Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Drones and Dirty Hands

If you are an American eligible to vote you are a beneficiary of more than a century of bloody criminal militarism and imperialism, and even if you are appalled by that reality your hands are not clean and they will never be clean. Grasping this fact is key to resisting this ongoing calamity on such terms that are actually available to us in the world.

There are many ways to protest and resist this militarism and conquest and planetary exploitation at the point of a gun, but refusing to vote when you are eligible to vote is not one of those ways, not at all, not even remotely, and to pretend otherwise is worse than wrong: it is likely an effort to engage in delusion the better to indulge in the benefits of the bloodletting all the while wallowing in an appallingly ignorant and inaccurate unearned purity while you are in fact neck deep in gore.

Whether you like it or not there is an Executive Branch in our government, and whether you like it or not the occupant of the Executive Branch has the capacity (among them as Commander in Chief of the largest military apparatus in the world or in world history) to impact billions of human lives for better or worse, and whether you like it or not there are two and only two parties that are in any position to put a President in the White House, and whether you like it or not there are differences that make a difference in the way the Presidents these two parties would put in the White House would behave, and whether you like it or not your vote is one (one among many, but actually materially one) way of making a difference in the process through which one of those two Presidents will be empowered to make those differences in the lives of billions of your fellow human beings.

If you vote for the worst of the only two Presidential candidates on offer you have done a terrible and irresponsible thing, in my view, and if in failing to vote or in voting symbolically for a not actually viable candidate you have enabled the victory of the worst of the only two Presidential candidates on offer you have done virtually the same terrible and irresponsible thing, in my view.

To be an enfranchised citizen in the most resource rich, most empowered, most militarily mighty nation-state on earth burdens one with terrible responsibilities, among them the requirement to vote for the best of only two viable presidential candidates who will in their policies make a difference in the lives not only of one's fellow citizens but all of one's fellow earthlings, even though the best candidate is certainly never good enough and almost certainly won't agree with everything or even necessarily much of anything you do, including things about which you feel personally passionately indeed. There is certainly nothing ethically exemplary or practically useful about the denial of any of this, any more than there is in pouting protests of the facts of gravity or mortality.

I strongly disapprove of President Obama's drone program, and I think that quite apart from its appalling violation of the spirit if not always and in every detail the substance of our commitments to international law, rules of conduct in war and peace, and our support of civil liberties everywhere, it is creating anxiety and discontent in the world that makes everybody less safe and secure all the while being justified on just such grounds. I approve of enough of what Obama is doing to support Obama over the only actual alternative to Obama despite my disapproval of this -- and, actually, many other, Obama policies. I do not think one's support of a President indicates support of everything that President does, or necessarily ANYTHING that President does, except to the extent that it is better than what the actual alternative candidate to that President would do.

But even if my disapproval of Obama's drone program outweighed my approval of his other policies, it is difficult for me to see how that disapproval would somehow recommend support of a Romney presidency, especially when Romney has provided no reason to think his policy would be better, when Romney has surrounded himself with neoconservative hawks that implemented the worst of the civil rights abuses and catastrophic military policies of the Bush administration's first term, and since Romney has explicitly decried and promised to reverse Obama's own repudiation of Bush Administration torture policies -- which I am assuming violates the same civil liberties commitments that would lead one to disapprove of the drone policy and which were justified by the same nonsensical rationale that is offered in support of the drone policy suggesting it would remain in force along with who knows what else.

Neither should one deny the extent to which a generational identification of ruinous Republican bellicosity with "strong national defense" has created the context in which Obama has sought to re-mobilize diplomatic strategies and multilateral foreign policy while performing being "strong" in office on something like the actually available terms on which strength is legible as such, irrational though these terms are, all the while working to render those very terms more capacious, more susceptible to progressive change, nor should one fail to notice that nearly all of the actually elected representative voices and actually respected expert voices that criticize Obama's drone policy and the militarism that underlies it are voices in Obama's own party, voices to which Obama himself, even in his wrongheadedness, is far more beholden than Romney would be.

I can think of no reasonable or responsible way that even the most righteous disapproval of Obama's drone policy provides any rationale for the support of Romney over Obama for president in 2012, including the support provided by a refusal to vote for anybody or the decision to vote for a nonviable third party candidate. I can think of plenty of unreasonable and irresponsible ways, however, the pretense might play out through which such a "principled" refusal of participation might be wrongly imagined to wash one's hands clean of the blood of America's military-industrial complex.

That, however, is a delusion quite as erroneous and ugly on its own, in my view, as the one that leads millions of other fellow citizens of mine to actively support the vile opportunistic plutocrat Romney and the whole white-racist patriarchal greed-head authoritarian-religionist death-cult of Movement Republicanism in the first place.


jimf said...

> But even if my disapproval of Obama's drone program outweighed
> for my approval of his other policies, it is difficult for me
> to see how that disapproval would somehow recommend support of
> a Romney presidency, especially when Romney has provided no
> reason to think his policy would be better. . .

Yes, this is how I see it, more or less.

Other folks see it differently. There's the theory,
for example, that a Democratic president can get away
with right-wing and neocon stuff, under the radar of
those on the left so to speak, that a Republican
president could not get away with. E.g.,

Summerspeaker said...

I appreciate the support you're providing for my thesis that so-called political realism functions as a key discourse of anti-radicalism and neatly dovetails with the scientific conservatism that declares reversing or preventing aging impossible. Only foreclosure of possibility makes the status quo tolerable.

I also respond, by way of mockery, here. I'm taking a page from you book in that regard.

Dale Carrico said...

If you are not only advocating but actually engaging in violent revolutionary action in the service of your ideals I appreciate your consistency (rare for online radicals), but I fear you are little likely to accomplish anything you claim to desire by such methods and I suspect you'll end up in jail (as indeed you should, given that such violence endangers the innocent and the guilty alike).

Strictly speaking, by the way, you can throw bricks through windows for minimum wage laborers to clean up after you even while still voting for the best presidential candidate actually on offer, so even on your own idiotic terms I am not foreclosing your narcissistic self-indulgent radicalism even while insisting on your exercise of your still-existing responsibility as an enfranchised voter.

I am a big believer in ridiculing the ridiculous, not only because the ridiculous actually deserves ridicule and rarely more, but also because ridiculous people with ridiculous ideas of what is ridiculous likewise expose themselves to deserved ridicule when they try to get away with ridicule of the sensible as a rhetorical strategy. Nobody with any sense will join in your mockery, and I am well pleased to leave those who do to you. Good luck to you.

Summerspeaker said...

I fear you may have read my satire too seriously. On the positive note, this last response clarifies your position on violence, nonviolence, and the state. You apparently consider throwing bricks through windows not only violent, but a form of violence that merits the overwhelming violence of kidnapping and imprisonment.

I do not encourage anything that causes physical harm to human bodies. My experience with corporeal suffering has convinced me I don't want produce more of that in the world. However, I do consider the counterviolence of self-defense legitimate and even respect the desire for vengeance. I prefer appropriation to sabotage, but recognize the value of the latter under the present political circumstances that make holding space against the state difficult.

Dale Carrico said...

Have no fear, I no longer take you the least bit seriously. As a general matter, all things equal, I do indeed think people who get caught intentionally breaking shit that isn't theirs should have to pay for that in some way. Oh, the tyranny!

jimf said...

> Oh, the tyranny! . . .

You know, part of the (as yet unacknowledged, by the participants
here) context of this discussion is that in a very real, not at all
metaphorical, sense, **all** socialization depends on the infliction of
**at least** emotional "discomfort" (go ahead and call it
pain; I certainly would) if not outright bodily violence.
Social control by deprivation of positive regard, at the very least.

How the hell else are kids going to be socialized?

I can still recall "accidents" that occurred when I was
two, and not yet quite potty-trained! ;-> And the consequences
thereof. I can also recall getting yelled at for touching things
around the house that the grown-ups didn't want me messing with.

It's certainly true that the tenor of this socialization
changes significantly -- becomes much, much harsher -- when
the locus of punishment shifts from parents and family members
to the strangers -- teachers and other kids -- in public
school. (I **hated** school. I knew very well even at
5 what I was going to be in for, and I wasn't disappointed! ;-> ).

Public school is most kids' first taste of the **state**
apparatus of control. It's also the start of some kids' long,
deteriorating engagement with what ends up being the
legal system. (They called those kids "juvenile delinquents"
in my day. Chewing gum in class could be the beginning
of a life of crime, in those innocent days.)

For that matter, I can't see much to choose between state-run
"public" schools in the U.S. and so-called "public" (private
schools) in the UK. Have you ever read George Orwell's
"Such, Such Were the Joys"?

Again, I don't see any way to avoid this, outside of an
SFnal redesign of the human race, or the depiction of a
race of humanoid saints in a fantasy novel.

Dale Carrico said...

a Democratic president can get away with right-wing and neocon stuff, under the radar of those on the left so to speak, that a Republican president could not get away with

Depends on what you mean by "get away with" ... I think the right-wing militarist just does this stuff however much lefties complain, until forced to stop by processes he can't circumvent (electoral, legal, etc). It actually isn't as if the ACLU is less likely to bring lawsuits against a Dem than a Repug who is trying to get away with this nonsense. As a card-carrying dues-paying member I can attest to this.

I think that part of what people who are making this argument often are pointing out is that when a right-wing asshole advocates and undertakes this kind of militarist violence the hatred of that asshole usually makes conspicuous reference to that violence in making its case and yet when a left-wing politician does the same sort of thing it doesn't automatically make the left hate that politician too.

I daresay this needn't be a matter of letting the left politician "get away with" something -- sure, maybe it is for some few -- but more a matter of assessing all politicians across multiple personal and policy dimensions. I mean, why shouldn't you hate a politician who does a hateful thing among many other hateful things? Why should you hate as much a politician who does the same hateful thing but who does lots of uniquely admirable things as well, and who contributes to processes or is more beholden to pressures you think would ameliorate that very hateful thing you hate?

I think I am far from alone on the left in thinking Obama's drone policy is terrible, in actively protesting it (arguing against it in public, signing petitions against it, demonstrating against it, supporting candidates and organizations that resist it) and while I certainly would never be foolish enough to allow my disapproval to become a pretext for supporting Romney of all people, I certainly mean to continue to protest this policy in Obama's second term and hope through such protest to change it and also expect this to impact Obama's legacy in a negative way that future presidents, especially on the left, will not want to emulate. I don't think "getting away with it" is a good way to describe any of this.

Dale Carrico said...

part of the (as yet unacknowledged, by the participants
here) context of this discussion is that... **all** socialization depends on the infliction of **at least** emotional "discomfort"

I would have thought this goes without saying, but you are right that when one allows anarcho-fantasists into the discussion one cannot take such things for granted. I also know -- contra pious "interventions" such anarcho-fantasists will be irresistably drawn to propose here -- that you already know and agree that despite this recognition you think that some of what passes now for acceptable socialization is in fact needlessly constraining and/ or abusive in ways that a healthy democratic society would be alert to and work to ameliorate despite how fraught and error-prone such efforts inevitably are.

I don't see any way to avoid this, outside of an SFnal redesign of the human race, or the depiction of a race of humanoid saints in a fantasy novel.

I definitely agree with you, of course -- and I appreciate the effort to redirect Amor Mundi back to the technoscientific register that is its actual draw despite my present preoccupation with electoral politics, which is surely understandable all things considered, and also my unfortunate boredom with the futurologists at the moment, who for whatever reason seem especially repetitive and uninspired at the moment.

I will add that quite apart from the fact that no such SFnal is remotely in the offing, futurological disasterbation and eugenic-"utopianism" to the contrary notwithstanding, it is necessary to point out that any such effort at SFnal redesign would be better characterized as a parochial attempted implementation of violence rather than an objective circumvention of it in any case.

Summerspeaker said...

jimf, as you might except, I reject the necessity of the tyrannical socialization of the young. I'm glad we agree that coercion constitutes a core element of family and society. I concur with Shulamith Firestone that revolution requires transformation of the family and an end to ageism. My anarchist dreams threaten the status quo at every level.

Dale Carrico said...

Leave babies to wallow in their own shit... you know, for kids! It's sad but cute, Summer, that you think your dreams threaten the status quo at any level let alone every level.

Summerspeaker said...

You yourself expressed the desire that I be locked up just a few hours ago, and you're a progressive/democratic socialist who really likes windows rather than one of the plutocrats controlling the country. I'm obviously threatening enough.

Dale Carrico said...

Bored now.

CopPorn said...

I think you sorely need to have a read of "On Not Being obliged to Vote Democrat:"

jimf said...

> you're a progressive/democratic socialist who really likes windows

You know, the ordinary meaning of the word "violence" (I really have
no idea what the word might mean to an anarchist, any more
than I know what 'initiation of violence' might mean to a libertarian --
in the latter case, simply **existing** might be perceived as
an 'initiation of violence' if one's existence could be construed,
via some more-or-less plausible chain of logic, as being a potential
threat to a libertarian's interests -- I suspect there are cryonicists
and other >Hist types who feel that way about Dale ;-> ).

Anyway, the **ordinary** meaning of "violence" very much includes
the destruction of artifacts of human labor. Windows certainly don't
replace themselves, and somebod(ies) must expend a not insignificant
amount of time and effort to fix a broken window. It certainly wouldn't
insignificant to **me**. If somebody lobbed a brick through my
living room window, it would cost me 1) the time and effort to clean up the
broken glass and probably also to arrange some kind of makeshift
barrier with plastic garbage bags and duct tape 2) the time and
effort to locate a glazier and make an appointment 3) probably a
day off from work (out of my own vacation budget), if the
glazier doesn't work on Saturdays 4) the time and effort to
rearrange my furniture to give the glazier room to work, and
finally -- what, $500 - $1000 for the replacement window?
(it would be a sliding glass door, in my case). And then,
negotiating with an insurance company for reimbursement (**if**
my policy covers that kind of damage).

If, after all that, the same part(ies) responsible for the first
brick strolled by again and lobbed a second one, I'd be
ready to commit mayhem. ;->

Scale that up to the size of Dresden after World War II, and
(putting aside the direct human costs of that incident) you
have a lot of, um, inconvenience.

And, of course, if a group of, um, protesters, targets artifacts
which provide critical infrastructure -- roads, bridges,
power plants, factories, and so on, that translates pretty
quickly into direct human costs. That's why such artifacts
are frequently chosen as military targets, after all.

Military targets, as in "violence".

Dale Carrico said...

Of course, guerrilla warfare under conditions of foreign occupation does indeed target infrastructure -- often effectively but never without costs and with no assurance of retroactive legitimation certainly -- and probably Summer's little band of self-congratulatory ninjas think in some loose way that breaking windows in Yonkers is an analogous operation.

Of course in a country of by and for the people to treat the government as an occupying force is to declare war on the people who are the government -- and this is true even when the democracy is only notionally so and threatened as ours is by plutocracy and consumerism (not to mention very real and very wrong police violence violating the Constitutional right of free assembly and destroying our campuses and tyrannizing our precarious working population, all in ways that do indeed demand exposure, condemnation, resistance, reform, and punishment).

Summer wants to break windows for the minimum-wage precariat to clean up because Summer doesn't want to accept the real responsibilities imposed by being an enfranchised citizen in this profoundly pernicious but also profoundly promising nation, Summer doesn't want to do the work of reform struggle to make the nation accord better with its best principles, Summer doesn't want to admit that few fellow-citizens would agree with enough of the specifics of Summer's worldview to be won over by arguments or impressed by the example of nonviolent resistance or moved by the slow work of reform and so Summer rejects law and reform and the people as surely as any ugly reactionary fascist would -- with the difference that Summer broadcasts love and solidarity to the very people whose windows get shattered and whose opinions get dismissed and whose resistance is sublimed away as the dance beat throbs on and the infantile ids boast ever on and on.

Summer is smart enough and aware enough both to know and do better (although I have begun to question the generosity of this assessment seriously), and is instead behaving abominably all the while thinking it the cutest thing in the world. Truly disgusting.

Dale Carrico said...

I think you sorely need to have a read of "On Not Being obliged to Vote Democrat:"

You have recommended an argument posted on the eve of the 2010 mid-term election in which a wave of tea party Republicans promising to do something about jobs won control over the House and then proceeded to be an order of magnitude less productive than the historically notorious Do Nothing Congress, wrecked the nation's credit rating for no reason, passed an unprecedented slew of anti-abortion legislation, symbolically repealed the Affordable Care Act over and over again, engaged in an expensive racist witch hunt against Eric Holder, and all this after the one of the most progressively productive legislative sessions in history under Nancy Pelosi.

All this happened mostly because enthusiasm among Democrats was lower than it had been in 2008 -- an attitude perfectly expressed in that absolutely asinine screed you have recommended (although I disagree with those who propose it was caused by such online arguments), despite actually having lived through its palpable refutation, which suggests you must be some kind of fucking idiot.

The Senate, by the way, contra endless pious low-information preaching to the contrary -- and argued yet again in the piece in question -- was not in fact controlled by a filibuster-proof Democratic supermajority for two years, but for something like the six weeks between the actual seating of the contested Senator Franken and the death of Senator Kennedy, and the diversity of the democratic caucus which contained a handful of Dems nearly as conservative as Republicans -- like Ben Nelson -- actually defined at the time the leftmost flank of passable legislation given the literally historically unprecedented obstructionism of McConnell's Republican minority -- but there is no need for folks like you to let facts get in the way of logical arguments making after school debate club points. Given what was accomplished in spite of these limitations -- and the failures after Dems lost control -- it is fairly flabbergasting that a presumably progressive person would try to pull off this sort of embarrassing nonsense again after all the damage you've witnessed and facilitated.

Needless to say, I strongly disagree with the claim of the author that in pointing out the necessity for progressive people in the United States of voting for even imperfect Democrats given the state of the Republican Party in this historical moment violates the real civic duty of people to vote for the candidate they deem best. If you actually want the outcomes desired by the white racist patriarchal science-denying authoritarian-theocratic neo-feudal greedhead Movement Republican death-cult to prevail then by all means you should vote for them.

But don't expect me to pretend you or they are anything but what you and they actually are when you so choose. I would prefer the Republican Party would change to grant the realities of this secular multicultural world in which market fundamentalism has been demonstrated an utter failure and climate science demands change lest human civilization courts utter failure. But it hasn't, and that matters, and no person of sense or principle pretends otherwise or fails to act accordingly.

Thank you for your fine reading recommendation, however, and best of luck to you.

erica said...

you can only say broken window equal violence from the viewpoint of humans (and even that's shaky cuz humans aren't windows). from the window's perspective, who knows? maybe the glass hates being a window, hates it so much that every day, in ever way it tries to break itself, but is only able to arouse the desire in humans.

maybe we should vote on it, lol.
also, double lol on the we live in a govt by and for the people.

Dale Carrico said...

double lol on the we live in a govt by and for the people

Rather than laughing, er, loling, you could be voting, educating, organizing, running. You're not above it you're out of it. Don't expect me to pretend that is admirable or cute.

from the window's perspective, who knows?

Ah, blog commenters -- again, broken glass is sharp, and shattering glass goes places, and broken windows get cleaned up by somebody who is rarely a plutocrat. Just saying.

erica said...

i wasn't expecting anything from you. but, per yr advice, if we live in a sham democarcy, what good does voting, organizing (related to voting) and running do? i do read books, does that count as education.

and with the windows, my point is maybe the windows themselves want to be broken, not about who cleans them up. the objects of late-capital are hostile and most hostile towards their own position within commodity domination.

Dale Carrico said...

if we live in a sham democarcy, what good does voting, organizing (related to voting) and running do?

Translation: If I can't have a pony what good is anything?

And my point re: windows was that windows don't want anything -- and maybe you're crazy.

I wasn't expecting anything from you either. Who are you again?

erica said...

i never wanted a pony or a democracy. i want make total destroy. but maybe, if you're lucky, after obama wins another term, he'll totally make good on all his promises and we will have ponies for christmas!!!!1!!1!

and windows, i realize the problem with seeing is hiedegger. a broken-window doesn't reveal the glasses window-ness (present-at-hand), but rather it's un-window-ness, it's desire to be other than a use/exchange value.

and, as you can read above my comments, i'm erica. i like the layout and color scheme of your blog.

Dale Carrico said...

May I recommend you try to grasp basic civics before leaping ahead to high theory? Best of luck with the whole hulk smash thing.

jimf said...

> i want make total destroy.

And she's begun by destroying the upper-case letters. Very provocative.

erica said...

as provocative as starting a sentence with a conjunction??

but seriously, im for equality and all that shit, especially when it comes to letters. and i worry that if we continue to capitalize letters that lead off sentences and the first letter of proper nouns, the non-capitalized letters will get resentful. also, note that capitalize has capital embedded, which means not capitalizing is the correct action for anti-capitalists.

and civics are for the birds.

Dale Carrico said...

civics are for the birds

Like the one in your head?

Slavoj Muzak said...

In denouncing the erican way of life, we only reinforce it.

Dale Carrico said...

Less so than in endorsing or pretending indifference to it. And, anyway, who's to say the retreat to wit is a denunciation rather than my own most erican way of death?