Hope and the modern leftist

Leftist social activism was born from resistances. The labor movement fought for decades to win better pay, safer conditions, and shorter hours. Successive waves of feminists sought the right to vote, for equal pay and treatment under the law, and then for a society that valued women’s ways of thinking. The civil rights movement dismantled segregation against seemingly impossible odds; few young Southerners in the 1930s could have imagined living to see a black President. This ingrained habit of fighting means that the hardcore left doesn’t know what to do with itself when it wins. (One of the things I really like about the city of Burlington is that progressives have been in power on and off for decades now. It’s empowering, even comforting, to see fellow leftists cope with trash collection, municipal taxes, crime, and other mundanities of contemporary life.) I’ve thought about this for a while, and it turns out there’s a new book about the left’s pessimism from author Rebecca Solnit. I’ve not heard of her before, but I’ll be looking for more of her books after this. I cannot express my opinion better than she, so I’ve quote two paragraphs below.

Hope […] is in love with success rather than failure, and I’m not sure that’s true of a lot of the more audible elements of the Left in this country. The only story many radicals know how to tell is the one that is the underside of the dominant culture’s story, more often than not the stuff that never makes it into the news, and all news had a bias in favor of suddenness, violence, and disaster that overlooks groundswells, sea changes, and alternatives. Their premise is: the powers that be are not telling you the whole truth. But the truth they tell is also incomplete. The conceive of the truth as pure bad news, appoint themselves the deliverers of it, and keep telling it over and over. Eventually they come to look for the downside in any emerging story, even in apparent victories – and in each other: something about the task seems to give some of them the souls of meter-maids and dogcatchers. (Of course, this also has to do with the nature of adversarial activism, which leads to obsession with the enemy, and, as a few environmentalists have mentioned to me, with the use of alarmist narratives for fund-raising.)

Sometimes these bad-news bringers seem in love with defeat, becasue if they’re constantly prophesying doom, actual doom is, as we say in California, pretty validating. But part of it is a personal style. I think that this grimness is more a psychology than an ideology. There’s a kind of activism that is more about bolstering identity than achieving results, one that sometimes seems to make the Left the true heirs of the Puritans. Puritanical in that the point becomes the demonstration of one’s own virtue rather than the realization of results. And puritanical because the somber pleasure of condemning things is the most enduring part of that legacy, along with the sense of personal superiority that comes from pleasure denied. Despair, bad news, grimness bolster an identity the teller can affect, one that is masculine, stern, disillusioned, tough enough to face the facts. Some of them, anyway.


Teabagging America

Ever since debate began over a big government stimulus plan I’ve been thinking about how irrelevant the GOP has made itself. Their idea of stimulus . . . isn’t one. Tax cuts can sometimes lead to business reinvestment and long-term growth in revenue, but not in the middle of a banking crisis. Cut corporate taxes during hard times and they’re much more likely to build up their war chest, sitting on the money rather than putting it back into circulation. After the last eight years, Republican claims of fiscal discipline and small, responsible government seem not just baseless, but actively clownish. OldKentuckyShark, a poster on RPGNet, explained it well in a post about the embarassing teabag protests.

The truly appalling thing is that they threw a protest without the protest.

What were the teabaggers standing against?

High taxes? Obama just cut taxes. Try again.

The rising national debt? It’s going up, but it’s been going up for the past 8 years (or twenty years, or fifty years, depending upon who is counting); why stand up and grow a pair now, of all times? Where were these voices last April? And even setting that aside, what do they propose to do to stop it?

The Bailout/TARP/Stimulus Plan? Well, all right, those are perfectly valid targets for debate… but there’s been no debate, just diffused, unfocused anger. That doesn’t make for a protest, it makes for a hissy fit.

Now, traditionally, on April 15th, libertarians all across America make a little to-do over taxes. Libertarians hate taxes: it’s their thing, it’s what they do. Now, I may not like the libertarian philosophy — I may despise and loathe some of its core precepts from the bottom of my soul — but I will give them this: they, at least, have an argument. They have consistency. They proceed from certain axioms along a line of logic towards a hypothetical future that is, to my mind, hellish, but at least they move in straight lines. They have their own golden path, and the best of them actually walk it, bless their hearts. Real libertarians, from what I have heard, were disgusted by what they saw as a co-opting of their traditional grinding axes.

The teabaggers had none of that. They spouted nonsense. They had conspiracy theories about Obama’s nationality and bad math and worse puns and teabags. One man had a sign declaring the stimulus package unconstitutional: when challenged, he had never even read the constitution. One woman had a sign declaring democrats to be socialists: when pressed, she couldn’t identify what socialism was. Thousands of people gathered in city capitals today over nothing. Nothing. They held up their persecution complexes like red badges of courage. They waved their impotent rage like an American flag, as if puling incoherence was a moving argument. They wore their paper-mache pig hats with absurd pride.

They’ve been called the party of No and the party of no ideas, but this went beyond all that. On April 15th, 2009 Republicans officially went all Bret Easton Ellis on us: totally less than zero.

There’s no there, there in the right wing any more.

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In the spirit of post-election bipartisanship

Some intelligent, insightful opinions from Republicans.

This is merely the plan, already tested and found wanting, of giving prosperity to the big men on top, and trusting to their mercy to let something leak through to the mass of their countrymen below — which, in effect, means that there shall be no attempt to regulate the ferocious scramble in which greed and cunning reap the largest rewards.–Teddy Roosevelt

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed–Dwight D. Eisenhower

I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it–Abraham Lincoln

We need more of the Office Desk and less of the Show Window in politics. Let men in office substitute the midnight oil for the limelight.–Calvin Coolidge

It always pays for a nation to be a gentleman.–Teddy Roosevelt

Come for the moose, stay for the raping!

So as mayor, Sarah Palin decided that the town of Wasilla should stop paying for rape kits, the equipment hospitals use with possible sexual assault victims to establish evidence for police and prosecutors. This doesn’t even make sense if you’re a penny-pinching sexist asshole; if more sexual assaults can be reported and investigated, the courts can take more violent assholes off the streets. In reading about this scandal, I was surprised to discover that Alaska has the highest number of rapes per capita in the U.S. To defend the state against accusations that there’s nothing else for the ice truckers, fishery workers, and oil rig hands to do during the long months, I repost this imaginary entry from WyzardWhately of RPGNet.

Journal Entry #27:
Snowed in for over a month now. Have exhausted the possibilities of MSTing the stack of talking-animal Disney movies. Nobody can find the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzles. The ennui is hellish, like a living thing that smothers our every attempt at pretending normalcy. People told us it was a risk out here, but I never expected the raping to set in so fast. Last night, Dwayne raped the couch. Melissa raped the refrigerator. Chris has claimed, truthfully or not, to have spent the night up in the attic, trying to rape the abstract concept of loneliness. If he would have just ran Nobilis for us like we asked him to, we might never have come to such a pass. Johnny and Cindy can’t stand the sight of each other anymore, broke up, and now rape each other every night. Nothing has changed, except now they’re louder.

Why can’t I ignore trolls?

You couldn’t find a clearer example. A new user joins the boards at RPGNet and posts bog-standard Republican spam about Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright. The smart move is to wait for him to get banned for a personal attack–how long could that take? But no, I have to read everything he writes, go into details of how he’s misinformed, how his posts are knee-jerk copypasta neocon talking points. Discussing anything with him is a waste of my time, effort, and intellectual energies. But, but . . . he’s WRONG ON THE INTERNET!!

Thanks, Russia!

I tell you, participation in the world community and striving for prosperity is for suckers. What you should do is fan the flames of nationalism until your neighbors cower around you, threaten Poland with military strikes, and try to overthrow the popular leader of a sovereign nation. Oh, and start a new cult of personality around Vladimir Putin; that Stalin guy worked out GREAT. I’ve really been missing that Cold War fear of T-80s rumbling through the Fulda Gap and Backfire bombers heading God knows where. The warm, paranoiac feeling is just flooding back.