Monday, January 17, 2011

radical hope, radical change, radical values

Following the crazy shooting now more than a week ago, I was directed to this particular post about a U.S. marine who is warning "those calling for a civil war," with the typical machismo you expect from a member of an "elite" fighting force. While his(?) words are directed, doubtlessly, at the right wing it is worth looking at from a Marxist perspective. In other countries and other times the "left" has made its own calls for "revolution." In places like the Russia of 1917, with starvation and deaths on the front lines of World War I, this sort of call is entirely justified. Perhaps even today in an authoritarian country like Tunisia, a radical left population is justified in kicking out its oppressors, that same government which fires on demonstrators with snipers. Or authorizes the use of lethal force on rock-chucking children. These are situations I am not intimately familiar with and cannot make an accurate comment, except with the caveat that I am getting second- or third-hand news.

The situation in America, however, I can speak to. And while we're pretty miserable for a "developed" nation, and we do some really miserable things to the rest of the world, things have to be a hell of a lot worse before the left here can even consider insurrection. The American right wants to throw a fuss up around taxes and welfare, gays and Mexicans, so that they can go on protecting privilege and wealth. They are talking about a right-wing populist coup. I don't support coups.

Regardless, this "marine's" tone does more than merely rub me the wrong way. It's downright infuriating. This country was founded on the idea that if government abuses its people, the people have a right to replace that government. This marine's attitude is completely contrary to that. In supporting the text of the Constitution, he violates its spirit, the spirit of this country, the infectious spirit of democracy stemming from the Declaration of Independence. This is the kind of guy who would support a coup to keep alive the perceived authority of a single, corrupted document.

The Right often complains that Marxists, and the Left in general, have no values or morals. But the truth is that the more scientific Left recognizes that the world can only be explained materially, and that material things are subject to the forces of entropy - even the United States Constitution. There seems to be some attempt in the media to connect Jared Loughner's rambling nihilism to Marxism. The argument as it exists right now seems to go "Loughner made some political statements. His perspective and the perspectives of his friends seems to indicate he was a nihilist, meaning his 'belief' is in nothingness. Marxism doesn't acknowledge God as the source of value, and it has a lot to do with politics, therefore Marxism must be nihilism. And Loughner must be a Marxist."

But actually Marxist "beliefs" are a lot more numerous than you might think, and flies in opposition to nihilism, and are in fact more concrete than contemporary mainstream "values." It certainly places a value on thoughtful analysis, rather than the knee-jerk reactions that masquerade in our media as "free speech." It values democracy, meaning thorough participation of ALL members in a given institution, not just incremental elections for figureheads who manage your exploitation. It values radical honesty and openness in human relationships and equality, something that would radically transform the nature of loving relationships - whereas mainstream society seems to cherish these abstract "family values." A far cry from any kind of critical look at human relations, "family values" is actually just code for censoring gay/lesbian/transgender/queer peoples, pretending monogamy is sacred, and making an excuse to psychologically torture people by binding them to the capitalist household.

Change is inevitable; that's common sense. Marxism is one of the only philosophies that actually engages change not just as an armchair observer, but as an active and progressive participant. The people of Tunisia have almost spontaneously realized their own agency. Even if not led by Marxists, they have been empowered through the legacy of common resistance. Our anonymous Marine refuses to recognize that when things change for the worse, the people have an obligation to sweep it away and replace it with new, fresh democracy. Loughner failed to see, or failed to find any teacher who could instruct him, that change does not indicate a lack of universal truth, but a higher, more sophisticated universal truth than he could wrap his mind around. Contemporary American values are hollow, obese with empty rhetoric, sweaty and pained at the strains of putting out global fires.

We need to rediscover democracy. We need to re-engage.

1 comment:

comrade x said...

It may seem we are in agreement with the reactionaries who posted in the comments section of the blog the Marine's article appeared on. In a vague sort of way, yes, we agree that it is an absolute wrong to open fire on your countrymen if they are trying to change an unjust system. The big difference is that me and Dresden believe in social justice and not the latest loopy bullshit about Obama's birth certificate or Muslim takeovers or other crazy shit. We denounce Obama's administration because it IS legitimate in the eyes of the ruling class and a system allowing that very small ruling clique such immense power over the rest of us, who create their wealth, is a goddam outrage.