WHEN AN ABSTRACT PRINCIPLE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN VERY REAL LIVES

13 09 2020

In a social media conversation I was involved in recently, somebody made this comment:

Voting 3rd party is a good way to let marginalized groups know that your abstract principles are more important than their very real lives.

I thought it was B.S. at the time, and said as much, and did my best to reply “on the fly,” as they say. Since it’s a meme I’ve encounter several other times, it seems worth exploring the role “abstract principles” play in politics, as well as the effects they have on everybody’s “very real lives,” whether they are in a “marginalized group,” or one of the marginalizers. So that’s what I’m going to be addressing here.

The Green Party’s “four pillars” are ecological wisdom, social justice, grassroots democracy, and nonviolence. Ourten key values“add to that list “decentralization,” “community-based economics and economic justice,” “feminism and gender equity,””respect for diversity,” “personal and global responsibility,” and “future focus and sustainability.” I suppose you could call these “abstract principles,” but, at a level, that’s what being a political party is about–a group of people agree that, if certain principles were applied to the way societal decisions are made, the results would be an improvement on the current situation. In those places where Greens have governed, mostly in foreign countries, but in a few lucky cities and towns in America, we have done our best to apply these principles, and I think that, by any reasonable standard, the way we have applied our “abstract principles” has improved the “very real lives” of not only “marginalized groups,” but the whole community.

Democrats, and the Republicans as well, also govern by applying an abstract principle. Yes, they share the same principle, although they differ in the details of applying it and the rhetoric with which they surround it. Let’s take a look at what that “abstract principle” is, and how it has affected the lives of not just “marginalized groups,” but most Americans–because here, in late stage capitalism, everybody outside of the top 10% of wealth holders has been, or is about to be, “marginalized.”

The first thing to do, obviously, is name and define the “principle.” Its name is “neoliberalism,” and here’s the beginning of Investopedia‘s fairly extensive definition/discussion:

Neoliberalism is a policy model that encompasses both politics and economics and seeks to transfer the control of economic factors from the public sector to the private sector. Many neoliberalism policies enhance the workings of free market capitalism and attempt to place limits on government spending, government regulation, and public ownership.

Neoliberalism is often associated with the leadership of Margaret Thatcher–the prime minister of the U.K. from 1979 to 1990 and leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990–and Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the U.S. (from 1981 to 1989). More recently, neoliberalism has been associated with policies of austerity and attempts to cut government spending on social programs.

I think there’s one qualifier that needs to be added to this definition: neoliberalism likes to place “limits on government spending” in all areas except for military spending. That said, let’s look at how the Democrats and Republicans have applied neoliberal principles to America, and the world, and see what kind of results neoliberal principles have produced for “marginalized people.”

Way back in the nineteen eighties and nineties, in accord with the neoliberal principle of “transferring the control of economic factors from the public sector to the private sector,” the Democrats, led by Joe Biden, changed the way we help college students from a being mostly a grant and government loan program to a private loan program run by for-profit banks, with loans that cannot be renegotiated by declaring bankruptcy. This has sunk a whole generation of college students into a lifetime of debt, leaving them unable to buy houses and making it difficult for them to marry and raise children. For what reason? As Joe Biden said at the time, Read the rest of this entry »





SARAH PALIN–BAD COP! JOE BIDEN–GOOD COP?

11 10 2008

I am getting really tired of hearing scary Sarah Palin stories.  I mean, of course she’s the wicked Christian witch of the north, of course she’s ignorant and simplistic and has a very limited worldview, and yes I think that makes her a very poor choice for a leadership position in this country, or even the state of Alaska or the town of Wasilla, where it took only 600 people out of the total population of 5,000 to make her mayor.

And, just as an aside, I’m not impressed by her ability to shoot a moose.  I have been around moose in Vermont, and, while you can’t walk up to them and pet them, they are not particularly shy of humans.  A friend of mine up there commented, long before Ms. Palin became a national figure,  that shooting a moose takes about as much hunting skill as shooting a parked car.   As for dressing a moose, I think that, if you’re going to eat meat, it’s only honest to know how to take it from live animal to what’s for dinner.  My wife can do that, with deer, anyway–we have no moose here in Tennessee–and she’d make a much better VPUS than Ms. Palin.  It is, as the New Agers say, a very grounding skill.  Maybe it should be one of the Vice Presidential prerequisites?   What if we got a vegetarian candidate? But, I digress….

There are two points I’d like to make from my “Deep Green Perspective.”  The first is that Joe Biden is just as scary, in his own way, as Ms. Palin, and the second is that what many see as Ms. Palin’s weaknesses look like strengths to her core supporters, so that when she is attacked for these qualities, it only rallies her base and makes her stronger. Many people don’t understand that we have three colliding worldviews interacting in this election.  When you see it that way, a lot of things start to make sense that seem quite baffling otherwise.  But first, let’s take a critical look at Joe Biden.

A lot of my “left Democrat” friends believe that Obama is playing the Roosevelt strategy, running a conservative campaign that will mutate into a much more radical approach to restructuring the country once he has gotten himself elected by acting more mainstream than he really is.  When I see that he has cold warrior Zbigniew Brezinski advising him on foreign policy and Wall Street insiders like Robert Rubin and his acolyte Jason Furman giving him pointers on financial policy, I have my doubts that foxes like these three will really create a safe henhouse, y’know?  And then we have Joe Biden, “the Senator from MBNA,” a heartbeat away from the Presidency–and sure, Obama’s a lot healthier than McCain, but we’ve got people at Palin rallies screaming “kill him!” when Obama’s name gets mentioned.  Bullets do not respect your healthy lifestyle, folks, and, as I’m going to discuss later, there’s every reason to take those threats seriously.

“The Senator from MBNA” is an epithet Joe has earned by his earnest support of Delaware’s largest corporation, or what was Delaware’s largest corporation until it got bought out by Bank of America, which, with that purchase and its recent acquisition of Merrill, Lynch, is well on its way to fulfilling its name.  Monopoly capitalism….Karl Marx would feel vindicated.  Joe was one of the first Democrats to support the Republican-originated bankruptcy reform bill, which has made it much harder for middle-class Americans to declare bankruptcy.  He voted for it four times over the seven years it took to get the bill passed; Obama, to his credit, voted against the bill, one of only 24 Democrats with enough spine and compassion to do so. Here’s Arianna Huffington on the consequences of this bill:

So what does the bill do? It makes it harder for average people to file for bankruptcy protection; it makes it easier for landlords to evict a bankrupt tenant; it endangers child-support payments by giving a wider array of creditors a shot at post-bankruptcy income; it allows millionaires to shield an unlimited amount of equity in homes and asset-protection trusts; it makes it more difficult for small businesses to reorganize while opening new loopholes for the Enrons of the world; it allows creditors to provide misleading information; and it does nothing to rein in lending abuses that frequently turn manageable debt into unmanageable crises. Even in failure, ordinary Americans do not get a level playing field.

All because the credit-card sharks wanted to be sure of getting their pound of flesh.  And Joe Biden is supposed to be a “friend of the working man”?

And then there’s his support for the Patriot Act.  He introduced a similar bill in the nineties, because of the Oklahoma City bombings, and boasted after 9-11 that the Patriot Act was “my bill.”  He has also been a strong supporter of US military intervention.  And there’s his offhand racism–but there’s one key issue of his that impacts me personally.  That issue is the War on Some Drugs.  Biden initiated the creation of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which one wag recently characterized as “the only federal agency with a mandate to lie to the public,” as well as being a prime mover of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug “offenses.”  He introduced and secured passage of the so-called “RAVE Act,” which turned bottled water and glow sticks into drug paraphernalia.  Joe is personally responsible not only for the Patriot Act, but for the “War on Drugs” as we know it.

Now, I’m not going to admit to any so-called criminal activity myself, but I will say that I have a lot of friends who use “illegal drugs,” and the vast majority of them are responsible, hard-working people; but in the eyes of Joe Biden and the US government, they are all unfit to hold a job, drive, or raise children, and should be stripped of their voting rights and all their assets and jailed or re-educated until they see the error of their ways.  We are supposed to vote for  Biden and Obama because they are not as frightening as McSame and imPlalin?  Can you say “Kafkaesque,” boys and girls?  Very good.  How about “Orwellian”?  When you vote for the lesser of two evils, you are still  voting for evil.  And what does that make you?

musical interlude:  Tom Neilson, “Democrats

Well, enough about the particulars…now for the deeper perspective.  Here’s how it looks to me:

For most of the time since humans became humans, we have lived in small bands of closely-related individuals whose primary commitment was to support each other, whether repelling large carnivores, hunting big game, or fending off raiders from the next valley who thought we were impinging on their hunting territory.  That, in my opinion, is where Sarah Palin, and the millions who support her, are coming from.  They are kind, considerate, and compassionate–with their own people.  The rest of us don’t count, and if we attack any one of them, we have attacked them all.  Loyalty to their pack and obedience to its leader are their supreme virtues.  Questioning consensus reality is treason; active dissent from it is even worse, because we have to hang together to survive in a hostile world.  If you want to know more about these folks read Bob Altenmeyer’s The Authoritarians.  It’s available for free, online.

I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but about three-quarters of the people in the world are still in the grip of this us-versus-them mindset, even though the saber-tooth tigers and the great herds are all long gone, and People Who Are Not Like Us live in the next apartment, not a day’s walk away through the woods.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama, I believe, have evolved beyond this primitive, anachronistic world view–but that does not constitute an endorsement!  They see that the whole human race is in it together on this planet and have a somewhat egalitarian approach, believing that debate among equals is no sin, unlike the Palin-McSame crowd.  However, the Biden-Obama worldview is so firmly committed to materialistic rationality that it incurs the hostility of those committed to the primitive religion of McCain-Palin consciousness, while it in turn is hostile to higher mysticism–hence the support for the war on some drugs and the commitment to the neoliberal, corporatist, ant hill/consumerist/growth agenda, which is as dangerous to the soul and ecology of the planet as the neoconservative, corporatist, ant hill/consumerist/growth agenda; the two differ mainly in how much they trust the ants–excuse me, I mean common people–who will populate the worlds they envision.  Palin-McSamers think humans are basically evil and will do the wrong thing unless watched constantly; the Biden-Obama crowd has seen far enough to postulate the perfectability of human nature, but will constantly be confounded by both  the prerational and postrational impulses that arise from deep within, because the possibility of post-rationality is not comprehensible to them; they, with Freud, think that religion is necessarily primitive, and they have little tolerance for it in either case.

Well, some small percentage of the population, myself included, (at least that’s what I like to think) has gone beyond the polarization games of American politics, and we are neither afraid of the bad cops (McSame/Palin) nor drawn to co-operate with the good cops (Obama/Biden).  We could get along just fine in a world without cops, thank you, and we have a feeling that our numbers are growing exponentially.  If the struggle between the good cops and the bad cops doesn’t destroy the planet’s ability to sustain human life, we will likely take over when they have cancelled each other out.  It’s just a question of time.

Meanwhile, I’m not going to be scared into voting for the good cop.  I’m going to vote for the Green Party’s Cynthia McKinney, as well as local Green candidates John Miglietta and Chris Lugo.  And if all the “left Democrats” got fed up with being left by their party’s consistent selection of center-right, neo-liberal, pro-growth, ecologically ignorant candidates and did the same, we would have quite a little movement on our hands, and maybe we could get this country moving again.  It’s just a question of time; but time, my friends, is running out.

music:  Bruce Cockburn, “Gospel of Bondage








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