"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Dec 20, 2009

The Nation, and why we lefties don't belong:

FDL and Demosthenes argue convincingly that American elites prefer a view of politics which favor "center-right" alignments.

Masaccio, at FDL, argues (about Democrats, meaning the elected and party "leadership"), "Over and over they have willingly capitulated to the most conservative members of the party. The policies of the conservatives have failed the nation, causing grave damage to our economy and our international reputation, but that doesn’t seem to matter."

As I read it, he follows this premise with an excellent case (see the link).

I just don't have any faith in the underlying construction.

If we conceive of the American nation as the natal homeland (adopted or born) of everyone who lives here, then it follows that Masaccio has a point.

If we conceive of the nation as the sum totality of all those who inhabit its mental, moral, economic, territorial and social space, we could probably also make a convincing argument that those who make life worse for all of us, understood all together as the nation, have failed our nation.

We'd have to do a lot of work defining what we mean by "worse," and what we hold as the base standard by which we make the comparisons "better," and "worse," and the like.

We'd have to spend no small portion of our time coming to some sort of consensus on the on what we mean by success, and failure. We'd have to define at least four (and I don't think we'd be limited to just the four points which follow) major standards of judgment.

First, we'd have to establish who belongs to the nation. As the decades and centuries of debate over slavery, segregation, suffrage, poll taxes, franchise powers, personhood, abortion, homosexuality, child labor, religious identity, immigration, language and human rights might demonstrate, we might find that a difficult task. Or mayhap, a useful yet ultimately insolvable problem. A riddle without a final solution (hmm, hints and allegations against the national projects of the Nazis, Zionists, BNP and the Han imperializers...).

Second, we'd have to define how they belong. We would have to describe the methods by which a person enters into the national life. Birth? Immigration? The use of the franchise? The payment of taxes? The public affirmation of beliefs, loyalties or oaths? The commission of crimes? The definition of criminality?

By the way, how's that working out for us so far?

Third, I think, we'd have define who didn't belong. Sad is it might seem, it's hard to have an inside without an outside. It's hard to have an Us without a Them, without a list (even if only with a single item) of people who don't get to take part in Us. Perhaps this does not present an impossible task, but typing only for myself, it seems to be work as something of a prerequisite.

Fourth, we'd have to work up an agreement or two on how to enforce the difference. On how to keep the nation resembling the description we have already (after much work, I imagine) agreed represents Us. On how to keep the Them, well, Them. And, that might involve taking on all those folks within the national unity who don't work towards the goals we've set in defining "Who We Are."

If this all seems fairly inconclusive, perhaps we might admit that we won't ever actually conclude the task. That we cannot define the nation without constantly changing it, tinkering with it, and struggling with ourselves and each other over who gets to belong, who doesn't, and how.

We'd have to have, well, the history we have right now.

Which (and you could probably accuse me of taking a bit of a leap here, and rightfully) means that the nation serves only as a useful fiction. A myth, a narrative, a goal which exceeds our reach, mayhap to justify the grasp.

Which brings us, now, back to Demosthenes. He states,

"Here's the problem:

Republicans get respect. Progressives get shat upon."

Whether by fellow "progressives," or liberals, or "centrists" who hold office, or by conservatives and the various fascist, falangist, maximalist, and protofascist mouthpieces. A general rule follows: those who represent the power of the current nation in force get to define who belongs and who does not. Those who rule decide what the nation means, and how it gets kept that way.

Progressives, leftists, socialists, and liberals don't rule. 

We just don't. Because (and perhaps you will note that I exclude Bolsheviks deliberately) our goals don't center on who rules, but on who gets to belong.

Let's repeat that.

We want to expand who belongs, and how, and how many people get to benefit. Within the framework of American history, and I think this might apply to most human civilizations, leftists don't serve a leadership function. Whether or not we should, well...

Let's discuss that later.

What we do, and when we do choose to do this we often succeed, is scare the hell out those who rule. We add chaos to their systems. We alter their definitions. He force hybridizations of meaning, and value. We upturn valuations. We take their definitions, and we ask and state and demand, "Well, why not include these people, too?"

We take the justifications of power (you now, those protection racket rationalizations) and turn them into challenges.

We threaten power.

Well, when we actually do what we're best at.

I really don't think we should expect the "center-right" to like us for this. They don't. They devise electoral pens and whipping posts to keep us in line.

When we stray outside those lines, or hop those fences, or better yet, tear them down, we probably shouldn't be surprised that they don't like it.

And perhaps we should capitalize on that.

But I think we have to understand that, as a fundamental, we (and that includes you, Obamaphiles) won't succeed in persuading those in power to accept our definition of the nation, such that we could convince them that they're failing that nation.

The nation they rule, the one they define by the use of their power and authority, works just fine for them. We don't belong to it, whether or not we serve its interests. In failing us, their nation works. It succeeds. It grows.

It spans a globe, it maintains a class, it staffs their offices and pays their enforcers.

We should wake up each morning and go to bed each night reminding ourselves of this fact.

Every day.

Every night.