Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Political thoughts...the liberal view vs. socialist.

One of the strange things with actually working with people who are disadvantaged, which I did in one form or another for about four years collectively, is that you kind of cut through the bullshit....which in my case proved to me that the liberal, as opposed to socialist, worldview was more correct than I gave it credit for. The socialist worldview, or at least one interpretation of it because there are quite a few versions, would say that those who are disadvantaged or having the hardest times socially are there because of economic reasons in one form or another, and that their presence is a symptom of a greater problem in society. The liberal version, on the other hand, says that social mobility and such works, and that the people who experience the heaviest hardships are those who the liberal set up of society fails because of some incidental cause like addiction or mental illness. It also privileges causes like racial discrimination as being worse problems than economic suffering.

Well, on a personal level, through lots of volunteering, I can say that the worst off in our society are those that conform to the liberal view of things as opposed to the socialist. I expected to find many economic victims of capitalist exploitation, but I found comparatively few, and instead people who had other problems that caused them to be in these positions. The origins of those problems may have had in some cases economic causes, but there was also the factor of personal responsibility in some cases.

I still am a socialist, and believe that economic inequality and the barriers that it puts up to people are a serious problem, but I've also gained a new appreciation for the fact that our economic system works to a degree that I hadn't suspected before. There is mobility, people do lift themselves out of poverty through hard work, not everyone is a victim of economics.

This view has also been strengthened by years spent in community colleges post-bachelors, first to study social work and then to transition into other sorts of worker retraining. I won't say that students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds were absent at Evergreen, but there certainly were more of them at the community colleges I went to, and unlike Evergreen they weren't politically self selected. Instead, it was a broad spectrum of people....and despite the constraints on my fellow students, many were extremely determined to change and improve their lives through school and classes, and to implement upward mobility through it. They didn't see the economic system as fucked up enough so that there was no hope in challenging it, hope that would have to come through some sort of political movement challenging the government, or through creating an alternative society outside of capitalism. Both views are more common than you'd think in the alternative political universe of good old Olympia, Washington.

And politically, they were all over the board. The virtuous proletarians weren't all predisposed for the socialist cause but instead were just as often predisposed to libertarianism as progressive thought.

Call it reality. The socialist critique still applies, but the dire doom and gloom assessment of our society is, in my view, not in connection with the actual facts of the society we live in.