In a truly lovely recent interview with singer Nellie McKay on the Jimmy Dore Show, McKay does a great job of telling it “how it is” on the political left in the USA these days. Completely crushed by corporate interests one could say. But is that really true?
This clip is well worth watching over lunch, McKay is adorable but also not shy in expressing her politics which includes disdain for Bernie Sanders who she regards as having corrupted and militaristic foreign policy ideas.
McKay’s modernized cover of “Whoopee we’re all gonna die” is awesome. (Though I would not applaud her performance it’s too sobering for applause but the thing is, she puts a smile on your face. Not many artists writing and singing about the horror and lunacy of war can do that.)
Having thus glowingly approved of McKay, I will take issue with one throw-away comment she made. She let slip to Jimmy “the genuine left has been crushed”. That’s an understandable sentiment… if you mistakenly regard “left” as “US Democratic Party” and “independent mainstream news media” and enlightened educations and enlightened economics. Yes those have all be severely crushed.
But has the “genuine left has been crushed”? It’s not true but I know what she means.
There is zero representation of a genuine “left” in either of the USA Houses for instance, and virtually zero left opinion in mainstream cable news outlets (compared to right wing and centrist conservatism masquerading as “liberal left”). But at the grass roots leftist thinking and activism is rife.
Consider that the only significant right wing protest group in decades has been the Tea Party, and they are a pathetic lot, full of venom and hate and miserly misanthropic policies, which means they are not truly sustaining for a political moment. Compare that to Occupy and Our Revolution and Justice Democrats and the Zeitgeist Movement and dozens of others, seriously more than dozens of other small grass roots leftist movements, and then you will see there is just no comparison: the left is thousands of times more energetic and active than the right.
Older folks don’t “see” this because corporations still control the media and advertising domains, but younger kids who do not watch TV and who get long opinion pieces and lectures on blogs, YouTube and increasingly more on Steemit or DTube and other “free media” can see it. The trouble is where it matters, in legislatures and in academia and news media, the “centrist right” propagandists have won the battles… for now. But theirs is not a sustainable victory.
Once the propaganda fog is cleared people never go back, so it is a one-way ratchet effect when truth is spread and so, over time, perhaps within decades, the tired old conservatism and right wing corporate brand of politics (which includes the current establishment wing of the US Democratic Party and UK Labour Party) will inevitably fade into obscurity. Any half decent sociologist could see this if they correctly interpret the data on social movement activism. The alt-right/Trumpists-extremists get perhaps 100 times more coverage in mainstream media than would objectively be “deserved” by their numbers and the proportion of sentiment that they share with the average citizen. Remarkably even mainstream media polling shows this! So the alt-right resurgence and Trumpism circus phenomenon are short lived flashes of dying embers of capital realism.
A lot of people I am listening to on alt/independent social media are echoing this; there is a rapidly growing realisation that free market capitalism is not inevitable and is not the Fukuyamaesque end-of-history and that there is plenty more life in political economy ideas that have not been tried yet and have not been adequately synergised. e.g., a synergy of working class financial equality pressure has not been adequately united yet with the good aspects of liberalism and environmentalism. And the idea of capitalist realism is becoming to be seen as a fraudulent paranoiac idea, a complete myth. And while “globalization” still reeks of the stench and exploitive-rape mindset of neoliberalism there is no good unification of enlightened political economy with international good will yet either. So in short, a heck of a lot of room exists for evolution and growth and maturation in leftist politics. The fruition of this, I believe, in the very far future, will be a complete abandonment of the notions of political “left vs right”.
The spark of truth emerges not from ideology clashing with ideology but rather with people interacting and discussing ideas and generating true intellectual foment not artificial ideologically lined up barrages. Truth also emerges from sustained action. Debates in echo chambers of the left will not suffice to breath new life into leftist politics.
One reason I always have hope is that a corruption of morality is never sustainable. And that is why although capitalist realism may have once seemed invincible, it need not be held as a drug of nihilism any longer, because it was founded upon immoral principles like supremacy of free market forces and dogma’s about the inevitability of inequality and unemployment.
By the end of the 21’st century I would suspect environmental and social ethics in politics and economics will have completely replaced the artificial notions of political left and political right. We just will not need those categories because the problems humanity and the Earth will face will not be left or right issues they will be humanitarian and universal ethical and moral issues.
The intermediate problem is in educating good people to see this. If the left wing in politics persists in sloppy liberalist thinking, in thinking there are no moral absolutes and everything is culturally relative, then the necessary universal virtues that humanity needs to overcome established political doctrines will not gather enough social impetus until perhaps it is too late and humanity becomes submerged under global poverty due to successive financial and environmental crises.
Note that I am not talking about “the west” imposing It’s judeo-christian spiritual values on society, no no no! The universal ethic and morals I am talking about utterly transcend cultural boundaries, they are found in common in Hindu texts, Buddhist texts, Judeo-Christian-Islamic texts and in secular atheist philosophy too, and even the “new religiosity” of cyber-scientism. Wherever you seek moral and spiritual universals, all these different systems of thought on morality and ethics converge and they converge quite remarkably and consistently almost “mathematically”(?) This is all abundantly clear if you bother to do any deep critical reading in religion and philosophy. (For example, I was reading through the Buddhist Sutta Pitaka and Dammapada the other day and was struck by an amazingly high correlation in general philosophical principles with both Baha’i and Islamic texts, and even high overlap with the more abstract less melodramatic and less “biblical literalist” Christian and Talmudic and Vedic texts.)
It is useless going to the current priesthood authorities to learn of these commonalities, because their vested interest is in forging the greatest possible disparity and division among the world’s religions and secular philosophies. They are the ones who crave to preserve power. The original teachings have no such elements anywhere — just read them — they never advocate investing power and authority in the clergy or priesthood.
All these “systems of thought” can be cynically viewed through the memetic lens of “systems of power and control” and there is much merit to having such a cynical lens (we would not be in good shape without such cynicism) but that is clearly not what the original founding teachings suggest. There is no power and control system in the original texts. That authoritarian power and control appropriation of religion is an externally derived phenomenon similar to how capitalist bankers and financiers have corrupted the otherwise value-neutral monetary system of economics. The money idea, the idea of using a simple cost-free medium of trade and exchange, is not evil. What is evil is what ruthless psychopaths in financial institutions have done with the facility of money. Of course precisely because money has become corrupted it is well worth at least considering alternatives, such as how to develop efficient economies without money. Since money is so easily corrupted, perhaps it just isn’t a good idea any longer, at least not until humanity as a whole matures. (I realise the irony there — a more mature collective human society would then not need money. Once we learn to cope without money, we will never need it back again.)
But back to current politics and chances for an overthrow of the established orders and a de-crushing of “the left”.
Human civilization is too complicated for anyone to have prophetic powers about these things, but I am suggesting a fairly sober and conservative analysis that draws on historical trends and data on social movements. Although Steven Pinker’s politics are embarrassingly naïve, his data collections in “Better Angels of Our Nature” are solidly sourced and in his database you can see the trends I am alluding to. Go read his work. You do not have to buy-in to Pinker’s neo-capitalist politics to appreciate the value in the data he has collected on how human civilization is becoming progressively more peaceful and virtuous.
The thing is “civilizations” do not become more virtuous, people become more virtuous.
So all the data is evidence that people are becoming more peaceful and spiritually mindful. It is a positive type of invisible force, a psychological force of good will and joy born from the fruits of cooperation and compassion. People are naturally drawn towards such good peaceful ideas because they are safe they invite playfulness, they always come with the promise of greater joy an happiness. These positive social forces exists in our times alongside a parallel destructive set of forces that seek to maintain the current socio-economic order of powerful wealthy and disenfranchised poor. The former positive forces are profoundly non-darwinian because they spread through recognition of interest in helping “the other” whereas the prevailing negative forces that are in decline and causing their own self-destruction in ironically, an accelerating darwinist fashion, are ruthlessly darwinian. The non-darwinian positive social forces are destined to win I think, no matter what the present conditions, because they do not plant the seeds of their own destruction, they use positive feedback loops not negative feedbacks.
Remember you likely do not believe this hopeful positive aspect exists because you are watching too much right wing corporate media. Get out into the world talk to your neighbours, and you will see Pinker’s data is actually quite conservative. (If you live in one of those luxury “gated communities” then I suggest you will probably not find good thinking within you network of closest neighbours, you will probably just find a lot of fear and militarism and hatred and disgust for the plight of the poor, not sympathy you need to go outside a bit further!) People might be very angry and frustrated with modern capitalism but beyond their anger is a wellspring of human spiritual resource that can be harnessed for peace and true prosperity for all.