Crying “Wolf!”

Picture 1Did you catch this news story the other day? It opens:

Picture 2While dominance and marginality are certainly in the eye of the beholder (for there’s so many ways to divide up the pie, so as to describe any group or situation in innumerably different ways), there’s a social theory lesson to be found in why members of groups one might see as clearly in a hegemonic position so easily and often portray themselves as marginalized victims.

You know, like this recent example:

persecutionFor if we presume that group identity is always an ongoing work in progress, and not (as some group members might think) a taken-for-granted fact that exists of its own volition, on autopilot, then the last thing anyone needs is to take their identity or place as necessary or inevitable. For in such cases they’ll likely stop coming to the potluck suppers — “Oh, someone else will turn up in my place.” If we all said that, you can imagine what would soon happen… That is, social success is always a tightrope walk between exercising dominance and carefully nurturing sentiments of marginalization and estrangement, so as to put in place the conditions to inspire group members to continually re-invest the new energy needed to make the group seem inevitable and the identity of its members appear to be solid and necessary.

The poluck’s success therefore depends on you and your deviled eggs!

So it makes good theoretical sense that the world’s preeminent military power also occupies first place in rhetorics of attack and victimization (making the faceless “war on terror” an exceedingly useful rhetorical tool, for who knows where that danger even lurks or when it will ever be vanquished) and for the over 2 billion people today who identify in some way as Christian, living in and running some of the most affluent and powerful nations on the globe, to see themselves as an endangered species.

After all, you don’t think those billionaires got rich being complacent and satiated, do you?

So it seems to me that David Cameron, like the others who worry so much about Christian persecution, is just being a good politician in making statements like that, connecting the comfortable present to images of the movement’s early, marginal years, thereby inspiring an already dominant segment of his nation’s population to feel a little more insecure about their place, maybe inspiring them to inject yet more social investments into daily life, to try to keep it all that way. For it takes effort to produce the impression of routinization and stasis.

Presumably, voting for him next time ’round is one of those efforts he’s counting on.

Though you have to be careful how often you cry “Wolf!” of course.

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