Thursday, April 17, 2008

What has been lost?

Gandhi with women workers in Lancashire, September 1931

David Seaton's News Links
This photograph of Mahatma Gandhi surrounded by cheering women workers in Lancashire was taken in 1931.

1931 was a bad, bad year in the industrial world and the women in the picture are "workers". It isn't difficult to imagine that there lives were easily as hard, and probably a good deal harder than those of the natives of the rust belt small towns that were the object of Barack Obama's "Bittergate" remarks.

They are cheering in solidarity with a man that wants to destroy their empire.

What was the culture that produced this picture and what happened to it?

What has happened since then is the stupefication of the left.

The hymn of the British Labor (labour) Party is entitled "The Red Flag", which is sung to the melody of the German Christmas carol, "O Tannenbaum". The opening verse goes like this:
The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyr'd dead
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts' blood dyed its ev'ry fold.

Then raise the scarlet standard high,
Within its shade we'll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.
That's what the ladies in the photo sang and they believed it.

With the coming of Tony Blair or more exactly, the coming of the conditions that brought Tony Blair, cruel parodies of "The Red Flag" circulate, here is one of the better ones:
The people's flag is palest pink
It's not the colour you might think
White collar workers stand and cheer
The Labour government is here
We'll change the country bit by bit
So nobody will notice it
And just to show that we're sincere
We'll sing The Red Flag once a year

The cloth cap and the woollen scarf
Are images outdated
For we're the party's avant garde
And we are educated
So raise the rolled umbrella high
The college scarf, the old school tie
And just to show that we're sincere
We'll sing The Red Flag once a year
But the cruelest parody I've ever heard of "The Red Flag" opens:
The working class can kiss my arse
I've got the foreman's job at last
The rest is too rough for a family blog

What Obama said had some truth in it, but what was (I think the new Americanism is) inappropriate was the flip tone employed. There is something serious here that deserves discussion.

Karl Rove made a point of underlining the Marxist, "religion is the opium of the people" tone of Obama's remarks. Turdblossom has a point, but, in fact, in the original quote, in contrast to Obama, Marx's tone is filled with impassioned compassion and respect for the people's religiosity.
"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
"The heart of a heartless world". Now how does that compare to:
“So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations”
One is a noble sentiment, nobly expressed and the other is something you might hear at a vernissage. Shallow, condescending. And then, when cornered Obama didn't defend the idea... and it can be defended as Marx went on to say,
"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."
Now, what Marx is saying makes no mention of the existence or nonexistence of God. Here, on this point, Marx like the Gautama Buddha, keeps a "noble silence". He is only talking about using religion to keep people from examining their actual lives: alienation. Or as Joe Hill sang:
Long-haired preachers come out every night
To tell you what's wrong and what's right
But when asked about something to eat
They will answer in voices so sweet

You will eat bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky.
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die -- that's a lie.

And the starvation army they play,
They sing and they clap and they pray.
'Til they get your all coin on the drum,
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum.

You're going to eat bye and bye, poor boy,
In that glorious land above the sky, way up high.
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die -- dirty lie.
Holy rollers and jumpers come out,
And they holler , they jump, lord they shout.
Give your money to Jesus they say,
He will cure all your troubles today.

And you will eat bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky.
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

If you heart for children and wife,
Try to get something good from this life.
You're a sinner and a bad man they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.

You will eat bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky.
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

Working men of all countries unite,
Side by side for freedom we will fight.
When this world and its wealth we have gained,
To the grafters we will sing this refrain:

You will eat bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry.
Chop some wood it'll do you good,
You will eat in that sweet bye and bye.

Yes, You will eat bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky.
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die -- that's a lie.
As a matter of fact, I personally believe in God and I have always found what Marx said deeply spiritual. Gandhi himself synthesized all the contradictions implicit here. That's another reason the Socialist ladies in the picture were cheering him.

In short Obama said what he said and as Arianna Huffington was thousands of miles away in the South Pacific, staying on "billionaire Obama backer" David Geffen's 454-foot yacht, like in "the people's flag is palest pink," she didn't kill the story in time and Obama got caught.

This was even a better opportunity for him than the Wright-race speech to say something noble and to educate his listeners... as is his want, but he didn't step up, he choked.

And I think that if you think this stuff and say this stuff, you have to defend this stuff, because it has a pedigree and can be defended without offending. Or don't think it or at least have the mother wit not to say it anywhere to anyone except maybe to Michelle when the lights are off... Not even then, people get divorced and ex-wives of famous men write books.

For me this confirms my impression of Barack Obama as an American Tony Blair with a fantastic tan, but without Blair's self discipline.

Is this an endorsement of Hillary Clinton?

No, but one can say this for Hillary, she is so phony, so artificial, so contrived, that you could think that, somehow, somewhere, cowering at the bottom of her soul, there might be a real person hoping to get a chance to spring out.

As to the Democrats and America itself, my inner Lenin tells me things are going to have to get much, much worse, before they ever get better. DS


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mr. Seaton, for for a left-of-center brilliant post. However, you counter-intuitive hope that being elected president would liberate an inner-Hillary more to our, if you will pardon my familiarity, liking is an illusion.

But please continue to slog on.

Your Faithful Reader

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Let me be more precise. I don't think that Hillary Clinton would be a good president, neither do I think McCain would be much good, although his cussedness is promising. And I think you might gather that I'm no fan of Obama's, "The Messiah from Chicago".

Who then?

I really admire Dennis Kucinich, but I suppose that is what pimps would call a "special taste" and of the more centrist types, I think Al Gore has both experience and vision.

RC said...

I appreciate your views and the wide range of references you draw on to illustrate your tastes. Unfortunately, I am thinking that your inner Lenin will have his wish no matter who is elected President in November in the US, and I don't see how Kucinich or Gore would end up in that position given the current dynamic.
If the Bush Era has not brought about the insights that the inner Lenin hopes to spark, I doubt there is much hope for the US experiment now or any time soon.
As to your commentary about reworking the terminology, please refer to the language essays of Orwell.