Thursday, March 06, 2014

It's important to note that this Left-Right fusion didn't come out of nowhere

It's been a long time coming. It's ebbed and flowed, but always in response to particular disillusionments with left with activism in practice, as opposed to theory. The first time this happened was in late 2002, in response to a particularly bad experience regarding a protest in Chicago. Being a philosophically minded person, trying to make sense out of it, I eventually looked to Hume's critique of authority, and of leaders in general, as being fallible beings in whom power shouldn't be vested as an explanation. I somewhat dropped out of the activism scene in Florida for a while after that, and instead pursued studying the strain of conservative thought associated with Wendell Berry and the Southern Agrarians, who were anti-capitalist from a somewhat aristocratic perspective, and anti-modern as well.

Although I lived in the South, and was reading these folks, I took it on face value that they weren't defending segregation, and so straight out Neo-Confederate thought was never part of the deal, and neither was a defense of slavery, or racism. To understand how that would be possible, you really have to have lived in one of the more liberal areas of the South, which includes north Florida, where the difference in philosophy of life isn't simply conservative vs. liberal...and where there are still people of the old guard who, while being socially progressive regarding race and potentially other things, still like the idea of decentralized government and the preservation of a pre-industrial way of life.

But, I went back to left politics, keeping much of this to myself, and gave things another chance. When I went to Evergreen to finish up my degree I pretty much forgot about it altogether. It was only bad experiences there that resurrected interest in these things. The first full year at Evergreen, that was spent in a 16 credit interdisciplinary program that studied activism, local politics, and local history, was horrid. Every bad stereotype of the left that you can think of manifested itself there, and at the end I was almost ready to give the whole thing up, but the next year proved to be much better.

However, at the end of that year, again, some things happened that caused disillusionment, but this was much more situational than necessarily the result of particular people's actions. In response, I became mostly a-political, and although still writing about politics, pretty much withdrew from active involvement for several years.

I won't go into the drama or details, but the experience with Occupy, in which I was an observer and by no means a core participant, was really the final nail in the coffin.

But what exactly is the coffin?

At every stage of the way, there was good and bad, having a disillusioning experience with the Left and then going back and having a positive experience....which is why my politics are a synthesis instead of a rejection.

I couldn't, and wouldn't, in good faith pretend that all of the people that I knew who were doing positive things to make the world better were somehow evil or corrupt, or that the core ideas of the Left, which I whole heartedly believe in, were wrong. That's not what this is about.

I'm not disowning my past but instead pointing out ways to fix the many problems that in my opinion exist along with the positive work that people do. To do that I've over the years gone back to the foundations of political philosophy, looking not just at Marx and folks but at the philosophical origins of socialism, as well as those of conservatism and liberalism of various sorts, from what's looked at as welfare state liberalism to classical liberalism, and created something based on a reinterpretation of first principles regarding ideas of what the good society is like.

The solution, however, may not be appetizing to everyone, but personally speaking the more nuanced view that's come out of it, that doesn't exist in a vacuum, has proven good for making sense out of what's happening in Syria, and now the Ukraine, while not abandoning core principles of social justice. I have no problem supporting the folks in the Ukraine, or calling for intervention in Syria, while also supporting the nationalization of corporations, universal healthcare, and unions. It's other folks who can't seem to reconcile doing what the rest of the international community mostly feels is right with left wing values.

The absurdities of supporting Putin's Russia while ignoring a popular revolt in the Ukraine over hypothetical gas lines and NATO expansion......while criticizing Russia just a few weeks ago in relation to the Olympics and their anti-gay policies, are a prime example to me of how the traditional Left paradigm is inadequate to really grapple with and understand, and put forward proposals about, the political reality that we face today.

What you're seeing isn't a bitter, disillusioned 'ex-communist'. Instead, what I'd like to do is to create an alternative space for a more realistic politics based on Left-Right fusion....one that doesn't sanction atrocities, racism, or any other things that commonly clash with core liberal values....which I still also believe are fundamentally correct, even though their application in practice has often been somewhat wanting.  

No comments: