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Excellent comment, and I think you're dead right. Perhaps there is a slight misunderstanding (not your fault) about Jérôme's and my contribution above, in that we suggested and bolded themes that look as if they are finished slogans. We've all seen, in the American left blogosphere, endless frustrated discussions of the type: "The Dems should say this... We should say that...", and our points above might have appeared to fit roughly into that category.

But I believe Jérôme (and I'm sure in my case) meant to suggest a basic, essential point on which we needed to found our thinking and discussion. As I said, we need to redefine the notions of wealth and value. The other side's trick, as you say, lies in

using a discourse to evangelise a value system.

The religious hint there is not misplaced. We are talking about generalized myths and belief systems. Turning them upside down is a work on a par with creating a new religion. We need to start at the bottom and define a new system of value and wealth, then articulate it into discrete elements and metrics. What I think Jérôme and I were suggesting, and you in fact took up and moved forward, was that we should look at the twin foundation of humanity and the planet as reality-based sources of a new narrative.

Pace kcurie (I'm thinking of his citing the tree falling in the forest), when the planet goes kaput, it will be for real, and screw perception. There's also a question about how much oppression people can bear without noticing they're unhappy. (It's only a question, I admit). But I think it's an advantage we have that the ruling economic dogma today is not reality-based. We can debunk it through the attack prong (this system is specious, it exists only to enrich a tiny number), while offering a new, reality-based version of value that may encourage our base and (sigh, the religious analogy again...) make new converts.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 02:42:42 AM EST
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As an oblique comment on this :

There's also a question about how much oppression people can bear without noticing they're unhappy.

here's a quote from an excellent comment by DeAnander in RadiumSoda's diary Chomsky Interviewed by Irish Times :

I don't think it's coincidental that the "generation of rebellion" in the 60's were the children of security and affluence.  it was that sense of security that gave them the chutzpah to dream of a better world, instead of negotiating each his/her own desperate accommodation with the overlords for bare survival.  failing that sense of security, the other thing that sparks open revolt seems to be genuine despair:  a loss of security so complete that, having "nothing to lose," the disenfranchised will risk their lives just to strike a blow at the overlords (or whomever they think the overlords are, or sometimes just whomever they can reach or blame locally).

the intellectual and strategic space in between Fat Happy Rebels with an optimistic vision of making life better for all, and Thin Miserable Furious Rebels swearing to leave at least a scorch mark somewhere on the System with their last breath, is a vast gray area of fear, compromise, caution, grim endurance, selfish private manoeuvring, hoping that whoever gets smashed next won't be me, desperate attempts to believe elite rhetoric so as to stave off despair, etc....  in other words the mentality of survivors in a prison or camp:  take it one day at a time, keep yer head down, there's no percentage in trying anything, you'll never get enough people with you 'cos everyone else is thinking cautiously just like you are.  kick in a healthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome and Prisoners Dilemma and it's not surprising that the system works and that Bush and his merry men are laughing all the way to the offshore bank...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 04:18:34 AM EST
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in other words the mentality of survivors in a prison or camp:  take it one day at a time, keep yer head down, there's no percentage in trying anything, you'll never get enough people with you 'cos everyone else is thinking cautiously just like you are.  kick in a healthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome and Prisoners Dilemma and it's not surprising that the system works and that Bush and his merry men are laughing all the way to the offshore bank...

jesus, DeAnander is good.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 12:58:48 PM EST
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we should look at the twin foundation of humanity and the planet as reality-based sources of a new narrative.

a reality-based myth.  muy interesante indeed.  this starts to blur the distinction between myth and theory, the former traditionally associated with irrationalism and subjectivity, the latter associated with reason and objectivity.  perhaps this should be an explicit criterion of our myths, that they should be as empirical, consistent, and explicative as possible, in short, that we make our political myths as close to scientific theories as possible.  with the crucial caveat, however, that we emphatically acknowledge that our myths -- just like scientific theories -- are not the final Truth, that they are provisionary, dynamic, and evolving.

then what would the role be for values in such "scientific myths"/reality-based narratives?  if science is supposed to be objective, then wouldn't making our myths scientific rule out human values?  no.  because the objectivity of science deals with the quantities we measure; however, it is our value system (i.e. our interests, our perspectives, our assumptions) that determins what we measure and how we do so.  most importantly, our values are the only thing that by which we can say if a particular measurement is good or bad (e.g. participation rate of labor force, unemployment rate, percentage of unemployed persons in the population, GDP, body fat index, etc. are all things to be measured; but it is our values that assign relative importance and desirability/undesirability to each of these categories of measurements as well as to the range of measurable quantities within each category.)

We need to start at the bottom and define a new system of value and wealth, then articulate it into discrete elements and metrics.

discrete elements and metrics.  sounds like a plan.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 01:48:38 PM EST
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discrete elements and metrics.  sounds like a plan.

I was taking up these ideas :

It has to be built on different implicit values that can be reduced to simple and manageable concepts that are equivalent to today's 'growth' and 'unemployment' and 'productivity.' (...)
can progressive aims be reduced to metrics labelled with simple names for essential concepts like environmental health, sustainability, etc, that have the same sound-bite quality?

from ThatBritGuy's comment. Is it a plan? It would certainly involve structuring interconnected memes that would need easily graspable names.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 14th, 2006 at 04:12:24 PM EST
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I agree very much.  I meant, Sounds like a good plan, a sound approach.  And I had the same response to ThatBritGuy's emphasis on discovering and defining the cencepts -- memes, as you put it -- to start building this myth/theoretic structure.  Perhaps these are the "elements" you refer to.  And I would agree that "metrics" are just as critical, as they introduce objectivity into our observations as to how well our myth/theory corresponds to our experience of reality.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Sat Apr 15th, 2006 at 12:34:41 AM EST
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