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This posting is part 1 of a response to a discussion that has jumped between the blogs of Writer at This And That and myself. You may find the background helpful for putting this in context. If not, skip to the main posting.

Writer was discussing a posting on the Daily Kos, which I freely admit is a blog I generally try to avoid, because I find it so annoying. The gist of the posting Writer was discussing was that we are somehow obligated to support President Obama in a way that reminds me of sports fan for fill in the blank local team. The arguments for doing so were (stripped down to the actual substance):

1) Look at the nice symbolic gestures President Obama makes.

2) Obama inherited difficult issues which justify his generally conservative approach to policy.

3) The right's attacks are so reprehensible that we must support this president.

The posting, as is usually the case on the Daily Kos, reflected a lack of liberal values and very low standards. Here was my comment (on Writer's blog):

I don't really think the only choices are to put up with Obama's crap or go back to the Bush era. The corporate media work daily to try to limit our imaginations and make us feel utterly helpless. We should not let them win.

Writer asked in response:
...you mention there are alternatives, and I agree that there are, but what are they? We have this dicotomous government and we've had it for so long that other options (practical, doable, not having to change the very basis of society options) are hard to see. I then I have friends (you among them) who say there are options, but typically don't say what they are.

One of the reasons that liberals and progressives haven't gotten very far since the 1970s is that the only people who have taken seriously the notion of making structural changes in our society have been on the right. One question that you might want to ask is:

Is it possible to dramatically change the structure of our society?

It is easy to see one area of human endeavor that has changed the very basis of society: technology. Twenty five years ago, the Internet was pretty much limited to email and USENET in universities, the military, and other institutions that did research. Most people never had used a computer to do anything. Penmanship was a very important skill, one that I admittedly wasn't terribly good at. Most people still watched broadcast TV instead of cable. Remember what it was like before cell phones?

Technology may seem too impersonal and apolitical to sufficiently address the point. What about something that has made major changes in the world of politics? Well, corporate/wealthy interests and their pawns on the right side of the political spectrum have dramatically restructured our economy. In the name of the mythical "free market" and "free trade," tens of millions of jobs have been exported to other countries; the rich have seized a far greater share of our nation's wealth and income from the middle class and the poor; major media have become much more concentrated and propagandistic; civil liberties have been sacrificed to corporate interests; and officials in both political parties are trying to keep us locked in a perpetual state of war that reminds one of the endless wars described in Orwell's 1984.

We have been fed pablum from the media avoiding these issues or discussing them as if they are the results of impersonal forces of nature when they actually have been the result of a relentless jihad by far right pundits, academics, and organizers, all very well paid by rich people whose investment in this political machine has more than been paid off in enormous, unearned wealth. (Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine provides a coherent and compelling roadmap through much of this.) This professional far right elite also has been supported strongly by easily manipulated drooling knucklewalkers on the fringe right as well as by some more ordinary middle class conservatives who live in a fantasy world where they subconsciously identify themselves with the people who are screwing them over by blindly doing their bidding.

If the right can dramatically reshape our society, why can't the left? By giving up on this entirely, Americans to the left of center have ceded the life affirming initiative and sense of hope that the right so readily provides its morons and fantasizers. Given the fact that the policies we support are in the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people in our country, our fearful and reticent approach to politics is something can only be maintained by relentless brainwashing by corporate media.

We need to stop them from getting away with this.

Going outside of economics, think about the huge social impact of the queer civil rights movement. Two areas which we have made a huge impact during my adult lifetime are the vastly improved self esteem and confidence in many lgbt people and the distinctly improved treatment of queers in our society, though I would be the first to admit that both are areas where the is a whole lot more progress must be made.

The other area that gets less attention is that the queer movement has asserted and institutionalized the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment as political goals worth fighting for. This assertion obviously has its roots in the social movements of the sixties, but the queer movement is the only one which, to date, has persisted in making this structural claim in our society in a sustained fashion. Other civil rights movements have made tremendous contributions to the notions of equality and justice which are nothing to sneeze at, but the queer one has made meaningful happiness something that is considered worth fighting for rather than frivolous.

This also is part of why lgbt civil rights find their most rabid opposition among people who are unhappy and unfulfilled and among religious groups that promote misery among their flocks in order to keep them desperate for relief in afterlives that don't even exist. Make no mistake, many of our heterosexual supporters are pushing for us in order to assert their own rights to the pursuit of happiness. I say, more power to them.

Seen in this context of people being able to modify our social structure in important ways, the notion that all we can do is to strongly support center-right politicians who are in conflict with far right politicians is not consistent with the historical record we have seen in many of our own lifetimes. If you go farther back in time to the union and civil rights movements before the sixties, you again can see that the ability to reshape society can be found among the sufficiently motivated and dedicated.

We need to use tactics in the here and now to try to achieve that vision, no doubt. I'll talk about tactics in the next post.



  1. Writer Says:
  2. Oooo. I just noticed this post references me! Cool. I will read and leave a comment but actually I wanted to know if you had an email address with which I can contact you.

  3. Writer Says:
  4. So far...my first comment is then that we've never elected people far enough on the Left to make changes to society the way the Right has.

    Secondly: It seems that corporations are more in control of our government than the members of that government whether Left or Right - which isn't as true for the batshit crazy Right. Which means that businesses (lobbyists) benefit from the status quo of which the current economic crisis is preferable because money is still being made by those who matter - the top whatever small percentage of people who are CEOs or stock holders - jobs are being sent overseas, businesses are being downsized which only means there are fewer people to do all the work that needs to be done - less money is going out but the same amount typically is going in. This may change over time, but there are quite a few companies that seem to be benefitting from the economic crisis - a lot of the bailed out companies are still giving out bonuses and basically mouthing fuck you to the government while flipping the taxpayers the actual bird.

    I don't know this calls to mind the Supreme Court decisions that in the 1870s were supposed to make things better for the part of the population that until the end of the Civil War had been slaves. Those decisions were used instead to give more power to corporations - rather than give the former slaves personhood, the decisions gave personhood to the corporations. And now, I'm singing Money Makes the World Go Around from Cabaret.

    Maybe this is naive, but it is hard to explain otherwise why - unless a change in policy makes people spend more money - it is difficult to positive change in policy? But that is also naive, because if it was truly about money, Prop 8 in California would not have passed - same-sex marriage would be a huge influx of money.

    Sorry, I'm now rambling.

    Thirdly, I did not see the posting on Barack Obama as a we have to support the president because he is the home team. For me, it was more about realizing what we had before. I also realize that it will take someone like LBJ to push through gay equal rights - Obama is NOT that person, but neither was Hillary and most assuredly nor was McCain. As with most things now-a-days, being president (or any member of government) isn't about doing necessarily what is right, but about keeping your job.

  5. TomCat Says:
  6. the ability to reshape society can be found among the sufficiently motivated and dedicated

    I remember those 1960s days, because I was parft of them. We were motivated and we were dedicated, but we despaired the level of public apathy we faced. Today I wish we could return to that level.

  7. when richard nixon was hounded out of office by the "lefties" (so the right says) - they literally went on a crusade to regain power and never let it go - and that meant by things as critical as making deals with the religios, stacking the courts and winning the state houses for redistricting. they had a plan and as insidious as it was - stuck to it

    the left, after reeling from losing any momentum after the 60s - always just felt people will do the right thing

    2009 america proves that people dont do the right thing

    lib you are spot on



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