Inclusion According To Arbitrary Parameters others set.

We will have to define what the Terms Of Inclusion are in order to make sure they lead to the ends we hope "inclusion" will... Just saying I want a share of the American pie doesn't lead to the objective people profess that inclusion to be about, IMO.

It's a simple mathematical/logical equation.
Does "Inclusion + X .... lead to Y"?

Either it does or it doesn't. Some people get side track by relative success and mistake even a collection of those relative successes with the acquisition of the ultimate objective. It's the "Things Are Better" attitude... which presumes that the "better" is indicative of a process towards the objective objective.


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