Submitted by Semmelweis who has a book available here
Lenny Bruce had a famous routine where he would start out by asking the audience, “Are there any n*ggers here?” He’d repeat the question for effect and then go on to ask the same with other ethnic slurs. “How about sp*cs, any sp*cs? What about k*kes?” etc. Then he would shift gears and go into explanatory mode, pointing out that these words are invested with power by a kind of social contract — we all tacitly agree that they are off limits and bad, and so they become like religious holy words, shockingly powerful when uttered by someone precisely because they are not supposed to be uttered by anyone. “Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
If this was true in the early 60s when Bruce was saying this, it is true a hundredfold today. It is now customary in polite society to obliquely say or write “the N-word” rather than the epithet itself, which is considered totally unutterable, at least by non-blacks. This bears a distinct resemblance to the Jewish custom of writing “G-d” rather than “God.” Consequently, blacks and anyone else who have an “N-word pass” have become a kind of priest class for believers in the new BLM religion. They are the “holders of the sacred name,” like the meaning of the title of the founder of Hasidism, Baal Shem Tov.
You can see this invested religious authority on full display in the attitudes of BLM’s white adherents, who often make ridiculous and grotesque displays of their piety and devotion, deferring to their revered “People of Color” like a Catholic to a priest or a Buddhist to a Tibetan lama. “You get me closer to God,” as an old Nine Inch Nails song says.
William Burroughs said that language is a virus, and Lenny Bruce’s proposed solution to the problem of “hurtful language” was herd immunity. Everyone should say these words as much and as often as it takes until they are divested of their power to cause harm, “until n*gger didn’t mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a n*gger at school.”
This is similar to the attitude that was adopted within the black community itself. In the 80s and 90s when rap music first became popular, one of the controversies was that rappers often referred to themselves and others as “n*ggas.” Older and more conservative blacks were appalled by the normalization of an epithet they had fought against for so many years (the “hard R” distinction had not yet been made), while younger voices said they were reclaiming the word and refashioning it for their own purposes. The younger voices won out, and this had the effect of making the word ok within black society (where it was always rather widespread and permissible anyway, used even by Martin Luther King Jr. in private conversation). But it was not the mass disinvestment of the word’s power that Lenny Bruce had envisioned. Instead, it created a new power that was wielded only by blacks: this is our word; we can say it, but you can’t. The power to say “n*gger,” once wielded by whites and others as a means of hurting blacks, became instead a power of blacks to label others as “racist” — which is synonymous with evil — if they say the holy name in vain.
As a kind of meta-political judo move, this change in power dynamics has to be commended for its effectiveness. The formerly powerless now have the whip hand, as the British saying goes. However, if the purpose was, as Lenny Bruce said, to make it so that no one could “make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a n*gger at school,” then this development has been a colossal failure. It is easier than ever to make a black kid cry, or fly into a rage, with a simple use of this one neat trick word. It’s also easier than ever to excite an entire army of AWFLs and SJWs into a self-righteous effete frenzy on said black kid’s behalf, even if the black kid himself was relatively unaffected. (And if he isn’t sufficiently affected and victimized, the white mob will claim he isn’t really black.)
What Lenny Bruce had suggested — disinvesting the word of its power to harm, rather than giving people more power to harm — was firmly rooted in folk wisdom. The old saying I always heard as a kid was “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Does anyone say this anymore? Do parents and teachers teach this to kids anymore? I don’t think so, because the prevailing attitude in popular culture seems quite the opposite, that actual physical violence is no big deal, but woe unto anyone who commits wrongspeak, or simply fails to mouth the right platitudes with sufficient gusto, because “silence is violence” as the latest BLM slogan has it. Silence is violence, but looting and arson and assault and even murder are “peaceful protest.” Orwell himself couldn’t make this shit up.
There is an old parable about a man with sensitive feet. The ground is rough with rocks and dirt, and it causes him discomfort. So he sets about covering the ground with soft leather. He covers the floor of his home, and his yard, and the street outside, and on and on. Eventually someone explains to him that it’s impossible to cover the whole world — but it’s quite possible, and much more practical, to simply cover your own feet with a good pair of shoes. The meaning of course is that you can’t control and reshape the world, but you can exercise some control over yourself. You can cultivate some thicker skin that allows you to not be so easily hurt by the insults of others. This is a masculine approach, and it’s what underlies the rough and insulting language and behavior that boys often use with each other: you get used to it from your friends, you toughen up, so that when it comes from someone who really wants to hurt you it doesn’t bother you as much.
However, the approach favored by our contemporary fake ghey culture is of course the opposite: everyone is taught to be hypersensitive. Everyone is taught about the ever-lurking omnipresence of racism — the Holy Ghost of the new religion — and to be ever-vigilant for whenever and wherever it may come, for you know not the minute nor the hour when a microaggression may occur. Further, everyone is called to evangelize by crying out in pain and/or lashing out in rage at the slightest perceived offense, to yourself if you are POC or other righteous victim, or on behalf of POCs everywhere if you are a lowly white. But, if there is racism and someone else notices it before you do, woe unto you, for your silence is complicity. Thus the new religion is ever on the lookout for infidels and the insufficiently zealous amongst their own flock.
This new religious movement can only have one of two results: either it succeeds in outwardly changing the world by scaring everyone into conforming to its demands, or it provokes a reaction that crushes it. In neither case will it have contributed anything to actual peaceful relations between people on earth.
Real peaceful relations between racial and ethnic groups are possible, though not in the two-dimensional holding-hands-and-singing-Kumbaya way that the left imagines. That kind of pseudo-harmony only comes about from attacking and melting down human nature into a lowest common denominator bare existence: we all can get along because we’re all too weak and pathetic and stupid to fight. Make no mistake, this is what the ruling class wants: everyone disabled and stupefied and sickened by the same poisonous, global monoculture.
Real peaceful relations instead have to be rooted in strength and independence. The Nation of Islam has always understood this and sought to cultivate strength and self-sufficiency among its members. Not surprisingly, right wing white people often find NOI members agreeable, respectable, and easy to get along with, despite their rather, um, insensitive view of whites as a race. If two peoples are rooted in their own identities and have confidence in their own strength, in their own abilities to shake off any negativity that may come from others, then those two peoples can respect each other and can understand each other, even if they don’t like each other. They may not understand the other as well as they understand themselves, but that isn’t necessary nor is it even possible.
I don’t know whether this kind of mature, friendly relationship is possible anymore in America, because we have been steadily moving in the opposite direction for decades now. I have no doubt that if Lenny Bruce were alive today he would be one of those Jewish outcasts on the dissident right like David Cole rather than having anything to do with the left, either the mainstream liberal left or the more extreme elements. Bruce was a taboo smasher who enjoyed pointing out society’s hypocrisies. During his time, he was used as a weapon against traditional American Christian culture, ridiculing prevalent attitudes about sex and decency. Today, there are no more taboos about sex. When it comes to sex and all manner of perversity, the reigning slogan is “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” It is race that is the great taboo of our age, as many others before me have pointed out.
Henry Rollins, who can always be relied on to give punk rock respectability to the most banal PC attitudes, says that he never liked Lenny Bruce’s “Are there any n*ggers here?” routine and never agreed with it. “To become desensitized is to be overthrown, to be beaten down,” he says in the 2011 documentary Looking For Lenny. But he is completely wrong, which is why he is a mouthpiece for power masquerading as a rebel against it. To be hypersensitive is to be overthrown and beaten down, to be perpetually weakened, anxietized if I may invent a word. If you can’t deal with someone calling you a bad name or saying that they don’t like you, what can you deal with? Not much. And that’s exactly the point.