Saturday, March 12, 2011

What Is To Be Done?

A blogger without a clue

Things are bad, very bad ...

1. Natural disaster in Japan could begin a series of cascading events that includes additional earthquakes on other (potentially more dangerous) faultlines near Japan, failure of Japanese infrastructure (e.g. explosions at nuclear reactors and dramatically diminished electrical supply), and severe damage to the Japanese economy with downstream damage to the already weakened global economy while

2. Gaddafi reasserts control in Libya, Libyans suffer mortal punishment and repression, and anxiety over the global oil supply causes another spike in oil prices delivering another blow to the national economies of oil importers while

3. Billionaire capitalists in the United States finance a reactionary populist attack on government and

4. Republicans in Congress block spending for economic recovery, deconstruct healthcare reform, defund social programs, whittle away at Social Security, investigate Muslim Americans, deny responsibility for climate change while

5. Republican governors Scott Walker and John Kasich win a perhaps temporary but decimating victory over unions in Wisconsin and Ohio, and

6. State legislatures with conservative majorities begin a systematic attack on women's reproductive rights, minority set-asides and Latinos born in the United States and

7. Democratic state legislators in Maryland, politically intimidated by socially conservative, church-going African Americans from Prince Georges County, defeat a bill to legalize same-sex marriage while

8. District of Columbia Mayor Vince Gray, elected as a reformer to a term that began in January, finds himself hobbled by nepotism, cronyism and corruption scandals, severely wounding optimism for a DC city government run by grownups while

9. "No HIV testing" signs pop up on storefront clinics in the District and homeless people burst into tears of gratitude for eye contact and

10. I couldn't sleep last night for thinking about the engorged deer tick I found on my back.

So, assuming other issues not mentioned in the foregoing list, like war and peace and military spending are included and leaving aside the deer tick, what is to be done? I suggest three possibilities: one, throw a massive end of the world party and/or legalize marijuana; two, choose denial, in general, or join the Tea Party and pretend none of this is actually happening; or, three, join a diverse, multi-racial multi-cultural organization in your community and live, work and organize like our lives together depend on doing so. Any preferences?


  1. I vote for options one and three. Plus, this "comfort": that every generation thinks it will be the last, that the End Times always appear imminent and that they never are. We're all just bags of water and meat hurtling through space on a rock, ascribing greater significance to our present moment than it deserves because the alternative of a universe that's too big to really care what happens to us is too hard for us to contemplate.

  2. The last thing you mentioned, of course. They ain't gonna legalize weed, and the TeaOP is a fresh hell.

  3. Apologies for the slow response to you both, but, as always, I'm happy to hear from you guys.

    Abe, it was nice seeing you this past week and I've been thinking alot about both our discussions and your comment. But the simplest statement of my attitude is connected to the report that a recent poll shows American belief in the effectiveness of government is at its lowest level since 1974. That earlier low was recorded at the time of Nixon's resignation following Watergate and other revelations about his morally (and criminally) bankrupt administration. And that low was only a temporary condition.

    But the attitude toward government today is widespread and trending consistently down. This is not an "every generation" effect. This attitude comes at the worst possible time, which I mean to say, is a time when government is the only entity around that can effectively address most of the problems itemized in the post.

    It's also worth noting that it is only over the last 20 years, or so, that large numbers of Americans have come to believe that things will be better in the future for their children than they are now. This is the first time that such a result shows up reliably in polling data and is, in fact, a feeling that shows up strongly among your cohort.

    Climate change, which gets minimal mention on the list here, is too large a problem (by several orders of magnitude) for the private sector to solve; government must be the "solver (to paraphrase a Bushism)," but the difficulties are and will be compounded by pervasive cynicism and relentless right wing attacks on government, itself.

    WHat is most difficult to think through here is the question of how to restore faith in government effectiveness and restore the ability to respond to social problems with New Deal-size initiatives.

    And, to good buddy Ajax, salutations. Let's us plan a major end-of-the-world party, complete with a poetry slam you would likely win, legalize medical marijuana on a city-by-city basis and talk up organizing until we persuade someone younger than us to take it up full-time or better.