It has become popular to say that The Ol’ Pussy Grabber has radically changed the culture of the United States that the longer he is in office, the greater the change will be. But, is he really? I think, it is more that he has changed our direction, our trajectory. Which ever it turns out to be, we can take a deeper dive into how the culture, especially white culture, is changing.
While we can argue over the particulars, few would quibble with the notion that the past two years have been painful and stressful. Change is like that. To help us sort it all out, I’ll use the notion of deep and surface culture and Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions model.
1964 and 1965 were pivotal years for the US. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act passed, and in 1965, the Voting Rights Act. White America had begun to turn her back on her love affair with racism. We were on our way to creating a more perfect union in which all people were created equal and given the same rights. There were still some tough fights ahead, but it started then.
Surface Culture and Deep Culture
White culture changed on the surface. We could no longer be openly racist, and if we were, there were remedies that PoC could use to help correct the situation. It wasn’t a perfect change, but it was a start. Gradually, those changes in the way white culture viewed race deepened… well, at least for some us.
It had changed deeply enough for a FB friend to comfort me with reassurances that her son’s generation were blissfully unaware of race. They did not see the world in those terms and the notion that there was something fundamentally different about a race was a complete anathema to them. We had only to wait for the old racist fossils to die, and we could consign racism to the scrap heap of history like smallpox and dinosaurs.
Then, a funny thing happened on our road to a post-racial nirvana, the regressive forces reared their ugly head and took us all by surprise. Our harmonious rendition of Kumbaya was disrupted, we dropped our heart-shaped cupcakes, and the rainbow bridge collapsed!
If surface culture were the qualities that we could see and think about, then the change to white culture was only on the surface. Below that thin veneer of racial acceptance was a seething cauldron of racial resentment, and it only needed the slightest skin prick to set it free!
With the election of Barack Obama and the rise of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, the inner racist in many white people had been called to their vocation, and it was time to rise up and be counted!
Deep culture consists of the qualities that cannot be seen and are unconscious but drive our behavior. It is our attitudes towards each other, especially minority groups, foreigners, and the sexes; the things we think people ought to be doing, especially in certain situations; it even includes how we move, the gestures and tone of voice we use. And, it is the reason that racism is so pernicious. The roots of white supremacy run deep in white culture.
The Ol’ Pussy Grabber didn’t change white culture. He changed its direction. To change deep culture takes generations. Culture shapes the way we perceive and interact with the world. It is passed down from one generation to another and reflects both ethnicity and location. It shapes the way we think, interact, and communicate. We had been on our way to ending racism, now, not so much.
Luckily, the Ol’ Pussy Grabber has only changed our surface culture. Unfortunately, it means that white people feel like they can yell racist invective at PoC and threaten to call the implicitly biased police and invoke the structural racism of our criminal justice system. White people are comfortable voting for the thinly veiled racism in the Repube campaigns.
The Ol’ Pussy Grabber and the Southern Strategy of the Repubes has only changed our surface culture making it more acceptable to act on the racism held in our deep culture. That’s why I say he has not changed us. He has changed our direction. We had been heading towards a diminishment of racism; now we are not.
However, the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is changing our culture in other ways that are equally concerning. Many have remarked upon his authoritarianism and the authoritarian tendencies of his base. It is true that those with authoritarian personalities prefer authoritarian rulers and governments.
As the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s and Repubes’ assault on our democracy continues, we will see many cultural changes concomitant with the decline of our democratic institutions and traditions.
Way back in 1980 Geert Hofstede published Culture’s Consequences about his culture dimensions theory. His research — and subsequent research of dozens of others — indicated that there are six dimensions that cultures share. He presents them as a continuum.We’ll consider the ones that seem to be changing the most, but first, let’s just list them all and briefly define them. I’m sure you remember these from some college course of yore just like I don’t since they were too new for me to have studied them in university.
- Individualist-Collectivist: Which takes precedence, personal needs or group needs?
- Masculine-Feminine: Is there are clear differentiation between male and female roles or are those distinctions less clear?
- Uncertainty Avoidance: How comfortable are people with changes to the ways they work or live?
- Power Distance: How equitably is power and wealth distributed?
- Time Perspective: Does the culture plan ahead or is it concerned more with the here and now and the past?
- Indulgence-Restraint: How free are individuals to pursue happiness or does the culture restrain such expressions?
Let’s take a deeper dive on Power Distance. Here’s what old Geert himself had to say about it.
As I read through the lists, I think, the US seems like a small power distance country for the most part. Feel free to disagree in the comments. In my life time, we certainly seemed to be heading towards the small power distance side of things: use of power should be legitimate, children treated as equals, student-centered education, pluralistic government… until you get to corruption rare; scandals end political careers and income distribution in society rather even. Those two caused me to stop and take notice.
Under the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, the Repubes have only been too happy to look the other way as the grabs with both hands and refuse to hold him or any cabinet member accountable. Instead, we are getting a few more pings on the large power distance side.
- Power is a basic fact of society antedating good or evil: legitimacy is irrelevant: The Ol’ Pussy Grabber don’t give no never mind about no one else no way no how. And, neither do the Repubes.
- Hierarchy means existential inequality: They want all the moneys to flow to the top and being on top makes them better and right. They see the hierarchy as legitimizing their power and wealth.
- Subordinates expected to be told what to do: The Ol’ Pussy Grabber tweets it, and the lackeys scramble to change the Wikipedia page to make it so.
- Corruption frequent; scandals covered up: Every Repube president since Nixon deserved impeachment, and the Repubes have worked increasingly hard to cover up for them.
- Income distribution in society very uneven: Government exists to transfer the wealth of the middle class upward to the 1%, according to the Repubes.
We can, figuratively, see our culture changing right before our very eyes. We can, figuratively, see ourselves teetering on the brink of the precipice!
At first this dimension doesn’t seem to make much sense since there is like one lone matriarchal society left in the world, but it really has to do more with gender equality and how culture’s view family, work, and emotion. Oh, when you put it like that, I think I can see where it is going and it ain’t going to be pretty when the Ol’ Pussy Grabber leads us to this damned promised land.
The US has long been a masculine society. With the Civil Rights era came women’s lib and feminists and pay equality. The most salient point here is the Mothers decide on the number of children versus fathers decide on family size. Under Repube leadership, rapists get a say in whether resulting fetuses can be aborted, businesses get to determine whether female employees can take birth control. Matter-of-fact attitudes about sexuality; sex is a way of relating versus moralistic attitudes about sexuality; sex is a way of performing. No need to say anything here. Admiration for the strong: the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s love of strong-armed dictators and the authoritarian personality’s love of dictatorial government.
Like I said, it’s always been a tussle for us, but during my lifetime, we were moving towards feminism, now, not so much. If we don’t stop it, it will be welcome to the incel paradise.
Both indulgence and restrained have strong connotations in American English. To indulge is bad and to be restrained is good, so in that sense it is an unfortunate title for this dimension because he really means liberty and freedoms (as conceived by liberal democracies) versus oppression and repression (as conceived by jack-booted thugs).
This is not one that I would’ve intuitively selected, but there are a few that jump out at you.
- fewer very happy people: How many of us are happy now? And, I can see through those Berners who still proclaim that there is no difference between Clinton and the Ol’ Pussy Grabber.
- a perception of helplessness: How many of us, even MAGA-types, feel like they’ve got any control over what happens next. The Ol’ Pussy Grabber boasts about being unpredictable.
- freedom of speech not a primary concern: Unless it is Shelden Anderson’s money and certainly not anyone else’s.
- stricter sexual norms: See above.
- higher number of police officers per 100,000 population: We are all the time bombarded with law and order demagoguery even when crime rates are declining. We have many more ICE agents. And, don’t forget the Proud Boys Brown Shirts in waiting.
You can see us being moved from where we were — recognizing women as a co-equal gender to men — to a misogynistic repressive society. Fascist societies are restrained societies, and we are definitely heading towards fascism unless we can stop it in 2020.
Watching in real time how our culture is sliding from one of the poles to another would be fascinating if the results weren’t the misery caused by destroying real live people’s lives. This is why taking back the House is so important. This is why the recounts of Sinema (currently leading McSally in the Arizona Senate race), Abrams (candidate for Georgia governor), Nelson (within a smidgen in the Florida Senate race), and Gillum (within two smidgens in the Florida governor’s race) is so important.
Pushing back against the lies, the sadism, the intimidation, and all of the other dastardly tactics put forth by the Repubes to gut our democracy and turn it into an authoritarian money machine for the 1% is so important. It is important to do as Michelle Obama says, go high. We needn’t get violent. We needn’t be insulting, especially about qualities that an individual cannot change. We needn’t spout conspiracy theories. We need only to stick to our guns and quietly point out the bullshit when it appears. And, vote. It ain’t too soon to start organizing for 2020. We need voter registration and voter education now more than ever.