Saturday, March 29, 2014

Materialism and the philosophy of life part 1

Of a series of blog entries.

If there's one thing that my experience on the West Coast has taught me, it's not to take anything for granted. For instance, the notion that people on the Left would necessarily be concerned with learning as a whole, or with culture in the sense of literature, music, art. All of these things, that make a person culturally literate in our society, don't necessarily follow from being concerned with a particular political position. At its worst here, and I'm speaking about a few people I personally knew, are folks who have no interests whatsoever or understanding of life beyond a kind of economic materialism that makes ignorance of anything abstract a virtue...because it's not 'real enough'. More common, and equally surprising, was the discovery that there were folks out here for whose interest in progressive and leftist politics was about the only interesting feature of their lives. Otherwise, they had little interest in the world...books they've read or were interested in, fairly normal, music the same, art, not much of an interest, really....thinking about the meaning of life, where we're all headed, living intentionally, well that was a little bit more nuanced since that's still what everyone who is younger and interested in progressive or left politics is implicitly supposed to be doing. However, even though people may have thought about these issues, there was certainly a lack of ability to articulate a position about them.

I think that while the residual concern for living intentionally that comes from the hippy movement and the '60s is still present today, to some degree, in reality there's no reason why this should naturally come as a package with left politics. Neither should a concern for learning, cultural literacy, or intellectual curiosity, for that matter.

There's a danger, if people start taking the classical Marxist interpretation of society to heart, whether the people who have it consider themselves Marxists or not, that we could see a reductionism in the concerns about life to pure economics. This would be a shame, and I think that there should be two parallel tracks going at the same time: the economic and the cultural, so that neither get ignored.

 Folks on the left tend to see arguments about reductionism as cover for excusing class privilege. Okay, well, then let's keep the criticism of class and also add more existential concerns to them, making the whole deal less of a push and pull between false dichotomies.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Capitalism and values

I think the legacy and effect of capitalism is two fold, first involving rising economic inequality and the creation of a class system, second the destruction of values and the replacement of a cohesive understanding of life with a vacuous one based on greed and materialism. The two are interrelated.

Looking out at the world today, the meaning of life as a whole is not paid much attention to. The big concerns that used to motivate people, the idealism of the past, both moral, ethical, and personal, is consigned to the history books. Instead, we have a vacuum that's filled by self interest and the pursuit of money, where all that exists is a dead world where individualistic atoms bump up against each other.

We don't even have a proper meritocracy, one of the great improvements over the feudal system that preceded all this. Instead, you're rewarded most especially if you decided to go into business yourself.

Along with the rise of class society has come the destruction of any sense of personal purpose in the world.

What's needed is both a socialist economic solution to what's going on, where there won't be massive classes of people, but a commonwealth where a true meritocracy can exist within, and a revival of meaning and idealism in the cultural sphere, where the vacuum of apathy is replaced by a richer understanding of the personal and social world. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

More thoughts on Occupy and race in America

Because the Decolonize post was so popular, people might be interested in another update.

Race is a social construct, and the history of racism in America is a tragedy, from the slave trade through segregation to the present day, among others. The focus of the "Occupy Seattle" post, in case people weren't clear about it, wasn't about making generalizations about people who are African American as a whole, or about any other minority group in the United States. It was about a very small subset of people within that group, who I judged as individuals making their own choices, that they should be held accountable for.

On a broader scale in the United States, what I was referring to is indicative of a minority tendency within a minority tendency, with possibly one more layer of recursion added, one that can be applied to the small number of people who try to explain away their participation in crime or their own moral failings, and objections to them, by either reference to racial oppression or to accusations of racism against those who have a problem with it.

 Most people who are racial minorities are law abiding people. A small number either commit crimes or otherwise act dishonorably. A smaller number, more present on the West Coast than elsewhere, resort to explanations that trade on liberal guilt to shift the blame from themselves.

However, even though the amount overall is small, it's highly significant because, first of all, it pokes holes in the liberal notion that all people who come from oppressed backgrounds are inherently noble, as opposed to being a mixed bag of people who are good, those who are bad, and those who are indifferent, somewhere in the middle.

Secondly, the fact that a significant number of folks who are liberal believe these people, and I'm using that phrase, points out some of the weakness in ultra-liberal and progressive culture, namely that they don't realize the moral complexity of the real world but instead live in a dream world where the lines between who is a virtuous individual and who is a villain are bluntly drawn. And can't tell the difference between people who are manipulating them and trading on their guilt and compassion for their own purposes and those who aren't.

As a minority within a minority, the reality of the situation does not in any way resemble the stereotypes on Fox News, for instance, or the types of thinking that are behind laws requiring all welfare recipients to submit to drug tests before getting benefits. Both of those overstate the situation by quite a bit, and go into their own fantasy land of stereotyping.

But just because that over the top rhetoric isn't accurate doesn't mean that the reverse is.

I can think of no better example of people being taken in by stories of struggle used to justify criminal values than the gangster rap genre. You have people glorifying committing crimes, shooting people, disrespecting women, being concerned about making money only, on and on, and then justifying it by making reference to the struggle that they've experienced. It doesn't work that way. Either you sell drugs in your community, destroying it, and commit other crimes against others, mostly in your own community, hurting others, or your a virtuous person who's trying to transcend their circumstance. You can't be both at the same time.

Tupac, whose music I liked growing up, is a great example of this. There are great songs about struggle, and even about the challenges that black women face in our society....and yet on the same record there are the songs about bitches and ho's, songs that demean women as nothing but objects to be used for sexual pleasure, as well as songs glorifying murder and being in gangs.

At first, the more conscious people in the genre presented songs dealing with gang life as documents of the life they once lived, before getting out of it and pursuing something better. Then, that got lost, and it just became about praising the lifestyle itself, who cares about the greater social aspects.  

You can't support your community while you tear it down, and you can't tell me that the behavior that you're promoting that is against what not only the majority of people in American society believe in, as well as the majority of people in any society tolerate in their lives,  is somehow acceptable because of the history of oppression of yourself and of your community.

It's not white against black, it's the type of behavior necessary for a stable, good society, versus that which is incompatible with it.

The popularity of the music with white people from privileged backgrounds who themselves are sexist, fratboy, pigs, speaks wonders about what exactly it promotes.

Non gangster rap as well...."99 problems but a bitch ain't one"....would you honestly say that to someone who's female that you care about?

These artists glorify the worst tendencies in human society, and they expect the history of oppression in their community to legitimate it and excuse it. And, though they make constant reference to their community, they speak for themselves, as individuals, who have made their own choices, and they should be judged based on that. They shouldn't be given the opportunity to use the greater community that they're a part of, that for the most part does not break the law or engage in the kind of things they sing about, as a shield against what are their own problems.




Sunday, March 16, 2014

"Why we're addicted to outrage" from "The Week"

Here. I can't say that I agree with the reason given, but the article is a good general overview of the topic of the sort of instant outrage that's out there, and the linked article Outrage Porn: How the Need for Perpetual Indignation Manufactures Phony Offense, is good as well, if less philosophical and somewhat shrill itself. 

Instant outrage, I would argue, dulls critical thinking by encouraging snap judgements taken without actually looking at what's being talked about. You just point someone to something and say go. A culture of constant accusation also tends to intimidate people into not saying anything, in that if they buckle into the concept, or buy into it, they're afraid that they might incidentally call down the wrath of someone.

I remember at Evergreen there was a twice weekly seminar in a large, integrated, class on politics, where there were two self appointed guardians of correctness, who no matter what was being discussed would first of all lay into anyone who they perceived was making a comment that might have had some implication that might have slighted in some way some group....and how once when they were both absent one of the other participants remarked at the end of the discussion how we got so much more productively done without them there.

Free discussion needs the potential for the participants to say something that might either be misunderstood easily or go against the grain, otherwise stagnation happens. In Japanese corporate culture, where obedience and deference to authority is highly entrenched, when they have brain storming sessions between members that are more senior and less senior they preface it with everyone having a drink of sake. That way they can criticize the ideas of a senior person, breaking the tradition of always being deferent and speaking correctly, because they're theoretically 'drunk' or intoxicated.

Anyways, both outrage porn and easy and often stupid offense miss the forest for the trees.

More good old anarchist stuff...

The canonization of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War is an interesting event...not because of the aspirations of those involved but because the reality itself was somewhat different. First of all, in terms of organization, despite being against Leninism, you had the leadership of the movement by the CNT-FAI, with the CNT being the labor union and the FAI, or Federation of Iberian Anarchists, organized to keep the CNT anarchist....despite what the CNT might actually have wanted. The FAI in this case played the same role as the Bolshevik party in Russia with regards to the unions. More radical factions in the FAI, such as the Friends of Durruti, went further by wanting a 'Revolutionary Junta' to organize a dictatorship over Spain at the higher levels while having democracy on the lower ones. Of course, the Friends of Durruti portrayed themselves as the ultra-anarchists, who were seeking to do that to preserve the anarchist content of the movement.

Putting aside for a second the question of why if a group is in favor of the working class they need to appoint themselves the ideological police of that group to ensure that they follow the right line, there's also the anti-Clerical actions of the Spanish anarchists, which were the scandal of Europe after they happened.

They took the idea of hanging the last capitalist from the light pole with the guts of the last priest seriously, and thereby came into towns and committed summary executions of Priests, raped nuns, forced Priests to rape nuns, organized Coliseum like events to put them on trial.

Now, try to put yourself in the feet of a regular guy in Spain, who's a worker but not quite committed to the cause of the anarchists. You have these people come in and take your village priest, who was a decent enough guy, even though you weren't particularly religious, put him up against a wall in a public square and shoot him without trial. What's your response going to be?

Not everyone opposed the anarchists because they were hot on the idea of the oligarchy that had been running the country getting more power, part of it, I would gather, was because they opposed the actions that the anarchists, in implementing their ideology, committed.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

More on the portrayal of Italians in American culture---'Twins', the movie

Because looking through the stats I saw that a previous post mentioning the movie was getting some traffic, but I hadn't really made this connection then. In 'Twins' with Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a group of Nobel winning scientists come together to create the perfect man, donating their sperm. But there's a problem, instead of one they get two, with all of the goodness going into one and 'All the shit', as the movie calls it, going into the other.

Now, Danny DeVito plays a short corrupt alcoholic Italian private detective with his trademark Brooklyn accent, while Schwarzenegger plays the ideal man with his Austrian accent. I would submit that if instead of a curly haired, dark, short, Italian the character DeVito plays had been cast as a curly haired, dark, short, hook nosed, person of Jewish descent there would have been protests in the streets. The film would have been labeled as a second coming of "Der Stumer", with all the vile anti-semitic stereotypes that that embodied. But because it featured an Italian, ah, well, it's just humor, come on, why are you so sensitive?

We have interesting blind spots for sensitivity in this country. On the one hand, having too much of an interest in things German such as German philosophy or music, without there being any reference whatsoever to people who are Jewish, Judaism in general, Nazism, or racism, can get one suspected of being a Nazi and an anti-Semite, particularly if you like Nietzsche and talk about him a lot. On the other, actually portraying people who are Italian as being corrupt, vulgar, alcoholics is something that people shouldn't be so sensitive about.   Besides, those Italians, they're all emotional, it's just the way they are, they don't really think things through rationally, they always complain about these things.

I could go on, but, yeah, with all of our political correctness and hyper tolerance for anyone, anywhere, making any objection whatsoever about something being offensive, nevertheless, people who raise the flag of derogatory stereotypes in the media about Italians are routinely dismissed.


Saturday, March 08, 2014

Partially, the rhetoric that the Maidan movement in the Ukraine is 'neo-nazi' is a Russian propaganda device from the Soviet era

Which people are falling for. Although the Svoboda party is in fact far right, it looks to be a small part of the movement as a whole. Instead, the rhetoric goes back to days when the Berlin Wall was described as an Anti-Fascist device to protect East Germany from the West. Soviet rhetoric talked about 'social fascism', but it looks like most people ignored that because of,you know, Stalin.  Now Stalin's gone but the righteous fight against capitalist fascism remains, and people are ready to buy it because they don't know that it's a piece of rhetoric that was consistently used in the past.

* on edit: here's a link to Wikipedia's page on the Berlin Wall, where it was described as the "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart" Here

The Ukraine: do material features shape history or do ideas as well?

That's a question to ask. The response of many people on the Left to the crisis in the Ukraine is to look at it purely through the lens of covert economic motivations, which must, must be the cause of the conflict. It has to be a secret gas pipeline deal, or NATO expansion that no doubt will lead to an extension of European influence in the Ukraine. While I'm no fan of NATO, what these explanations don't take into account is the possibility that ideas, particularly the idea of self determination, believed in by the people at large, could be a motivating factor in the protests.

The tendency to reflexively always look for a material cause for whatever conflict is going on is not borne out by history, and the complexity of the interrelationship between material causes and ideal ones poses a big threat to the orthodox historical materialist worldview that implicitly motivates much of the thought of those on the left and progressive side of things. A great example of it not being borne out in reality is the American Civil War.

A sizable number of people on the Left firmly believe that the Civil War was fought not about slavery, but about the north maintaining supplies of cotton that it needed for its textile mills. The idea is that the north was completely industrial, the south was completely agrarian, and the north had no other option in powering its textile mills than to keep control of the South...which would increase the price of cotton if it seceded.

Slavery and moral objections to slavery, the entire abolitionist movement, Abraham Lincoln's opposition to slavery and the triggering of secession largely by his election as President, doesn't enter into this history at all. It's like the decade or so of pro and anti-slavery argument, as well as any moral factor that might have motivated people, simply doesn't exist.

 No doubt it's much easier to live in a world like that, because it doesn't require as much critical thought as taking on the real complexities of history. Whatever's going on, just look for a potential economic explanation and voila--you don't have to trouble yourself over looking into the issue any further. Interestingly enough, the argument of the Civil War being fought over economic causes is enthusiastically embraced by Neo-Confederates in the South itself.

One of the sources for this idea is Charles Beard, a historian who published several influential volumes in the first decades of the 20th century. His "Economic Origins of the Constitution" is cited repeatedly by progressive historians, however if you actually read it and look at the evidence he presents that the writers of the Constitution were motivated by having bonds they'd bought not default, the evidence is really flimsy. This is not to deny that there were economic interests at work---they're right there in the Federalist Papers, where the authors specifically cite the potential for the rich to be threatened as one of the reasons why a central government over the states is necessary. But obviously that is not enough.

All of this relates back to the Ukraine in that if reflexively appealing to material motivations no longer works, the position that many progressives have carefully cultivated falls like a house of cards. They've put so much faith in this that they haven't really done the work to create a counter-argument.

Yeah, watching the head of NATO condemning the invasion of the Crimea was almost like seeing someone gloating about what a great opportunity was being handed to them, but what sort of person trusts their ideology and ignores the actual people on the ground? Isn't that, in itself, a much more Ideal position, not really material at all, while the opposite is in fact more in touch with concrete reality?

Friday, March 07, 2014

Also, there's quite a difference between Marx and Engels

In that most of what's known as vulgar Marxism or associated with the more Stalinist trends in Marxism arguably owes more to Engels than to Marx himself. He survived Marx by a number of years and served as his interpreter. Unfortunately, Engels wasn't that smart, and also didn't really have a deep understanding of his friend's work, and so hashed out a bunch of lower level writings that put much of what Marx was trying to eliminate, unscientific Hegelian speculation, back into it.

It's Engels, more so than Marx, who really put in the kind of 19th century teleological and progressive view of history inevitably leading to socialism into it. Marx believed that too, but not in the caricatured way that later Marxists would cast it.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Marx...

I've said basically the same thing before, but here it goes again in a new context. First of all, although I respect Marx a great deal, I view him as a philosopher, a social scientist, and an economist, not as the founder of an 'ism'. Others might view him that way, and I once did, but at this point describing someone as an adherent of Marx-ism is sort of like saying that a fan of Max Weber is an adherent of Weber-ism. Marx had many great analyses, but like anyone else wasn't perfect in his ideas, nor should he have been.

I believe that the economy structures society to a great extent, but that the cultural sphere, although influenced by the economic structure of society, retains some autonomy, and has its own timeline and ways of doing things. Everything is contextualized within the society in which we live, but this doesn't mean that there's any sort of a one to one correlation between economics and culture in the sense of a base-superstructure relationship. The truth is more complex, and in any case naked economics itself is rarely directly translated into culture, the indirect route being much more common.

Because of the relative autonomy of the cultural sphere, different ideas and explanations apply there, and culture comes to include some of the more abstract aspects of life, as opposed to the concrete, things which are psychologically important to people, that even influence ideas of alienation or social integration, but that aren't directly tie-able to any particular economic feature.

A while ago, actually almost ten years ago....sometime in the summer of  2004, I summed this up by saying that economic prosperity deals with the material while the cultural integration or disintegration deals with the psychological, with the more personal sense of alienation or functioning, that complements whether or not someone has physical needs, or is being fairly compensated in a monetary fashion for their work. Both spheres need to function properly for a person to really be healthy.

Without healthy functioning on the more abstract cultural level, a person has enough to eat but experiences profound personal distress, and the opposite is just a joke....having plenty of social integration while in reality starving.

*on edit: it's interesting to note that the very things that Marx, at least in his later writings, ignored, have become staples of sociology, with alienation being treated by Durkheim extensively, as well as by Weber and others. 

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.  

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Thoughts on Israel and on colonialism in the Middle East

People who expect some sort of Neo-Nazism from this site in the wake of recent political posts will be sorely disappointed. Where to start? Perhaps with colonialism, then Christianity.

Israel was formed during the twilight of colonialism in the Middle East. During the period it was formed, Britain and France controlled all of the Middle East, and outside of Turkey there was no self determination for the people who actually lived there themselves. Because of the horrors that happened to people who were Jewish during the Holocaust, the governments of England and France, allowed Israel to be formed as part of compensation. But the land wasn't theirs to give. They stood by while Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes in Israel and made refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

Sometimes people claim that a vote that took place in mandate Palestine, controlled by the British, that is hotly contested, gave support to the formation of Israel, but look at it: this was a vote orchestrated by the colonial rulers of the area, who were graciously letting their subjects have a say about whether or not they would like to have another country formed out of their land.

Israel was supported then, and continues to be supported now, because although people who are Jewish were at the bottom of the hierarchy in Europe, they were still closer culturally and religiously to Europeans than Arab Muslims. It should be remembered that at the same time that Israel was formed, segregation still existed in the United States. Racism was alive and well, and people in the Middle East certainly did not escape from it.

The idea that there either was no people in Palestine, that because they didn't have a European style nationalist movement there was no country, or that they were recent immigrants doesn't hold water. Palestine, sometimes denigrated as a name because of its Latin origin, is based on the word "Philistine", that referred to the non-Jewish inhabitants of the region. On that count, the Palestinians are descended from people of the Biblical era. And why exactly should they have needed a movement parallel to that of Zionism to be entitled to continue to possess their land?

In any case, after each of the countries in the Middle East got their independence they made their opinions about Israel perfectly clear: they didn't want it. Overwhelmingly. If Britain and France hadn't been there, Israel would not have been able to have formed.

Israel benefited from being on the edge of the European empires, from being in an area still controlled by them, by people who wanted to make amends for what they had done to them internally in Europe during World War II. But although other compensation is great, it's not possible to just give someone a country, where people are already living on it, unless you already own and possess it. That seriously goes over the line.

Israel has benefited from the relative xenophobia of Europe and the United States, but it's also benefited from the Christian heritage of both. Most of the time the focus on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism in Europe is on the negative aspects due to the idea that people who are Jewish killed Jesus, but this ignores another current that, although at times small, has nevertheless been there. Namely, that the entire Old Testament deals with Judaism and people who are Jewish, and takes place in Israel, and that because of this people who are Jewish have a special holy status within the Christian world, even if their non-recognition of Jesus is regretful.

Especially in the United States, this other current is highly significant. From personal experience, and also because of the different history of English Protestant denominations from those on the continent, and Catholicism in general, the Christian Protestant denominations that are largest in the United States have very little anti-semitism built into them. Unlike Germany or other places on the continent where the Lutheran church formed, England had a relatively small Jewish population. Because of this, in the present, the positive recognition of people who are Jewish as being historically important  in relation to Christianity, and Israel itself being similarly holy, predominates in American society. This causes a great deal of support for the state of Israel by devout Christians here in the U.S., who also press for the defense of Israel against Arab Muslims.

Some have associated support of Israel by Evangelical Christians with Christian Zionism, based on a notion that the world is going to end and everyone who is Jewish has to be returned to Israel, but the argument misses the basic point. There's no need for something like Christian Zionism to cause devout Christians to support Israel, because there's the Old Testament, and all of the stories of Adam and Eve, Moses, the Patriarchs, David, and the Prophets, that Evangelical Christians have been growing up on for generations.

I firmly believe that it's a combination of Christianity, western myopia, and the continued prominence of the United States and Europe on the world scene that allows Israel to continue to commit crimes that would be condemned anywhere else with impunity.

If we believe in the right of people's for self determination, and country after country in the Middle East, made up of people self determining themselves, have rejected the presence of Israel, including the people who lived on the land from which it was formed, why are their voices not listened to, and instead dismissed as not important?


Monday, March 03, 2014

The West Coast represents the future of the Left...and some problems

Namely, the problem of what happens after we win.

When I moved here from Florida, where I lived for about four years, I wasn't prepared for the fact that on the west coast people had been organizing, and had been successful at organizing, for quite a long time, and that the game had been in motion since before I was born. One of the reasons I moved out here was because I felt that the activist scene where I was in Florida paid too little attention to class struggle, and recycled rhetoric that was liberal instead of socialist as radical thought. I found that, yes, people out here were more cognizant of class struggle, but that on top of recognizing it, and a socialist society, as a good thing there were many people who used the slogans and the sympathy as excuses for their own failings. Not only that, but actively used them to try to get you to give them a break for their own fuckups, while casting doubt on you and where you were coming from. It was a game, one that played on liberal insecurities.

I somehow thought that people would  be above doing that. Wishful thinking, it turns out. A minority of people are willing to use any feature of themselves that the greater society has sympathy for to their own advantage.

 However, while some would use this as evidence that the Left as a whole, or leftist thought in general, is wrong or ill founded, I took and take a different approach, one that I feel is not only warranted but represents what the future will look like--if we want to maintain socialism and not let it slip into a degenerate state.

I feel that socialism, the idea of class struggle, victory of the working class, socialization of corporations, is right, but that as a secondary issue we have to deal with the venality of the hangers on who would use the rhetoric for their own purposes. How exactly they do this, and what it looks like, has been adequately cataloged and examined by people on the Right, who have also suggested, in a more philosophical sense, some ways to fix this. While there are a diversity of views there, I think I can say that in general those on the Right who criticize Communism and other socialist currents on the basis of the selfishness and self interest of those pursuing this throw the baby out with the bath water, and focus almost exclusively on the negative without looking at the genuine issues that are involved...and don't recognize that there are people who are genuinely pursuing these things without falling into those traps. Their critiques are one of the reasons that I advocate a Left-Right fusion politics.

The conservative critique, and the correlative focus on character and values as a corrective to some of the potential problems,  can be incorporated into the traditional leftwing doctrine without destroying its foundations. I think this should happen and that it's necessary to make a sustainable socialist society---and movement, while we're at it.

With this, and the disillusion that I've felt multiple times out here on the west coast, racial issues have actually been a small part of the focus. Despite commenting on, and critiquing, the failings of Occupy Seattle and the way it went, I see whatever hold overs of liberal racial politics their are as very secondary to the issue of the working class as a whole.  The fact that a small number of people are willing to abuse the good nature of others based on their skin color doesn't invalidate the realities of racial oppression anymore than similar abuses on the part of working class folks invalidates the real concerns about inequality and power in our society. I view race as an illusory concept, something that's a social construction, and I don't think that there's any particular profound insight that can be gotten from contemplating racial issues in any other sense than that.

The future on the west coast is showing itself in its first stirrings, manifested in movements as well as in life in general, and it's a future that the rest of the country will eventually have to catch up with. They could save themselves a lot of trouble by anticipating the potential problems that success in their ventures will bring, as opposed to pretending that the righteousness of the cause will conquer all, without the more depressing aspects human nature intervening and raining on the parade.