Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Doing what it takes

What a charming old poster!
"A potential calamity," predicts Democratic pollster Doug Schoen. "If the reactions we're seeing hold, we could have real spasmodic anger directed at businesses and corporations." And the timing will have consequences, says financier and onetime GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney: "Unfortunately, politicians have seized on the politics of envy," he told Fortune, "and they are stoking it this election year like I've never seen in my lifetime." (...) Union leaders like the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney suddenly sound as if they're in the mainstream of public opinion with statements like this: "One thing is certain. No one - no politician, no investment banker, no television commentator, no economist - should be able to say again with a straight face that here in the United States we just let markets do whatever markets do and everything works out for the best." Fortune

We come in one size: extra large. We are sometimes insolent and often quick to fight. We love competitive spectacle such as NASCAR and paintball, and believe gun ownership is the eleventh commandment. We fry things nobody ever considered friable - things like cupcakes, banana sandwiches and batter dipped artificial cheese even pickles. And most of all we are defiant and suspicious of authority, and people who are "uppity" (sophisticated) and "slick" (people who use words with more than three syllables). Two should be enough for anybody. Joe Bageant, author of "Deerhunting With Jesus" - BBC NEWS

Obama’s “Change” message, Saunders argues, is too abstract, too vague, for the region. “Those people you were with today were screwed by the English in Scotland and Ireland way before they came over here and started getting screwed,” he said. “They’ve been screwed since the dawn of time. And you know what? You ain’t gonna do anything with them, talkin’ about change. You know why? We’re all changed out. That’s all you ever hear, every election. Somebody’s gonna change some shit. Nothin’ ever changes. We get fucked.” David (Mudcat) Saunders - New Yorker
David Seaton's News Links
You have to start from somewhere and probably a nascent class consciousness is as good a place as any. A realization that your life is going to be damaged by a few powerful people who don't give a damn about you and your problems and the lives and problems of millions like you, and reaching out to find others in the same fix you are in.

Here we are.

The Reaganite-Thatcherite-Friedmanite, bloom is finally off the rose, innit?

As Sam Cooke sang, "It's been a long time coming, but a change is going to come someday".

Has it come?

Probably not.

Why not?

The culture wars.

Instead of everyone standing together to face a small group of people who it is no exaggeration at all to call our oppressors, we shall soon see all this righteous anger and energy siphoned off into bickering over whether we are descended from great apes or whether Adam and Eve dodged dinosaurs only five thousand years ago in the company of a talking snake. As if any of that mattered when universal health care was hanging in the balance.

As my readers know, I personally am "pro choice", but I would put that on a back burner in order to come to some agreement with those who support the "pro life" position if it took that to get universal health care.

Forty million Americans without health care, who cannot see a doctor except in an emergency room is what I call a "primary contradiction" and all the culture questions for me, at this moment, important as they are, are secondary contradictions: issues to be postponed until the primary contradiction is taken care of. This is also because to get universal health care would reorder the priorities of the entire system and put the final nail in Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman's coffins. This is the issue that a social democratic future of the United States hinges on... It is the primary contradiction.

Obviously this accepting priorities does not mean abandoning one's beliefs, it means postponing those battles in order to make common cause with others who also need what we need most and therefore I think that at present, as badly as women need abortion on demand, they and the children they already have need regular visits to the doctor, glasses and dental care more. So the welfare of children already in the world, who don't have access to a pediatrician, has to be temporarily put first.

In short, I think progressive American politicians should handle rattlesnakes, go into trance, howl like dogs, speak in tongues, join the NRA and eat fried pie, if that is what it takes to get socialized medicine in the USA. DS


Anonymous said...

I live in a small town in rural Maryland, and I can't imagine by what process the people I meet every day will be informed and mobilized enough to demand change in a social democratic direction. People are really really pissed off - the mechanic in the auto shop, who I have never exchanged more than pleasantries with before - greeted me today with a rant about how he can't believe the state of this country and he'd love to get his hands on "them" (pointing up the road vaguely in the direction of Washington DC). You can't go the the 7/11 without someone bending your ear about the price of gas, or to Food Lion without someone doing the same about food. There are more store fronts boarded up on our main street that there are functioning businesses. But I don't know how anger turns into informed pressure for progressive change. People have heard so much propaganda against anything "socialized", and generally don't have personal experience from foreign travel that would let them compare the reality with what they've been told. And I don't see any sign of charismatic, progressive leadership waiting in the wings, organizing for change.

My plumber blames everything on "the Jews", my hairdresser blames illegal immigrants. I think the anger people feel is more likely to be expressed through mindless xenophobia than anything constructive. Maybe it's a rural thing, and looks less grim to people who live in more cosmopolitan parts of the country.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

I must admit than my enthusiasm for my own ideas is much tempered by my fear of fascism. That is why I want to take the fascist tool of culture war off the table and stick to the primary contradiction of health care. I think everything would flow naturally from that.

We haven't created this anger, but the question is how it could be put to good use.

Anonymous said...

There is no chance in hell because English and American people have a culture of total obedience.

Basically the "West" has had it and is going back to stagnate in a feudal society, as for example Wallerstein is pointing out.

Freedom and prosperity will be in China in the future, they are already more free than the people in the British police state now.

Anonymous said...

I think the anger people feel is more likely to be expressed through mindless xenophobia than anything constructive.

Since I wrote that last night, I’ve been trying to think of practical examples that would suggest things aren’t necessarily as grim as they seem, and there are some.

For example, our school board was one of those that proposed giving equal time in science class to intelligent design. It also wanted to distribute copies of the NT in our elementary schools. But it never came to pass, because come election time there was a seismic shift on the board, which saw a 5-2 majority in favor of creationists switch to a 4-3 majority for professional educators/scientists. So when it came to something that immediately touched on the lives of people here – i.e. do I really want my own children to be prepared for life in the 21st century by teaching them the Bible as science – people were actually motivated to think through the issue, inform themselves about alternative candidates, and get out and vote in unusual numbers. And this is in a community that is extremely church-centered.

And I do think your suggestion of starting with healthcare could have traction. In our town, uninsured people occasionally advertize their fundraisers on the community notice board at the dry cleaners. Some of the cases you read there really stay with you . We had a 36 yr old mother of three who had recurrent breast cancer and was selling home-made cakes to raise money for chemo. And more recently, a local volunteer firefighter whose colleagues were holding a potluck dinner to pay for reconstructive surgery after he was badly burned on the job, and had exhausted his medical insurance. (Presumably if we had a municipal fire dept, he would have been covered, but we don’t). Perhaps cases like that are particularly striking to me because I came to this town from a US military background so I took it for granted that health care was always available (if not necessarily good quality). But I’m sure I can’t be the only person who comes out of the dry cleaners knowing that something is very wrong when people in the richest country in the world are holding bake sales to pay for lifesaving treatment. This situation may be the one that has the potential to turn into something constructive because 1. In a small town, this is not a theoretical issue; those people on the notice boards are our neighbors, so their predicament touches us directly 2. Providing health care to our neighbors is an issue we can talk about without making things overtly political. You can talk about it without mentioning words like Democrat or Republican or Socialized or Free Market, and this is a big plus when people are just sick of politics.

The biggest potential for progress would be a shift to a kinder, gentler Christianity. The dominant religious ethos here is a tough amalgam of evangelicalism, militant nationalism and proud no-nothingism. But we are a country that goes through Great Awakenings from time to time and then gets over it, and this one will pass too. Perhaps it will pass a little quicker as the realization of what our recent crusading nationalism has cost us suddenly sinks in. In our town, where there is one doctor’s surgery but about a dozen churches, that would be a real force for change if not a sudden one.

Enough from me.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

"The biggest potential for progress would be a shift to a kinder, gentler Christianity."

I agree. I think if social democracy ever comes to America it will be connected to the Christian traditions as it always was in the UK.

stunted said...

I would just like to say to anonymous to keep on commenting; that there is never enough of concerned thinking. Thanks for your thoughts, and I doubt that what you've observed in rural Maryland is any different in whatever setting across America.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Wonderful commnets.