Saturday, June 15, 2013

Just give up

I only read Kevin Drum when I want to get upset, which is probably something I should speak to a mental health professional about. Yesterday, I read something Drum wrote and, yes, I got upset. That was why I did it. I got upset because it is boring, unimaginative liberals like Drum who regularly call anyone to their left who doesn't see the Democratic Party as a great ally in the fight for social justice a "cynic," condemning them for preferring the comfort of purist apathy to the often slow, messy job of making the world better -- but adopting the cynic's pose as soon as anyone starts talking about change.

Writing about the broad NSA spying operation revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, Drum wrote that his basic view on surveillance hasn't changed since Bush was president. "I didn't like this stuff in 2005 and I don't like it now." However, and of course there's a "however" because this is Mother Jones (we would rebrand, "but that takes a lot of money."), Drum's views have in fact changed: he's not sure what the point of caring is anymore.

"I'll confess that it's hard to sustain a feeling of outrage over this," Drum admitted. "We had a huge fight about all this stuff five years ago and we lost. Now everyone is supposedly shocked, shocked" -- editor's note: a firing squad for the next person who does that double-shocked thing -- "that NSA is hoovering up huge amounts of data. Well, of course they are. We lost."

What Drum does here is what sensible liberals like him do every election cycle, which is tell those of us who hope for a world superior to the status quo to quit dreaming and accept that this is the best we can do, folks. Barack Obama, kill lists and bail outs and record deportations and all, is the best we can do. The two-party system is the best we can do. Oligarchy disguised as representative democracy is the best we can do. Give up. We lost.

I think we can do better. Spurred by the economic collapse and the continuity under Obama, people are having conversations today that they wouldn't have had a decade ago (albeit they are now being recorded by the government). Yes, absolutely: some days caring about the world and thinking we can make it better feels like a laughable error in judgement. But even if my optimism is irrational, as even I believe it is before coffee, who wants to be an above-it-all loser? I'd rather be the underdog who doesn't go down without a fight than the guy suggesting defeat is the most reasonable option.


  1. "We lost." Remember, all victories for the right are permanent, just like the right just says "we had a huge fight about this and we lost" about abortion, voting rights, etc.

    Kevin Drum is just being a loser. Sorry, a good loser.

  2. "We" lost?

    All the way to the bank, right, Kevin?

  3. Anonymous7:16 PM

    Okay kevin, here's my wallet, don't hurt me. I lost, I lost!!

  4. Anonymous7:44 PM

    One thing that should gives me pause (though I do see space opening up here for revolutionary social change) is the reality that it was precisely AFTER the Church Commission that leftism in America in its more militant manifestations and then also in its organizational forms was snuffed out: so too was meaningful social change. Since there is virtually no prospect now for anything approaching something like a Church Commission (which should be aimed at Congress as much as NSA (which should also be aimed at Congress, as a spectrum of CSPAN 535 subchannels), in my opinion) today, what are we likely to see come out of this process?

    The timing of Snowden's revelations do have the quality of a brutal attack for many people of color--especially, but not only, youth. It is no good scolding expressions of outrage about this being "teabagger"-friendly with "cognitive dissonance" or Naderite "told you so"s, either. There is, and has been, a systematic attack being waged on black life in the United States. Stokely Carmichael dated this to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, which he viewed (for good reason, I think) as an Act "for white people". When defenders of GG (I'm one of them) attempt to deflect the tweets and calumnies that are being aimed at him right now from Obama-ites (LGBT; people of color; liberals; etc. etc.) by saying, "This is not about Obama"... we better realize that people of color already agree wholeheartedly about that. Amiri Baraka has very cunningly differentiated his position from that of Cornel West on this matter: Barack Obama's presidency is not about the black liberation struggle. It is about black nationalism. Obama does not need to improve conditions, incarceration statistics, mortality rates, to realize this role. Let's not forget that that is precisely the "white fantasy" that animates the self-destruction of the Right's legitimacy that we're also witnessing right here and now. The black liberation struggle, more than any other movement in our country's history, has achieved radical social change. It is still changing our country. And it is precisely not about Obama that that is so. It is about black people resisting and refusing under extreme conditions which persist right up to the present moment. Surveillance? Haha!

    So I'd like to see if there can be more productive dialogue precisely there? We can forget about Drum. In fact, Charles, I'm rather disturbed that you hadn't already. This is definitely not about him or the retirement village Mother Jones. Coming back to my half-joking proposal about sicking NSA on our "Representatives", perhaps we could employ the 6 non-voting members of Congress to do the peoples' work by determining what, from the morass of corruption, we should know about our 535 voting representatives from the NSA docket?

  5. I for one am shocked, dismayed even.

  6. Anonymous12:18 AM

    On change oriented factionalism (across the spectrum): this event has every likelihood to revolutionize 'tech' which will benefit IT developers around the world. Espec. cyber-security employees. The likely result of this "change" is going to be a heightening and intensification of contradictions with no clear outcome except that the NSA is sure to be reconsolidated with more aggressive authorities. I'm sorry to say that but I can't see how it could go any other way short of a radical revolution of the whole system. There will be appearances of geopolitical tensions and motion, but we'll only get to see a "dated display" of where those relations actually arise. In some sense, this makes me think that crazyhorse Naomi Wolf might be accidentally right: Snowden is a triggering event and GG (and Laura Poitras) have been "duped". On the other hand, I don't think that Poitras is dupable. Her convictions are quieter and more reaching than say Greenwald's (or the WaPo corroborators). My hope (anyd I think OUR only hope) is that this whistleblowing (dénonciation/coup de sifflet) turns over into something we can't quite recognize: slow time/exposition several layers of coverups. The world wasn't created in a day though it will end in one.

  7. Anonymous1:23 AM

    What I mean by "dated display" is that the apparent geopolitical shifts will be strictly limited to those who oppose the course states are charting around the world. There will be efforts and some successes to bite into pseudo-monopolies. That, of course, will do nothing to solve the problem... nor will any kind of encryption, I'm afraid. Encryption will only delay. By the time you're wanted for participating in organization X, the computing power is already there (if it wasn't years before). There is no strictly "tech" solution here.

  8. Anonymous1:33 AM

    Mary Landrieu stated in her stream of consciousness "oversight" at the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing (where she posed no questions but leaked very much) that the U.S. Gov't is a Coke bottle. Inside of this "transparent" structure, she boisterously declared, there is a war going on that Gen. Alexander invisibly "minimizes". This is the imaginary structure of the theatre of terror that our "overseers" (bishops, btw) pay fealty towards. Let's start a twitter campaign focusing on Congressional hysteria?

  9. I don't understand the last few comments, in content or purpose. Maybe add a few explanatory links? A glossary?

  10. Yes, I agree, Mathmos, I think interesting points are made...but none of them cogently. As for Charles, isn't it the mere association of 'we' that Drum uses the plague which we must fight. Our allegiances, our blind affiliations?

  11. No one knows what will happen next - but I was impressed by something William Black (author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One) said in his April 3, 2009 interview with Bill Moyers.

    There's a saying that we [who were working on the Savings and Loan crisis] took great comfort in. It's actually by the Dutch, who were fighting this impossible war for independence against what was then the most powerful nation in the world, Spain. And their motto was, "It is not necessary to hope in order to persevere."

  12. Anonymous1:45 AM

    I know that what I said wasn't clear and that I clouded it with harebrained poetry. But I'll simply clarify that that is part of my point. U.S. national political discourse is hardening everywhere into "expertise" + reaction. One of you commenter's objected to "us". Get over that immediately. If you persist in single issues you've given up your own gost. Don't be afraid to speak as "we". The logistics of power are such that the defeat of that possibility of "WE" is precisely what disables action in ME. Don't forget that the first term of the Declaration of Independence, upon which the legitimacy of the American Revolution--with all of its iniquities that remain unsettled--- is grounded in a universal claim. The guilt of universality's insufficiency is not something you should carry around as "collective guilt". Absolutely no! Seize this time which is indeed one of incredible power for individuals to speak--and convert speech into change--to do just that. Just don't forget that you're probably contaminated by that "individualistic", "single issue" politics of the fight we no longer really need to fight. Now the fight is actually about we. Conversely--but part of the same movement--we have to keep "memory" alive for us... which is exactly indivdualism and exactly its iniquities. Ayn Rand is running amok in our polity. Her cunning was to use Aristotelian logic without Aristotelian Ethics AND without proposing any systemic philosophy. It is logic... pure induction... without consequences. It is bankruptcy for all which in the real world we inhabit in the U.S. (us) is a paradigm for "distribution of wealth" to the top. What is wealth? I'll leave it for you kids to determine that among yourselves, but I hope you recognize at least that you're being exploited?

    I'm on the side of Occupy, let's say, and I believe that that means it is time

    now infested with totalitatian ideology of every

  13. Anonymous1:50 AM

    Damn dude. Why can't I edit? You kids are too spontaneous, so I now sign off once and for all!

  14. We did lose. We lost when people decided they'd rather live under Democrat-Republican authoritarianism than fight for the viability of a third party. We lost when self-proclaimed leftists started disparaging an American hero like Ralph Nader in favour of a scumbag like Al Gore back in 2000.

  15. A third party would be like adding another cousin to crowd the table..that's not the answer, just a mild way to mask the problem. ralph nader is not the answer. the only person that can represent you is you. until that is understood and positions of power are fought on all fronts I don't see any hope for change.

  16. Anonymous11:56 AM

    Naturally, Orwell had the game figured out back in the day: