Thursday, December 1, 2011

This and That / Revolutions

Thursday, December 01, 2011—Orange, CA

Busyness (as usual); I haven’t had the time to write anything here for two weeks. It’s probably just as well, as I haven’t had much to say—getting thru the end of the semester and the Thanksgiving holiday has pretty much obliterated most of my creativity, my ability to think clearly outside the little box I’ve been working in. I can see the end of the semester, though—in just a little over two weeks I’ll be done. I can’t wait until I can start a blog post with something other than a chronicling of my annoyance at the rhythms of my day-to day life.

I have managed to continue my Greek studies. I sent away for a series of introductory Greek videos and CDs, which should really help me with my pronunciations. They of course will also give me other routes to internalizing the language; just working from books has started to a get a little frustrating, in that I’m not sure if I’m getting the sounds right, and because working from one angle like this gets boring. However, I’m still enjoying Greek a great deal; I’m just getting anxious to kick it up to the next level.

Somehow I’ve managed to get in some reading as well. The week before last I finished the Let it Come Down, the Paul Bowles novel I started a few weeks ago. The last quarter of the novel was very disappointing. After building up a fascinating universe amongst the exiles of Tangier Bowles abandons most of his characters to follow one of them as he leaves the City for Morocco’s Spanish zone. The novel completely breaks down when he does this, to the point where over two-hundred pages of some of the better writing I’ve ever read seemed kind of pointless. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so high on the first part of a novel only to be so disappointed at its end. I’ve read that The Spider’s House, another Bowles novel I was planning on reading, sinks itself in the same way. I think I’ going to back off him for a while: at this point I think I’d be too leery of where his books might lead to really enjoy them. Still, he’s a fascinating writer whose stuff is about topics and places that really interest me, so I’m sure I’ll give him another go round at some point.

Other than Bowles, I’ve been delving into texts for my Native Americans class I’ll be teaching next semester. I’ve been reading chapters from Cambridge’s History of Native North America and have been really enjoying The Four Voyages, which is a compilation of writings by Columbus and other early chroniclers of his journeys, including his son. Columbus’ own words are especially fascinating. I’m not sure what role what I’m learning from this book will play in the class, but the perspective its giving me can do nothing but increase my depth of knowledge, which is always a good thing.

Not much going on besides work and reading. Been watching the police and the mayor chase Occupy L.A. from the scene. What an asshole Villaraigosa is. I’ve always known he was a slimy player, but I thought he’d at least fake it a little bit better than this, not side with the moneyed powers so openly and quickly (I mean, on paper at least he a fair bit left of center). My favorite recent blathering of his happened early in the demonstrations when he claimed the need to remove the protesters because of the toll they were taking on the lawns and trees downtown. In other words, the price of having to re-sod a park is too high a one to pay for the people’s right to assemble and protest, for democracy! What’s really telling about the L.A. situation is the way these protesters have been treated in relationship to the homeless community.

There has essentially been a homeless tent city in downtown L.A. for decades. While of course these people are sometimes rousted by the cops, as a group they’ve been tolerated, have become part of the everyday scene in this part of the city. The Occupy protesters, however, were immediately seen as a problem by the City government and police. The main difference I can see is that the latter are challenging the system, questioning the way the city, state, country, and world are run—they’re challenging the global-capitalist structure, the true powerbases of the planet's political sycophants. The homeless, on the other hand, are seen as victims, annoyances that have no ability to take on the world order that has been part of what's led to their homeless. In a way this attitude is a good sign. It shows that the people in charge understand how vulnerable they are, how much power we the people really have; they know that the system they set up is a house of cards the rest of us can knock over with only a moderate amount of organization and drive. They’re of course fighting back the wrong way (as they usually do). Instead of trying to stifle protest they should be trying to make the income and power distribution of the world a touch more equal—for if they do not they’re only increasing the pressure and anger in the general populace and risking inviting much greater losses down the road. In other words, if they give a little they’ll probably get the people off their back and be able to continue their general pillaging, (for a bit longer, at least).

A look back to the U.S, in the 1930s really backs up my point, I’d say. It’s become a cliché, but Roosevelt really saved capitalism—by interjecting a modest amount of socialism to counter its more extreme tendencies. If we would have had another four years or more of Hoover-like policies (or non-policies) this country could very well have experienced a leftist and perhaps all out communist revolution. Obama has turned out to be our era’s Hoover light, in that his policies exist primarily to meet the needs of the rapacious one percent. But to repeat, Obama is the “light” version of this mentality—he does not completely ignore the needs of the vast majority of the country’s people.

If those of the financial world’s upper echelon got what they claim to want policy wise it would mean a complete crushing of the middle class of this nation (what’s left of it anyway). With the middle class gutted we would become a country of angry newly poor people with personal and cultural memory of how things used to be, could be (we also have two-hundred plus years of the mythology of classlessness and upward mobility to stoke our anger and inspire our dreams of the future). If this were to happen, if we were to find ourselves with an ultra-right Republican House and Senate topped by a President Gingrich (or someone similar) this country would become radicalized in no time, matching the speed of the collapsing economy and the crumbling of our last (somewhat) democratic institutions. What happens at this point is hard to say, in that we no longer have a convenient counter-point to capitalism in Marxism. What would for sure happen, though, is a revolution that would make the Arab Spring look like a mild warm-up action. And since the economy of this nation is more tightly linked than ever with the rest of the world’s finances it would become a massive world-wide movement. Again, I’m not sure of the specifies at this point, but the pseudo free-market capitalism of today would be a thing of the past and elite heads would role (in some cases literally) throughout the world.

All of this has gotten me to thinking about what would be best electorally for this country in the long run. To continue with the Obama and a right-leaning Congress will probably mean no major changes in a system that’s eventually bound to collapse—in other words, we’d just be kicking the revolution down the road a ways. However, an ugly reactionary government would push us over the cliff in a matter of a few years at most—and maybe that’s what we need. To bumble along like we’re doing means a slow bleeding to death of the potential of most of our lives, years of low-to-moderate levels of misery. One big blast of stupidity, though, followed by the cathartic, but relatively short-lived super pain of a post-collapse revolution, might mean better lives for us all more quickly (those of us who survive, that is).

The BIG problem with this is of course the military firepower at the disposal of anyone in power, which includes nuclear weapons. Though a part of me just wants to push the destruct button on our system and get it over with quickly another part of me realizes that the price for this has the potential to be far too high. The third path, and best in my opinion, would be to build a movement with electoral force that comes out of the Occupy movement. It’s hard to see how this might work, beyond a progressive take-over of the democratic party, in the same way the far right has taken over the Republican party (a third part is possible, but given the way the system is set up, a lot harder road to travel). This would have to be a true internal revolution, though, or, again, we’d just be kicking the can down the road. Is this possible? I hope so—I don’t like any of the alternatives very much.


helicopter steve (Estabrook) said...

Good point here. Yeah, Roosevelt basically told the powers that be they had to give something up in order not to lose everything. Unfortunately, I don't see Obama even doing that. If he gets reelected he may get by with occasionally saying the right thing, but I just can't believe he has been caving in so completely to the Republicans. He could have gone to the people and used his oratory skills to explain why we needed to raise taxes on incomes over 250k and would easily have gotten support. And continued pushing Frank-Dodd reforms, but now that's stuck in limbo. Probably about the time you were writing this I had hopes for a third party or something to come out of the OWS movement, but the momentum seems to be gone.We're too easily distracted by the "spectacle" (sorry, just finished my paper in Debord et al so I have the term "spectacle" on a loop) of Facebook, reality TV, I honestly don't know if we'll ever have real change/revolution as long as we are thus kept occupied and complacent. How much do we care that citizens can now be detained indefinitely without trial if they are believed to be terrorists? Apparently Obama is going to sign it...sigh. I'm caffeinated and ranting...anyway, good stuff here.

Rob Woodard said...

What you seem to be saying is that we may be in a Brave New World mode where we're so effectively distracted by "shiny things" that we don't pay attention to basic workings of our society, especially the political side of things. Sigh ... I'm afraid you might be right -- at least up to a point. Eventually, though, people won't have the money to keep up their tecno-entertainment fix. Maybe that's when things will change.

I expect nothing from Obama. He simply protects the interests of the people who give him money.(Plus now if I say anything bad about him he can essentially have me disapeared -- at what point did this country become El Salvador?)

helicopter steve (Estabrook) said...

"Eventually, though, people won't have the money to keep up their tecno-entertainment fix. Maybe that's when things will change."

You might be right, and of course there is the fact that the techno stuff that on the one hand provides distraction could help a revolutionary movement gain critical mass as happened in some of the "Arab Spring" countries.