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Quantum of Solace: The Making of Modern Consciousness, Part III

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It’s arguable that every successful movement in our long and checkered history was infused with, if not inspired by, an idealistic component. Even freedom or liberation movements looked beyond the immediate gains that would benefit the oppressed masses to the idea. And the same goes for the Civil Rights activists, or the pacifist movement spurred by Gandhi and adopted by Martin Luther King, Jr., the abolitionists or the suffragettes. It was the idea that fired them all: from Lenin and Castro to Che Guevara and Daniel Ortega (and yes, even Hitler and Mussolini, because we can’t ignore the negative examples since they, too, prove the point) – an idea that was bigger than life, bigger than the immediate circumstances of the moment, however deplorable, and which stood in need of correcting, bigger than the people themselves.

For better or worse, that’s the nature of the beast; the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Ideas rule, and the New Left is an example par excellence. The million-dollar question is: Can it sustain itself?

Don’t forget that the New Left and the ensuing ideology – the heightened consciousness which has since spread throughout the globe to become a universal, or mass, consciousness was a child of prosperity. A child of the unique conditions in America and the industrialized West which made it possible for bourgeois offspring to disavow their own self-interest, embracing instead the interests and the plight of the many who have been left out by the system, rebelling against the very principles which made it possible for them to think progressively and altruistically. Concern for others is a luxury that only a few can possibly afford; if material conditions deteriorate to the point that every man or woman must fend for themselves in the interest of their own survival, then idealism is indeed a shaky proposition and it stands on no less shaky ground.

It is thus that capitalism, the very (by some estimates) “inhumane” system which has given rise to the most humanistic philosophy ever and made it the exclusive domain of the common man, carries within itself the seeds of its own self-destruction. It’s something to think about.

Which brings us back to the million-dollar question: Can we continue in this vein, retaining this idealistic strain while the conditions which made idealism possible, a level of general prosperity for a great many, are about to become extinct? What would it do to mass consciousness if the masses themselves were forced to become more and more concerned with the business of making a living? Isn’t there a danger here that once again, humanity might revert to its primitive self and selfish and unenlightened thinking? Is the progress we’ve made a fleeting phenomenon, no different from any other accomplishment peculiar to a particular epoch or period of history? Civilization is indeed a very thin veneer; but does that have to mean that all the gains we’ve made in the past fifty years or so, the idealistic thinking which has fired the imagination and focused on the plight of the disadvantaged and the have-nots, is going to dissipate and become just another episode in our long and sorry history? And for what good reason?. Just because our own comfortable existence is likely to disappear, taking with it any inclination to concern ourselves with our brothers and sisters? Because the “take care of the number one” rule, the matter of sheer survival, will invariably take precedence over all other fine feelings we might have towards our fellow men? I’d hate to think that we’re as limited as all that.

Still, these are relevant questions; they’re not to be taken lightly as the capitalist system of production the very source which made idealism possible and indirectly, the explosion of mass consciousness as well, far from having spread throughout the rest of the globe, is itself undergoing all kinds of stresses and fissures from within as it fights for its own survival. Our future is very far from certain. It’s all up to us, it seems, and the kind of courage we’re about to display, whether it will be a dog eat dog or being your brother’s keeper kind of attitude.

I’d like to take a positive view and think that once a state of enlightenment is reached, it’s rather difficult to undo. The human spirit shall prevail. It’s certainly true of individuals, for when you do acquire a third eye, it becomes a part of you wherever you go, no matter how your circumstances change.

It’s somewhat trickier, however, when applied to a collective and when mass consciousness is at stake, for then other factors are at play; again, the notion of “critical mass” being the most important. Indeed, it would appear that if mass consciousness is to sustain itself or at least not to suffer a setback, it must acquire sufficient push and pull to become the prevalent ideology worldwide, which makes it imperative to spread prosperity, and the message, to all corners of the globe in the hope that they will take root — again, an iffy proposition considering the uncertain future of capitalism.

At the end of my “Hidden Dimensions” series, I suggested that we put our ideological differences aside and work towards a common goal. That goal, as I conceived of it then, was none other than to keep our government on the straight and narrow so as to preserve our freedoms and way of life.

Nothing has changed except the situation has become even more dire. Indeed, as one of the commentators had suggested of late on the BC thread (see “Chrysler Bankruptcy: Political Payoff?” comment #42):

what I see happening is a schism in the Corporate Statist establishment between those seeking to socialize corp[orations] and those seeking to privatize the government. We’ve breached [too] many walls between corp[orations] and the state. . . . It may be too late to back off and separate state from business.

I find it disconcerting, in fact the greatest challenge facing us today, that we are being confronted with two equally unpalatable alternatives: a move toward socialism or the privatization of government, which is to say a near total merger of public and private interest and the reinstatement of the dreaded Establishment as the military-industrial complex.

One should hope of course that these are remedial measures, designed only to deal with the crisis at hand, but there’s no telling, as you and I both know. Either way, it’s cause for concern. If you have any doubt, read George Will’s article, “Upside-Down Economy.” It’s the best treatment thus far.

If there is anything that I’d like to impress on both my fellow travelers from the New Left and those from the antagonistic Right, it is this: let’s forgo all our differences, because our freedoms are at stake: the freedom to excel in any area whatever — or not; the freedom, in other words, to pursue whatever we wish to pursue, without regard to anyone else’s definition of what we ought to be.

That’s the essence of the American dream – the freedom to do what we damn well please – so long, of course, that we don’t impinge on anybody else’s freedom to do likewise.

“Live and let live” is America’s motto, economic differences be damned. We’re all equal. If you have a problem with this concept, I feel sorry for you. In my mind, you just lack in self-esteem.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate that it’s our freedoms that are worth fighting for and worth preserving, including our economic freedom. Our political institutions may change; if the message of universal justice is going to take hold in the world, the likelihood is that we may yet end up relinquishing some of our national identity and way of life and become more subject to the rule of international law. I could live with that, I suppose, because on my view of things, this would be tantamount to progress. But what I definitely couldn’t live with is the possibility that our political and economic decisions would emanate from one and the same quarter, because that would mean a totalitarian government. Under a totalitarian regime, no matter how benign, there would be neither freedom, nor justice, not even “expanded consciousness” on any scale worth talking about. It would mean reverting to the Dark Ages. This is the reason why Corporate Statism alluded to earlier — whether in the form of socializing the corporation or privatizing the government — must be fought tooth and nail by both the Left and the Right. Our future is at stake.

Ccapitalism is very far from perfect, and it does produce economic inequality. But economic inequality doesn’t and shouldn’t, trump a far more basic notion of equality grounded in freedom and universal justice. If the system were to be made subject to sufficient oversight so as to prevent potential abuses and rid itself of the unscrupulous and immoral practitioners, it may yet work to reduce this inequality. Thus, for all the contradictions presumed to be inherent in the idea that would leave most economic decisions in predominantly private hands, capitalism is still the best system we’ve got to promote the spread of freedom and justice and yes, prosperity, too, throughout the rest of the world; provided of course its self-destructive tendencies are held in check.

Let’s just hope we can escape the present crisis unscathed and resume humanity’s progress towards a better and more equitable world.

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About Roger Nowosielski

  • Clavos

    Roger,

    You say,

    It was the idea that fired them all: from Lenin and Castro to Che Guevara and Daniel Ortega (and yes, even Hitler and Mussolini, because we can’t ignore the negative examples since they, too, prove the point)

    I would say all of those are “negative examples.” There are two million Cubans in the USA who would definitely agree with me about Fidel and Che.

    Nice article, though. I like your central theme regarding capitalism as the engine which allows us to spread our democratic principles.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I can’t argue with that when it comes to considering the fruits. The case could be made, however, that in their original conception, the former were “liberation movements” – against the Tsarist Russia, or dictatorships. It’s difficult to say whether Lenin or Castro foresaw the full effects of the program. But even if they did, they surely regarded it as more advantageous social arrangements then the existing ones. But one could hardly say that of Hitler, I should think, whose “solution” for a depressed German nation was conquest and world domination.

  • m A r k

    While I appreciate the sentiment underlying this series, I question whether the principle of maximization (of profit or production) is the only way (or even a potentially successful way) to rationalize our economic activity so as to maintain the high level of production necessary for human progress.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    That idea that capitalism is the precursor to democracy is one I’ve believed for a long time. The key to bringing peace to the world is not to go out conquering and nation building and imposing democracy on people who are not ready for it, but to encourage the growth of capitalism, even if under the rule of dictators or oligarchs and once capitalism is established then representative government will naturally follow.

    In America it was the widespread devotion to capitalism and economic independence which drove the revolution. Ideas like republicanism and democracy didn’t come until after the nation was free and they started considering what kind of government would be most friendly to the capitalist values they had fought for.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, that is a big question, Mark. If you’re asking it in a strictly economic sense, I’m afraid I’m not qualified to answer it. History is also not a very reliable guide, I’m afraid.

    If you mean there are some inefficiencies that come part and parcel with “a free market” system, I agree. The Soviets were much better able to direct their industrial machinery to achieve the objectives that were important to them – strong military, space program etc. (at great expense in the area of consumer goods). So there is argument here that central planning (especially if discount the possibility of corruption) is better suited to eliminate much of “social waste” – e.g., duplication of products, packaging, all the unimportant things.

    My view of capitalism is that it’s a necessary evil (evil, however, which can be properly controlled and set aright so as to minimize the efficiencies). My support of it stems from the value I place on freedom – to include economic freedom – because to remove the element of “private initiative” from the (social) equation would be tantamount IMO to curbing this freedom. Besides, private initiative tends to promote ingenuity and creativity.

    I suppose that’s no argument against the Soviet scientific community; but these were creative people to begin with, not to mention the fact that the Soviets were very supportive of those programs. It’s in the private sector that their failure was most blatant.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I can’t disagree with your #4, Dave. For although the kind of freedom which capitalism initially brings about and makes available is limited at first to, shall we say, certain classes, eventually that freedom spreads throughout the society. And even if it is limited at first to the economic arena – say, the area of consumer goods, and having choices – eventually it’s bound to affect other realms, politics included.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    The key to bringing peace to the world is not to go out conquering and nation building and imposing democracy on people who are not ready for it, but to encourage the growth of capitalism, even if under the rule of dictators or oligarchs and once capitalism is established then representative government will naturally follow.

    Dave is and has defended installation of totalitarian regimes that crush the democracy people are struggling for (DAVE SAYS, “They weren’t ready for democracy.”

    Dave defends sweatshops, Dave defends landowners (thieves who committed/supported/profited from genocide to rob land) having power over the landless).

    You are a more skilled justifier than most of your ilk. I am talking to libertarian, anarchist, capitalist, agorists, or whatever they are. They all believe they are for liberty.

    It’s as if they absorbed some business-model of liberty. Like automatons raised on a steady diet of business POV. They don’t even seem to mind at all that they have been brainwashed.

    The religious quality of their beliefs becomes distinct as one watches them teach each other the tenets of this libertarian religion. Questioning them, it is apparent, even to them that there is a lot they haven’t considered. They’re simply buying into an ideology.

    Hopefully, they will be forced to wrestle with enough ideas that question their thinking before they all grow up to be Daves and firm up their reality-proof armor.

    Fuck that soulless, lying, greedy, fucked up libertarian bullshit.

  • Bliffle

    I only read the first page and already found so much I disagreed with there was no need to continue:

    “…Civil Rights activists, or the pacifist movement spurred by Gandhi and adopted by Martin Luther King, Jr., the abolitionists or the suffragettes.”

    Uhhh, the abolitionists and suffragettes PRECEDED Gandhi. How on earth could you get this wrong? Getting things backward seems to be a theme in this thread, however.

    “It was the idea that fired them all: from Lenin and Castro to Che Guevara and Daniel Ortega (and yes, even Hitler and Mussolini, because we can’t ignore the negative examples since they, too, prove the point) – an idea that was bigger than life, bigger than the immediate circumstances of the moment, however deplorable, and which stood in need of correcting, bigger than the people themselves.”

    Jeez, can’t you cite better examples? Castro was/is a duplicitous blowhard control-freak opportunist. Che was a cold-blooded killer freak. Hitler was mad. Etc. These people only impressed people with ideas for a brief time until they had enough power to use violence, torture and threats to control them. Ideas? I don’t think so. the only ‘idea’ any of them exemplified was dictatorial control-freakism.

    “For better or worse, that’s the nature of the beast; the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Ideas rule, and the New Left is an example par excellence. The million-dollar question is: Can it sustain itself?”

    Huh? What New Left? The poor forlorn democrats couldn’t even form a respectable Loyal Opposition against the run-wild Bushians (witness todays spectacle of Pelosis abject humiliation at supporting torture), and now that an aroused electorate has given them a big campaign win, they can’t even summon enough courage and thought to form an effective majoritarian leadership!

    The “New Left” looks like nothing so much as the Old Right, which the rightist crazies left behind as a shell as they marched ever further into the insanities of more corporate predation at home and abroad.

    Your “New Left” seems to be embracing more policies of the Bushians every day, starting with the mad bailout policies of paulson/bernanke etc., the various endless wars in far reaches of the globe, and now the whole damn ‘detainees’ sadism routine.

    “Don’t forget that the New Left and the ensuing ideology – ”

    Huh? What ideology is THAT?

    “…the heightened consciousness which has since spread throughout the globe to become a universal, or mass, consciousness was a child of prosperity.”

    Oh Bull! First of all, there is no “…heightened consciousness which has since spread throughout the globe to become a universal, or mass, consciousness …”.

    …then…

    “…A child of the unique conditions in America and the industrialized West which made it possible for bourgeois offspring to disavow their own self-interest, embracing instead the interests and the plight of the many who have been left out by the system, rebelling against the very principles which made it possible for them to think progressively and altruistically.””

    How silly. These modern children of their parents prosperity are as grasping and selfish as any people in history. And now they have a deepening class system to which they can give their allegiance. That class system is re-inforced by the diminution of inheritance taxes and capital gains taxes (the source of their wealth) while the lower caste will have to forfeit their houses and pensions to pay for the expensive foreign wars and corporate bailouts that fearful plutocrats must resort to after their numerous policy screwups and mis-administration of the powers they have seized.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Bliffle,

    As usual, you’re overreacting. The first thing you’ve got to get out of your head is that the New Left, as I’m describing, has got nothing to do with the Democratic Party or the political establishment. Start thinking of it as “public opinion” which is voiced time and again – as against the Iraqi war, for example. And it’s not just in US.
    The Left has been a force in Germany, Britain, and now UK. So you’ve got to shed old categories like the old Labor Movement, etc.

    Perhaps you were too old to experience the sixties, but it was the most dynamic period in American history. I’m sorry it kind of passed you by.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Bliffle,

    You’re getting to be as bad as Dave – picking a line here and there and dealing with it to the exclusion of the whole content. It’s but a reaction. I realize these ideas may be foreign to you; but to react to something just because it’s foreign doesn’t make for the most critical judgment.

  • Clavos

    bliffle, Pelosi’s ‘abject humiliation” is self-inflicted, and a result having been outed as the lying scum she is.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Dave is and has defended installation of totalitarian regimes that crush the democracy people are struggling for (DAVE SAYS, “They weren’t ready for democracy.”

    IMO very few people are ready to handle democracy responsibly. Democracy in the wrong hands leads inevitably to oppression. Representative government, on the other hand, is almost always a good thing. And there is a big difference between representative government in general and the form of mob rule we call democracy.

    Dave defends sweatshops, Dave defends landowners (thieves who committed/supported/profited from genocide to rob land) having power over the landless).

    I bought my land. Never oppressed or exploited anyone for it. That’s the kind of landowner I defend and the kind you want to destroy in your indiscriminate hatred of anyone who has achieved anything.

    You are a more skilled justifier than most of your ilk. I am talking to libertarian, anarchist, capitalist, agorists, or whatever they are. They all believe they are for liberty.

    And what’s wrong with that? Better than being openly for oppression and the elimination of rights for everyone, which seems to be your preference. The philosophy that if you take away everyone’s rights then everyone is equal is pure evil, and you subscribe to it.

    It’s as if they absorbed some business-model of liberty. Like automatons raised on a steady diet of business POV. They don’t even seem to mind at all that they have been brainwashed.

    Certainly, someone around here has been brainwashed. In my experience beliefs like yours are mostly found in those who are very young and very naive or intensely indoctrinated to the level of brainwashing.

    The religious quality of their beliefs becomes distinct as one watches them teach each other the tenets of this libertarian religion. Questioning them, it is apparent, even to them that there is a lot they haven’t considered. They’re simply buying into an ideology.

    You clearly have little experience of libertarians beyond perhaps some encounters with the confused fringes of the anarcho-libertarian coterie who have very little ability to analyze their beliefs intellectually.

    Hopefully, they will be forced to wrestle with enough ideas that question their thinking before they all grow up to be Daves and firm up their reality-proof armor.

    What are the classic libertarian beliefs? Thinking for yourself, questioning authority, knowledge is freedom.

    You don’t really grasp the diversity among those who are lumped into the class of libertarians these days. We’re hardly all randian sociopaths anymore than all anarchists want to throw bombs.

    Fuck that soulless, lying, greedy, fucked up libertarian bullshit.

    Written with the pure hate of ignorance.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I wouldn’t want to call her that, Clav; but Miss Clean she’s definitely not.

  • Clavos

    Uhhh, the abolitionists and suffragettes PRECEDED Gandhi. How on earth could you get this wrong? Getting things backward seems to be a theme in this thread, however.

    It’s a list, bliffle, and it wasn’t described as presented in any particular order. Even you should be able to discern that.

    Take your meds and go back to bed.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Right! Bliffle read it so hastily he assumed I was providing a chronological account.

  • Clavos

    Roger #16,

    Here’s a point of disagreement between us Roger. I see pelosi not only as a liar, but also as a divider; a politician who thrives on partisanship and does whatever it takes to advance her own partisan goals, with no regard for what is best for the country.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, we all know about Pelosi’s career as a politician – an old style politician, at that. She was being groomed for the job since the sixties; tremendous fund-raiser and expecting favors for favors. That in itself is not an indictment. Whether she lacks in integrity I can’t say. Again, extreme partisanship is not perhaps the greatest sin. Which politicians are free of it?

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    I bought my land. Never oppressed or exploited anyone for it. That’s the kind of landowner I defend and the kind you want to destroy in your indiscriminate hatred of anyone who has achieved anything.

    If kill people and steal from them what is in the common (community) use and then I pass it along through generations, isn’t that just living on pirated booty? Aren’t my heirs taking an advantage over the people whose ancestors weren’t thieves?

    Sure, some thieves sold/gave it to people like you Dave. But you were in already positioned in the system to take advantage of being able to buy it.

    What about all the other people? Most people. Oh right that pesky majority–wouldn’t want them oppressing the freedom of the minority to rob, steal, pillage and plunder there way to the top.

    Dave, I’m also sick and tired of your business mentality ruining children’s minds. Fuck your marketing manipulation schemes. Go secede and start your own country where you can all suck the life out of each other willingly with your brand of sickness.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    By the way Dave, the world is not very interested in being forced to do things based on your opinion about whether they are ready for democracy.

    I mean just in case that never occurred to you while you were figuring out how to justify insane behavior.

    You’re like a doomsday cultist. When the apocalypse doesn’t happen, sane people think, well they wake up and realize their mistake. But they never do. They just make another even more insane explanation about why their beliefs are correct.

    Dave you justify the most horrible oppression–complete evil. I don’t buy it. You are lying to yourself. You’re just a liar.

  • Clavos

    Oh, bull, Cindy.

    You can’t blame someone today for what may (or may not ) have happened over their little parcel of land a hundred or more years ago.

    There are millions of homeowners of all income levels in this country, did they ALL “rob, steal, pillage and plunder there way to the top?”

  • Clavos

    You’re usually measured and reasonable in your comments, Cindy, but today you’re way over the top.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Clav,

    People say, when I discuss this with them…Well, who originally owned the land? We can’t figure out who to give it back to. How can we track them down? We don’t have to. The same people the land was stolen from are still their waiting to benefit from its being given back. It was stolen from the common (community) use. It should go back to that use. Otherwise, what does all this talk of fairness and liberty amount to, but the liberty of thieves and those lucky enough to benefit from thievery and the hell with those who didn’t or won’t be able to.

    I’m not blaming little landowners, I’d be blaming myself. I’m outraged at the blindness of those who promote the ideology that continues things this way. And they do it in the face of all the evidence to the contrary–evidence they won’t even look at or if they do look, they just build another justification, instead of being moral human beings. Then they call this good! It’s the best way to be! The best so far! WTF? Sweatshops, human slavery, death, starvation, disease—this is the best we are capable of? And whatever you show them, no matter how degraded, it never affects them. They never cry about it, it doesn’t hurt them. They can’t empathize. They just factor it into their calculations and justify it.

    When you justify anything you are no longer human.

    You’re usually measured and reasonable in your comments, Cindy, but today you’re way over the top.

    Yes, yet it is not over the top as far as what I think–just how I am expressing what I think. Sometimes I can’t seem to detach. I take in horror every day. Then, I patiently try to talk to people, whose ideas I see as responsible for creating it. And sometimes I just can’t do it. In day trader parlance, it’s called being on tilt. Overcome with emotion and unable to take sensible action. I know the only hope to change things won’t be found in yelling at people. I have to learn to be reasonable and patient in the face of what I see as destructive and inhumane.

  • Irene Wagner

    Cindy, yes – some people (not saying Dave necessarily) are TOO good at saying, Hey, there are some burdens I’m just not built to carry. And then there others who aren’t good enough at saying it.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Irene,

    …there are some burdens I’m just not built to carry.

    Yes, some burdens no one is built to carry.

    We could end that. It’s hard to know that and just keep talking to people. People seem crazy after awhile.

    I think, every single person needs to pick that burden up and carry those pictures in their mind every day. It’s not the answer for me to drop it. I just have to find a better way to do something about it.

  • Irene Wagner

    No don’t drop the compassion, Cindy, I’m not saying that.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    I’m sorry Irene. I think I do understand what you are saying. I would never imagine you, of all people, meant to drop compassion.

  • Irene Wagner

    Just don’t hurt your ability to DO by taking too much on. Sometimes, and I don’t know if I’m wrong, I’ve just been thinking about this for awhile. It seems like to do good/combat evil, you have to be a warrior or have to be a medic. I’m not sure people can be both, at least not simultaneously.

    Does that make any sense? It’s half-baked.

  • Irene Wagner

    It looks dumber the longer I look at it!
    Well, in some ways, it does. I’ve got to go plant some basgetti squash and think on it some more. Cindy, take good care this week, of yourself and as many other people as you can reasonably handle. :) Bye for now.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Yes, I think it does, you know. I don’t know which one to give up. It’s like I can’t give up either one. Thanks, Irene. That’s very helpful. I’ll think about it more.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Can the Infantile Left sustain itself? Is this what this article is really about? I should give a damn about these neo-fascists? Is this what you wasted four pages on, Roger?

    Alright, I’ll give you the simple, quick answer. Those snotty bastards will manage even when they’re standing on a lecture podium pissing into a Depends diaper. So long as they can keep their mouths going and so long as they have groupies in a mosh pit (‘scuse me – audience) – even if the groupies are pissing into Depends diapers and toking up joints (or having home health aides help them toke up joints while they sit in wheelchairs), the egotists of the Infantile Left will be just fine.

    There will be quanta of solace for them….

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    BTW, Roger, in case you were wondering, I couldn’t force myself to read more shit (one page was enough) about the Infantile Left – and no, I didn’t even bother looking at the comment thread.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    This is a romanticized idea where Capitalism leads to the emergence of this ‘New Left’ that made struggle for the benefit of all possible.

    Zapatistas (you know dirt poor people) have solidarity with other people who struggle for justice in the world. The real struggle. Not the one where people plan marches such as the 10k strong pentagon one I attended in DC on a weekend when every war business is closed, the pentagon is closed and we march along out of the public eye along a roadway used to reach only this area.

    The 200 person SDS protest through the streets was much more effective than the 10k march that served to do one thing–make the protesters feel good about themselves.

    The ‘New Left’ are often nationalists themselves. They act like social workers who are above everyone else and can offer help from their perch above. They want to enlist governments to do what people need to do. Some of the “new Left’ cause more problems than they solve. No one needs Capitalism to give them the leisure to get a conscience.

    Real efforts are made through the efforts of the common people and often against Capitalists and their governments.

    Governments do not go into countries to ‘help’ people…they go in with their own imperial and nationalistic agenda. The ‘New Left’ aids them in this cause, by calling for national interventions.

    The New Left needs to get a clue from real struggle..even in this country struggle was not all about middle class offspring of leisure-time Capitalists that won rights for the down-trodden masses.

    This is romantic thinking that glorifies an idealized version of history.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That’s OK, Ruvy. You are in too emotional state of mind, I’m afraid, to discuss ideas. Perhaps a year or two from now.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Noting that the author uses romanticized films to make historical comparisons, it isn’t surprising that romanticized beliefs about history result.

    The Other Boleyn Girl comes to mind. It’s a heckuva movie if you’re keen on comparing our present with our historical past. (from part I)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The kind of conscience/consciousness people derive from struggles on behalf of themselves is a limited one and self-centered. It’s only when you’re free to concern yourself with things beyond your own stinking affairs that you acquire the kind of vision and power and ideas that are further-reaching and more comprehensive. All revolutions have been started by idealists. And yes, idealism is a form of romanticism – which doesn’t make it any less potent for the fact.

    As to capitalism having provided the necessary background for what constitutes today the predominant public opinion (as expressed by the liberal press, the BBC, the NPR, and all such, which are some of its organs and which are detested by the reactionaries) – though not as effective yet as one should hope for – yes, one has to be free from the immediacy self-directed and pressing concerns in order to become other-directed. Human nature.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    There is a lefter left than the ‘New Left’ though and there always has been. Their POV doesn’t get publicized in standard history often. In fact, it is often covered up and avoided. But it is there and passed down just the same. This is the left where these ‘others’ (the others in ‘other-directed’) are active in their own struggles on behalf of their own interests. They don’t rely simply on ‘liberal’ media of your “New Left” or on your ‘New Left’ itself to aid or understand them. While the “New Left’ is busy buying up green products as fast as they can waste them, like the good consumers they are, marching around in circles to make themselves feel better, and asking governments to intervene on behalf of everything in sight, the other left are taking direct action on their own behalf, and in conjunction with activists who are in solidarity with them. It needs to be beyond a social worker-client sort of relationship. It’s control of the people not of governments.

    Idealism and romanticism–I can identify with those as sort of creative, poetic visions (being a romantic myself)… But idealizing or romanticizing history in such a way that it doesn’t see all the facts, that I think is a problem. It leads to wrong conclusion then to wrong action.

    Media outlets that are empires themselves present a slanted view. Even ‘liberal’ media has advertisers–so the view can be slanted as it generally reports through the filter of the dominant viewpoint. BBC is an MSM outlet. Guardian UK…still MSM, but often much better. BBC, for example, was reporting based on the Police propaganda during the G20 protests. Guardian UK was investigating the propaganda and coming to very different conclusions about what was happening. That is a huge different in POV. It also is what spurred investigation of the police and all that they were doing. Without that POV the police were off the hook for the death of Ian Tomlinson and everything else they did. IPCC was ready to dismiss everything.

    Even now I bet BBC did not report that an MP would be giving evidence for his witnessing of agent provocateurs used by the police to attempt to incite protester violence against police during the G20 protests.

    The ‘New Left’ seems to rely on ‘liberal media’ (rather than independent news and relevant independent sources) and to trust it for the bulk of its information. There is a more grassroots, fundamental left that doesn’t seem to get a mention in your picture of things. That is the danger of idealizing from a particular POV. This whole amazing ground up movement is missing from the picture, where the people walking around supporting Obama are glorified as the people who change things.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    The ‘New Left’ seems to rely on ‘liberal media’ (rather than independent news and relevant independent sources) and to trust it for the bulk of its information. There is a more grassroots, fundamental left that doesn’t seem to get a mention in your picture of things.

    Reading what Cindy writes reminds me of these meetings I’d go to of these “Revolutionary Zionists” who would meet in buildings near 14the Street or 23 Street in Manhattan – mass workers’ movements all of them – of 7 or 8 people – arguing over Katznelson and other long forgotten socialist Zionists.

    Quantum of solace much, guys….

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “There is a lefter left than the ‘New Left’ though and there always has been. Their POV doesn’t get publicized in standard history often. In fact, it is often covered up and avoided.”

    Of course there is: Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein and Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), Paul Goodman and Kenneth Galbraith (speaking of ghosts). But it’s always the case that the most radical exponents don’t command the greatest audience. So naturally, what trickles down to the masses through BBC, NPR and other commercially-infested media is a highly-diluted message, ready-made for popular consumption. (How many people read “The Nation”?)

    The point of the article was not to make those valid distinctions – only to point to a change of climate: It’s no longer considered OK to participate in unjust war, to blatantly discriminate against women or the minorities, and so on and so forth. So even insofar as the popular mind and popular consciousness are concerned, these are taboos whereas a hundred years ago no one gave a fuck. It’s not to say that “the popular mind” had reached the pinnacle of progressive thinking, only that those gains are for real. Whether public opinion on these matters carries sufficient weight to offset the doings of self-serving politicians and egotistical governments – I’d be the first to say that it doesn’t. But it does come into play when it comes to shaping and determining public policy. The infatuation with Obama is a popular phenomenon and product of shallow thinking. And yes, the radical Left is very critical of him. But the radical Left hasn’t swayed the masses to the radical view; still, the popular view counts for something.

    It’s no idealization of history to point out to the changes in America and the world in the past fifty or hundred years. It would be an idealization of history to expect too much from these changes. I made no comment in that regard.

    The masses always do the heavy lifting. No one’s denying it; but there are also leaders, people with ideas, that the masses follow. The point of the series was simply to point out the fact that we’ve become sensitized to a great many injustices and practices that years ago left us cold and uncaring. And that is, no matter how one looks at it, a positive development.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Your point Ruvy? You went to some meetings with a few people and that means that people haven’t historical engaged in struggle and dissent to win freedom?

    IWW

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Zapatistas

    Venezuela’s worker occupied factory movement (which has grown according to the panel in NYC I just went to see)

    Iceland (the whole population uprising)

    …on and on could go a 42 mile long list.

    So yes, I am talking specifically about the people on the ground in solidarity with one another–people without well-known names.

    They, as well as those with the well-known names are documenting what they do, this information rarely trickles up to the ‘New Left’.

    So it is that is a whole ‘nother world of activist activity and history. It doesn’t usually get reported into the mainstream news or history. So, this ‘New Left’ is often and generally unaware of it.

    Yes, a positive development it is, but not without its problems (some caused by the ‘New Left’ itself!) Thanks for appreciating my distinction.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    My point, Cindy, is that between you and Roger gabbing away, it reminds me of those meetings in lower Manhattan. Mass movements of 8 people or so leading the world to revolution…..

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t believe, however, these developments will prove to be lasting, or spread worldwide. Yes, there may be individual successes – such as the suffragettes, the abolitionists, or single-issue movements which have been hard-fought and won – but that will be a part of the larger picture. In short, I don’t believe there will be a radical or lasting split along class lines, nor do I think it would be desirable.

    In any case, I consider “humanistic” ideology and “humanistic” type of consciousness as superior to mere “class consciousness” (that’s BTW, my disagreement with Marx) because it’s more comprehensive (and I tried to provide my reasons in the article). Which is to say, I regard “freedom” and “universal justice” as more durable and worthwhile qualities upon which to build one’s conception of self-worth than mere “economic equality” – if only because they transcend the latter. I certainly don’t consider myself any less worthy or less deserving than Bill Gates, e.g. Economic well-being, besides, is a circumstantial thing, and therefore contingent. “Justice” and “freedom” are absolute. And it’s to the credit of modern, humanistic consciousness, that it has able to rise above what’s merely circumstantial and contingent, and to embrace instead values that are eternal and which ought to define us like no other.

    “Egalitarianism” is part of the creed – the belief that when it all comes down to it, we’re all equal.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    If kill people and steal from them what is in the common (community) use and then I pass it along through generations, isn’t that just living on pirated booty? Aren’t my heirs taking an advantage over the people whose ancestors weren’t thieves?

    No, because it is utterly impossible to figure out whose ancestors were never thieves. There was no garden of Eden. There were no ‘noble’ savages. Everyone took something from someone else’s ancestors and that’s just the way the world is. If you start judging people on what their ancestors did you open the door for the most outrageous kinds of oppression.

    Sure, some thieves sold/gave it to people like you Dave. But you were in already positioned in the system to take advantage of being able to buy it.

    I bought my land from a retired civil servant who bought it from a farmer whose ancestors bought it from the government. Where does any fault attach to me in that process?

    What about all the other people? Most people. Oh right that pesky majority–wouldn’t want them oppressing the freedom of the minority to rob, steal, pillage and plunder there way to the top.

    We have government to enforce laws against theft and fraud, so if people make it to the top and government is working, they should not be doing it by the means you suggest, and for the most part in the history of this nation that’s the way it has worked.

    Dave, I’m also sick and tired of your business mentality ruining children’s minds.

    My mentality is the mentality of the greatest possibly liberty for the most possible people. How is that going to ruin childrens minds? Would you prefer that we teach them not to value freedom, self-reliance, initiative and hard work?

    By the way Dave, the world is not very interested in being forced to do things based on your opinion about whether they are ready for democracy.

    When did I ever say anything about force? You really need to read what I write, not just read your own prejudices into it. What I said is that capitalism paves the way for democracy and that it’s more important to get capitalism started in a country than it is to overthrow their existing government and force democracy on the people. That’s an anti-aggression position, though apparently you prefer forced democratization because that has worked SO remarkably well.

    Dave you justify the most horrible oppression–complete evil.

    I do, when? How? Give me an example. I’ve never tried to justify Soviet Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba or any of the other really repressive regimes currently in power or recently relevant.

    I don’t buy it. You are lying to yourself. You’re just a liar.

    And you’re delusional. I understand that your idealistic illusions are starting to crumble in the face of reality in Obama’s America, but don’t waste your rancor on me, I’m not the problem.

    Dave

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Oh Ruvy, I’m sorry. (sheepish grin)

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    #35

    The kind of conscience/consciousness people derive from struggles on behalf of themselves is a limited one and self-centered. It’s only when you’re free to concern yourself with things beyond your own stinking affairs that you acquire the kind of vision and power and ideas that are further-reaching and more comprehensive.

    I just have to say I don’t think this is accurate. From where I look, people struggling for themselves, against oppressive government or Capitalism, often create a very much more egalitarian plan than those who have the consciousness of privilege–and therefore have benefited from its hierarchical design–the supposed ‘enlightened’.

    This hierarchical idea is instilled in your “New Left’. It’s harder for them to achieve the raised consciousness of the poorer people because they don’t have to struggle daily against the hierarchy imposed by state and Capitalism like the poor do. They, in fact, try to work within its guidelines.

    This ‘New Left” also seems to have a mindset instilled by Capitalism that pits people against each other. The leftists I describe have solidarity as a tenet. The very way you put this idea sort of evidences this ‘New Left” mindset, when you discuss: the concern with one’s own affairs, sort of like one is all alone fending for ones self. This is a Capitalist mindset.

    If you look, you will see radical egalitarianism in these people presumed to have a ‘lower’ conscientiousness. Because they often resist the Capitalist or gov’t oppressive models. They have suffered under them. So they are more apt to come up with different models. These models tend to be both freer and have community support.

    I think the raised consciousness is reversed from what I see.

  • m a rk

    Rog, I think we’ve about done the leader/guru thing to death. You want to lead? Learn to follow.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “From where I look, people struggling for themselves, against oppressive government or Capitalism, often create a very much more egalitarian plan than those who have the consciousness of privilege–and therefore have benefited from its hierarchical design–the supposed ‘enlightened’.”

    Of course they may and oftentimes do. But their struggle is still personalized and defined in rather narrow terms – the enemy. And that is one limiting factor. A far more comprehensive view is that we’re all humans – even our “oppressors.”

    Another point – “the New Left” rebelled against the system. So the fact that there came from the position of privilege is no indictment in my mind as to the authenticity of the sentiment.

    Third, and I’m quoting here:

    “A major crime of capitalist society for Marx was that it had destroyed all ties between men other than naked self-interest and had ‘resolved personal worth into exchange value.'”

    True enough. But the point I’m making is that humanistic consciousness in terms of egalitarianism, equality, freedom and universal justice does away with the detrimental effects of the system by transcending them. Which, in essence, is an argument to the effect that in order for us to be truly free, we can’t be in an antagonistic position with respect to anyone, because it only limits us, and must therefore embrace all. For freedom and equality are natural rights; and the sense of self-worth cannot be bequeathed to anyone; they must come from within, their own conception and self-understanding.

    It’s a matter of principle and therefore overriding whatever existing social relations, just or unjust. The matter of freedom and equality is a matter of personal decision. It’s not subject to the dictates of the state or the ruling class. You may have to die for your beliefs, but so what.

    It’s more a matter of vision than actuality. Meanwhile, we can conduct ourselves appropriately and live as free women and men.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Whatever gave you that idea, Mark? Is it because you’re speechless?

    Just in case you didn’t get it – no, I’m not soliciting!

  • ma rk

    I forgot your…sensitivity. Sorry. Not ‘you’ in particular, ‘you’ generally.

    A slogan. You know?

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    You making up rules about how things operate. I think you have the wrong set of rules there. I don’t see things in reality operating according to them. They sound like a creative mind imagining something it’s never actually seen in real life.

    You presume you can guess what people think or what they are capable of believing based on some reasoned formula, but without the experience of actually knowing or working beside the real people you’re judging or even reading the experience of those who have. This stuff is all bias and imagination–rationalized.

    Read the work of people who have struggled with the poor and working class. That is what you are missing there I think–real information.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    No sensitivity, Mark, just a question point blank. I really didn’t know how to that your remark.

  • ma r k

    Just my response in passing to your #38; I should have referenced it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It is a fact that when you’re engaged in a combat against someone, it does limit you – because the very nature of personal combat is a limitation.

    As to real struggles – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s the idea – of freedom, equality, and justice – all these “petty” (and to your mind inconsequential little things) that have fueled and won the fight.

    It’s not just a silly little concern with one’s own peculiar circumstances, sorry as they may be, that ever served as sufficient enough motive. Rather, it was a matter of rising above oneself and their stinking situation that made it happen.

    Ideas rule – not our stinking existence.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    And I am not indicting your ‘New Left’ having joined it for most of my life, I think I can at least say, I fell right into indoctrinated liberal patterns of solving world problems, among other things. The only ideas based on anarchism I maintained were in my direct relationships with people. But to me anarchism was a dead issue most of my life. Except in personal relationship. I didn’t even bother seeing the world through anything but a liberal framework. I am quite familiar with my own mindset and what I was and was not capable of seeing all that time.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I see what you were getting at. My being an elitist. Well, perhaps I am.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    I’m going to simply say in looking at what real people have done in real struggles. What real people say they believe (now what you assume they are capable of believing in). You are wrong. Dead wrong. You presume things you don’t know. So, we differ and that’s as far as we can go.

  • ma rk

    (Gak…No, I objecting to the leader/follower model. Nothing personal.)

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    It is not just elitism…but it is certainly partly that. And I was an elitist myself. But it is blindness. An inability to see because of something else being in the way. And I was that too.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m not trying to vindicate “the New Left.” All I’m saying that, though a fortuitous set of circumstances, they’ve done us an invaluable service – namely, affording us a view of the world through idealistic eyes.

    Whether it will work or not, I don’t know. All I can say is that never before in the history of humankind have we been so conscious of, and brought face to face with, with the sight of injustice.

  • ma rk

    (And that should read: ‘I’s objecting’.)

  • m a r k

    lol I’ve clearly had too much sun today.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    lol can’t tell now whether your ‘elitist’ comment was directed to Mark, now. Oh well, it worked out for me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m sorry, but I don’t have much confidence in the common man. I have faith that they’ll come around, but that’s it.

    But then again, your complaint about the fact that “the New Left” is but an adolescent expression rather than mature, surely smacks of eliticism. Is it too elitist to say that the writings of Chomsky and Goodman are wasted on the common mind.

    I don’t think so. Yet, that was one of your complaints – that “the New Left,” as commonly conceived, was plain and shallow.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I appreciate, BTW, you two understanding and getting into this dialog because you happen to view it as a conflict of ideas.

    It’s good to know that not all of BC membership is moronic.

    Sorry, my eliticism is showing again.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    I’m sorry, but I don’t have much confidence in the common man. I have faith that they’ll come around, but that’s it.

    Read Staughton Lynd. You might get some faith from a man who has worked with the ‘common man’ all his life.

    I think schools do that. They teach us to self-identify as ‘special’. (poor ones who can’t climb that ladder) And encourage us to see others as above or below us. We judge people according to this hierarchy. In doing so we forget to actually look at the actual people we judge. It’s bias. Sort of makes ‘intelligent’ people turn out to be bigots or anti-intellkigent or something like that.

  • Clavos

    Sorry, my eliticism is showing again.

    Not really. The word is elitism.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You’re being ideological, imputing meanings where none are intended. I haven’t expressed any disrespect or lack of ability, not even of the right kind of instinct. My experience, in fact, is just the contrary – far better than the average contact on BC.

    It was only to say that there are leaders and followers.

    Again, ideas rule!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Sorry, Clav. I knew it was wrong. Just didn’t look it up.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    I’m sorry, but I don’t have much confidence in the common man. I have faith that they’ll come around, but that’s it.

    Your exact words. It’s all in there. I input nothing.

    I’m not being ideological. I am describing both my own experience in what school did to me, my observations of and discussions with children and students, and the experience of teachers such as John Holt, and others.

    (time to go off in search of something to cook…)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I stand by the statement, for whatever it’s worth. If your care to ignore subsequent comment, fine with me.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Not my intention to ignore. Just life calls. I was explaining my sudden disappearance after a lengthy conversation is all.

    On the way home though, I wondered had I painted an idealized picture, so I hope in defending I haven’t appeared to have gone too far the other way.

    I accept your standing by your statement. That’s cool.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m off to see a “romantic movie.”

    I’ll be back.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Dave,

    No, because it is utterly impossible to figure out whose ancestors were never thieves…

    You don’t really get the point, do you? All landowners originally either stole the land, or bought it from people who stole it. And typically they committed genocide or other atrocities in order to do so. In order to cut others out.

    In doing so they gave themselves an unfair advantage, having stolen property to work with and all.

    It was land that was available to all. To simply take it makes it unavailable to all. It’s called stealing. It should always have been available to all–forever. Like water or air.

    It’s an easy remedy. We return it to the use of all.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    There is an interesting distinction to be made when it comes to “theory of rights” – between “rights to the goods themselves,” and “rights to institutional protection of those goods.” If one accepts the latter, though more narrow, interpretation, than “land ownership,” for example, is not a natural right but the institutional protection of land ownership would be – for as long as landed ownership is part and parcel of the existing social arrangement.

    It’s an important distinction, because it allows us to remove certain goods (land ownership, in this instance) from the sacrosanct circle of the untouchables (because they’re unalienable). Well, the goods are not unalienable, to right to protection is.

    I’ll be covering this in my next article on the theory of rights.

  • http://www.stanford.edu/~somik/ Somik Raha

    Roger,

    I am impressed with the humanistic and sensible approach in your series. I think it is high time people started challenging the labels they can choose from. I think the New Left is a start, and I certainly hope there is a corresponding New Right, and many more such labels that challenge the current ones and make us question our own identities.

    I have a little piece that echoes your views. Will send it to you over email.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Great, Somik. It’s on the navigation bar, far right. You can’t miss it.

    I do look forward to a fruitful exchange.

    Roger

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