Last November, 'Zombie' published an unfair but funny photo satire on “Pelosi’s San Francisco.” The montage cleverly spliced photos of “ordinary” San Francisco political protests with snapshots of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgendered Sado-Bondage Street Fair on Folsom Street. The predictable result was to portray San Francisco as stratospherically wacked out.
The satire was possible because there was, in fact, a certain seamlessness from off-beat protest to beyond Fellini weirdness. What category did “Another Sadomasochist for Peace” fall into? Or, the bearded guy with the far-off look carrying a sign which read “U.S. out of my ovaries!”
Toward the middle of the spectrum, what could fairly be described as a Bezerkeley Gypsy screamed at a reporter from the San Francisco 'Chronicle,' accusing the main-stream media of not reporting on Dick Cheney’s lies or on the fact that “DiFI and her husband Bruce are ... making millions and millions" off the war in Iraq. (DiFi being blue bitch Senator Dianne Feinstein.)
The “gypsy” left the definite impression of being totally unglued as her voice got louder and louder, repeatedly yelling that mainstream papers had “nowhere” reported on these stories. The sad thing was that, unglued as she might have seemed, what she was saying was absolutely correct.
Rather vividly, it became apparent that she became unglued not because she was crazy but because she was impotent. People in solitary confinement and dogs in cages end up howling not because they are mad but because they are powerless; and the “left” in the United States has been reduced to political solitary confinement.
It is very simple. When one is ignored, one shouts and the more one shouts the more one is ignored. Meanwhile, personages like Bernanke or Obama or Cheney can assume the high-road of softspokenness simply because what they say goes.
The inflated reaction from the Liberal Left Progressive Animal Liberation Community in response to the Tuscon shooting seems to me to reflect this political impotence.
Of course, the shooting was a personal misfortune for those involved. But it needs be said that it was not a “world historical” event. It was not Sarajevo. In fact, the shooting was socially and politically unimportant. It will be forgotten in a year and consigned to oblivion in five.
The Second Amendment did not “cause” the shooting. The right to bear arms has existed since 1620, in fact and in law. Free Speech did not cause it. American political rhetoric has been inflamed and prone to violent metaphors from the get go. Arguments attempting to connect inflamed speech with homicidal conduct are about as convincing as arguments attempting to connect porn to rape.
But even assuming a connection can be drawn, railing against railing is a misfocused waste of time. The left has allowed itself to be distracted by an event that is fundamentally irrelevant.
This propensity for distraction seems to me to be one of the defects of the “left” in the United States, which persistently confuses issue-worthiness with issue-importance. It consistently wastes time, energy and treasure on what are non-structural, collateral issues.
The fundamental issue confronting the United States and the world today concerns choice of political-economy: does society exist for the plunder of a few in the increasingly tenuous hopes that there will be incidental overflow for the many, or does society exist so that humans can directly, mutually assist one another to attain material well-being and security?
That is the root question; all else is of secondary importance and will, in fact, flow from the principal choice that is made.
The rest of the world seems to understand this. Greece, France, Spain, Mexico and now Tunisia have all seen protests directly aimed at countering the globalized neo-liberal agenda. The people in the streets are protesting the cut-backs in pensions, the bust-up of unions, and the speculative trading in food futures (an execrable practice outlawed by the Emperor Claudius but allowed by Obama). Behind each of these particular issues stands the root premise that society has a direct and necessary social purpose.
In contrast, the American left has spent 10 days fulminating over the acts of a lunatic and paying scant attention to Senator Sanders’ warning that the Administration is gearing up to cut back on social security. Given the pension crisis in this country, and the sacking of 401k’s by Goldman 'Sack' et al., the left would be better served mobilizing not just to save social security but to expand it into a national retirement system.
The left needs to target the real structural issues and keep the political-economy within its cross-hairs. It needs to focus on core questions of economic security that, when properly explained and argued, can actually unite both “sides” in the political spectrum.
These core questions were summarized in FDR’s economic bill of rights, proclaimed shortly before his death: a remunerative and secure job; affordable education; the right to health care and security in old age. The attainment of each of these “prongs” is secured once the fundamental social question is answered correctly. None of these particular goods will be maintained even in their present degraded form if the Reagan-Clinton-Bush-Obama political economy is accepted.
Thus, the left has to focus on propagandizing the core issues in a unifying, non-threatening, non-offensive way to as broad a base as possible. This means espousing a conventional gravitas and giving up on arguing over issues which are simply intractable.
Each of us has our own pet issue whether it is abortion, gay rights, cruelty to animals, ethnic validation, pedophilia, creationism, school prayer, the right to own our own gun...and so on. The reason the mainstream media spends so much time hyping these issues is precisely because they divide the public and keep it from acquiring a political consciousness that would get the real enemy within its surveyor cross-hairs.
The left simply falls into the trap by harping on divisive issues rather than keeping its focus on core issues which can and to a large extent actually do unite most Americans who are divided in great measure only by the way they talk about them.
And of course, the more it focuses on divisive issues, the more the left becomes vehemently impotent like the Bezerkeley Gypsy.
©Woodchip Gazette, 2011