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Liberals, lefties, and libertarians.

by melo Thu Jan 28th, 2010 at 07:13:03 AM EST

This is what set off the chain of thoughts,

melo:

ManfromMiddletown:
they can't seem to get that belonging to the cult of radical individualism that rejects any idea of social rules and order means that you aren't part of the Left.

 that started this off as a comment, then got too long...

interesting. 'radical individualism' is a bit of a dogwhistle here, i mean just think of its opposite!

the majority of politically active activists were born between 60 and 20 years ago, making them all postmodern, post ww2. the 'giant leap forward' that started post war and made america so industrious, prosperous, and social-geographically mobile came with the price of its uprooting from the land, with the demise of the family farm, and the formation of a strong middle class, at the same time fragmenting families and wiping many small communities off the map.

more heathen gibberish below


unions once so strong and the backbone of the Left, were corrupted and gradually lost their power. the 'working' blue collar middle class who put their kids through college, owned their own homes, and had a livable pension and social security, and full faith still in capitalism's unwritten social contract: give us your peak working years, and we will keep you comfortable enough.

against this backdrop of (fossil foolish) growth to the power of n, relative affluence swiftly upswinging, shoes on rural childrens' feet, that the american dream was consolidated, and capitalism seen as the gift from god almighty to those lucky enough to be born child to still-ascendent empire. revolution was not in the air... (except in the countries providing resources for the consumercopia at marines gunpoint, safely off the front page).

against this backdrop, the hoary canons of the Left, with its dignified and heroic evocations of class struggle (and the easy to understand, even by the illiterate, axioms of its ideology, ie rich bad, worker good, and the proletariat will overcome evil exploiters in top hats etc) just did not resonate with these children and grandchildren of hardscrabble depression era farmers, teachers, factory workers and church/community organisers that provided the phalanxes of real people power that gave heft to what the Left stood for*. (strikes, strikes and more strikes!) just kidding! most of them had a tv and a fridge and didn't see round the ecological corner, so whay not drink the koolaide with everyone else and praise gawd and pass the remote.

*as seen still sometimes in France, for example.

during the 50's, 60's and 70's 'agitators' were persecuted in america, fbi listed, infiltrated and plain stomped by national guards and pinkerton types. the south's social repression gave way to slightly more racial equality, same drinking fountains, so those of the old Left mostly faded away into academia, where they could enjoy the free speech that their vaunted socialist paradises like cuba and eastern yurp disallowed. the left's work was mostly done, it appeared, there were hard-won labour laws, corporations had some regulation, the courts and jury system were the envy of many other countries.

kids became better educated, more media abounded, foreign reporting, tv, all contributed to baby boomers (and beyond) becoming less parochial, more multikulti-urbanised, better travelled.

no matter how idealistic their parents may have been in the 50's, they saw with their own eyes that capitalism was cooler than the alternatives, the russians traded months of wages for a pair of levis, or a bootlegged cassette of the beatles, while jazz musicians in prague risked incarceration, travelling across the city at night to secret gigs and jam sessions.

seedy. shabby. inefficient. grimy. dull. ineffectual. uncompetitive. drab. kafkan.

this was the multifail narrative the Old Left had to respin as positive socialism for the future or some similar slogan.

the wars mixed up the social classes in the armed forces, and people started to see through the limitations of previous generations caste-like take on status, (not that enough money couldn't blur the boundaries as well!). egalitarianism grew, and the modern stereotype of the latte liberal started to get traction, an educated, info-savvy, instinctive humanist.

the serious dumbing down in education started during reagan years, the incremental saturation of toxic environmental issues, and the slow simmering wave of anger at the skewed and unjust nature of the capitalist war on resources and resource owners started to emerge. the PTB saw that too many educated people were not buying the bullshit, vietnam was the wakeup call, college deferments made education the new class boundary, even more than it always was... during the nixon meltdown there was still the last of the old trust in government to crumble among the younger activists, and with reagan and the bush band only the most benightened of rapturous morans still believed that america was the shining city on the hill, even seen as mirage from the trailer camps. clinton slashed welfare to the poor and pulled the plug on american industry, exporting jobs as fast as importing barrels of oil to pay for all the accoutrements of empire. even relative softly-softlies like carter cared nothing for the negative effects of globalism, as long as 'our interests' were safeguarded.

before tv, personalised googlesearch and cheap travel, families discussed things, childrens' characters were turned on the lathe of mealtime discussions, or gathered round the radio, or sharing the newspaper. deep seated convictions about politics and social status were passed to the children with the bread and gruel, or the pate de foie gras. class betrayal was rare, lines were drawn for even the dimmest to clearly understand.

media going mass(ive) changed that... kids grew up with the full gamut from springer to donahue colliding in the living room, bouncing off the walls, opinions, pov's galore, and the extreme rate of technological change invited new tribalisms and social nexii that were much more alluring that listening to father's tirades against the rich or poor, for that matter. today was a new day and we would make up our own minds, since now we had such a plethora to choose from. so liberals cobbled together a set of values that are not so easy to politicise, respect for the planet, anti-corporation by gut, while blogging about life on our corporate computers. we were't going to meet in basements like the partisans and plot blowing up bridges, we were going to _create _ them, through enlightened rationality and far reaching compassionate metavision.

now everyone has their own tv, laptop, iphone, etc, this kind of passing down the torch in families is largely a thing of the pre-mo past, i think. the state-in-your-face vibe of the UK is not so different than the stasi in yer bed, but by degree. right and left seem to both go for that.

so class these days may be ever so slightly fairer than the aristocratic days, where blood outweighed money by a far greater factor, but mostly the two became espoused in unholy matrimony, where now uberbankers indulge themselves like princes of the universe.

the lottery mentality, a by turns hilarious then  sinister spinoff of capitalism, bagan to seriously take hold amongst all classes in america, gambling others' money, whether through 'financial instruments' for the rich or behemoth casino credit complexes for the rest became the national pastime.

this is why the new lefty or 'liberal' has not read trotsky, and why he/she is more likely to do a bit for the international working proles by buying fair trade coffee, and a prius. heck his grandpaw's share dividends in IBM kept him from the poorhouse, tell me again you want to undermine the greatest invention since the wheel? (money for nothing, cheques for free)

the old have always mocked the young, and vice versa, however i feel sorry there has to be so much differentiating going on.

the beauty of the modern left, and most of the reason for its political powerlessness, is its resistance to groupthink, and its love for democratic discussion (ad nauseam). this makes for pillowfight politics, and waffling, racked by factionalism, circular firing squad coalitions with odd bedfellows.

a pizza, as they say in italy.

so class has its pitfalls as a rallying cry, i see libertarians as extreme as black blockers, i see centrist corporations benefitting from both socalled left and right, more right, and all the way to just before tiny ron paul archipelago.

the right have no scruples about groupthink, they thrive on it. in their hands it becomes the heavy club of caveman politics, and it enables them to focus and marshal their forces to appear much more numerous than i suspect they actually are, (though it doesn't take many to make an mighty mess of things).

the ron paul crowd are partly correct in their understanding of how deep and unconstitutional the scam of government has become, and the loathing for washington bubble, federal reserve and lying media can easily find its exact reflection in a stereotypical lib blogger for example, though they share no warm fellowship feelings.

teabaggers, even in the full grip of their own medi(c)ated dementia, are at least showing up in the public square and saying they want change, though most hate obama for the kind of change he talks about, and aren't really sure what glenn beck's vision of 21st C. america will boil down to, once/if it comes. jackboots and bibles pretty much sum it up, methinks, with a copy of the constitution to cry on.

at the end of the day politics seems to breed division; just like with religions, arguments spawn theories, counter theories, and it's all fine and intellectually engaging to discuss these things, the distinctions betweem 10 and 15 degrees left or right or up or down, whatever, but what made the old Left noble was its universality, the concept that the worker was as worthy of respect as the owner, and that rights were accorded according to ethics and social justice, creating a social pact, workers of the world unite... and that we would all feel a lot better having said discussions if we knew that all were fed and sheltered, all tucked in and kumbaya'd first.

capitalism has paid its best and brightest to destroy that, and now we showed the way to the chinese, all bets are off. ask them what 'lefty' means, or liberal, or rightwing...

no one likes hypocrisy but hypocrites. we are all more or less in hock to a polluted, immoral, ecosuicidal groupthink that supposes that the present is the only 'thing' to be concerned about.

lefties should wake up and realise who their real enemies are, instead of turning on each other, as the divide and conquer thing has worked too long and well for the dividers.

and for those who aren't attracted to the strange world of politics and its cult-and-thrust of poisonalities, all of this can be shortened to one question.

where is tomorrow's energy going to come from?

and that's why what J. is doing for the environment, the people, the image of banking as true social asset (pace chris!), is more important that any spurious and misleading argument such as the left is so prone to, with the noblest, all good intentions, surely. Italy's left includes Bettino Craxi! energy unites us all...

we want to be able to continue the luxury of democratic discussion, as we find here daily. we identify and skewer our real enemies, and that's great.

one windmill is worth a whole bunch of political tracts or litmus tests of True Leftiness, is what i'm so longwindedly saying...

/peace out

Display:
we're working on it. The good news is that we have a lot of windmills here on the Oregon/Washington line.

And I know that we'll have a lot to discuss when I tell you that the forests are the next renewable-energy resource where the Ron Pauls work with the old New Lefters (like me) - at least in the Pacific NW, but likely in New England, too.

It's essentially rational communitarianism, and the tendency is ingrained in many rural areas of the U.S. It's tribal to some extent, of course, but the real diehard racists are in retreat - snarling all the way.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Jan 28th, 2010 at 11:38:41 PM EST
hey Paul! thanks for what you do for the forests, i look forward to some good discussions when you visit in the spring.

'radical communitarianism' eh? 'old New Lefters'?

the dance of definitions goes on...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jan 30th, 2010 at 04:26:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Huxley was right, eh?

During the trip (love the dual meaning of that word in this context) I spent a lot of time wondering how I would act, think, and see the world differently had I grown up in different eras.

I don't romanticize the past - I think the 60's were as superficial as they were profound, and the labor movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were people with nothing to lose but who had decided they could do better than be stomped on.

I definitely have things to lose and I haven't the slightest idea how to be an activist. I've never been part of a community the way I understand the word. I do not want to sacrifice aspects of myself through difficult activism in exchange for a potential future good - I've lived in terror and I've lived in bliss, and I will choose the latter every time. The "lottery mentality" you have described is part of my experience.

I think there are two problems in the post industrial era: "they" don't need our labor anymore, and the citizens of democratic states haven't developed sufficient countermeasures to systematized propaganda. Shit, how am I going to fight against that? I can't even explain the financial crisis in plain language to myself, much less to someone who has ingested an emotive narrative that confirms their fears in easily understood terms. My first and only idea is the massage therapy thing - mutually beneficial in a very good way and maybe more than the sum of its parts, but not by much.

My guess is that as I get older I'll feel a stronger ethical obligation.

My goal for humanity - maximizing happiness - has always been a difficult prospect. The challenge is the same question you proposed in another frame - "where is the energy going to come from?"


you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Jan 29th, 2010 at 04:43:17 PM EST
chewy comment, millman.

Huxley was right about so many things i don't know where to begin ennumerating them...

i would have loved to see a debate between him and george orwell, surely they were aware of each others' work. i wonder if they corresponded.

MillMan:

wondering how I would act, think, and see the world differently had I grown up in different eras.

this is what i was talking about in colman's diary yesterday. acknowledging our roots but being able to grow upwards and outwards simultaneously above, while doing the same below. studying our past to avoid the old mistakes, listening to its voices as we leave it behind us.

MillMan:

I definitely have things to lose and I haven't the slightest idea how to be an activist.

well we all do, and it's hard to let go of comfort now for some pie in the sky later, yet deferred gratification is built in to our apes-with-plans brains.

activism starts with thinking differently, and not being afraid to question the social attitudes one is embedded in. where each person goes with that is what makes diversity, itself a sign that the process is branching.

MillMan:

I've lived in terror and I've lived in bliss, and I will choose the latter every time. The "lottery mentality" you have described is part of my experience.

ha, yes so would we all. even the self-abnegator is trying for the bliss of renunciation.

and the lottery mentality does have some basis in reality, in the sense that it really is a cornucopian planet, where one grain of corn turns into one hundred in one growing season. the sense of optimism that proclivity engenders was/is the substrate for the banking system, now headily off the probability map, with its hocking of the next generations' powers of multiplication.

haven't you noticed how the poorer a country is, the more lotteries?

birth itself is a lottery, why should it stop there?

not ok to do it with other peoples' money, or take risks others will end up cleaning up after though. gotta draw some line somewhere!

MillMan:

I think there are two problems in the post industrial era: "they" don't need our labor anymore, and the citizens of democratic states haven't developed sufficient countermeasures to systematized propaganda. Shit, how am I going to fight against that?

aye, there's the question...

second point first: your brain is your own as much as it ever was, so cultivating its talent for discrimination is a worthy goal. propaganda being identified as such is a great start, and a sign that your olfactory knows when it's in a bullpen.

how cynical can one be and remain optimistic?

propaganda is intelligence swivelled round the wrong way. karl rove, alistair campbell, goebbels, bernays are masters, and reverse engineering their mindgames is this century's chess problems.

(picks up newspaper, flicks through pages, seeking specimen whoppers like a fisherman in a lake.)

clocking into fox news to see how willow pliant the truth can be, in the wrong hands. taking the temperature of the body politic through the wideness of its gullet, trawling through fermenting refuse for the gold of psychological understanding.

clawing back the rubble of truthiness to find any still living babies buried under it. the more your instincts are validated, the better they become...

your first point about them not needing labour any more, you say it like it's a bad thing!

this is what's so ironic about the early labour movements to young people especially. why bust a gut to keep a horrible job? who _ wants to work in a 30's design steel foundry or similar michigan era car factory line? answer? those lefties who were pulped by the thugs, because they were slaves to a system, they could't walk from it without falling back into being starving peasants again, or really falling through the cracks into destitution and madness. so they fought to change it from the inside, with the humble, ancient tools of raw discussion and rough populist consensus, whatever they took from the uncalloused intellectuals they processed into the mix, but the bottom line, as in france still, was 'we'll let you  determine a lot of our lives, but there's only so far we will take the stripping of our dignity, before we will have your entrails for breakfast'.

these people had their backs to walls of unemployment, greedy bankers, wars a gogo, and they didn't have 500 channels of multicloured nothingness to turn them into soggy swamps of passivity.

MillMan:

I can't even explain the financial crisis in plain language to myself, much less to someone who has ingested an emotive narrative that confirms their fears in easily understood terms.

i hear that! i can't see the three card monty, either, but i can smell what's going down. the details are for the wonkies, they dig the delving, like sherlock holmes did. the skullduggery demands no less.

i don't have the mental equipment yet to follow them so deep into the mines, but untangling the spells that have been laid is demanding and necessary work. for those of us not so skilled there is still much to enjoy in the sheer atavism of it. big boys bein bad, and getting their comeuppance, oldest plot in the world. where's harrison ford?

MillMan:

mutually beneficial in a very good way and maybe more than the sum of its parts, but not by much.

'maybe...not by much?'

quiet chortle... ah yes grasshopper, the sea of sensation leads to the shores of wisdom, pace blake...

4% doesn't seem like a generous interest rate, but safely compounded away by the bank of time and empiric profit, you could be pleasantly surprised by the unexpected dividends.
MillMan:

My guess is that as I get older I'll feel a stronger ethical obligation.

one usually does... selfishness peaks earlier.

MillMan:

My goal for humanity - maximizing happiness - has always been a difficult prospect. The challenge is the same question you proposed in another frame - "where is the energy going to come from?"

maybe it's easy but not simple, or the other way round, to go all tao on you. maximising happiness will flow naturally out of true understanding of the human condition, and the pincers of desire and retribution clamped onto our temples. starting small and slow, with you and your subject, you can create a tiny world of peace in life's gaudy flurry, and feel the ripples gently rolling out. if everyone could do that, politics would return to sanity, as citizens did.

the energy is there, once the reasons for fatigue, especially of the spirit, are removed. the journey has its own fuel, as you discovered when you slipped the mooring for a year. your state of mind ultimately matters more than what state you're in, and and the state it's in!

but they're all connected... great comment, i have no fears on your account. the charm of voluntary simplicity is already within your consciousness, you'll never unturn that, methinks, as it would involve going back to an unexamined life, and cause you to live less deliberately.

life stops being a puzzle only on the rarest of occasions, i find if i seek, and truth is a potent, if tiny tool to set ourselves free(er) with, at the end of the day, it's all we've got... a david's slingshot against a hodgepodge of goliaths.

and just maybe...with the net, we can one day realise we are many and they are few, and demand our share in the power that decides so much of our fates, and though sometimes well-meaningly, breaks so many people and shatters so many young dreams.

thanks for playing, please play again soon.

:)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jan 30th, 2010 at 05:44:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the lack of retirement money is just about to hit the popular consciousness.

Of my retirement-age friends, a small fraction were fortunate to work their entire career at one company, ending up with good, traditional retirement plans, retirement health care, and enjoyed two months of annual vacation during the last few years of work. Most of them, though, changed companies once or twice, at which point they were dropped from the retirement plans, had their vacation hour seniority reset, and lost their retirement medical care.

It's just now becoming obvious to them, having been retired now for perhaps three or four years, that their personal finances are a disaster: When their retirement money was converted to a cash payout they lost both the support of the still-working and also the shared risk pool of the company-organized plans. The million dollars or so that they may have been able to put into their personal retirement plans (as stock ownership, usually) dropped through the basement, and they are struggling to live on the meager dividends.

The gap between those enjoying the conventional retirement and those not enjoying the new retirement system is apparent in daily discussions...the baby-boomers are entering retirement and it's ugly.

by asdf on Fri Jan 29th, 2010 at 10:57:57 PM EST
they are struggling to live on the meager dividends.

They, (we) have really been screwed by the zero interest rate policy of the Fed. 1% of a million dollars is only $10K. If that is your yearly supplement to your Social Security and you have no other defined benefit plan, you are likely to be living on your capital. But if you start with a million you can draw it down at the rate of $24K/year for >40 years. If you start with $250 thousand, you will spend it in 10 years. That is a problem.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 30th, 2010 at 01:21:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
nice clear example, thanks Geezer.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jan 30th, 2010 at 06:35:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, and that's the whole point of annuities. Unfortunately, it's tough to predict whether you're going to be drawing it down over 30 years or 30 days...
by asdf on Sat Jan 30th, 2010 at 12:19:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or whether the annuity will be worth anything in 5-10 years or even be there, the way things are run on Wall Street. I almost put that into the comment.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 30th, 2010 at 12:55:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well we boomers are the fruits of a time when opportunities to 'move up in the world' were legion, and consumer confidence was just a twinkle in the collective eye.

shouda known when hustlers tell you to 'have confidence' it's time to think of a plan B, however rudimentary.

rough but ready. well, readier than before anyway.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jan 30th, 2010 at 06:34:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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