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Hmmm... this is the "of course" or "everyone knows" gambit -- we all use it at one time or another consciously or un-, by assuming that some basic meme or foundational notion is shared by our audience;  but at other times it's used less ingenuously to present contentious assertions as if they were products of a secure consensus.

Examples abound -- "the US social security system is in terrible trouble and needs reform" is another "of course" meme (and one also serving neocon and neolib agendas) in which "trouble" (not well documented imho) is assumed, and "reform" is the label given to proposals which some critics would call sabotage.  "Of course" wages "have to be" suppressed, "flexibility" (meaning union-busting and revocation of worker rights) is required for "healthy" (healthy for whom?) economies, and so on.

Political battles seem to be twofold -- one is the raw struggle for secular power -- electoral and often dirty politics;  the other is the battle for mindshare or discourse space, the meme wars in which foundational assumptions frame (and, strategically, limit) the realm of discourse... so that certain ideas can be rendered unthinkable, undiscussable, "obsolete".  As CS Lewis pointed out long ago, far more effective than contending with the truth of falsity of an idea, if you want to suppress it, is to redefine it as "unfashionable" or  old fashioned.

It really does seem to me sometimes that we have a kind of fashion sense for ideas -- certain ideas are in vogue and can be taken seriously, and other ideas are out of style and can only be ridiculed like last season's cut of trousers.  And like fashion sense, this apparent consensus is at least partly manipulated and directed by vested interests...

Some ideas have -- or should have -- failed the test of time.  Slavery for example, we would hope, has few defenders left in the "enlightened" west, nor has child labour or (again, we would hope) indentured servitude or debt slavery (though the usury industry seems to be working on bringing that one back into vogue).  One would like to think that Kinder Kirche Kueche has had its day on the mental stage (though the Dominionists are working on a career comeback for that one).  

A neat trick of the neocons and neolibs is 1) to claim -- I think rightly so -- that Soviet-style Communism failed the test of time, then 2) to conflate any variant of Socialism with Soviet-style Communism, and then 3) to claim that therefore all flavours of socialism have failed the test of time and are laughable, obsolete, or "evil."

It's the conflation phase that's disingenuous;  and also the wilful disregard of any evidence that real societies made up of real people are being strengthened by the judicious application of socialist principles.    Therefore Europe must be failing -- it is ideologically necessary for Europe to fail, regardless of its tangible successes in education, public health, industry, finance etc. -- because Europe is "socialist" ... and America must be succeeding (no matter how dire its balance sheet looks on every front) because it is not-socialist.

Meanwhile, I have just paid some taxes on a Canadian (you know, one of those "socialist" countries) purchase from a year and a half ago.  The US dollar has fallen so fast relative to the Canadian dollar that the currency exchange differential has cost me an extra 10+ percent on the amount of tax due.  I wish I had transferred almost all my capital to a Canadian bank two years ago.  Somehow I don't think the Euro has fallen that far relative to the CAD over the same period.  When I'm awake I think I'll go look it up.  And then I'll meditate for a while on the meaning of the word "failure."

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Fri Mar 3rd, 2006 at 03:42:18 AM EST
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