This is the next-to-last part of the conversation. I will wind it up tomorrow sometime. My heartfelt gratitude and admiration to the participants in this chat who allowed it to be posted here.
-- As far as I can see, there is no better plan waiting in the wings, ready to take off running as soon as the Bush League crumbles. --
Ain't it the truth! The failure of the opposition to propose alternatives is one of the signs of worsening fascism, isn't it?
-- It struck me that this was one more example of how we are so often very clear and outspoken about what we oppose, but frequently not very clear at all on exactly what the viable alternative is – and by “viable” I mean immediate and effective, not some more utopian vision.
In my view, this has been a failing of the left not only with respect to foreign policy but with many, many other issues as well. There is a pervasive feeling, I think, that what fundamentally needs to happen would likely have such a significant impact on our privileged circumstances that… well, it’s just not saleable, so why even attempt some big effort? I guess my response to that would be, because what we’ve been doing just ain’t working good enough. --
In Alaska last year, working on an initiative to legalize marijuana totally for people over 21 (we got 44.75% of the vote; 60% went for Dubya in the Presidential race); we heard the question a lot, "But what will you replace the marijuana laws with?? How will "regulation" work?" We didn't have a real good answer to that ("the legislature will then gut the initiative...") until we got some help from a cat named Howard Wooldridge, an ex-Michigan highway patrolman who works with Law Enforcement Against Prohibiton. Howard says, "If you have a cancer cut out, what do you replace it with??" We don't have to know all the answers about what it will look like.
My dear brother-in-law, Ed Vizard (who sends greetings to the Ragstaff, by the way) told me today about something he'd seen on TV where one character tells another to essentially get a grip and make something of his/her life (I'm not clear on the details); character 2 says, "Well, I don't think it's as easy as that!", and character 1 says, "BUT WHAT IF IT IS???"
I think you're right, Dennis: a major change in how people view themselves and their entitlements is both in order and potentially saleable; we will never know if we do not try. And the mixture of action and advocacy, at different levels as opportunity presents, sounds a lot like "talking to people where they're at" (you sly ol' SDS dog)!
Then, perfect example; Val comes up with the info about CITGO being Venezuelan-owned; kewl; I used to have a credit card from them; maybe I'll get another one! I like this MUCH better than the deal about everybody not buying gas on one day; big yawn and never gonna happen; this is economic activism. "Girlcott" - you slay me, Val! This is something I can send to my most redneck cousins (well, the ones who've had electricity installed), and just have!
-- More importantly, virtually nobody as far as I can see is making a big effort to knit those isolated examples together into something that resembles a coherent illustration / vision of what our feasible alternative society might look like.
There was some talk at the reunion about Seniors for a Democratic Society. To do what? Conduct a replay of the (mostly male) grandstanding and inevitable spiral into factionalism? Maybe it’s time to modify the game plan. --
We need the visioning, but with the realization that no plan is gonna be set in concrete; we need the hell-bent-for-leather fighting the parasites, from here and from everywhere; we need lots of visible alternatives in our communities; that seems like a full plate, I'll pass on the grandstanding.
It is so good to have you "back", Dennis!!
-- I think there is a third strategy – Fight, Flight and Light. (Maybe “illumination” would be more appropriate, but it doesn’t rhyme so well.) Light doesn’t mean you set aside the fight, just supplement it. Accentuate the positive. Give people some tangible alternatives. And devote as much energy to identifying and promoting those as we do to opposing the bad stuff. --
Life is based on ironies – or contradictions, if you like to think dialectically. Action breeds reaction; thesis breeds antithesis, leading (ultimately) to a synthesis, which starts the process over again.
But it’s never as simple as that sounds because life isn’t a mathematical model where all the factors are clear and visible. While we may have some remote idea of the forces at work in the world around us, the process of predicting what will actually happen is an exercise in futility. Given that, I think Dennis has it: what we need to do is to continue to do what we have always done – work to make things better in any way we can.
We can never escape the privileged position we have in the world. The fact that we can even write or read messages like this or that we aren’t sick and hungry is abundant proof. But that doesn’t matter. We can also admit that at least some of the privilege we enjoy today, including the ability to travel to other places, will quite possibly disappear and that the real, practical future for ourselves or our children and grandchildren may be very different. There is, after all, a limit to how long a small group of people in a particular place – the US of A – can continue to absorb such a large portion of the world’s resources.
No one in their right mind should wish for the “collapse” because the consequences will be felt by the “innocent” far more than the “guilty” – and that certainly includes many that we know and love.
Building on Dennis’ comments, In the grand, eternal dialectic of change, we can (and I believe must) do what we can to provide tangible alternatives to the present – both large and small. Whether it be lessons in sustainable agriculture, the promotion of alternative sources energy and energy conservation, the development new and more sustainable models for housing and cooperative association, the process of political education and mobilization at all levels, all kinds of “consciousness” raising, the promotion of alternative understandings of spiritual and personal power, or simply the fostering of reflection and insight on the world we live in – all these and much more are part of the process.
No one can say whether any of it will make a real difference. There were, after all, many who predicted the collapse of the Roman Empire and worked hard to reverse the tide over several hundred years of decline. Nonetheless, I am convinced that, in the process of trying to change the future, there are valuable sources of meaning and affirmation to be found. And, hell, it is a lot more fun than sitting quietly by while the world goes to hell in a hand basket.
If that’s not enough, remember that the fall of Rome led to the Dark Ages, where literacy all but disappeared and the daily lives of those left surviving degenerated in some gruesome ways (which goes back to my point that collapse is probably not something to wish for our children and grandchildren and those following behind us).
In this perhaps too bleak context, I also agree with Marian that David HP’s formulation is a good ideal and well worth remembering.
Our goal is a stable world population living under democratically chosen cooperative governments, with a sustainable global economy that protects the environment and human rights, and justly distributes the available resources.
I read Dennis' words, Mariann's words, Alice's words, etc., and it all sounds good. But I notice that amid all the talk of expat vs. non-expat, CITGO, personal revelations and Bush-bashing, there is only a teensy little bit of thought/talk given to Planet Earth.
So for your consideration I offer this: there must be breathable air, potable water, and good dirt for life to exist on this planet. The votes we place in the election booth, the causes we espouse, the charities we donate to, need to include this vision. With transportation costs rising, it would be good for each/all of us to consider making some changes in where and when we buy our groceries, for example. Think farmers' markets instead of supermarkets. Eat what's in season. Nag the politicians to recognize the fact of global warming and the effect it's going to have on the planet. Boy/girlcott genetically engineered foods. Eat more heirloom varieties of fruits and veggies (i.e. the non-hybrids that have been around forever as in Marglobe tomatoes, not Burbee's Big Boy). Support local businesses whenever possible.
My psychic colleagues often speak the phrase: As above, so below. I believe that energy-flow goes both ways, and as each of us here "below" makes choices, we are affecting the "above" whether we realize it or not. It's easier to shop at HEB, but is it Right Action? There are always alternatives. I urge that we be more open to them in more aspects of our lives than what we are currently labelling "politics" or "activism".
Alice's idea is good. She's right: there's lots of fine writing in this group and it deserves to be made more accessible to more people. Kinda like an electronic Rag, yes??? I have a friend in Massachusettes who wanted a first-hand account of the DC march. I forwarded Doyle's report to her and she is quite pleased to have read it. It would have been simpler if I could have directed her to a website she didn't have to join to read (and she wouldn't have qualified for the Rag-group 'site, anyway).
Thank you Kate, for remembering mother earth. Water is the looming shortfall, far more than oil.
And the great epidemics of our time have already begun, striking those on the "western" diet of corporate grown food. Childhood asthma, arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders are diseases of the West, and not places like Mexico city with its farmers markets and bad air. No federal grants look into the causes of these new auto-immune diseases (our farming and shipping) but rather into the (profitable) cures.
-- it is a lot more fun than sitting quietly by while the world goes to hell in a hand basket. --
Fun - real, honest, belly-laughing, giggling, warm, true fun - is our most revolutionary offering.
Saw a multi-colored, hand-lettered poster on the back of some newish looking hatchback here in SE Studentville today: PEACE: It's NOT JUST for HIPPIES ANYMORE!
Then Kate says,
-- There are always alternatives. I urge that we be more open to them in more aspects of our lives than what we are currently labelling "politics" or "activism". --
For me for the last 2 or 3 weeks the "alternative" has been driving north across the river to the "Mexican" HEB on E. 7th, rather than shopping at the "student" HEB right here on E. Riverside - NOT a nice alternative either way one cuts it, and I swear IT IS a TEMPORARY cost of moving, but at least the 7th street location stocks vegetables! Say, do you suppose there is any chance whatsoever that Wheatsville would ever expand over here? Montopolis would be primo; oh lord help me Kate if I have to start organizing a food co-op out here I may have to become a Breathairian!
But yeah - we have to implement the knowledge in our own lives of what it means to live lightly on the earth, and the consequences of living not-so-lightly. I am a total thrift shopper, buy as little new as possible, especially clothes and household stuff. The mall gives me hives. Abhor the concept of landfills. Trying to eat lower on the food chain. Everything you said about real food is great, and let's don't forget that farmed salmon is nasssty, disease-ridden stuff, which is spreading disease to wild salmon stocks - buy wild Alaskan! (I'm not gonna say that about catfish, at least until I have to. I don't think there is any other commercial source of catfish.)
Fight or Flee, 2.
To Mike Eisenstadt.
"Because Americans are stupid." Johnny Depp, when asked why he lives in Paris.
Actually, it's hard to imagine being more alienated than I feel in the USSA. I've spent several months in France in the last few years, spent 2 ½ years there while in the US Army in the 60's and feel much less alienated there than here, although my French is only fair at best. In France, 80 to 90% of the population opposed the invasion of Iraq and that opposition has only increased. In France, over 10% of the population voted for one or another of the various Trotskyist parties in the first round of the last presidential election, not to mention similar numbers that voted for various Green and Communist parties, let alone supporters of the so-called "socialists". Today, a transportation workers strike shut down trains, planes, buses and metros all over France, yet 72% of those polled supported the strike as necessary to preserve the rights of labor. James Baldwin also said that when he was in France, being black and gay were largely irrelevant. And that was in the 1950's. Baldwin may have felt closer to southern American whites "in some ways", but he sure never moved to Mississippi.
But France is not the point. The point is that Amerika is the principal enemy of human progress, if not survival. You might say that I should qualify that by saying American capitalism, but the vast majority of the American population supports that particular economic system on the perceived basis that it makes them materially richer than anyone else. (Not true, but they believe it anyway.) As much as Ragstaffers might like to indulge in happy talk about how we can inspire Americans away from their addiction to domination and exploitation with our enlightened lifestyle choices, organizing Amerikans to oppose their own privileges is minimally a very tough row to hoe. About the only thing you can realistically do is throw your "sabots" on the gears, like counter recruiting potential soldiers. When the going gets really tough, that will get you arrested for trespassing now and treason later.
Your main point is that it's more comfortable here. "Here at least we are at home with the language and some of the customs and where there are millions of others who when we meet them we feel comfortable with and akin to" and we can exist "safely below the radar". Speak for yourself. I just returned for a weekend exile at Sam's World casino in Shreveport. I didn't meet anyone I felt comfortable with who hadn't been recently imported from Austin. Instead, I felt adrift in a sea of obese honkies and blacks doing their best to mimic decadent honkie values.
My basic point is, our country is beyond redemption except possibly in the wake of some cataclysmic economic and social disaster. You can organize until you drop and it won't change that fact.
I wish some of those who live outside Amerika would offer us their perspectives. Bob Bower has lived in Mexico for 17 years. Jeff Jones has a condo there where he thinks of retiring for much of the year (although he otherwise lives in the most progressive part of the US). Jim Franklin has a house in France where he would be living if he could make enough money there. David McBride lives in Berlin. Gilbert Shelton has lived in Paris for about 15 years and before that, Barcelona. Janet Gilles tried Barcelona for several months last year.
On a very basic level, the real ideological enemy is nationalism, especially ours. So be a Lennonist. "Imagine there's no country. It's easy if you try." It's what to do next that isn't so easy.
David H wrote:
-- Your main point is that it's more comfortable here. "Here at least we are at home with the language and some of the customs and where there are millions of others who when we meet them we feel comfortable with and akin to" and we can exist "safely below the radar". Speak for yourself. I just returned for a weekend exile at Sam's World casino in Shreveport. I didn't meet anyone I felt comfortable with who hadn't been recently imported from Austin. Instead, I felt adrift in a sea of obese honkies and blacks doing their best to mimic decadent honkie values. --
Yes France is not full of fatties, at least not yet, or godly creationists, as in the US, and they wisely avoided Bush's mad adventure in Iraq. But France is a capitalist country, open to all the currents of commercial culture from Hollywood, etc. The major industries that were once owned by the state have all been privatized. That includes the telephone company, Renault automobiles, Electricite de France and Gaz de France (which have the monopoly) all of them are privately owned. Stock shares in them are bought and sold. They have gone over to American style big box stores, frozen meals have their share of supermarket aisles, packaged bread has its aisle (quaintly called pain industriel-industrial bread). Artisanal foods are encouraged by the government although most cheese, for example, is industrially produced and of course much cheaper than artisanal cheese. It has become difficult to find a bakery which still does real old-timey French bread.
The difference between US and France is partly political, there is a consensus to maintain a generous social service net, high minimum wage levels, housing subsidies, full health coverage for citizens, etc. and partly cultural and partly aesthetic: they have a thousand years of architecture where almost every propect pleases; we have unimaginably ugly architechure mostly made of 2x4s and tar paper.
But unlike the US where immigrants easily become Americans, the expat will never become French, for the most part his circle of friends will be other expats with whom he will speak English. For me, this is or would be maximally alienating. In Amerika, one may feel alienated from the majority with their sick culture, selfish politics and mindless religions, but there are millions of secular like-minded fellow Americans to complain to and conspire with if we wish. We are all indelibly American culturally speaking. Some of us may feel "at home" living abroad, others never will. YMMV
Without reference to any particular message, I find a disturbing number of the comments being posted here show a real contempt (implied or implicit) for the majority of our fellow citizens. I hear them frequently characterized as typically ignorant, selfish, malevolent, etc... basically bad or anyway stupid people. As opposed to our fine enlightened selves.
I can only speak from my own life experience, but I haven't personally come across very many people that I would describe as bad. I've found a lot of people who disagree with me pretty vigorously on all sorts of major issues -- especially on what should be done to address those issues. But I've also found (mainly through involvement in a lot of multi-stakeholder planning groups) that most of us share pretty much the same core values. I could write you an extensive statement about the kind of world we'd like our granchildren to inherit that would get maybe a 99% approval rating right across the country. The heated disagreements would surface mainly in our opinions about how to get from here to there.
There's always a lot of complicated "stuff" that goes into determining whether we hold this opinion or that opinion. I can't claim that my opinions are always right (although, of course, they usually are), and I've learned some useful things from people with completely "unacceptable" opinions.
Bottom line, I don't feel very comfortable making wholesale attacks on the honesty, intelligence or personal integrity of people who don't see things quite the way I do. Beyond that, just looking at it from a pragmatic point of view, contempt is a pretty shitty mindset to be working with if your political objective is to change the opinions of those other people.
-- Nice Women Don't Make History --
I like that!
My aphorism for the week: The best way to predict the future is to create it. (My son's birthday is this week, and I'm predicting the next generation will have some ideas about making history!
Now, on to today's discussion(s)!
--I find a disturbing number of the comments being posted here show a real contempt (implied or implicit) for the majority of our fellow citizens. --
Hmmm - now, Dennis, I'm not seeing that many yet, c'mon, how many is disturbing?
Of course, DAVID pH has just quoted Johnny Depp on the stupidity of Americans, etc., and he and EISENSTADT are engaged in an interesting exchange on the expat vs inpat issue. Personally, as long as we have BRO. MEACHAM guarding the Raggates, I hope not to see a lot of self-censorship (as distinct from editing; editing always good!). I mean, if that's all we ever heard out of someone, fine, criticize it. But the occasional expression of frustration, dismay, and/or shame for what are, to some degree, cumulative policies of freely elected governments is, I think, permissible. We're among friends here.
JOHN M. comments on contempt maybe having something to do with the end of the world as we knew it; well, maybe so; in which case, let's get it out here in the sunshine of our love and look at it. Anger is a form of energy; it can fuel positive actions. (Hi, John!)
But look here, David, Eisenstadt is right when he points to the community of left Americans; nobody else is gonna work to change this bee-yatch but us, and if we all left, there would go the fight. Bo-ring! (Which is actually one of my serious issues with long-term self-exile; I am accustomed to living in what the Chinese called "interesting times"; be hard to just watch the bananas grow, or pull a shift at the tractor factory ... Also, I would challenge your statement that the week-end you spent "marooned" in a Shreveport casino was necessarily spent among the Undead!
A, what the hail were you doing in a casino? were you hawg-tied or doped up?
B, who did you think would be there? geniuses? (Sorry if I step on someone's toes here, but indoor gambling of any kind is just ignurnt [with the ponies you at least get fresh air]!)
C, Shreveport is a decent-sized town. There is something there worth doing, somebody there worth meeting. Did you look through the yellow pages for organizations? Read the paper for community events? Ask the waiters where's the actual haps?
You have to think of it as a village in Guatemala or Mexico, David, is the trick; you will think I am joking around but IT IS ALL TRUE; this is how I survived SEVEN YEARS (a right Biblical number) in deepest Johnson County, TX, "below the belt of the Metroplex":
PRETEND you are a visitor from another astral plane, and it is your mission to gain the confidence of the locals. Think Cap'n Kirk & Spock! The thing is, progressive beliefs have been so stigmatized and demonized over the last 40 years that many people, especially in small, conservative towns and rural areas are reluctant to express criticism of the government. In some areas, also, neither politics nor religion are much discussed among polite strangers, as they are known to start arguments. But if someone else opens the floodgates, you better look out; you will find fellow critics! Just establish that initial rapport: oh, do you drink beer? I drink beer, too! let me get this round!
My Aunt Flo, who is as closed-minded, opinionated, knee-jerk-flag-waving and self-righteous as any 80-year old in the country, went to New Orleans last year with a niece on her side of the family and said niece's husband, active duty military personnel on leave. Flo had a ball, of course, so NOW she is foaming at the mouth over the neglect and malfeasance of flood prevention-thru-relief efforts and, deep down, the tarnishing of her valued memories. One of the reasons people enjoy travel, you see, is that our memories form a mental construct which, in our minds, never changes; remains charming, inexpensive, gorgeous, unspoiled, or whatever it is we enjoyed, forever, until the TV shows us something real real different. So, like a Bad Angel, this niece over heah is perched on her e-mail shoulder, trying to help her build a bridge from her outrage to a more critical view of our economic system. All politics is personal.
Oh! MOST IMPORTANT: DAVID SUNSHINE writes
-- in fact, I think it's illegal for active duty personnel to criticize administration policy (correct me if I be wrong). --
NO IT IS NOT!!!!!! Military personnel DO NOT GIVE UP THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS; nor, if Nuremberg meant anything, THEIR OBLIGATION AS MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN RACE, to criticize government policy.
During the Vietnam era, of course, many GIs, sailors, airmen and marines spent time in various stockades, and/or were discriminted against in grade and pay raises, for doing just that, within and without the GI coffeehouses/press, and the military would dearly love for its inmates to believe that they "cannot" speak out, but this is NOT TRUE. It is extremely encouraging to see so much dissent (and even, if reports can be believed, cases of outright mutiny) among US forces now in Iraq. Military folks do have to be careful that their criticism of policy doesn't cross certain lines which could put other troops in danger. You are, of course, quite correct that such dissent was a bit later developing within the military over Vietnam, and, I would add, later developing among civilians. The cycle of deceit is growing shorter. If an electronic RAG is in the works, an electronic GI anti-war press may not be far behind!
Hug hug, this is so fun; rollez les bon temps!
Once again, my thanks to Dennis for putting things in a good perspective.
The implicit elitism of some comments recently is disturbing. If we believe, as we say we do, in a "democratic" society, we must always fight to win the majority to our side. And we can only do that if we respect them as individuals and find ways to find common ground.
If we decide that is impossible, we should drop all this talk about being "democratic" because the only alternative is a totalitarian one. No matter what label is put on it, a society in which an elite minority who thinks they know how things should be done imposes their will on the majority is a "totalitarian" one.
Like Dennis, I have found few people with whom I cannot find some common ground. Unfortunately, they may not yet see things my way, but that problem is as much mine as theirs. And certainly, the only way to change attitudes and the relationship of power is by my -- our -- taking responsibility for changing it.
In the end, there is nowhere to hide.
Whew! you folks generate an enormous amount of thought provoking words, and just when I think I have composed something that will make me look like I belong in the same group - you come up with a whole new tangent.
I'm just going to jump in here and do a short stream of consciousness bit - last time I did this you all laughed at me!
I am spending the month of December and part of January looking for a home (read rathole - or redoubt) away from home in Costa Rica. I plan to spend four to six months a year there and the remaining time in the USA.
I chose Costa Rica because:
1. I can be completely self sufficient for food and shelter there with much less hassle than in a temperate climate. Currently my wife (Arina), and I are about 50 percent self sufficient for food and shelter, and with canning and drying of food that is sometimes pushed to 65 or 70%.
2. Costa Rica has no army, no oil or gas reserves, and has Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez. I don't think that Costa Rica will be the object of near-time imperialistic agression from the United States because of the lack of fuel (I may be surprized with the current movement of the capitalistic world to privatize and monetize water - which Costa Rica owns in abundance). I admire Arias as a practitioner of democratic
principals and rumour has it he may run for president again.
3. I need a break from fascism - I have always stressed out over the governance of this country which has usually been expressed through anger and adrenaline. At age sixty five I need recovery time from the toll that both anger and adrenaline take on my body. Not that I expect to live much beyond 100, I would like these "golden years" to be untarnished as much as possible. I don't want to leave the impression that I naively think Costa Rica is some humanistic and social Vahalla but in comparison to "my country tis of thee"....
4. I have seriously pursued social justice, economic equality, and other various utopian concepts all of my adult life, and semi-despairing of being able to pass on the torch to the next generation I want to have more fun. I have never had fun doing political actions, except in that I met you, the most human and lovely people in my life, which is some compensation - but not enough!
5. I have a lot to contribute to a third world country in the way of political saber, and in my profession, Permaculture. I have taught in over 28 countries and the United States of America is by far the most difficult place to promote self sufficiency and environmental awareness.
I am not concerned with language (my Spanish is about fifty percent), or cultural integration. I feel more at ease in Costa Rica with the difference than in the US without the difference.
As far a sensitivity to elitism I am losing it and I suppose it is in direct response to the elitism of the bible thumpers and the wingnuts running our government, business, industry, schools, and etc. I have had it up to here!!! (Got to watch the stress levels, and heart rate.)
In kinder moments I take "elitest" heart by thinking of myself as a member of that class called the "cultural creatives" which, supposedly, represents 1/3 of the population of these United States. There are still those "modernists" and "cultural conservatives" representing some 60% that distrupt my sleep at 3am and send me pacing
around my kitchen table seeking answers within my impotent thoughts.
In my simplistic descriptive world I look at our citizens (us) as those who are so full of fear that only buying something or hating something offers relief, and those others, also filled with fear, who confront fear with acts of compassion, grief and heroism - it is the latter class to which I aspire, and the former whom I most often
dismiss as being the orphaned children of a culture that has totally lost its rudder, compass, and navigation charts. I must say that I am not terrible compassionate toward my lost brothers and sisters even when cognizant of the reasons they have been chained into a cycle of fear with corporate solutions.
End of stream.....for now...
In the spirit of self-criticism, I asked myself, am I really such a contemptuous elitist as some Ragstaffers say? So I sat down and started writing a list of categories of people I held in contempt. After an hour, writer's cramp forced me to stop.
So, I guess you got me there.
Let's be explicit and review some of my list. Hope you don't find it too "disturbing". Your criticisms of it might help me gain insight into my shortcomings. Naturally, some categories overlap.
1. Republicans. Tried to think of exceptions, but failed.
2. 75% of Democratic Party politicians. Actually, more like 95% of white Democratic Party politicians, Doyle and Lloyd and a couple of people in California excepted.
3. The half of the Green Party leadership who thought it was a great idea to tacitly support a more efficient war on Iraq and "A Stronger America".
4. The Ruling Class. George Soros excepted. As you all know, this category has numerous subdivisions: oil, insurance and pharmaceutical company executives, billionaires, etc.
5. Racists of all races.
6. Misogynists. Also women who hate men, a group for which there is, strangely, no specific term I am aware of.
8. Zionists and anti-Semites.
9. Christians who take it seriously enough to let it influence their political beliefs.
10. Muslims who regard women as a human sub-species. (See 6 above.)
11. Mormons in general. (Isn't Moroni Latin for moron?) [The above 4 categories can be lumped under "Western male sky god salvationists".]
12. Religious fundamentalists of any stripe. (the Dalai Lama and Jehovah's Witnesses excepted, the latter due to their refusal to pledge allegiance to state power, a stance that got them sent en masse to the Nazi gas chambers - too.
13. Missionaries. The whole act is ethnocentrism at its worst. My God is better than yours thinking.
14. The remaining supporters of the War on Iraq. This could also be called the irredeemably brainwashed America-can-do-no-wrong crowd or true believers in American exceptionalism. (See 20 below.)
15. Mainstream news editors and conservative pundits, i.e., propaganda prostitutes. Subcategories include professional torture apologists, war justifiers, the perpetually gullible embedded "journalist", etc.
16. People who self-righteously get all their news from Fox and Rush.
17. Neo-conservatives and neo-liberals.
18. Generals. Coronels only merit scorn. This category could also include CIA agents, but lately, some retired ones, e.g., Ray McGovern (See
19. Miscellaneous: Hummer owners (exceptions for male owners who can prove they're compensating for a 2 inch erect penis.); American dentists (exceptions for those who do a month a year working free in remote Third World areas), mobile home manufacturers, crack dealers, tobacco and alcohol consumers who oppose marijuana legalization, corporate morticians, male anti-choice militants, big game hunters, etc, etc, etc. Well, if that doesn't cover a majority yet, let me throw in one more. I've saved the best for last.
20. American nationalists, aka patriots. Whereas all the above are assumed to be Americans too, here the specific qualifier is required. There is a profound and fundamental difference between American nationalism and, for example, Vietnamese or Palestinian nationalism. The aggressive nationalism of the world's predominant military and economic superpower seeking worldwide hegemony is the issue, not the independence of long oppressed and distinct ethnic entities. It's an issue we have always danced around by shifting the blame for our national misconduct to bad leaders or imperialism or misguided choices. It wasn't really "America" that was the problem, just its wicked capitalist rulers. Actually, the problem really is "America" in several respects. One is the previously mentioned American consumption of 25% of the world's resources by 4% of the population. A more accurate extrapolation of the problem would have less than 1% consuming about 15%, but the generally supportive mindset of the other 3% is crucially important. Another sense in which nationalism itself is the problem is the ability of our capitalist leaders to forever manipulate the population by putting issues into a nationalist context. We have to invade _______________ because it is in our national interest. One can dispute that notion, but one cannot say fuck national interests and advocate replacing them with international interests. The only immunity to such manipulations is by being anti-nationalist in principle. When gas hits $4 a gallon, a majority of American voters might very well favor invading Venezuela or Nigeria or Mexico for their oil without apologies. Nationalism is a mental construct, an organizing principle that we should escape from and reject in order to call ourselves liberated.
We have long focused on the issue of capitalism and much, much less on nationalism. However, WWI and WWII were both fought over the issues associated with competitive nationalisms. The capitalists and the communists were allies. Together those two wars cost the world between 75 and 80 million lives, largely in Russia/Soviet Union with over 30 million dead. (Note: Total US casualties for both wars combined were around 500,000 or 1/60 of Soviet losses. D-Day and the whole western front was a sideshow.) The Germans lost both wars and as a result now have the world's most sophisticated perspective on nationalism.
United with their historic enemy France, they form the nucleus of the world's greatest transnationalist experiment, the European Union.
Whereas we may correctly see the current situation in Iraq as a capitalist/imperialist war of aggression for control of oil, it is always justified on the basis of nationalism. Other than civil wars, virtually every war for the past several centuries has been between nations and the issue has been competitive national interests. If all those wars cost 100 million lives in the 20th century, will we be able to break that record in the 21st?
Nationalism is a manifestation of testosterone run amuck and has a heavy male bonding component. It grew out of tribalism and is closely related to Jets vs Sharks, Crips vs Bloods, Longhorns vs Aggies, Cowboys vs Redskins, etc. It has many classic cinematic depictions, such as the ape tribes fighting over the waterhole in the first sequence of "2001: A Space Odyssey." The notion that our nation stands for elevated principles of freedom, liberty, democracy, etc, is so much obfuscation in defiance of history and reality. It was never true, still isn't and never will be, at least not in my remaining lifetime.
Of course, the problem is how to organize around anti-nationalism. They will call you unpatriotic and then you're toast. That's true and therein lies the problem for all of us higher consciousness "radicals" who happen to have been born here.
Hence the question, fight or flee? If you choose to stand and fight, on what principled basis? Would it be principled to just ignore the issue of nationalism as inexpedient?
Actually, I've almost given up on organizing for a more progressive or even benign America. Oh, I attend every peace march I can, went to Crawford several times, write letters to the editor regularly, my car is a rolling demonstration and I plan on starting to attend the activities of the Vets for Peace group here - might even get into some counter recruiting. But my heart, or more likely my head, isn't really into it. I've grown conflicted about saving America from the consequences of its foibles. The Iraq War is a good thing if it leads to a chastened America that forswears future imperialist wars and opts instead or international cooperation. Short of a cataclysmic reshuffling of the social deck, the objective conditions are not favorable to such serious domestic changes and I no longer have time to await the apocalypse and subsequent victorious revolution. Nor would I any longer be remotely satisfied by likes of John (For A Stronger America) Kerry who would have been the richest president in our history.
If this sounds elitist, consider that many of us middle class professionals might fall pretty close to that 1% consuming 15%. That sounds pretty elitist too, and in a much more tangible way.
When you go to a sporting event and they play the national anthem, do you stand and place your hand over your heart? Why?
If your answer is anything other than peer pressure, you've got a problem.
[p.s. to Mike Eisenstadt on French privatization. France has a mixed economy. So does everyone else, North Korea included. As a small business owner, I favor mixed economies. The issue is where you draw the line between public and private. I like where the French draw that line more than where we do here. I think you probably agree. We also agree about the architecture.]
[p.s. to Doyle on democracy. Dear Legislator, are you really going to leap to the defense of American democracy? Last I heard, it was best characterized as an oligopoly run by a capitalist economic elite who buy politicians principally by means of bribes known as campaign contributions so as to receive special interest legislation that results in transfer payments to the rich. Voting in elections above a local level lends credence to fraud. You probably have a more nuanced view.]
[p.s. to Mariann. Went to Sam's World casino in Shreveport because that's where my wife, the set decorator, has gone until December in order to find employment in the film industry. Her housing is paid for and somehow Sam's World is where the producers thought would be the most appropriate location. She's moving to an apartment this week. Ran into Nightbyrd, the talent agent, who was there too and he has a similar excuse. We went to the hotel bar and asked for a dark beer. They said they had Michelob. Asked for a margarita instead and they brought lemonade with a shot tequila. But they did have a buffet with all the fried mystery meat you could eat and customers falling off both sides of their chairs at once.]
I am well aware of the faults of the current democratic process and the way in which elites and money exercise undue influence. My point was that if we believe in any kind of democratic society -- as in students (or seniors) for a democratic society -- we have to be willing to engage those who do not now share our view and win them to our point of view.
That process may be far more difficult than any of us ever imagined and the cumulative weight of fighting for democratic principles may be getting heavy for many of us. It may even be impossible. But if that is what we want to believe in, that is what we have to do.
In the grand scheme of history, it may be that our willingness to fight for our ideals may be more important than the outcome at any given point.
22 July 2006
This is the next-to-last part of the conversation. I will wind it up tomorrow sometime. My heartfelt gratitude and admiration to the participants in this chat who allowed it to be posted here.
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