1.27.2006

A "New Politics for Amateurs"?


In a January Prospect Magazine (UK) piece, "Immature Democrats", author Gerry Stoker points out that "[p]olitics has been unable to withstand the assault of naive individualism". Snips & clips (I've added emphasis):
Discontent expresses itself in two main forms: disengagement from politics and frustrated activism. There are many culprits: politicians themselves, the media, the decline of transformative big ideas and the left/right axis, overcentralisation, the power of entrenched interests, the self-absorbed citizen and many others.

Yet it is hard to establish that the behaviour of politicians or the performance of political systems has declined compared to some golden era. And the evidence does not support the idea that citizens are, in general, less engaged.

A far more promising explanation is to be found in the claim that a number of misunderstandings of the political process have taken root in mature democracies. The misunderstandings arise from the spread of market-based consumerism and individualism. Politics has been infected by one of the dominant myths of our time: that the goal of life is self-actualisation. Politics as an exercise in collective decision-making has been unable to withstand the assault of a naive individualism. The idea that it is only through individual choice that we can express ourselves has reinforced a negative view of politics compared with other forms of decision-making that we experience. People have disengaged from politics and become frustrated in their activism because they do not understand the fundamental nature of politics—that in the end it involves the collective imposition of decisions, demands a complex communication process and generally produces messy compromise . . .
Applying Mr Stoker's insights to current events in the US, what do we make of the following:

  • there is no viable, organized "movement of opposition", making up for the failures of liberalism/progressivism, against the march of neoconservatism and fascism/corporatism

  • the contest for the Democratic Party's nomination of its '08 presidential candidate has already begun in earnest and the best they can do is Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton. No new ideas, no new policies, no new vibrant leaders. Barak Obama? Gimme a break! Dr Dean should be called Dr Dud. The party remains unreformed. Kerry's erstwhile filibuster of Scalito is nothing but a callous display of the same sort of cynical opportunism honed to perfection by The Doubleduh-Cheney Gang

  • in the face of an astonishing, obvious, and unabated record of criminality, constitutional circumvention and subversion, and gross negligence in our government'sexecutivee and legislative branches, the possibility of impeachment is little more than a dream. (And if impeaching and convicting Mr Bush were to become a reality, what would it change? Dick Cheney would then be President. I'd rather have the sitting dick head in there 'til late '07. If you think for a minute that these guys have the power and moral fortitude to bring both of these guys down, you been watchin too much Saturday mornin ABC)

  • even the "smartest" agitators on the left rail against The Gang's "incompetence, refusing to concede that these folks know exactly what they're doing. What will it take for people like Molly Ivins to understand how really bad things are? How too late it is for a system with advanced cancer to repair itself with some cute new faces in Washington?

This is the place where I state unequivocally that (1) I see radical action as the only bright choice and that (2) I reject totally the option of violence - against either humans or property - as an acceptable option. Period. Call me what you will, but the most immature and ineffective course toward lasting, positive change is violence. All it begets is more violence. Hamas, for example, will be effective only if it holds the truce and forces the US/Israel Zionists to the table by rejecting jihad and maximizing its service and compassion for the poor and war-ravaged peoples in the Middle Est. Hamas has an opportunity no body can afford to squander with suicide bombs

I hope you can see that the only pathways to peace and security in the near and far terms must be rooted in intentional actions and communities on smaller, local scales. Those of us who are true radicals must abandon not only the folly of Democratic/Republican Party politics, but the narcissistic, hubristic, and divisive attitudes and actions that have led to the invisibility of the far left.

The "government" is nearly gone - devoured by post-capitalism. We must accept that we let it happen. We have let ourselves be frog-boiled. We begged to be bought off with the silly trinkets and snake oil foisted upon us. It's gonna get a whole bunch worse - but maybe we can learn to take care of each other again. If we don't, the suffering will be unbearable.