Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Atomization, mass politics, and 9/11

I think that the outpouring of pseudo-patriotic chest thumping and xenophobia that followed 9/11 can be traced directly to the alienated state of society that existed before the event. Loss of community and structures to support the individual lead to a  state where, following a tension causing event, people went spontaneously from being atomized to being part of a generic mass that was vulnerable to suggestion by elites who were eager to manipulate them for their own purposes. Patriotism became a convenient rallying point in a society that had been hollowed out from within as regards meaning and purpose, and the sudden integration of society that followed became a prime example of how this shouldn't be done. People found meaning in patriotism, in their perception of American values, and in the perceived difference between those values and those of the vaguely defined "Axis of Evil", but there was no restraint. It was basically mob rule in an almost pure form, with Bush and company directing the juggernaut here and there to serve their purposes.

Earlier writers who have talked about mass society and mass man have almost exclusively associated it with working class folks and with things like the labor movement, but I don't think that there's any necessary connection between the two. I think that a mass state is something that is ultimately temporary, can happen to any social class, and can be avoided by fostering both social integration and economic justice. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

The duality of culture and economics

I believe that those who talk about cultural alienation and those who talk about the economic substructure of society are both right. Marx, in my opinion, was correct in saying that to focus exclusively on the cultural without looking at the economic background to it is to miss the point, but it goes the other way as well, and by that I mean I think that it's possible to have an economically prosperous society that is nonetheless alienated and disconnected in ways that have been labeled 'cultural', as well as a culture that's very much connected and non-alienated that's economically fundamentally unjust, where culture just papers over the inequities under the surface.

While I think that economics determines that great divisions of society, and the power dynamics that exist between those divisions, the more subtle interpersonal and communal experience that's labeled culture seems to have an independent existence from economics. Because of this, I think that it's important to address both issues: to put forward a vision of socialism that's based on the Marxian conception of how economics functions in its broadest sense while also promoting non-alienating forms of culture as a subsidiary to that.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Where I think a lot of things went wrong: Charles Maurras' "quatre États confédérés"

When I say when things went wrong I mean the possible positive fusion of revolutionary socialist politics with some sort of conservative belief system as a subsidiary force. Maurras of the Action Française labeled people who are Jewish, Masons, Protestants, and Foreigners, as being the four confederate states that were secretly undermining France. This, in turn, was derived from traditional fringe theories that had been circulating in France since the Revolution, the fallout of the Dreyfus affair, Maurras' preference for Catholicism, and other things. 

Many of the ideas that Maurras came up with regarding an integral state aren't that bad on their own, although they encourage class collaboration instead of workers' power, but when combined with the above they become a deadly combination, literally, in that Nazi Germany quite willingly embraced them with open arms, although preferring Protestantism to Catholicism. Linking all of this to biology, something Maurras didn't do but others after him did, could be a fifth thing that undermined all of it. 

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Democratic rights and wrongs: marjiuana legalization, abortion, segregation---gradualism as opposed to fiat

Because although revolutionary change can be necessary, when it comes to shifting social values, democracy is often served better through gradual change.  Marijuana legislation in Washington State is a great example. Here, it piggy backs on a very long period of increasing acceptance of marijuana use, by people in all parts of society. It went gradually from being tolerated, to being legalized for medical use, to being fully legalized. Medical use was a great test in that it demonstrated that, despite the potential out there for misuse of the privileges, making it at least semi-legal for some people wouldn't bring down the fabric of society, so to speak. With marijuana partially legalized for certain purposes, riots of crazed pot smokers out of "Reefer Madness" did not run rampant through the streets. Part of the reason why it worked, and is currently working, is that a culture of responsible use was created over time, and people learned how to have this be part of life without destroying things.

Abortion, sadly enough, did not go that way. The current impasse about abortion, the whole fact that abortion is an issue right now at all, demonstrates what happens when you go over people's heads and make a court ruling on a controversial subject that a heck of a lot of people are completely opposed to. It's legal....but in a lot of places that doesn't matter. Although this may be seen as a terrible, terrible, thing, quite honestly you don't get into a situation where there's one abortion clinic left in Mississippi and the governor openly talks about putting laws in place to shut it down without most of the state, including women, approving of it. The idea that Mississippi is home to a large population of radical feminists who are being oppressed into not saying anything about this move doesn't ring true. Instead, it speaks more about Northern and other notions about what people are like being projected onto the state.

What if abortion had been legalized in the way that marijuana is now being legalized, or that gay marriage is being legalized, state by state instead of across the country by fiat? It would still take time for it to come around, but the results would pile relation to the action of activists on the ground level working to change people's attitudes. That way, when the legalizations happened, they would tend to stick, and not be as contentious as the issue is now. The choice with choice, so to speak, isn't a bi-polar world between complete access to abortions and complete non-access, and, quite frankly, if so many people are opposed to it why shouldn't they get their way?

Before jumping on me for this, think this over: if abortion was not only effectively illegal in Mississippi but actually illegal, based on State and not Federal law, it would still be possible for that to be changed if people worked really hard to actually change the opinions of the citizens of the state from the bottom up. And why would that be a bad thing?

Some would say that the ending of segregation is an argument to the contrary, but I'd disagree. Looking at the history of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as writings about it by folks like Howard Zinn, segregation wasn't overturned at once by legislative fiat, but at the end of a very long process of ground level activism that changed the opinions of people in South enough for that legislation to take place without enduring resistance. George Wallace might have stood in front of a schoolhouse door, and the national guard may have had to be called in, but, as abortion itself has shown, if the people of the South truly did not want integration to happen at all, they would still be doing things to impede it. At present the only things related to that we hear about is the rare place in a rural area that still has two separate Proms. It could be much, much worse than that.

Another thing is that, despite the claims by some people in the South themselves, segregation wasn't ended primarily by Northern activists coming down and helping out. They were invited and worked in tandem with organizations that already existed on the ground level. Democracy, ground up democracy, worked in this case, and the actions of the Federal Government ratified and pushed forward what was already going on, as opposed to making something out of nothing.

Some folks would look at the hostile climate to abortion in places like Mississippi and North Dakota as the end of the world, other folks would look at it as another job to tackle. In any case, the difference between the relative ease that marijuana has been legalized in some places and the opposition to abortion in others illustrates the importance of actually consulting the people who you're making your laws for instead of just approving them based on an abstract legal concept that you've suddenly found, and feel has universal applicability.

Friday, June 07, 2013

In defense of Obama on the spying issue...

It's not good, but it also did not start with him. Like the drone strikes, Obama is continuing policies that Bush started, rather than starting new ones. While the surveillance shouldn't be happening, it's also probably not part of some grand scheme of Obama's to implement an authoritarian state. That would be Bush you were thinking of.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Clarification about the site

Most folks have noticed the change from a pure left wing site to one that incorporates ideas from the right, as well as from straight liberalism, into it, on top of it all. With that, my main interest is in social conservatism, and the philosophy that goes along with that, not in fiscal conservatism. Right wing, pro-corporate, libertarianism has little attraction for me.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

"New Immigration Approach? Give me your skilled masses, yearning to succeed", fuck that.

From the Seattle Times:

"Consider this: Two young people, both living in Honduras, and each with a strong desire to emigrate to the United States.
One has learned English, was valedictorian at his high school and is in his second year of college. The other dropped out of high school, has minimal skills but has a brother already living in the U.S.
Considering what’s in the best interest of this country, which of the two should be allowed in?"

I say the one with the brother living in the U.S. The article is about a potential shift in visas allowing lots of high skilled jobs to go to folks from overseas. Frankly, I think we need a completely mercenary approach to this, in that we're not obligated to be the high end employer of the world, but need to provide jobs to people who are already here.

To me, in point of fact, the person with minimal skills who wants to make it in the U.S. is a better candidate, in that if you're really talking about people "taking our jobs", it's not folks like him you have to worry about. In fact, I think that the people who are in the country either illegally or semi-legally working menial labor should be legalized, and should be paid more for what they do. 

If we want to preserve any vestige of economic and political influence in the 21st century, in the face of other rising super powers, the first thing we need to do is to stop giving away the high powered jobs to people from overseas and instead grow our own talent, and be, frankly, very outright about our preferences.

*with the other folks too, there the issue of Mexico and Latin America also being areas that are, in fact, Native American to one degree or another, meaning that immigration from Mexico and other parts of Latin America to the U.S. really isn't immigration to a foreign country...

**to clarify: if you want to know what the American Dream is about, it's about people coming here with nothing working hard and making it. It's not about people who already have lots of skills, who could easily be applying them in their own countries, coming over here and taking high paying jobs.