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

Sunday, July 17, 2011

You Can Still Keep Your Eyes On the Prize With Your Bifocals On

On moving past disgruntlement into engagement, here's an idea: get struggling at the local or state level to facilitate the best progressive campaigns on offer -- or get something going yourself if you're really motivated and nothing else presents itself (something really worthwhile is probably already organized but you have to look past your edifying disgruntlement to see it and then start working on it) -- all the while struggling for more, and better, Democrats at the national level.

You can and should still keep your eyes on the Prize -- single payer, steeply progressive taxes, green stimulus, internalization of environmental and social costs of profitable enterprise, homes not jails, a real commitment to life-long public education, no nukes, a planetary basic income guarantee, a democratically elected world parliament, whatever the Prize may be for you (those are all worthy regulative ideals in my book, I endorse every single one of those goals and many existing campaigns working toward them)... But keep your bifocals on, and struggle in the present with what is available in the service of where you want us to be going together.

It's exhausting, it's heartbreaking, it's hard and terribly error prone, but that's what you sign up for when you decide to be a responsible grown up, let alone a radical in any sense of the word worth owning.


The Mathmos said...

And now for something completely different, "ugly", and "paranoid" :

Support Group: Documenting the Peace Laureate's Progressive Atrocities, by the esteemed Chris Floyd.

A difficult thing to keep one's eyes on the prize with all those body parts flying around, it would seem. At least for some people, in- and outside the US.

/honest-to-goodness sermonizing

Dale Carrico said...

There's nothing in this post to which you are presumably responding to provoke the insinuation that you hate war more than I do or resist it on the ground any more than I do.

I don't agree that your personal inability to walk and chew gum at the same time indicates you see obvious evils more clearly than I do or care about them more keenly, but I do believe your endlessly expressed preference for a politics of ineffectual posturing above all else is little likely to contribute much of actual substance to the outcomes you claim to care about so much.

It's interesting that this post recommends organizing in the service of campaigns that matter to you -- you could easily and reasonably have taken that as an endorsement of anti-war resistance (of which I heartily approve and in which I have regularly participated myself). In a post right next to this one I actually called attention to my stark disapproval of Obama's war policies -- I didn't think America should go to war against and remain in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya (among many other places in which we are carrying on armed hostilities via troops and drones and so on) and have said so here countless times.

Blanket disapproval of Obama on the basis of this critique makes no sense to me, however, since it would have to be coupled with, at the very least, (a) a practical sense of what an actually existing alternative to Obama would do in respect to the issue, (b) a practical critique embedded in a suite of programmatic recommendations concerning US militarist legal and budgetary priorities more generally in relation to the executive, (c) an awareness that the Presidency connects to more than one struggle that matters to progressive people and that this complicates our assessments of administrations compared to their actually existing alternatives, (d) a good case as to how a President might best be pressured to change specific war policies given the actual forces at hand (for example, concerns with debt that provide justifications for shrinking military spending, awareness of the extent of anti-war sentiments in the Democratic caucus, understanding the extent to which "defense" spending can be re-oriented into veterans healthcare and education benefits and sustainable infrastructure projects, etc).

I don't doubt your sermonizing is "honest." I just think you are far more useless and self-indulgent than you realize, and I think it is a shame that your good intentions are diverted into symbolism over substance and your energies (as they manifest on this blog at any rate) aim at the division and demoralization of those who try actually to work toward the outcomes you prefer to congratulate yourself for preferring.

The Mathmos said...

Far from me the idea of disrespecting the work you do here, but there is a massive difference in time between maintaining a blog, and simply commenting on some of its items on at most a monthly basis. This tendency of yours to transport any political discussion on a motivational, activist-centric terrain has a prima facie allure to it, but it's ultimately rovian sophistry of the lowest order. No doubt the few criticisms I make known around here also affect the morale of the troops, eh?

Being a fan of Amor Mundi from before its embrace of capitalist realism (Fisher, 2009) around the installation of the current Presiding War Criminal, I feel compelled to make my disbelief heard at least some of the time. After all, this is one of the last blog headed by a Continental Philosophy figure of any renown that hasn't re-lapsed into embittered opposition to the two-party system after a protracted, denial-prone honeymoon with Obama.

I'm still 'hoping' for you to come around around when this administration's nth dimensional plan comes to fruition : the use of the Republican blockade as foil to confound and drag in the Left as he passes the entitlement reforms so desperately wanted by his class allies on Wall Street.

Dale Carrico said...

Uh huh, I sound like Karl Rove. Uh huh, I embrace capitalist realism despite being a democratic eco-socialist feminist. Uh huh, what matters about supporting Obama against first McCain-Palin (Palin!) and next whatever loon the Repugs pick is that it is the celebration of the installation of a war criminal. Do you hear yourself?

What am I supposed to "come around to," exactly? You think we can click our heels together and make the Republican Party vanish? You think it's enough to "grr!" at war and at Wall Street? Do you what a fight equal to those evils will look like and how long it will last?

You can pretend you don't know that all the people in government organized around not being climate change denialist or union buster christian talibanist or queer basher or anti-abortionist or gun nut are all Democrats, you can pretend that Bernie Sanders caucuses with the Democrats for no reason, you can pretend all of that for whatever reason drives you, or perhaps you are actually really stupid or ill or something and believe that is true.

I say here what I believe for reasons I provide. I try to get others involved on terms I think are the right ones precisely because I believe in their power for good. Ask yourself why you come here so often, why you throw darts here of all places, why you are driven to sneer here. What on earth are you trying to accomplish, what on earth is the matter with you?

If you want to fight some more radical fight apart from the Democrats, please do so, join a campaign, do some good. I celebrate such work and such workers, intransigent single-issue activists with bullhorns, artists raising hell, social workers saving lives with little support... But don't pretend there is anything useful in bullshit equivalence theses or demoralizing declarations of a plague on both your houses as measured against ideals that somebody somewhere is going to have to be willing actually to get dirty fighting for somewhere otherwise than in the theatricum philosophicum if they're ever to mean anything at all for you to contemplate from your preferred distance.

Unless you mean to embrace organized rebellion on the street (which I respect but believe would fail), it will be Obama or somebody who behaves much like him who will unleash the regulatory forces and tax reforms and make the appointments and provide the frames that will turn the tide to reshape the terrain to enable reformers to push the boulder toward a defeat of Wall Street as it currently rules.

It's fine if you don't have the clarity or dedication for that fight, but do please stop puking on those of us who are trying to do our best where yours just isn't good enough.

The Mathmos said...

There's a lot to like about your response. A great many strawmen too, but I won't begrudge you your flourishes.

And yet, the continuous failure to acknowledge key facts about the Democratic Party as a part of the current and historical governing structure of this country is not to your credit. Your insistence on :

1) Your own impeccably humane ideals and long-term goals;

2) The reformist minority at work inside the Democratic Party at this juncture;

3) The off-the-wall craziness of the Republican political discourse, being pitched now at a seemingly higher level than at any other time in recent history;

(To which I would add other, atmospheric factors favoring the Dems, such as :)

4) The calculated ambiguity of the official Democratic political discourse(s), which navigates or straddles many ideological centers and is often left open to generous personal interpretation;

5) The heritage of FDR and the New Deal claimed by the Democrats;

6) The historical instances of limited gains made by minority groups under Democratic, as opposed to Republican, stewardship;

7) The (now flagging) support of trade unions around the country for the Dems.

8) Other specific, localized developments :

None of these factors moderate the following acts (as opposed to words) coming from the Obama administration :

I) The protection and perpetuation of elite lawbreaking from the preceding administration : i) torture (Bagram, Mogadishu, Quantico, etc.) ii) kidnapping (‘rendition’) iii) domestic spying;

II) The re-appointment of infamous Bush-era officials (Gates, Mullens, Bernanke); the appointment of numerous other right-wing figures (Geithner, Summers, Rahm, Bowles, etc.)

III) The commission of new instances of elite lawbreaking : i) targeting American citizens with assassination and ii) aggressive war without Congress ;

IV) The maintenance of secrecy doctrines enshrining lawlessness at the highest levels of government;

V) The dealing-away of the watered-down ‘public option’ with private insurance companies and drug prices negotiation with Pharma during the HCR debates, while publically emoting to the contrary;

VI) The sustained US military and drone massacres of civilians in at least five different countries and counting;

VII) The extension of Bush tax cuts to the very rich in times of so-called austerity;

VIII) The willing bargaining-away of fundamental social services like SS and Medicare;

IX) The embrace of ‘structural’ unemployment theory (Great Depression-level unemployment as the new normal);

X) The presiding over one of the greatest regressive redistribution of wealth in American history;

XI) and on and on…

This administration has moved so far to the right that the only way for this two-party song and dance to make any sense anymore is for the good ol’ GOP to move even further to the right, by empowering the loony faction. To me, participating in this opaque kabuki with actual hopes of maintaining any prize in sight is science fiction. Better for the Democrats to lose power and recover some spine, and then maybe even meaningfully oppose the Republican policies Obama is implementing.

See? I can work up some faith in the Dems when I put my mind to it.

Dale Carrico said...

We'll just have to agree to disagree about how awesome it would be if the Democrats lost power so the Republicans can run everything. Go away now.