I have studied the presidency carefully; I have seen that our best presidents were the do-nothing presidents: Millard Fillmore, Warren G. Harding. When you have a president who does things, we are all in serious trouble. If he does anything at all — if he gets up at night to go to the bathroom — somehow, mystically, trouble will ensue. I guarantee that if I am elected, I will take over the White House, hang out, shoot pool, scratch my ass, and not do a damn thing. Which is to say, if you want something done, don’t come to me to do it for you; you got to get together and figure out how to do it yourselves. Is that a deal? — Utah Phillips
I see and hear lots of liberals touting Bernie Sanders’ platform:
I agree, it’s better than Hillary Clinton’s. Actually, I find it impressive. And that concerns me. I like Bernie Sanders. I think he’s a nice guy and he’s make a great president of the US. And that scares me. Liberalism in general scares me, because it’s fundamentally dishonest. <rant>Liberalism is really just conservative in disguise. Liberals don’t want change. They want things like stability (like conservatives), but they want everyone else to just be numb and happy and in denial (cue the Brave New World reference to soma), because that’s what they want, and that’s the only way they can get it (besides just killing themselves). They want to keep Today’s Society pretty-much the way it is, with a few tweaks here and there. Maybe add a bit more padding on those infamously hard, uncomfortable seats. “Numb brains, not butts!” may be their rallying cry. The most irritating thing I find while searching the sea of clenched boomer-age liberal assholes is the an entrenched, itchy and borderline-hemerrhoidal belief that, “Everything will be alright if just…” The bitter red pill (of uncomfortable truths) may be nourishing but proves too tough to swallow, so they opt over and over again for the smooth blue pill (of convenient bullshit), even though it only comes in the form of a suppository. No wonder why they want more padding on those seats…</rant>
Now, I like that picture above. I think it provides a useful analogy for thinking about social privilege and hierarchy. And it’s sinking. But a rowboat? C’mon, cartoonists! We live in a civilization. Civilization does not pride itself on its rowboats! Consider an even more accurate picture of Today’s Society, where the cute and innocent rowboat depicted above looks more like a hybrid of a USS Super Tanker carrying an ocean full of crude oil, or a USS Super Trawler picking and scraping the ocean clean of every last bit of life, all with the inevitable fate of the USS Titanic (The “USS” really stands for United Society of Sociopaths). No matter who helms it, a Super Trawler will still dredge the ocean floor. No matter who helms the Titanic, it will stay its charted course…and sink. And liberals don’t want the ship to sink. They think it’s a pretty OK ship. Maybe it has a few holes to patch, or some seats to pad.
Regardless of what liberals think, even as the ship sinks, as long as it operates it will continue to subjugate and destroy its crew and its environment. Given that, I can think of four questions more relevant for us to ask and discuss than “So, who’dja vote for?” (kang or kodos? coke or pepsi?):
- How soon will the ship sink?
- How much damage will its sinking cause?
- How much more damage will the ship do as long as it continues to operate?
- What do you want to do about it?
Electing Sanders doesn’t help. He doesn’t sink the ship or lessen its destruction. He hires and fires a few people, polishes the brass, and adds some padding to those infamously uncomfortable seats (cue cheers from hemerrhoidal liberals everywhere). And the ship continues to operate, business as usual, maybe even better than ever! (ref. Utah Phillips quote, above)
We’re asking Sanders to become captain of the societal equivalent of a sociopathic Super Trawler. Then we’re asking him to save us from that sociopath in two conflicting ways: to keep from it sinking on one hand, and keep it from operating as normal on the other. Neither do liberals want to abandon ship, nor do they want to sink with it. So they resort to magical thinking, supported by their steady diet of bullshit blue-pill suppositories…Bernie will save us. He’ll make things right. He’ll… I don’t expect any miracles from Bernie. I do expect things to continue getting worse regardless of who gets elected. (ref. Utah Phillips quote, above)
You can dress a sociopath up in a smart new suit and expect him to behave less sociopathic, but all you will do is help him hide in plain sight. You can give a sociopath a tool like a hammer, and he will find a way to use it as a weapon of control and misery. You can educate him, and he will use his knowledge to manipulate others and consolidate his power. We live in a society that behaves like a rampaging sociopath. There exists no magical “tweak” or “reform” or “policy” or “political platform” that will make it less destructive, let alone turn it into an emotionally healthy being capable of relating in deep and meaningful ways with others. When we try to reform, we settle for symbolic change, empower the destruction and blind ourselves to its continuation.
Is it actually any better that Sanders gets elected instead of Clinton or their Republican counterpart? In other words, what impact does who gets elected president have on the four questions I ask above? I repeat those questions here for your convenience (you’re welcome), along with some thoughts on them from me (I’m sorry):
- How soon will the ship sink? Will it sink sooner or later? I tend to think later. Electing a liberal is really electing an expert conservative who stabilizes society without fixing any of its fundamental ills. We delay the inevitable. We prolong the misery.
- How much damage will its sinking cause? The society keeps growing, so I tend to think that the longer we wait, the bigger the crash. The higher the fall. The less prepared we are, the more harm the crash and fall will do to its peoples and environments. So how does electing Bernie slow the destruction and growth and empower the people?
- How much more damage will the ship do as long as it continues to operate? Will electing someone like Bernie Sanders actually reign in the destruction, somehow? How will Bernie change the classism, racism, sexism embedded into the fabric of our society? Will Bernie slow down deforestation, help dismantle dams, protect our rivers from poisoning? Will his policies thwart our industrial, commodity-based economy? Or will his policies simply make a few people more comfortable existing within such a terrifying, destructive system…for a time?
- What do you want to do about it? Do you think voting is enough?
So go ahead and vote for Bernie. Just go ahead and vote. Or not. I really don’t care who you vote for, or whether you vote. Donald Rumsfeld, Donald Trump, or that other unsung ‘murrican fascist, Mickey Mouse. But I do care about what you do with the rest of the hours in your day: How are you helping to stop the destruction? Study and practice permaculture? Join and support Black Lives Matter!? Or do you want to do something more explicitly political? Organize your community to adopt a Community Bill of Rights as we work to change the legal foundations of this country to something more fundamentally just. And men in particular, please, please join or support your local feminist organization, because the revolution really does start at home (but doesn’t end there). And any number of other radical, transformative things, including those less constructive (rivers must flow free to support terrestrial ecosystems, super trawlers must sink to have sustainable fisheries, and those pretentious colonial marbled houses and engraved enscriptions of empire need to come down sometime…the sooner, the better!).
An ode to old white liberals (OWLs)February 25, 2017
for David Rakoff (I ask that the reader channel the gentle cadence his voice humming softly in their ear)
and Phil Ochs (for obvious reasons)
to honor the youth (that they may one day similarly smote my mole hill of praise upon the mountain of their triumph)
in memory of Toby Hemenway’s beautiful vision of direct action toward collective liberatory struggle.
Ye Olde Whyte Liberals
the literally self-appointed gatekeepers of progress
the practice of Deep Green Navel Gazing, or
the weighty philosophy of the Practicality Police
(choose either one to)
sandwich yourself between:
a Salem Sustainability Circle Jerk
(not even the courtesy of a reach-around)
i crash the celebration of mediocrity
(how’s your relationship? sustainable? meh…
but even still, mediocrity is a better goal than what we currently have, so)
I’m glad you all agree, what do you plan to do about it, though?
while comfortable, pampered straight middle class white men
tell me what “we” can get (who is “we?”)
without any discussion of what we, the people, need
because justice for the homeless, and
clean, breathable air, and drinkable water are impractical.
Sanctuary and respect for the rights of (migrant) workers is impractical
(someone might slap our wrists).
Women who want the vote are impractical. They got their wrists slapped.
Abolishing slavery is impractical. Sorry, are “we” being too uppity?
Are? Were? I fail to see the distinction between
Yesterday and today’s guardians of the status quo
self-styled “allies,” the first enemies of justice,
and the first to (pro)claim victory whenever it prevails.
In spite of, not because of their participation.
But not according to history, as they write it:
white-washed, man-washed, class-washed
clean and pure
in a rich, soapy lather of unexamined privilege.
Liberal? conservative, with a small “c.” But only if “we” are (were?) lucky.
Otherwise, reactionary. Like the rest of the establishment types:
I pledge allegiance
To the Status Quo, and
the injustice for which it stands.
One Pyramid Scheme
With Liberty and Justice
In the State of Denial.
“State of denial?”
their reproachful echo arrives on-time
almost gasping with well-practiced confusion
at the mere suggestion of imperfection
yet the condescending correction inevitably comes with dough-eyed precision:
“Dearheart…this is Oregon.”
Leave a Comment » | Poetry, Unsolicited commentary | Tagged: David Rakoff, Love Me I'm a Liberal, Oregon, Phil Ochs, Pledge of Allegiance, toby hemenway | Permalink
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