Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Pretty Lame"

I just read JoAnn Wypijewski's article in CounterPunch: "Is There a Left Here Left?" (10 December 2007). She raises many questions that I have been thinking about myself, about the state of politics both on the local and national levels. I don't know if many US leftists feel the same need to ask these questions, but I have seen several others, who come from diverse political orientations on the Left, do so, too.

The main problem that unites us is this:
'Why hasn't the Left done better at organizing around these key issues?' The question presupposes there is a coherent force in the country that can be called by that name, "the Left". I don't think there is, in the sense of any potent organized force, let alone mass movement or even mini-movement that is challenging the fundamental terms of the system and is equal to the moment. And this -- the disequilibrium of movement to moment -- I think, is the cause for so much despondency (secret and not-so-secret) among American leftists, who certainly are alive even if some identifiable political and ideological home with a clear project, "The Left", is not.
I don't agree with everything Wypijewski says in her diagnosis (e.g., her estimation of the Latin American situation is more optimistic than mine), but it's the fact that we have the same problem and are asking the same questions that helps me and hopefully will help others who see themselves in the same dead end.

But we are not exactly thinking together, we are only "virtually" thinking together, as Wypijewski says:
A lot of this is not new, obviously, but the disorganization of so much of society feels new (and I'm talking over the past maybe 15 years). Sometimes I think that at a minimum we ought to be encouraging people to join -- anything. The PTA, the Kiwanis Club, the local pathetic chapter of the NAACP, the local tenants group, the freelancers union, the local Democratic club or libertarian club, whatever, just to start remembering how to think together. And even if it prompted people to see what they don't want to be part of, maybe it would encourage them to create something that they do. This sounds pretty lame, I know. But the situation is pretty lame, or so it seems. The whole reason the church has been so effective in politics, I think, is because it's one of the last stands in society where people aren't alienated: they meet every week, share a set of ideas and values, engage in something that is practical and enchanted at the same time. And what does the left have? Virtual communities, virtual organizing, virtual communication. I don't think it's all that helpful. You can get a hundred thousand people to a demo, or to sign a letter or call their Congress people or donate to some candidate or cause (send money for an ad in the NYTimes!), but they're pretty much alone.

So, it seems to me the first step has to involve a reorganization of society, people getting together.
This is the point on which I agree with Wypijewski the most. And I love her for being honest about feeling at a loss for practical solutions to the problem of the absence of a Left discussed in her article: "This sounds pretty lame, I know. But the situation is pretty lame, or so it seems." My sentiments entirely.

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