Well, my dear Mets start their season today and, unlike other years, there’s a lot to look forward to from my Mutts.
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The Spirit of Disobedience
Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.
Lucy Parsons, 1853-1942
Every election cycle I am reminded of the political naiveté and apathy of Americans. Nowhere else in US culture is cynicism so deeply ingrained. I am a skeptic, I question everything, but I am no cynic. Cynicism is the disease of defeatism. And much of the American electorate suffers from it.
We love to talk about the stupidity of the American electorate, how we are like so much sheep. But the very same people doing the condemning are also the ones doing jack shit about the situation. The condemners are the worst cynics because they’re the first to demand we vote responsibly — meaning voting for the “lesser of two evils.” They’re the most dismissive of grassroots movements, forgetting or being ignorant that social movements have been the only effective change makers. Maybe it’s because throughout history mass movements have been solely responsible for significant change.
For me this is indicative child-like, lower-level moral reasoning. Welcome to the real world where things don’t exactly fall in place as you would like to, and where unsavory forces co-opt power. It’s also thinking that contradicts itself. Why? Because it’s the very same thinking that creates the apathy and cynicism contributing to the current political mess.
Those in power want us to feel defeated; they want us to be turned off because it’s easier for them to control people who have lost any vision or passion. And if you’re going to sit there and tell me that you vote and write the occasional letter, I will tell you, so-the-fuck-what? Democracy is a participatory venture. If you give away the power to your freedom to someone else and that individual uses that power to put her boot on your neck, then what’s to be done? (<— rhetorical question).
Would you allow someone else to care for your car? Would allow someone else to take care of your lover’s sexual needs? If your answer to these questions is in the negative, then why would you turn over your precious freedom over to the care of a politician? ::blank stare::
This primary election cycle is different from past ones, however. For one, in Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, you couldn’t find two more ideologically opposed opponents. Forget the fact that perhaps neither candidate creams your Twinkie; this is politics, not the dating game. At stake are two diametrically opposed and competing ideologies. The neoliberal Hillary side, is obviously in the tank with the market and sees it as the answer to most our social problems. If you need any proof, let me just note briefly that Hillary has supported fracking, trade deals that bleed manufacturing jobs, and bailing out corporate malfeasance. In addition, she has a long and pernicious record in emphasizing a form of criminal justice that has resulted in the unprecedented caging of people of color. In fact, she still meets with and gets financial support from the private prison industry.
The moderately progressive Sanders camp sees that good government is the only entity able to rein in unchecked and unbridled power. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has a consistent record of being against corporate welfare and for strengthening social safety nets. He has called for breaking up too big to fail banks and for a budget re-prioritization in order to offer free post-secondary education and infrastructure spending. He has consistently been against fracking and trade deals such as NAFTA and TPP. One side is at the very least, contemptuous of government, while the other sees government as the steward for our basic freedoms.
Make no mistake about it: those of us sitting on their asses and ignoring this historical moment because it makes their belly flip are the problem. That’s the problem even if those people who are not politically engaged. And I am not talking about voting. We have rates of wealth and wage inequality and childhood poverty that haven’t been seen in a hundred years. We should be out on the streets as part of a mass movement for racial and economic equality. The cynics’ dismiss mass movements as blind ideology or dreaming.
I think it’s more important to talk about how people experience the times we live in — times of unchecked free market ideology as the fundamental principle guiding our values. The problem with free-market idolatry is that we forget that it dehumanizes people. Because increasingly radical models of efficiency propel free-market ideology in order to maximize profit, it becomes easier to consider human beings as commodities rather than individuals striving for dignity. All other human attributes — certainly the spiritual and the creative — become unimportant under the neoliberal democratic party wing.
Neoliberalism is brutal — it is a cannibalization of what is most precious and most fragile about our humanity. Clinton supporters seem to be saying that there is no other option. They are openly contemptuous of those of us who would work to build a movement and prefer instead to vote away their power.
And our country is desperate for a greater vision and that vision is a possibility. I know a barely literate woman, for example, who fought and won against her own school board because she said that teaching to a pen and paper test wasn’t an adequate education. This is where we come in. We don’t have to vote for the lesser of two evils. That’s a myth some of us have been indoctrinated to believe in. I have news for you: the Great White Mother is not going to save your ass. If you want freedom, you’re going to have to snatch it.
However, you can make a difference in your life. Vote if you must, but more importantly, get involved. See something you don’t like? Work to change it. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It could be something as simple as making sure the traffic light on the corner works, that the books in your library are up to date, or that its computers work. Or, it could be as big as something like causing your community to think differently about education.
And when you do vote, get involved, talk to people, argue, disagree, agree, whatever, just stop bullshitting yourself about lesser evils because all I want to know is: what the fuck are you doing to make difference in your life and community? Some of you put more value and care in your car than you do in the protection of your freedom and that’s the tragedy because while you been washing your car, they’ve co-opted your world.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…