I’ve been rereading a lot of unhappy writers of the past few weeks, particularly 25 essays by Joe Bageant, published post-humously at Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball.
In my addiction to gloom, I also reread many not yet in paper but available on Joe’s website.
Reading Joe is the perfect antidote to any undue optimism that might rear its delusive head when I’m not paying attention. He may not have been a spreader of good cheer, but it’s hard to argue with his views and still be honest with one’s self. Joe spoke the language of working people, with all its bluntness, profanity and honesty. He was every bit as intelligent and educated as the Talking Heads, academics or politicians, but refused to join their Apology for the American Empire and Way Of Life. And like the people who have to clean up the messes created by the PTB, he did not shrink from confronting the ugliness that permeates our country and which we have inflicted on the rest of the world.
Looking at the American scene, particularly since the Reagan presidency, we see more despair from those on the Left and more gloating from the Right. Quite frankly, it’s not surprising that the political agenda has moved rightward, since the GOP has worked harder and been more focused – and been able to better afford the means of propaganda and corruption. Many on the Left have moved from Democrat to Socialist, but many, including me, have simply given up on finding a political solution.
I don’t know if there is solution, but if there is, it won’t manifest within the framework and mechanisms of America’s current politics.
Tip O’Neill’s famous dictum that “All politics is local” is generally seen as a matter of electoral strategy, but it is much more than that. Taken to its logical root, local opinion, feelings, needs, movements and actions pre-date and underlie formal politics and if sufficiently effective make any higher level political structures unnecessary. Granted, the local farmers and townspeople would find it tough to field an army, but for most day-to-day purposes, government is or should be superfluous.
Sounds pretty Libertarian, doesn’t it? In fact, the truth of that does earn many Libetarian politicians more support than they really deserve. The real problem with many (most?) Libertarians is they seek personal liberty for the wrong reasons.
Despite their rhetoric, they do not understand that what is important is not freedom from, but rather freedom to.
Being free to maximize personal wealth and power is socially and and personally destructive and ultimately self-defeating.
Being free to create, love, help, support and build in concert with a community of fellow human beings is the true value of freedom.
We’re beginning to have grass-roots protests, reminiscent of the anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements. While the protests are issue-specific, I often get the feeling that the issue on the placards is an excuse for the protest rather than the reason. I sense an underlying, general dissatisfaction with ‘things as they are’. People are beginning to suspect the wheels are coming off the Great American Wagon and they don’t know exactly why. They’re looking for someone to confirm or deny their suspicions, someone to blame and someone to fix it all.
I recall a 90+ old lady in a hospital outside Boston. Completely senile, she sat in a chair outside her room, so the nurses could keep an eye on her.She sat for hours, periodically shouting out “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do! “.
An entire country seems politically, economically and culturally senile and the protests are a communal “I don’t know what to do!”.
What’s an ex-Leftie to do these days?
Waste time and effort playing the official political game?
Even if one could find a place that welcomed those fleeing American Hegemony, you’d have to keep your head down pretty low to get below the radar of Uncle Sam when push came to shove.
Drop out; find/form a commune or become a hermit?
100% self-sufficiency is nearly impossible, certainly impractical and has severe limitations on the social side. And you’d still be under The Man’s thumb if he wanted you or yours. You would still be contributing taxwise to things you might not want to support. And while you might be free to do whatever you liked, I suspect that without a community of fellow humans, you wouldn’t find much point in your freedom.
It took him decades and a winding road, but Joe Bageant pretty much nailed it. Live simply, with simple people, help others when you can, accept their limits, the limits of that life and of Life itself and your own limitations. Reclaim your humanity – and remember the term is a collective noun.
I’m trying, Joe.