Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Churchillian Fortitude


Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Sir Winston Churchill, Speech in November 1942
William Rivers Pitt is having trouble finding a sense of measurable accomplishment after ten years of hard work in the front lines. I empathize and concur, to a degree. He starts out thus:

t r u t h o u t | Go:
"I've been writing about unbelievably bad news for more than a decade now, so when the New Year came around this time, I made up my mind to try and come up with something to write about that was optimistic, positive, more upbeat, or something."
But in the end he finally comes to this conclusion:

The Left has done some truly amazing things in the last ten years, things that took great effort, concentration, passion and will. The need for those qualities did not evaporate with the election of the "good guys." Indeed, those qualities are needed more than ever before.
In passing, he noted:

The Left has a reputation, partially deserved, for being a motley collection of scatterbrained, cause-of-the-week, ego junkies who never really get anything done. But I saw what the Left was able to do when confronted with the criminal ambitions of the Bush administration, and it didn't stop after the war got going. Groups sprung up in every corner of the country and kept the heat on until they made a difference. Whatever one may think about the Democratic Party today, there is no doubt the fortunes of that party were turned in 2006 and 2008 because of the tireless efforts of millions of people to push popular opinion and understanding away from the yawning precipice of national neoconservatism.

 Mr. Pitt, no movement of any sort has ever succeeded by internalizing the labels their enemies give them. I would say, further, that the spontanious, individually directed, cause-oriented and - yes - ego-driven activists, all loosely networked in spontainous communities, each understanding that such alliances are defined by the task at hand, and NOT definitive of some overarching "cause" they must ascribe to in order to be "permitted" the "privilidge" of joining a march, stuffing envelopes or writing a blog is precisely what has carried this day.

Sir, if you are a pessimist, I'm the greater one. And the fight has been longer and bloodier and more discouraging than you care to define. Personally, I mark the beginning of it with the election of Ronald Regan. And from that point, all that has happened has been pretty much what I expected, save not quite so immediately catastrophically as I had expected.

And this has been due to some very damn skillful guerrilla action, which would have certainly have been defeated had the counter-moves been expected.

Let us speak for a moment of the entire concept of asymmetrical warfare. The goal is not to "win" - it is to delay, to disrupt, to disaffect - to give the enemy time and space and conditions under which they will generate their own failure. It really is about "hearts and minds," folks. And the greatest part of the battle is getting the enemy to show their true selves, their genuine feelings and ultimate motivations.

It's been alleged that Ronald Regan was secretly a member of the John Birch Society. It's one of those easy allegations that is probably not in the least true - but it's also quite beside the point, because he certainly acted in ways and in collaboration with people who shared the core understandings and furthered the goals of the John Birch Society.

And we must also observe that there has been a concerted effort - from the eighties on - to place "stealth zealots" into public office, where they will vote and act in accordance to Dominionst Evangelical principles, without the slightest regard to the the goals they claim to be working toward. And we all know what this led to; the sort of preference for idiological purity over professional competence that gave us the Iraq war as it was and the aftermath of Katrina as it still is.

So, we have been fighting a guerrilla war against covert warriors - a covert mirror of the overt proxy wars fought in places such as Nicaragua and Columbia - where the real goal was not the liberation or freedom of the people, but who would control them in the name of what ideology. And gradually, one of the emergent prizes of the battle, a great and largely unrecognized victory, is that the "right" to control other people is not just something to be contensted, but is an idea that absolutely must be contested in it's own right. For when it's a fight between the left hand and the right hand, everyone in the middle gets screwed.

It's not just because the Right is wrong about having such a right - it's utterly wrong in asserting that it's even possible, and that the difference in outcome between what it's stated and sincerely held principles suggest and the outcomes that happen every time they are applied to a protesting population attests without exception - people do as they will, and at the very best, can be persuaded at great expense and pain to visibly conform in public, while quite likely doing something else in private that ultamately leads to far greater ills than those supposedly "cured" by whatever simplistic moralistic wild hair was induldged upon us.

I might easily cite Prohibition, a folly of the Left. Or arguably, the folly of The Great Society and the lunar landscapes and Stalinist Modern Projects left in it's wake. Oh, but their intentions were so noble!

Then there's the whole issue of Reproductive Choice, or the unanticipated fallout of "Abstinence Only" education, which has not affected teen pregnancy but has substantially contributed to the rise in sexually transmitted disease. 

But these bad outcomes are dismissed as being unimportant, the results of sins, an acceptable cost of upholding some nebulous and indefinable "principle."Apparently the Left in North America has learned it's lesson, that you can't force people to behave in ways they won't, even if it is for their own good - which it probably isn't.

The strength - or at least the great blessing - of the modern "Left" is that there IS no single defining ideology, and therefore the only thing that may unite "the left" is an agreement about particular circumstances, particular facts and particular problems that demand at the very least the cessation of old policies and perhaps some new, more pragmatic ones. The issue of Marajuana and the outcome of the whole Drug War is one conspicuous example illustrating some very strange bedfellows, from old and very Liberal hippies to Randian Libertarians to law enforcement professionals.

One thing is for sure, when you see old Communists putting aside their sectarian issues and marching together with Anarchists (their natural enemies) in concert with Liberal Christians, Union Activists, militant athiests, feminists, pro-choicers and environmental activists - people with extraordinarily divergent views and priorities - you can be reasonably certain that what they each see as being a problem from their various perspectives is INDEED a problem, and anyone who lumps them all together as "libtards" is not just ignorant of the issue, but is in fact likely some personification of the issue - or profiting from it.

Needless to say, the only way any large group of opposition to issues of the day can coelece and persist in the face of reality is by focusing on one particular commonality, while accepting as a given that some will be on the other side of the line on other issues, and that diversity is to be celebrated, rather than demonized.

And it's empowered by the Internet, which I think can be stated as being, arguably, on the front line of disorganized dissent and unlikely alliances since it's very inception and spread through Government and those bastions of Godless Liberalism - Universities.

A person who understands this has no difficulty with the ACLU or the Annenburg Foundation's - but on the neoconservative/Dominionist Right - all must agree about everything, or they are apostates, while none within the tent may be criticised at all (save when they are cast into the Outer Darkeness.)

Now, one thing Mr. Pitt may or may not have noticed, but the opposition to a centrist consensus about certain "litmus test" issues held dear by the Right has become increasingly unhinged, it's arguments increasingly paranoid, it's reliance on conspiracy theory and outright lies becoming it's primary mode, it's online and print proponents becoming less and less capable of coherent argument. This is also a victory. You see, it is, as I said above, a war for the hearts and minds of people - in the United States, of course, but indeed within the Americas and the world as a whole.

And in the United States, we are now beginning to see the contents of the hearts and the quality of the minds shrieking that we must all comply with their paranoid and infintile dribblings.

There's yet much to be done - but one by one by one, we must take back the organizations and structures that they have polluted, the school boards, the charities, the political organizations, the precincts - and I don't just mean "along partisan lines." They need to be taken away from the crazy people, by sane people of all political and religious persuasions.

From what I see out there, from the near absence of intelligable voices from the Right - when it used to be the core of political intellect, councelling against emotionalism and populism as the greatest enemies of democratic representative republics - there are a whole lot of utterly disgusted Conservatives trying to pretend it will all go away.

Well, it won't. Not without your help, ladies and gentlemen. And if you fear being called a Liberal or a "RINO" for your stances - remember, you are being called that by people capable of calling Obama a Communist and a Nazi in the same paragraph. What they really mean is "poopy-head," and all it shows is that they are simply not capable of behaving as functional, responsible adults in public places.


ernie1241 said...

Ronald Reagan was NOT a member of the John Birch Society (secret or otherwise) and he did not further their goals. It is true, however, that several people connected to the JBS were initially Reagan admirers -- but the JBS now refers to Reagan as a phony conservative.

Bob King said...

Hm. Well, consider me provisionally corrected...

Of course, if I was truly cynical, I'd include some such whopper in every post, to spur conversation.


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