Autobiographical Writing For Reality: It's A Damn Good Thing For All Of Us

Keaney Michael Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Mon Sep 9 09:24:50 MDT 2002


Hunter Gray writes:

I may be a self-unfrocked sociologist, but I retain enough from that
arrogant Priesthood -- and certainly from Life -- to recognize the dangers
of stereotyping.  Please back away on that.

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MK: Please identify where I have stereotyped.

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as a group the Swedish Finns -- who largely have chosen not to
assimilate into the mass of "indigenous Finns" -- have also as a group been
quite successful in taking over much in Finland.  I'm talking about taking
the economic dimension and its substantial political implications and
ramifications.

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MK: This is about as useful as a Scot complaining that Scotland has been taken over by the English. In my experience this goes on a lot (even today), and I used to indulge in it myself until I realised that "England" is actually a very complex entity in which the vast majority of people have themselves been "taken over" by (a small minority of) other English people (at first, to be joined by others of different nationality), and that, whatever ideological mechanisms employed by the ruling class to sustain its control (e.g. BBC - incidentally founded by a Scot - received pronunciation, imperialist retelling of history), it is the *ruling class* to which I should direct my anger. As for your characterisation of Finnish political economy, you neglect to mention the Russian interlude (1809-1917) which featured russification and, in an earlier phase, the active pursuit of inward investment, including the establishment in Tampere of the Finlayson textiles concern by a Glaswegian, Ja!
mes Finlayson (I believe no relation to the namesake who often played opposite Laurel and Hardy). Not only is Finlayson of Tampere still very much operational, but, horror of horrors, Finland's largest brewery, Hartwall (founded by a Swedish-speaking family) has just been sold to Scottish and Newcastle breweries. So maybe I should be wandering around Helsinki just now flailing myself in shame as I recant the sins of my capitalist compatriots as they engage in a "takeover" of Finland. The idea that there is or ever has been some vast Swedish-speakers' conspiracy (apologies if this is "stereotyping") orchestrating the capitalist takeover and subjugation of indigenous Finland is patent nonsense. At best it confuses effect with cause.

Re the "Mormon wars" you continue:

>All of this touched off a surreal experience here on
Marxmail -- pieces of which were taken by Red-baiting critics on ASDnet and
planted there in their continued and on-going effort to discredit me in that
DSA setting. [I handled that just fine.]<

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MK: I don't follow ASDNet but I'm sufficiently aware of a small proportion of its membership to guess who might be responsible for red-baiting. If I'm right there is little to worry about, given their lack of credibility. The issue here concerns the title of this thread and what it means for Marxists -- the reason I am discussing it with you on Marxmail, as opposed to anywhere else.

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>Briefly, since I grew up in the Mountain West around Mormons and have had a
good deal to do with them for many decades, I'm not a damn bit apologetic
for making and putting forth judgments based on my considerable experience.
If you -- probably quite unaware that there are tons of stuff  constantly
put out by hard-line fundamentalist Bible-Belters attacking Mormons and
Catholics and Jews and Islam et al. with totally ungrounded poison -- and
that your avowed Research Well, Google -- overflows with those canards, then
you have heavy problems as a "researcher."  [Much of this defamatory Google
stuff, BTW, was introduced into the ASDnet setting against me.]<

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MK: That just about confirms my suspicions re the red-baiter. However, there is no need to stereotype my research abilities. I cite Google because it's easy to *start* forming a picture of the controversy surrounding Mormonism on Google. Similarly it's just as easy to begin to see the concerted effort by Mormon sources to "correct" what they see as unjustifiable criticisms/slanders/defamation of their organisation via web pages listed, in great quantity, on Google. Mormonism certainly seems capable of defending itself. It is those same Mormon sources that admit the active discouragement of inter-racial marriage.

See, for example, http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/family/marriage/interracial.htm

And while my *experience* of Mormonism is as limited as my *research knowledge* of it, you chose to flee Jim Craven's substantiated critique of Mormonism rather than engage with it, as Jim offered. Now that he's gone you've come back with an extended riposte directed none too subtly towards him. I don't view that as very impressive at all. I would not have involved myself in this debate, however, had we not had our own exchange re Swedish-speaking Finns last year, in which, as with your treatment of Mormonism, you placed personal experience above established historical fact, rather than weighing the former against the latter. That Christian Identity types might use those same facts neither changes the latter nor does it somehow improve Mormonism's own history of racism and its employment by US government agencies.

That there are good Mormons is not in doubt. Thomas Jefferson seems to have been considered a good slaveholder. He and others like him do not atone for the "peculiar institution."

You finish:

>I'll take experience, Mr Keaney.  I do read. Among other things, believe it
or not, I've even taught Political Theory.  But I've also had a great deal
of rich experience, field experience, and that's served me in very good
stead -- as it has many others..  And their experiences have certainly
served me  very well.

And I'll toss this out generally:  No one should expect to ever organize
anything worthwhile at the grassroots if attacking religion is one's
priority.  I can certainly think of few things more counter-productive than
that to bona fide radical social justice work.<

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MK: No one here, to my knowledge, discounts experience. But you are elevating your personal experiences high above those of others, past and present.

Should I be impressed that you have taught Political Theory? Or are you stereotyping me as some kind of intellectual snob? I've not cast any aspersions on your intellect. My concern is a very practical one and expressed in as comradely a manner as I can hope to achieve via this limited medium: simply that your apparently casual dismissal of Swedish-speaking Finns and the darker history of Mormonism on the basis of personal experience has potentially very dangerous consequences -- respectively the unnecessary, counterproductive division of working class people, and the formation of highly dubious political alliances.

I concur with your final point, adding that I would similarly be unlikely to organise anything worthwhile here in Finland (or elsewhere) if I were to discriminate on the basis of linguistic heritage.

Michael Keaney

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