More Deep Thoughts

Thank you for listening, Angry Soba! I guess I owe you a bit more.

I have been thinking about identity politics–how swiftly “pride” and “self-affirmation” devolve into chauvinism, sapping the ability to form coalitions and, even more damaging, fracturing movements as rivals vie for the crown of authenticity. Infighting probably did more damage to the Civil Rights movement than COINTELPRO; over the past few weeks I have been observing the increasingly bitter animus between lesbian separatists and trans activists on the fringes of the LGBT movement. Read the history of Communism in the 20th century if you want to see what self-cannibalism looks like; go to Firedoglake and you’ll see that when the pitiful remnant of the left rouses itself today, it’s more often than not to attack liberals rather than rightists. Schisms have always been a feature of radical movements, religious or secular, left or right (witness Gaffney’s falling out with CPAC). It’s easier and safer and in some ways more satisfying to engage with our fellow travelers on the fringe (our families, if you will) than with outright strangers.

And then there’s the expectation that our political causes will validate us–that they will not only gain us our rights and our freedom and insure our prosperity and vindicate our ideas, but justify us in some transcendent way–that they will make us feel complete and whole and perfected. We project this unreasonable expectation onto our leaders and when they inevitably fail to deliver, we angrily repudiate them. George W. Bush doesn’t dare show his face in Tampa this year; Obama has to abase himself before his former base.

Sometimes I feel like we still haven’t properly parsed the meaning of “the pursuit of happiness.” Happiness, yes, but in a material, objective sense–votes that count, opportunities for education and self-improvement, access to medicine and a fair judiciary to settle disputes. Feeling good about yourself is mostly a private matter–something you work out with your family in the course of growing up, in an intimate relationship, or with a therapist. It’s one thing to demand all or nothing from a lover; quite another to seek it in the public realm.

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5 thoughts on “More Deep Thoughts

  1. Hello Mr. Goldwag, I am delighted that you have written a post just for me! If you mean what I think you mean, then I am reading a book with a very similar theme, right now, called “Scum of the Earth” by Arthur Koestler. It is specifically about the fall of France at the beginning of the Second World War, but he alludes to his time in Spain and how the Communists he was on the same side as betrayed the anti-Fascist coalition. And also how they did it again with the Nazi-Soviet Pact and again, when the Soviet Union invaded Finland, with the Communists referring to it as a “revolutionary war” while the Allied fight against the Nazis was an “imperial war”. Koestler makes the bitter remark about how the Communists’ dialectics can show how the table is actually a fishpond and the Nazi-Soviet Pact is actually an anti-Nazi action. But worse than that, he is interned by the French government with all other foreigners, including anti-Nazi Germans, and are forced to bed down on straw in the freezing cold and beaten by French guards while the Nazi-sympathizing Germans are put up in comfortable quarters and get visits from the International Red Cross.

    Now, of course, this is a rather dramatic and extreme example of what you are talking about but it surely does show the futility of infighting among those who should be allied in a common cause. Not long before reading this book, I had read Orwell’s diaries in which he mentions Koestler’s arrival in Britain after his release in France only to be treated with contempt by the British authorities as well. Orwell was in disbelief about how much the British government squandered such useful people who wanted to contribute and were not allowed.

  2. I haven’t read it for over 30 years, but as I remember Orwell’s Road to Wiggan Pier had some acute comments about why the English who stood to benefit the most from Socialism were so resistant to it in the 1930s. It would do us all a lot of good to ponder some of the other parallels between the 1930s and today. I don’t think we’ve even begun to understand how bad things are for the old capitalist regimes.

  3. Obama, Romney, Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum…. Republicans, Democrats – one thing they certainly agree on is the overhwelming need for America to invade small, non-threatening countries, halfway around the globe, who stand in the way of Eretz YIsrael. How many standing ovations did Bibi get?

  4. It is unfortunate that the left or the Democratic party in all its apsects can’t or won’t do what the Republicans do-which is to stand together on some core issues. This ideological purity though it may represent some sort of integrity to the proponents of it-in the long run benefits very few and hinders a lot of good things. I hear leftists carry on about how bad Obama is and how they won’t vote for him-they really don’t consider how bad things would be with the alternative. I recently heard some of the gaffes Mr Romney made it Britian-is this the better alternative?. It certainly shows money can buy a nomination but obviously not intelligence.

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