Monday, September 03, 2007

The left's old neighbourhood... or a new neighbourhood?

A guest post by Jogo

[Bob sez: This e-mail from Jogo after I posted this closely relates to a brief
exchange I had with Nogo at her blog. Noga also gives one sketch of what the new neighbourhood might look like, here, in second half of the post. -B]

This wonderful photograph is a perfect accompaniment to the very strong article you linked to.

I've seen it before on, which you should visit sometime. For fun, click now on this.

Today, in front of my local Trader Joe, there was a table and a big sign that said "Impeach Cheney." There was literature being given away, and I suppose there was a petition to sign. But the outreach had nothing to do with Cheney (impeachment is ridiculous), but rather with Lyndon LaRouche*. And the poor stupid SUV liberals of Encinitas were gathered round, thinking only of Cheney and how awful he is, not realizing that the magnet that drew them there was worse than Cheney.


The New Centrist, yourself, the Eustonites, the bloggers-after-your-own heart, all these fellows, are waging an important struggle to reconfigure or shift the center of gravity of the Left. The battle needs to be fought, but it may have already been lost. I and my friend John Seward have taken another approach -- perhaps not the best one -- and simply abandoned "the Left" as our home, while not completely abandoning, even cherishing, certain emotional, ethical and philosophical currents that continue to connect us to the Left. It is as if a bunch of terrible people have moved into the neighborhood, rendering it unfit for (our) habitation. And yet the old neighborhood is ... well ... it's still the old neighborhood and the pickle man's stall is still there with its wonderful, evocative smells. It's hard to resist that smell. And mmm, those pickles are crunchy and delicious, and you can't find pickles like that anywhere else.

However, at a certain point, the conflicts that divide the Left will have (or perhaps already have had) the effect of tearing the Left into pieces: /this Left/ and /that Left/. At that point, I ask: why continue to identify yourself as Left? Why not do as The New Centrist has done and move your community to a new place? When Hell's Angels, winos, whores and crackheads have taken over the neighborhood one can find oneself huddled in one's apartment, reading books and making nice dinners for a few friends, reluctant to take the kind of evening walks one used to do. And I won't put up with that. But I LIKE my evening walks in the neighborhood. Perhaps, think I, if I help create a new neighborhood I might have new neighbors: people who would not have lived in that old neighborhood: people I might not have met if I, and they, had remained in our old neighborhoods. And if the new neighhorhood is a nice one ... well, others might move in.

And here's a thought: perhaps that new neighborhood already exists, though it has no name. Perhaps that's the neighborhood where millions of people actually do live, but they don't quite realize it yet.

[*Bob adds: LaRouche post coming up some time this week! ]


The New Centrist said...

Thanks for the kind words, Bob. It took me a long time to leave the left. So much of my political identity was wrapped up in all of that. Today, I feel a bit isolated (blogging helps!), but liberated.

I can say what I see, write analysis with an honest interpretation, instead of some b.s. bound by ideology (whether Marxist, anarchist, or what have you), and I simply am not bothered if some spokesperson for this or that social movement disagrees with me. Big deal. I don’t run in those circles so WTF do I care? That’s what encouraged me to post the “Useful Idiots” article. I wrote it a couple of years ago and never thought that anyone on the left or right would publish it.

After all, the left is simply beyond criticism (unless it is of the “you need to be more radical” variety) and the right simply doesn’t care. So I found myself in the centrist category in rather the same way I discovered I was a Zionist. One day, I had a discussion with a friend and expressed my (at that time) rather mild support for Israel and he immediately branded me a Zionist. Me, a Zionist? It was a strange process but after reading a bit and connecting with some Zionist organizations in the U.S. and Israel I came to the conclusion that my (former) friend was correct. Yes, he cut off the relationship due to my political shifts.

And, yes, most people do live in the center rather than on the periphery. Put rather bluntly, it is called reality. Seriously man, these radicals are living in a fantasy world that bears very little resemblance to the way things actually happen. And when you point this out, you are a “Nazi” or a “Zionist” or a “neocon” or whatever term of denigration happens to be in vogue at the particular time. In the 1970s, I believe it was “liberal.”

Kevin Harris writes about the concept of fantasy ideology in relation to Al Queda but the same applies to many radical movement and the vast majority of said movements in the U.S. These movements have no hope of actually influencing politics, of influencing policy, so they engage in meaningless symbolic acts.
“My first encounter with this particular kind of fantasy occurred when I was in college in the late sixties. A friend of mine and I got into a heated argument. Although we were both opposed to the Vietnam War, we discovered that we differed considerably on what counted as permissible forms of anti-war protest. To me the point of such protest was simple — to turn people against the war. Hence anything that was counterproductive to this purpose was politically irresponsible and should be severely censured. My friend thought otherwise; in fact, he was planning to join what by all accounts was to be a massively disruptive demonstration in Washington, and which in fact became one.
My friend did not disagree with me as to the likely counterproductive effects of such a demonstration. Instead, he argued that this simply did not matter. His answer was that even if it was counterproductive, even if it turned people against war protesters, indeed even if it made them more likely to support the continuation of the war, he would still participate in the demonstration and he would do so for one simple reason — because it was, in his words, good for his soul.
What I saw as a political act was not, for my friend, any such thing. It was not aimed at altering the minds of other people or persuading them to act differently. Its whole point was what it did for him.
And what it did for him was to provide him with a fantasy — a fantasy, namely, of taking part in the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed against their oppressors. By participating in a violent anti-war demonstration, he was in no sense aiming at coercing conformity with his view — for that would still have been a political objective. Instead, he took his part in order to confirm his ideological fantasy of marching on the right side of history, of feeling himself among the elect few who stood with the angels of historical inevitability.”

Whew. Sorry for such a long comment.

BTW I had never seen Just Opinions before today. They are definitely getting added to my blogroll.

Can't wait to read the La Rouchie post.

G said...

Charming company you're keeping there: Zombietime's party piece seems to be to attend broadly 'left' events and demos and to post pictures as if by doing so he/she is exposing the left's true nature. So many are posted without comment that it is hard to tell at first from where on the spectrum he/she is coming from. But read closer and you find there is a sneering undertone - all very well, but is this a good use of Zombietime's zombie-time? And is it really so big and clever to sneer at a transsexual pride march? Brave people belittled just serves to make this self-appointed crusader look witheringly small of soul.

bob said...

Zombietime: Some of the comments and captions are misleading and wrong, and obviously he has an axe to grind politically, almost certainly far to the right of mine. But the images capture well some of the main currents of the anti-war and other "progressive" causes - currents I'm certainly familiar with from marches I've been on in the UK: Islamic theocracy, Stalinist dogma, plain stupidity, etc.

Anyone who seriously wants to build the left (as opposed to play around with fantast ideologies, cf new centrist above) needs to take a long, hard look at Zombietime and at themselves.

The New Centrist said...

"Brave people belittled just serves to make this self-appointed crusader look witheringly small of soul. Brave people belittled just serves to make this self-appointed crusader look witheringly small of soul."

First, I agree with your general point about the trans stuff on Zombietime. Zombie's time would be better spent elsewhere. But, if you take a look at the site, the vast majority of the posts do not address LGBT issues. I think there is only that one post.

Second, having lived in the SF Bay area for about a decade, I can say that the folks marching--by and large--are useful idiots and fellow travelers. You are free to disagree with my assessment but I am a keen observer of human behavior and I have participated in many marches over the years.

These are the same people who will march and condemn Bush for being anti-gay, go out in droves to condemn Israel and support Palestinian terrorists (who want them dead) but won't say a peep about people being *murdered* for their sexual orientation in the Islamic world. After all, criticizing others is a form of "cultural imperialism" and all that nonsense.

As far as "belittling brave people," I am unsure what you are refering to. I don't consider the vast majority of the people Zombie photographs to be brave. It is not brave to exhibit an anti-American stance in the SF Bay area. It is the norm. Brave would be walking amongst these people with a sign reading "I heart George W. Bush!" or "Wolfowitz was Right!"

If you did, the "peace" activists would be calling for your hide. Now that would take some real courage.

Lastly, walking down Market Street with your privates (or arse) hanging out may be courageous elsewhere, but not S.F. or Berkeley. It's actually rather passé. There was one individualback in the 1990s--"The Naked Guy of Berkeley"--who attended his UC Berkeley classes nude. After that the whole nude thing lost a lot of its luster.

Postscript: As I write this I just found out that "The Naked Guy" took his own life in 2006. Aparently he had a lot of mental issues that doctors were unable to diagnose. Truly a sad story...

Noga said...

New Centrist, Bob:

When NC wrote "Lastly, walking down Market Street with your privates (or arse) hanging out may be courageous elsewhere, but not S.F. or Berkeley. It's actually rather passé."

I was immediately reminded of what Anthony Julius said about the claimed "bravery" of the IJV's which was all the rage a few months ago (from Normblog, Jan. 2):

"Anthony Julius can be heard here being interviewed on the subject of anti-Semitism. This is what he had to say in response to a question about claims (from Israel's critics) about the 'muzzling' of debate:

... In my country there's a lot of brave talk about 'I'm going to speak out against Israel although I risk being silenced'. In the main, it's a kind of political posturing by people who don't expose themselves to any real danger, but are attracted to the glamour, the reputation at any rate, of being freedom fighters risking their lives in a noble cause. It's trivial, inconsequential stuff, the material really of vanity and self-regard, and nothing more than that."

Roland Dodds said...

While I am not sure I willing to completely abandon the left (I still say that I belong on the philosophical left), I agree with just about everything the New Centrist stated. His travels away from the left are very similar to my own, and having lived in the Bay Area for about 5 years certainly helped that!

I do not feel I belong on the right, even though I am generally for free markets and a smaller state. Maybe this “new centrist” position is the place to be. This neighborhood is getting a bit ratty…