The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

Why So Much Politics Lately?

| 39 Comments

In my post on “political correctness” someone said, in effect, “Well, that was interesting, now get back to work.” I know that some writers would be annoyed by that, however well-intentioned. I know that some would be flattered. I had both reactions. But, in fact, it is, quite simply, a reasonable point and one worth addressing. After all, what I am, first, last, and always, is a writer, a story-teller; I am not a politician. Although we all, from time to time, may be called upon to take a stand on some social issue lest we prove ourselves morally bankrupt, politics is a calling, like the priesthood, or teaching, or writing–and it’s one I don’t have. So why don’t I shut up about politics and get back to work?

Last night Jen and I attended a speech by David North on the fifteen year anniversary of the World Socialist Web Site. It was deeply engaging, and triggered some thinking.

As a materialist, I have held all along that being determines consciousness. This is not a mere abstraction, rather, it helps explain a great deal in contemporary ideology. For example, those involved in identity politics are, or at least speak for, a highly privileged section of the upper middle class who care exactly nothing for the conditions of the impoverished millions, but want to see their own position elevated to that of those with even more privilege. Obama appeals to these same sections, who give him support (albeit sometimes critical support) to carry out measures of repression, including assassination, that would have created a huge outcry had Bush attempted them. And so on.

But this law–being determines consciousness–applies to me as well. Very much it applies to me. I am not immune to the social forces around me. Quite the contrary. In my testimonial to the World Socialist Web Site I said the following: “No matter how much one tells stories of magical beasts or impossible worlds, in the end, it is always the world of here and now one is writing about. The better one understands that world, the more powerful the stories will be.” I truly believe this. I more than believe it, I feel it. And so, when events in the world leave me confused and disoriented, it becomes more difficult for me to tell a story about an ex-assassin on the run and his flying lizard familiar. That is a plain, unvarnished fact, and I must ask you to accept it.

But look at what has been happening in the world. An American president has, with the agreement and cooperation of the media–even the supposedly liberal sections of the media–all but thrown out the Bill of Rights. Habeas corpus is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. The New York Times justifies depriving human beings–even American citizens–of life without so much as a nod at due process. Look up the Articles of Impeachment drawn up against Richard Nixon after Watergate, and compare them to the crimes that Obama has admitted to. We live in strange and difficult times, my friends. In my own field–in the science fiction community–there was the (to me) tremendously disorienting Scott Card affair (if I sounded sure of myself in the discussions of that matter, please believe I was not–I was struggling to find my way).

I attempt in my work to depict people as they are, in at least some, if not all, of the complexities of human and social relations; to understand how the society we live in is reflected in the individual choices we make. While I try very, very hard to keep direct politics out of my work (I figure my readers hate being preached to as much as I do), my world-view is central to it, and I make no apologies for that.

However, the process is dialectical. It isn’t as simple as, “Okay, now I’m going to understand things. Good. That’s done. Now I can tell a story.” It doesn’t work that way for me (nor, in my opinion, for anyone). It is much more complex: the work on the story feeds questions and answers into my attempts to understand the world I live in, and my understanding of that world feeds questions and answers into the story. This blog is one of the tools I use to work through my understanding of the complex and contradictory events in life; which then permits me to enter, fully engaged, into telling the story.

In brief, I have been writing more on political and social issues, because political and social issues are becoming more difficult, complex, and explosive. Because I live in the real world where those things affect my ideas and understanding. Because working through that understanding is a necessary part of my story telling.

I hope that clarifies matters, Chuck. Now I’m going to get back to work on Hawk.

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

39 Comments

  1. Remember that bit in Star Wars Episode 3 when the Emperor took certain powers into his own person because the Republic was unable to effectively deal with the problems facing the body politic?

    Yes you do. Even if you don’t want to admit it.

    Remember reading in your history book how Caesar killed the Republic because the Senate was unable to effectively deal with certain problems facing the body politic? You may not actually remember this, as a great many people slept right through history class (and most history classes present the creation of a Great Man as a good thing).

    We’re living in those times.

    It’s not Obama’s fault, nor Bush’s fault. Not really. I’m not even going to blame the Republican party for this- though I do think this problem would be a lot easier to solve if they actually understood it as a problem.

    The problem is that we have an incredibly dysfunctional legislature. Our voting system needs to be tossed out and replaced with one that creates new incentives for legislators. We could even keep the same players in office- we just need to change the game around them.

    This change would quite literally be a revolution, though I do hope it could be achieved through peaceful means. The alternative will be an eventual dictatorship.

  2. I’ve never understood why art should be seen as separate from politics. Art is an act that engages with the public, with the polis. The artist’s understanding of what life is or should be like, of what constitutes justice, is essentially and unavoidably political.

  3. skzb

    Jonas: Hear, hear!

  4. You know, that could have been, like, two more pages of Hawk.

  5. Jonas, I would go further: All art is political. When artists say their work isn’t political, they may be telling what they believe, but so long as stories have implications, art is political.

    “Political writing” has a bad name for the same reason any genre has: most of it is produced by people who love it uncritically, so they don’t question their assumptions.

  6. “The artist’s understanding of what life is or should be like, of what constitutes justice, is essentially and unavoidably political.”

    If that’s true, then shouldn’t we try to get rid of art which tells the wrong messages?

    Why should the government allow art that has implicit or covert anti-government messages? They would not let people stockpile guns intending to overthrow the government with violence. Why let them try to overthrow it with art?

    We should blacklist artists whose politics differ from ours. Their art is political, and opposes us. Shouldn’t we stop them if we can?

    If all art is political, then all art is subject to political considerations. There can be no good art done by bad people. Art done by our enemies is trash, almost by definition. Destroy it before it leads people astray.

    This leads me to think that probably not all art is political.

    What if politicians try to make art be political? Say an artist presents a special understanding of what life is like, or what it should be like. And politicians then say “See, support us against our opponents and we will make your life be like that!”

    Meanwhile the artist goes on to present a new understanding of what life could be, and the politicians then say “See! Support us against our opponents and we will make your life be like that too!”

    I guess that isn’t just art. There are people who try to make us believe that marxism is about governments that claim to be communist, or that democracy is about the USA and its allies.

  7. skzb

    Actually, Will, I think it’s more like those horrid political folk songs. We let the bad song-writing slide because it’s political, and let the weak politics slide because it’s a song.

  8. “If that’s true, then shouldn’t we try to get rid of art which tells the wrong messages?”

    Not if we believe in plurality and dialogue. Not if we recognize that within each and every (philosophical, political, anything) movement, there is a wide variety of opinion.

    More than enough artists *have* been killed or imprisoned for their work. Oppressive regimes often feel extremely threatened by the expression of dissent or free thought – and art often is one form of just that. But you do have to be rather on the oppressive side of things to think that disagreement *must* result in an attempt to destroy one’s opponent. I’m not a Catholic by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t mean I want to destroy the works of G.K. Chesterton, though they are politically and philosophically quite different from mine. In fact I rather admire Chesterton, as I admire many others with whose opinions I disagree. But to deny the role of Chesterton’s beliefs in his art is to deny much of what makes it glorious (even when it’s gloriously wrong).

    “There can be no good art done by bad people.”

    Why? Not only are you confusing the personal with the political (I can politically disagree with nice people, and agree with total bastards), you are also suggesting that its political content is the *only* aspect by which art should be judged.

  9. Kevin: That was not nearly as amusing as you may have thought.

    Jonas: You’re very smart. I admire your wordfulness.

  10. “Jonas, I would go further: All art is political. When artists say their work isn’t political, they may be telling what they believe, but so long as stories have implications, art is political.”

    I agree! That doesn’t mean all art is directly *about* politics or only to be considered on that level, but art can’t escape its relationship with the world. Nothing is without context.

    Tolkien actually made some good points about this. He despised allegory, but he thought stories had applicability. Being political doesn’t mean thinly-disguised political satire, it just means talking about the world and what it means to live in it.

  11. Steve

    It does seem to me that your writing is nourished by your passionate commitment to real change in the real world; I wouldn’t want it any other way…

  12. One minor quibble, while I agree that works of art should not be propaganda unless offered as such, propaganda fiction can be good art – it is just rarer. Some of the great Mexican cartoonist were marvelous artists and marvelous propagadists.

    Also, I rather enjoy Mr. Block, the old IWW cartoon, though a lot if it may be the period feel. Decide for yourself.

    Wikipedia description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Block

    Sample Gallery: http://www.iww.org/graphics/cartoons/mrblock/

  13. skzb

    Gar: You’re right, of course. I made an invalid leap from, “I need to stay away from propagandizing,” to, “everyone should stay away from propagandizing.” As you say, there are those who can make it work.

  14. In my high school English class, my teacher explained that the word essay comes from the French “essayer,” which means “to attempt,” and that our essays should be our attempts at understanding the subject of the essay. With novels, at least the way you write them Steve, the subject is the world, but the attempt to understand is no less integral to your writing process.

    I think I need to reverse my writing processes. I write my fiction like a paper and my papers like fiction. Or maybe I should just write everything as an attempt to understand. Yeah, actually, I’m going to go with that.

  15. >As you say, there are those who can make it work.

    An understandable leap though, which is why I called my point a quibble. Those who attempt it are much more common than those who make it work. I write political non-fiction (including some pamphlets that are straight out advocacy) often and fiction occasionally, but I would NEVER try to write propaganda fiction The combination of skill and talent that requires is much rarer than either talent alone. Diego Rivera and the great Mexican muralists represent a much rarer breed than, say, the Impressionists.

  16. If people are involved in something then you have politics. Art is innate to human beings. I really don’t see how you could separate them if you wanted to. Some people may try to, but I suspect even the ones who feel they succeeded are mostly managing to hide the connection from others, and possibly themselves.

    How would you separate them? From mobsters to politicians (the distance is debatable) you have people consciously or unconsciously imitating movies, books, and plays about their profession. Both sides influence the other.

    I am currently reading Theodore Rex, and it is discussing government overreach, corporate overreach, class battles, masses of people blindly following various political machines, nascent American Imperialism, and the balance of civil and private power. Sound familiar? My understanding of battles fought a hundred years ago will surely affect my opinion of battles today, and while Edmund Morris is a historian; he is also a writer and therefore an artist.

    As further support for Stephen’s position I would like to site C.S. Lewis. In The Abolition of Man Lewis argues against changes in the English curriculum because the stories read in youth and the virtues shown directly affect the adult.

    As far as getting rid of art? Good luck, you go find an illiterate kid who hates books and has never set foot in a museum, and he will still be able to explain the symbolism in his music. He will not realize he is discussing his favorite poet, but there it is.

  17. There is a difference between a work being informed by politics, or even a novel or play of ideas (like Bernard Shaw or Lorraine Hansberry) and actual propaganda – like say the San Francisco Mime company. And while any approach can produce either good or bad art, it is much tougher to produce true propaganda that is also fiction that is not bad art. Not impossible. There have been great artists who managed it. But much tougher than producing non-fiction propaganda or producing good fiction that is not also propaganda. For that very reason, I have great admiration for those artists who manage it. They have pulled off a truly difficult feat. H.G. Wells was (IMO) a marvelous Science Fantasy writer. But “Men Like Gods” which I think invented the scientific (as opposed to magical) alternate world was god-awful because it was intended to be socialist propaganda (anti-Marxist socialist propaganda). That H.G. Wells could not pull it off gives an indication of how tough a challenge writing good fiction that is also propaganda really is. (Though to be fair, some people consider “Men Like Gods” an artistic success. I am not one of them.

    “Huxley’s Brave New World” was intended as a satire of “Men Like Gods” . It is a much better books, and IMO NOT propaganda. The difference between propaganda and heavily political IMO is that propaganda is trying to sell you something. (I find “selling” a more useful metaphor than “preaching”. It feels emotionally closer to what is usually wrong with propaganda fiction.)

  18. “If that’s true, then shouldn’t we try to get rid of art which tells the wrong messages?”

    ‘Not if we believe in plurality and dialogue. Not if we recognize that within each and every (philosophical, political, anything) movement, there is a wide variety of opinion.’

    Thank you. That makes sense. I was reminded of a recent argument about a writer named Orson Scott Card. Card has published a collection of essays that mostly follow the Republican party line. Some of them seemed homophobic to various liberals. And so when Card got a gig working on comic books for DC, there was a movement to boycott DC because they hired Card. To teach DC that they must not hire homophobic artists.

    Steven Brust argued that this was wrong. McCarthy got anti-communists to blacklist leftists, and it was wrong when he did it. So it’s wrong for the good guys to do it too.

    But the people who wanted to do it, broke down what they wanted to do in detail and argued that each piece of it was OK and within their rights. I never saw the distinction between what they had the right to do, versus the blacklisting which Steven thought was wrong. Unless it was something subtle about intentions.

    I note that groups which are in the minority tend to argue in favor of plurality and dialogue, and then when they actually get some control they tend to crack down on alternatives. So for example the Koran was written back to front, the last chapters are the ones that were presented the earliest. The later ones are full of conciliation and diplomacy and getting along with people of other beliefs. The earlier ones have a lot about killing infidels because by that time Islam was strong enough to do that.

    If you are part of a movement that will support plurality even after it is strong enough to crush dissent, then more power to you! I hope it turns out that way.

  19. “So why don’t I shut up about politics and get back to work?”

    Or, write a turgid political thriller set in the Teckla Republic! I imagine it being the exact opposite of the Khaavren Romances in all ways.

  20. Another vote for a Teckla Republic thriller!

  21. “But the people who wanted to do it, broke down what they wanted to do in detail and argued that each piece of it was OK and within their rights. I never saw the distinction between what they had the right to do, versus the blacklisting which Steven thought was wrong. Unless it was something subtle about intentions.”

    ~ponders~ On that, I think it is more of “What weapons do you have?”

    Does anyone but me remember the hoopla in the 80’s and 90’s about this or that corporation being Satanic? I remember the entire Proctor & Gamble thing about them being Satanic and “good Christians everywhere” should not buy their products. It was all a hoax, of course, (although I do wonder still about secret altars in corporate boardrooms making blood sacrifices, but I guess they don’t need that….they are making plenty of blood sacrifices of third world children) but at the time, while I thought it was absolutely silly, I always thought it was their right to not buy whatever they pleased for whatever reason they pleased.

    And there was some organization to it. Preachers preached to not support “entities that financially support the enemy”, groups came together and made vows of not buying any Proctor & Gamble products.

    Of course, it all fizzled out. Was Proctor & Gamble hurt by this hoax? In the short run, yes. Now? No. It was a temporary bump in their corporate road.

    Steve sees support of boycotting D.C. as a slippery slope into emulating McCarthyism. I see not supporting people’s right to buy or not buy what they please, whether organized or not, for whatever reason, to be a slippery slope in the OTHER direction. That of demanding that people CANNOT choose where or how they spend their earnings. (We have some of that already.)

    So, this particular situation, which in and of itself really isn’t that big of a deal, is seen by both of us as a possible route to something we find abhorrent, but we are looking in opposite directions.

    Steve doesn’t wish to see McCarthyism-style blacklisting reinstated. I can agree with that. I don’t want to see people socially pressured into buying from companies whose policies or practices they find morally repugnant just to avoid looking like they are supporting a government regime that was morally repugnant.

    And I can hope to be forgiven for not buying Nestle products. They contract to vendors who use or support child slave labor, and I cannot bring myself to financially support that. Once they stop doing that, I will happily buy their products.

    But why should I make OTHER companies, owned by Nestle, suffer? What about Stouffer’s, Libby’s, or Gerber, which have nothing to do with child slave labor?

    My thought is that they are owned by the same major company, and I do not differentiate. If one branch of the company is contracting vendors that use child slavery, then every part is guilty. It’s my money, and I can spend it as I please. Other people of like-mind have the same choice. We can even all get together and declare that we will not spend our money on any Nestle products until the knock off the child slave labor.

    The D.C. Comics issue ties into this. Steve believes that *all* blacklisting is evil, which means I shouldn’t hold D.C. comics accountable for their hiring decisions…I shouldn’t blacklist. By doing so, I am negatively affecting that person’s or persons’ livelihood, and that is wrong. It was evil when McCarthy did it, and it is evil now.

    I am seeing it as, “Well, if all blacklisting is wrong, then my boycott of Nestle is also wrong, because by doing so, and organizing others in my very limited fashion to do so, I am negatively effecting the livelihood of cocoa plantation owners, and processing factory owners, etc. and I simply cannot get on that bandwagon.”

    Nestle is indirectly causing very negative effects on people’s lives. OSC is indirectly causing negative effects in people’s lives. I don’t see why it is okay to boycott one and not the other. ~shrugs~

    This, I believe, would be the consummate “gray area”.

  22. Speaking for myself, boycott looks like it would usually be ineffective when done by private citizens. So for example, the Nestle boycott has been going on since 1977 and what effect has it had? Nestle claims they have fixed the problem and various others disagree. If Nestle would get out of the baby formula business that would settle it — the baby formula business in the third world would be taken over by companies whose names have less brand recognition, and it would not be Nestle doing it, and that would be success.

    It’s hard for large numbers of individuals to coordinate. And yet, if the WalMart president phoned Nestle and said that WalMart would boycott all Nestle products until they did what he wanted them to, chances are his boycott would be successful as fast as they could conform.

    Most of the individuals who join the boycott do it because they believe stories that third parties tell them. It’s a powerful story. Poor third world women don’t know any better than to switch to formula so they can work. They have bad water which kills their babies. They make the formula too weak trying to stretch it. They don’t know any better, it’s Nestle’s fault.

    What if that story was more local? Like if the story said that women on US indian reservations are switching to formula because they don’t know any better. They’re too poor to sterilize the formula and too poor to use it full-strength. Their babies die because they just don’t know any better. So what should be done is they should not be allowed to buy infant formula? No! The infant formula manufacturers should be required to sell formula with the instructions written in their own languages! Put that way, doesn’t it sound like an insulting story?

    What do poor women need? Is it perhaps jobs that let them somehow bring their babies with them and take nursing breaks? A social system that lets them not work or work at home for 6 months or so while they nurse their babies? Better contraception and better abortion facilities so they can do effective family planning? The fundamental problem here is poverty, and we have a story that gets us to boycott Nestle for taking advantage of it? When if it wasn’t Nestle it would be a variety of smaller shadier companies with worse quality control….

    It looks to me like an ineffective approach. I would be more sure it was wrong if I had an effective alternative handy. Organize the poor women into socialist labor unions, and then after the revolution….

    You start a boycott and millions of Americans participate. Nothing happens. Somebody important at WalMart or Fox News or Time Warner threatens Nestle with their own boycott — they don’t even have to announce it publicly — and Nestle pays close attention. It’s a mug’s game. They can hurt you a lot more than you can hurt them. But on the other hand, if you decide that boycott/blacklist is immoral, they will do it anyway. So not doing it yourself doesn’t solve much. If you can find something that gets a better result for less effort, you should do that instead. I’m not in general sure what would be better, just that this does not do much good.

    Here is a lesser argument: Boycotts work best against your friends. The more a company depends on sales to people like you, the more vulnerable they are to your boycott. If you boycott your friends because they aren’t good *enough*, and meanwhile the companies that cater to your enemies are doing fine while they do evil, what good is it?

    But no matter how stupid it is, you do have the right to do it. Not like trying to change the government without going through the proper channels, or committing violence. If you do something that causes a big uproar among your friends and allies and it doesn’t bother anybody else, mostly nobody will try to stop you.

  23. “Like if the story said that women on US indian reservations are switching to formula because they don’t know any better. They’re too poor to sterilize the formula and too poor to use it full-strength. Their babies die because they just don’t know any better. ”

    ~sighs~ I understand the point you are trying to make, however:

    1. Most women on the reservations are too poor to buy formula, period.

    2. Our babies are dying because my people have to suffer in often what is worse than 3rd World conditions. I went up to the Northern reservations in fall with loads of blankets and quilts. Mothers were bedding down their children in kitchens on the floor because that was the only room in the house with any kind of heat. A lot of homes had that room heated with wood. You cannot imagine the fire hazard.

    I appreciate that you were attempting to make an analogy which I could emotionally relate to, but I fear that your ignorance in the matter of my people made it fall flat, and perhaps appear insensitive. You get a pass because I do not think that was your intention.

    On whether boycotting does any good whatsoever, of course it doesn’t. When it comes to actual effectiveness, it is right on up there with online petitions. Slim and none. That is not the point at all.

    Remember in another post (I believe on the PC topic) I spoke of socialism having very little in the way of organization, and not much in ways that common people can actually contribute to the cause and DO something about their beliefs? This falls under that heading. What can the common person in this country DO about child slavery? Fly to Switzerland and wave signs outside of Nestle’s headquarters? March in front of the White House? What?

    Not a dang thing, that’s what. But they CAN decide not to spend THEIR money with a company that uses and promotes such practices.

    It isn’t much, but it is better than nothing at all.

  24. “1. Most women on the reservations are too poor to buy formula, period.

    “2. Our babies are dying because my people have to suffer in often what is worse than 3rd World conditions.”

    As it happens, the majority of the third world also suffers in worse than third world conditions. The occasional success stories make it seem not so bad.

    “I appreciate that you were attempting to make an analogy which I could emotionally relate to, but I fear that your ignorance in the matter of my people made it fall flat, and perhaps appear insensitive. You get a pass because I do not think that was your intention.”

    Thank you for your tolerance.

    Consider Laos, one of the places that Nestle is recently documented to abuse. Officially they make over 2700 dollars a year PPP per capita. But 85% of the public does subsistence rice production for a living, how much of that money do they see? Well, officially only a quarter of them are below the official poverty line of a dollar twenty five a day.

    How they got there was as follows: The French helped them keep the chinese army out, and took control. The french didn’t bother to exploit them much, and when the french left they had a long war between monarchists and communists which the communists won as part of our Vietnam war. The new government then kept out foreign investors and ran the economy, and the economy stagnated. The communist government then largely dismantled that system and invited foreign investors in. By one of those funny coincidences there was a regional economic crisis just then and the money immediately lost 90% of its value, but soon things stabilized and the inflation rate dropped to 1% per month. Foreign investors have invested heavily, creating jobs for more than 5% of the work force. Hydroelectric dams let them sell electricity to other countries, electricity that Laotians mostly can’t afford. Laos has mines for gold-silver-copper, and there is a lot of money in mining though not for miners. They have been chopping down forests as fast as they can to sell the wood. And there is a lot of money from tourists who come to see unspoiled nature.

    They pay an average of 18 dollars/year on healthcare but that is averaged over the whole country, including the well-off who have access to healthcare. Maternal mortality rate is estimated at only 0.6%, which is very good considering. 2% of mothers die in childbirth. Only 6% of children die before age 5, and a bit more than 2% die the first year, though in some rural areas that’s as high as 35%. It’s the urban ones that are most in danger of infant formula, though malaria is also important.

    “On whether boycotting does any good whatsoever, of course it doesn’t.”

    Then we agree on that point.

    “That is not the point at all.”

    It may be.

    “Remember in another post (I believe on the PC topic) I spoke of socialism having very little in the way of organization, and not much in ways that common people can actually contribute to the cause and DO something about their beliefs? This falls under that heading. What can the common person in this country DO about child slavery? ….

    “Not a dang thing, that’s what. But they CAN decide not to spend THEIR money with a company that uses and promotes such practices.”

    So, they are powerless and helpless. But they can feel better about themselves by doing something which will not in fact do any good.

    And this is different from upper-middle-class people who try to force each other to use PC language among themselves — how?

    So, you go to the grocery store and you want hot cocoa mix. You don’t buy Nestle, you buy Hershey. Oh wait. There’s a Hershey boycott too. If there is a major corporation that sells cocoa that does not have a boycott, that’s a sign that someone is not paying attention.

    Perhaps you could find fairtrade cocoa? Maybe buy it mailorder. Or don’t use cocoa.

    It’s possible if you don’t waste your time on something that does no good whatsoever, you might find something that could make some sort of difference.

  25. ~smiles~ I live on a homestead, J Thomas, most of my food is home-grown. I DO have cocoa in the cupboard. It is neither Nestle, nor Hershey, but free-trade stuff gotten at the local health-food store. It sits next to the REAL cinnamon (none of that cassia bark crap), and the nutmeg NUTS. Yes, I *am*, indeed, a food snob. LOL Because I grow a lot of my own food, I can use the money I save at the grocery store to buy things at the health-food store.

    “So, they are powerless and helpless. But they can feel better about themselves by doing something which will not in fact do any good.
    And this is different from upper-middle-class people who try to force each other to use PC language among themselves — how?”

    It isn’t different. However, you are assuming that people in the upper middle class are not just as helpless and powerless. You assume that they do not also want a change of system, and do not see any way to positively contribute to such a change.

    *MOST* of the folks who are exceptionally left wing and wish a change of economic systems that *I* know would, indeed, be considered middle-middle class, or upper middle class. They are educated and successful in their fields. And they feel powerless and helpless to direct their efforts towards the change they desire. So yes, they DO do things that, in the overall picture, don’t matter.

    What would you prefer they do? Stand around and wring their hands, caught in hopelessness and depression? Stop caring at all?

    Because those are the other options.

    Humans NEED to feel that they are doing something to further their beliefs, but not everyone has the skills or situational ability to actually MAKE a difference in the big picture.

    If all that research doctor (or engineer, or whomever) has is telling his or her co-workers that they had better be careful of their language, or that he or she makes sure to buy free-trade goods, *I* am not going to take that away. It keeps hope alive.

    Some of us are constrained by our circumstances that all we have is to discuss the topic of our beliefs, and bitch about others who claim to share those beliefs, over the internet. If that is what we have, that is what we have, and in some small way, we still feel that we are *doing* something.

    “From each according to his ability……………..”

    If/when revolutions happens, I am prepared to support it via food (hungry revolutionaries are poor revolutionaries, so they will be needing food), I can train others in weapons and military combat, provide limited medical aid, and a few other skills that can be put to work for the cause.

    What I cannot do, as I do not have the skillset for such, is organize a revolution on the large scale, figure out logistics, educate the masses, etc. Those are jobs for officers, and I fear I am a non-com. It isn’t even a job for ALL officers. That engineer may be able to get that bridge built to move to XYZ territory, but he could also suck at figuring out supply lines.

    Until the people are organized so that those WITH such skills are made available, and movement actually happens, then here I sit, twiddling my thumbs, buying free-trade cocoa, telling people not to use derogatory language around me, and bitching over the internet.

    The other option is to come to the decision that nothing is ever going to change and to stop caring about it at all. Which would you prefer that I do?

  26. Not that anyone cares, but the Koran wasn’t written back to front. It is true that the earlier recitations tend to be towards the end, but the organizing principle for the Uthmanic recension is longest to shortest. So where shortest = early, then early = towards the end.

    But for example Sura 2, generally seen as the first chapter in the Medinan period, was before Muhammad had a real army and definitely when the military outcome was in doubt.

    (This was in one of J Thomas’ comments from a few days ago. Just getting to it now).

  27. “It is true that the earlier recitations tend to be towards the end, but the organizing principle for the Uthmanic recension is longest to shortest. So where shortest = early, then early = towards the end.”

    Thank you. I remembered that the ones preaching peace and reconciliation were toward the end, but forgot why.

  28. http://chronquran.blogspot.com/ is neat. I have not done “the work” to verify that it’s ordering reflects best current understanding.

    It is true that the earlier (chronologically) suras do tend to discuss basic issues of theology and relative social justice, while the later one are concerned more with empire building.

  29. “So, they are powerless and helpless. But they can feel better about themselves by doing something which will not in fact do any good.
    And this is different from upper-middle-class people who try to force each other to use PC language among themselves — how?”

    ‘It isn’t different. However, you are assuming that people in the upper middle class are not just as helpless and powerless. You assume that they do not also want a change of system, and do not see any way to positively contribute to such a change.’

    No, I’m pointing out that various people are castigating those upper middle class people for doing that, and that it is not different.

    ‘*MOST* of the folks who are exceptionally left wing and wish a change of economic systems that *I* know would, indeed, be considered middle-middle class, or upper middle class. They are educated and successful in their fields. And they feel powerless and helpless to direct their efforts towards the change they desire. So yes, they DO do things that, in the overall picture, don’t matter.’

    That fits my experience too. Poorer people tend to be more beaten down, to the point they can’t really imagine changing the system.

    ‘What would you prefer they do? Stand around and wring their hands, caught in hopelessness and depression? Stop caring at all?’

    They should change. Seriously. Here is an image I got from the book _Omnivore’s Dilemma_, a book which I am still processing:

    In a modern chicken coop, many thousands of chickens eat highly processed food from hoppers. Usually the handlers put antibiotics in the food hoping it will prevent epidemics. After 7 weeks the chickens are slaughtered, after they have spent their whole lives in that one big room.

    To advertise the chicken carcasses as “free range organic”, they leave out the antibiotics and hope. They cut down the number of chickens in the one room by as much as 15%. And after week 5 they open a little door that leads to an 8’x8′ grassy area outside. They hope that none of the chickens go out where they might get a disease or something, and usually none do. After week 7 the chickens are slaughtered.

    It was crystal-clear. The working class are like regular chickens, and the middle-middle and upper-middle class are like free range organic chickens.

    Most of us are dependent on the system staying pretty much the way it is, continuing to function. WalMart has 11% of all US retail sales, 11% of Brazil retail sales, 38% of Mexico retail sales. If something happens to WalMart a lot of people will be hurting. We desperately need to have alternatives available before the system fails. If you find a way to make the system fail you will need an alternative already in place.

    We need a way to feed a whole lot of people without going through giant corporations. Failing that, the LDS church orders their members to each store a year’s worth of food for their families. I don’t know how many do, but we need cheap ways to do that. Calories. Almost-adequate protein. Vitamins. Minerals. And trace elements are not just for goats. If you can feed 4 people for a year, you can feed 52 people for 4 weeks.

    We need an utterly decentralized way to make vague plans. If the powers-that-be think there is a revolution going on, they will use their control of the internet to determine the leaders by sheer traffic flow, and they will find those people.

    An Iranian friend told me a story about an Iranian man who won the Olympic wrestling gold medal. He was tremendously popular in Iran. So the Shah had him killed. Anybody who was as popular as the Shah was a political threat, people might band behind him. So anybody who could become a leader must be stopped. Now the US government has far more information about people, and can eliminate far more leaders. If you want to do something they don’t like, you must do it without leaders. Make sure the people they eliminate are not in fact very important to the process.

    Try to look unimportant. You do not have a movement. You are only a lot of people who are looking for alternatives, who have no common ideology and no command structure. You do not need to field an army, which in fact would be worse than useless. So you do not need generals.

    If you can develop a decentralized way to prepare for problems, that works, that will be your government structure after you win. People can argue what kind of government they need, but they’re already using this and it works.

    You can’t see the long-term effects of your actions. With luck, the bad guys can’t see it either so they won’t stop you. If you get hope from doing boycotts that do not in fact make any difference, OK, fine. Don’t let it interfere with the important stuff. But of course, you personally are not boycotting Nestle but only saying you are. You wouldn’t switch back to that consumer junk if they did everything in the third world you think they ought to. You have something better that you will not give up.

  30. ” We desperately need to have alternatives available before the system fails.”

    “We need a way to feed a whole lot of people without going through giant corporations.”

    “We need an utterly decentralized way to make vague plans. ”

    We need to do this; we need to do that. We need to figure all of this out.

    WHO needs to do all of these things? Not even mentioning individual people; how about professions? Do we need sympathetic economists to figure out what to do when the system fails? Are you saying we need plans in place? Who makes the plans? We decided on the plans? Who votes on the plans?

    Sure, if one has a “movement” that is, at its heart, revolutionary, then one needs to remain, for the most part, hidden. The nice, government operative is reading this right now; wave to him! We’re all guilty of treason, because notwithstanding the internet, we have all spent nights gathered with our friends discussing ways to overthrow the government and other powers-that-be. It is a wonderful form of mental masturbation.

    But unless there is ORGANIZATION, there is no “movement”. Without leaders (not saying their needs to be a Grand Poohbah, but there has to be recognized leaders in the plural sense. Someone in charge of this, and if you need to know that, you go to this person…), we all mill around like queenless ants. Doing nothing in particular.

    “They should change.”

    Again, HOW? Point the way, Fearless One! Tell the confused and restless masses what they CAN do. No vagueness allowed; step-by-step instructions are necessary.

    (If you are processing “Omnivore’s Dilemma”, put “Wheat Belly” as next on your list.)

    Here is a little excerpt from Psychology 101 class:

    Negative reinforcement will cause a being to stop an action they are doing, and to not repeat that action, but it will NOT cause a being to learn a new action.

    Positive reinforcement will lead a being to form new habits, once the being is made aware that new actions are possible. It will not, however, stop undesired behavior; it will encourage desired behavior.

    If the being is of sufficient curiosity/energy/etc., providing negative reinforcement to stop a behavior MAY cause the being to seek out different behaviors if the individual is exceptional. However, in most cases, negative reinforcement just causes the being to stop that behavior and not seek out any new behaviors. Apply enough negative reinforcement in enough different areas, and you will reduce the being to apathy…i.e., doing nothing.

    You can use positive reinforcement to encourage known, desired behaviors, *once those behaviors are tried by the being*. You can even encourage curiosity and exploration using positive reinforcement. If the being realizes that most of the time that it tries new things, it gets rewarded, it will develop the habit of trying new things, even if somethings it gets punished. It’s an odds game.

    Now, how does this tie in? By applying negative reinforcement (in this case, negative social pressure) to folks because *you* believe they are wasting energy better spent elsewhere, WITHOUT providing them with an obvious and clear cut alternative, then you are adding to apathy.

    You could say, “Instead of telling people that they are insensitive louts when they use unacceptable identifiers, and they then go on to explain social sensitivity and the latest acceptable identifiers, you could, instead, tell people they are ignorant louts when they complain about money (and their lack thereof), and then go on to explain how, under socialism, their paychecks would be bigger because *they* would be realizing the profit of their labor, rather than the bosses.”

    This gives people a direction to go that implies that they will have the same positive reinforcement as the old direction. This does, of course, depend upon if the person knows anything about socialism and supports it. If they believe themselves to be capitalist, then there is absolutely no reason to get on to them about engaging in an action that provides no use, is there? After all, they might change. 😀

    “You could fight the REAL battles, to change the system, you know” is nothing but empty platitudes that provide the SAME sense of feel-good superiority as the Identifier Police are getting, with the same amount of actual good done. By being vague, you do nothing but add to the general apathy. Telling people they SHOULD be doing stuff other than what they are doing, without providing any clear direction of what they should do INSTEAD.

    And such routes cannot be in the area of “You need to stop telling people you encounter how to speak, and instead give up your worldly possessions and become a Buddhist Monk….or, alternatively, a travelling, socialist activist.”

    Nope, your suggestions have to be on the same level of effort and engagement as their previous actions if you want them to change in a positive way. No upping the ante allowed.

    And yes, LDS members DO keep that year of food stockpiled. I have met several active LDS members, and they all had their year of stockpiled food. Some in more appetizing forms than others.. Most of them just get a year’s worth of MRE’s for each household member.

    Another thing about “working towards change” is the “now and later” stuff. Some people wish to donate their time/money towards things in the here and now, while others are happy working for less concrete goals. Some years ago, a friend attempted to get me involved in a cause for Afghanistan women. I declines, citing that I already volunteered for the local stray animal rescue, and at the battered women’s shelter.

    It was posited that I was a bigoted monster because I didn’t care about the plight of Middle Eastern women. Nope, I care, I am just stretched a bit thin over my causes right now. It was posited that I was wasting my time ministering to women and critters when the REAL cause was the freedom of women everywhere, etc.

    I finally just said, “Listen, I don’t CARE if you think I am wasting my time. I don’t CARE what *anyone* else thinks about my actions, or my lack thereof. These women, right here, with their children, are abused and battered NOW. They need help NOW. They are hurt and crying and scared NOW. Not years from now, not in some country I will never see, but HERE and NOW. So go tell that 4 year old boy with the busted up face that I am wasting my time.”

    That is an extreme example, but it makes the point about how people FEEL. If you don’t wish to create apathy, (which we have plenty of already) avoid negative reinforcement.

  31. skzb

    Caliann: As usual, you have gone right to the heart of the issue:what is to be done? This is a long and difficult discussion, and one I’m not qualified for. That said, in my opinion, what is most important is:
    The building of a revolutionary socialist leadership in the working class.
    The fight to defend basic democratic freedom as part of that.
    The constant striving for a scientific understanding of daily events.

    I am a sympathizer of the Socialist Equality Party because I believe it carries out the traditions of international Trotskyism; that it indicates the way forward. WSWS.org.

    That one is geographically isolated is not, in my opinion, a deal-breaker; not in the days of the internet.

  32. ~smiles~ Steve, there are lots of things I am not qualified for; figuring out how to foment a revolution being near the top of the list. 😀 I’ve checked, and my local University doesn’t offer a SINGLE course in how to organize and foment revolutions, and since I seem to lack the ability to figure it out for myself, I guess my lifelong dream of being Empress of the Free Socialist World will remain unfulfilled. ~sighs~ I guess that is a good thing, though, since I do not have the knowledge and skills to be an effective Empress, either.

    I am familiar with the World Socialist Web Site and the Socialist Equality Party, and follow both. Although the internet relieves isolation, I do not consider it a medium for fomenting revolution. Nor do I see it as much of a medium for involvement. For one, it is monitored by the very powers that a revolution would fight. Nothing like giving your plans *directly* to the enemy and cutting out the middle man altogether.

    Secondly, while I believe that the sharing of ideas and knowledge is exceptionally important, it is NOT a substitution for *action*. But, again, you get into the question: WHAT action?

    Civil disobedience is well and good, but honestly, it is an annoyance. This is shown with the OWS movement…once the Powers That Be *finally* figured out, “If we ignore them, they will go away”, they went away. It took a while, because the first reaction of the PTB was panic, “Squash them! Squash them! Aaaagggghhh!”, but once they got over that and said, “Well, okay, the wittle protesters block off a street, just get some people out there to redirect traffic. Keep doing that. Ignore them and just work around them.” then the “movement” just melted away.

    That is because anything other than destruction and blood can be ignored and worked around. Destruction and blood, however, have to be organized or it becomes just as ineffectual.

    You can see that just by studying the history of our own country. The position of the colonies during the American Revolution was no more noble and just than the position of the South during the Civil War. The colonies didn’t want to help pay the bill for a war that had protected their interests, and didn’t want to be inhibited in expanding westward (Manifest Destiny: Kill ’em all and take their stuff ‘cuz God WANTS us to!). The South didn’t want to pay the bill for an outdated economic system and wished to continue slavery (Motto: Exploit them all and get more stuff!). From my viewpoint, I don’t see how one is necessarily more or less evil than the other.

    But, the American Revolution succeeded because the Americans managed to convince the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch into helping them, and diplomatically showed them where they could benefit by regaining lost territories. In other words, they managed to convince them to do what they wanted to do anyway.

    The Southern Secession did NOT succeed because they were diplomatically weak, they attempted to strong-arm and force help through economic sanctions (which they had over-estimated), and those Powers didn’t *really* have any incentive to get involved anyway.

    The Russian Revolution could NOT have succeeded if it were not for the internal chaos created by WW1, exceptionally weak internal government, and the Armed Forces of that country choosing to abandon that government.

    The German Revolution could NOT have succeeded if it were not for the fact that the German Armed Forces were in chaos, or sometimes in outright revolt.

    The Hungarian Communist Party was able to gain power because it had the ONLY organized fighting force in the country, period.

    The Iranian Revolution succeeded due to a weak, internal government, lack of out-of-country military backing for that government (leading to a weak military), and the elite power basically abandoning it. (Think we can confuse them if we run away some more?)

    There are more. But just from studying history, there are basically two ways to start, and win, a revolution:

    1. Some REALLY hefty military backing from other Powers.

    2. Do it at a time when both the internal government and the military are chaotic and weak.

    I don’t see that happening any time soon. Certainly not in my lifetime unless some SERIOUS changes in the world happen. The major governments are too stable, as are the respective military for each of the countries.

  33. “By applying negative reinforcement (in this case, negative social pressure) to folks because *you* believe they are wasting energy better spent elsewhere, WITHOUT providing them with an obvious and clear cut alternative, then you are adding to apathy.”

    That is important. So, I say that people who try to enforce their particular PC-speak are not helping anything. But if I try to make them stop doing that, it could be said that what I am doing is trying to enforce my own particular PC-speak.

    I say that people who try to organize boycotts when a relatively small minority of consumers are likely ever to agree with their beliefs, are not helping anything. But if I tell people they mustn’t get involved, that they must boycott the boycott, what good is it? And then if you tell me I must not say that…. It’s turtles all the way down.

    Still, I believe I’m right that these random actions will not accomplish anything worth doing. There’s nothing wrong with me expressing that opinion, which as near as I can tell is true. If some people as a result do stop doing these useless actions, I don’t see that any particularly bad result happens. More likely they will ignore me, anyway.

    “Sure, if one has a “movement” that is, at its heart, revolutionary, then one needs to remain, for the most part, hidden. The nice, government operative is reading this right now; wave to him! We’re all guilty of treason, because notwithstanding the internet, we have all spent nights gathered with our friends discussing ways to overthrow the government and other powers-that-be. It is a wonderful form of mental masturbation.”

    It is treasonous to try to overthrow the government by force. However, if you are a relatively small group trying to overthrow the government by force, chances are you will fail. If you somehow succeed, how will you then run the government? 82% of the US population is in cities and suburbs, most of them can’t feed themselves. During and after the revolution you would need to keep the food moving to those cities or we get a humanitarian catastrophe.

    The next obvious choice is to persuade most of the public what changes are needed. Then in theory you don’t need a revolution. The public votes in the good guys, who make the needed changes. But in practice, when a new idea becomes popular, the government will try it out. They will say it is an important and needed idea, and they will implement it without enough funds and in some half-assed way. Then when it does not work they say “Well, it looked like a good idea but it just didn’t work. Time to quit this and try something else. Next!” So that approach also has problems.

    It is not treasonous to do things that make the existing government mostly irrelevant. If you can find a way to do that. You have not overthrown them, they are still there doing whatever they do. They are just irrelevant.

    And if you make other segments of society irrelevant, that are not the government, there’s certainly nothing treasonous about that. There was no treason to replace canals with railroads, etc.

    “But unless there is ORGANIZATION, there is no “movement”. Without leaders (not saying their needs to be a Grand Poohbah, but there has to be recognized leaders in the plural sense. Someone in charge of this, and if you need to know that, you go to this person…), we all mill around like queenless ants. Doing nothing in particular.”

    And yet, if you have leaders, and if the government does decide you are treasonous, those leaders will be neutralized. If you protect the leaders by limiting their communications, then they cannot lead. If they are central to communication they will be found and interrogated. It is a dilemma. So I say, we must do without important leaders.

    It’s OK to have symbolic leaders. People who have written inspiring things, maybe, or gotten media attention, who can be important martyrs when they are suppressed. But you cannot have anyone who is too important to your organization, or your organization will suffer too much damage when you lose them.

    “WHO needs to do all of these things? Not even mentioning individual people; how about professions? Do we need sympathetic economists to figure out what to do when the system fails? Are you saying we need plans in place? Who makes the plans? We decided on the plans? Who votes on the plans?”

    “Sure, if one has a “movement” that is, at its heart, revolutionary, then one needs to remain, for the most part, hidden. The nice, government operative is reading this right now; wave to him!”

    On the one hand, you might want to have an organization to overthrow the government. This looks difficult. You must stay secret, nobody knows many other members, you cannot possibly vote. Hope that the secret high command is good guys, because you won’t find out much about them until after the victory.

    On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with trying to prepare for recovery if there is a system failure. The government ought to be doing this too (and they do in a strictly limited way). You can be completely open and open source. When you get results about methods to create more stable subsystems, you can lobby the government to do its share to build them. And you are doing essential groundwork that a revolution needs, which would be very difficult for a secret group to do.

    You don’t need to run it top-down. That would not even be appropriate.

    ‘They should change.’

    “Again, HOW? Point the way, Fearless One! Tell the confused and restless masses what they CAN do. No vagueness allowed; step-by-step instructions are necessary.”

    It would not be useful for me to create a top-down plan with me at the top, and try to get people to do what I say. Look for a problem that you can actually help with. Do your part with that. If that one seems to be doing pretty well and you see something you can do that needs more effort, work on that too or instead.

    “I finally just said, “Listen, I don’t CARE if you think I am wasting my time. I don’t CARE what *anyone* else thinks about my actions, or my lack thereof. These women, right here, with their children, are abused and battered NOW. They need help NOW. They are hurt and crying and scared NOW. Not years from now, not in some country I will never see, but HERE and NOW. So go tell that 4 year old boy with the busted up face that I am wasting my time.”

    Good for you!

    “That is an extreme example, but it makes the point about how people FEEL.”

    Sure. Like I ran into with scientific research, if other people thought that what you are doing was more important than what they are doing, they would be doing what you are doing instead.

    You have every right to disagree with them about what’s worth doing.

  34. skzb

    Caliann: “Although the internet relieves isolation, I do not consider it a medium for fomenting revolution…For one, it is monitored by the very powers that a revolution would fight.”

    These matters are closely tied together. Let’s see if I can say this clearly. First, the term “fomenting revolution” is iffy. If the Marxist analysis is correct, the revolution will foment itself; the question is, will it succeed or fail? This is determined, above all, by the subjective element–the degree to which there is a conscious leadership prepared. For one thing, that determines what percentage of the armed forces go over to the revolution, which is no small factor!

    But your second point is critical, because what I’m discussing is revolution, whereas by implying the need for secrecy, you appear to be discussing a coup. There is no reason, at this point, in this country to be secretive about revolutionary activity. Our comrades in various other countries, of course, face different conditions requiring different tactics. We have certain basic democratic rights (paid for by the working class with blood) that permit such activity. If (when!) the government attempts to revoke those rights, that itself becomes a significant revolutionary factor. Right now, most people are, at least in appearance, passively accepting the assault on our basic rights. But a) the passivity will not last, and b) that is exactly why it is important to speak–to point out the dangers, and to argue that a revolutionary alternative is both possible and necessary.

    And the internet is an invaluable tool for that. Hell, Caliann, with your ability to do research, if you gave yourself a little training in the methods of Marxism, there would be no reason you could not be writing articles for the World Socialist Web Site. That is doing something. That is preparing the groundwork for building a revolutionary leadership.

    The oppressed in this country fought for, and won, the freedom to speak and organize openly; we should use that freedom. That’s why they fought for it.

  35. Steve, you handsome hunk of authorhood, you; my darling, oh light of my isolated life, I can’t even seem to write a book on a field that I am an *expert* in, and you think I can write moving articles to further Socialism?

    ~smiles~ I fear that, when it comes to writing, I am a reactionary author. I react to a question or need, and write about it. Without that stimulus, nothing happens. 😀

    However, a “What If” conversation that occurred tonight that I think you might have interest in:

    Since conditions are not right for an ACTUAL successful revolution (Huge, outside military contributions, OR a weak/chaotic government coupled with a weak/chaotic military), we war-gamed scenarios where these conditions could arise.

    Natural disaster was at the top of the list, of course. That could provide enough chaos to allow for a revolution to succeed.

    Second was complete and utter economic collapse. Dollar = ZERO kind of collapse. We disregarded that as being to far-fetched within our lifetimes.

    Third was chaotic government, which considering the different factions of the plutocracy going about their in-fighting, IS a possibility.

    (It is a mistake to think that the elite are all in agreement with one another, and that there are not different factions that are at odds with one another. Different corporate industries have different goals, after all. And different lifespans. One of the things that we have noticed is that industries that have a definite obsolescence visible upon the horizon are the ones that put the most money and effort towards deregulation and non-taxation. They want to get their money now while the getting is good, and damn the consequences. On the other hand, corporate industries that do not see obsolescence as a Grim Reaper standing over them tend to be more concerned with social safety nets and maintaining a healthy populous. They can afford to be more forward thinking as they will need that worker and consumer base.)

    Through many iterations of a government paralyzed with differing factions, or shut down completely, we could not escape the fact that such conditions would lead to a military take-over, rather than a revolution. This would be helpful in the short-term, as it would cause one heck of a shake-down among the plutocracy….but it is terrible in the long run as governments do not function well when run as an extension of the military, and once the military HAS power, it is very, VERY reluctant to let go of it.

    I agree that the masses need to be educated, and I attempt to do my part on a case-by-case basis. However, I do believe that other conditions besides mass consciousness need to be met before successful change can happen.

  36. Just, “Second was complete and utter economic collapse. Dollar = ZERO kind of collapse. We disregarded that as being to far-fetched within our lifetimes.” I’m a little astonished at this. I think it a little far-fetched to think it won’t happen within our lifetimes. And I probably don’t have all that much of lifetime to go.

    But the real point is that capitalism produces revolutionary situations. It is rapidly approaching one in Greece, and Spain may not be far behind. Perhaps Syria, maybe even Belgium. To think there is something magical about the US that makes it immune to this is what is really far-fetched, in my opinion.

  37. No, I don’t think there is anything magical about the U.S. I have been following both Greece and Spain, and thinking to myself, “Idiots! Economic collapse is the LAST time anyone wants to institute Austerity policies. Doesn’t ANYONE read history?”

    It is not that we are immune to a solid, economic depression, it is simply that the level of collapse needed to provide the conditions for revolution are so extreme that they are unlikely. This means COMPLETE dollar devaluation, to the point that we are bartering for things. We still have too much industry here, and will continue to have too much industry here, to allow for that level of collapse……yet.

    There are many factors that contribute to such economic collapses: lack of much in the way of unexploited raw materials, complete energy dependence, lack of significant exports, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    I don’t think the U.S. is magical; I simply think that the variables in that equation are different for Greece, Spain, Belgium, Syria, etc., and the U.S. Greece, Spain, and Belgium have many of the same variables in common that may solve to an economic collapse.

    Syria has different variables, but I think a political revolution is more likely than an economic revolution there. (Not that one excludes the other. I simply think that they will keep capitalism and change government systems)

    The current variables for the U.S. do not solve for economic collapse. ~shrugs~ Just how I see it; I do not claim to be a clairvoyant.

  38. “Natural disaster was at the top of the list, of course. That could provide enough chaos to allow for a revolution to succeed.”

    I have trouble seeing that one. You need a natural disaster that leaves your revolutionary group more organized than the government. And you need the public to accept revolutionary rule. In the middle of a natural disaster is not when they want to think about that. If your revolutionary group can provide lots of disaster relief when the government is paralyzed, then you could get significant good will from that. But how are you going to do that?

    “Second was complete and utter economic collapse. Dollar = ZERO kind of collapse. We disregarded that as being to far-fetched within our lifetimes.”

    China could probably do something like that to the USA, if they wanted to. But they don’t want complete chaos, they want a USA that can maintain order and that is too weak to attack them. On the other hand, if things lined up that way…. Remember when the USSR collapsed? MDs were moonlighting as prostitutes because they couldn’t feed themselves on an MD’s salary. Lots of women tried the mail-order bride thing, anything to get out of the country. It won’t be all that many years before China has a big surplus of men looking for wives….

    I still don’t think the Chinese would want all that much chaos in the USA. We produce a lot of food for export that they would like us to keep producing. After a moderate collapse the USA might become an oil-exporting nation, which they would like. If we collapse too far we cannot produce for them. But they would do it if the US government pushed them too far.

    “Third was chaotic government, which considering the different factions of the plutocracy going about their in-fighting, IS a possibility.”

    Yes, particularly when nobody really understands the system or understands what might cause a collapse.

    But which functions of government do you want to control?

    Do you want to create a new legal system and appoint all new judges?

    Do you want to print your own money that people will use instead of dollars?

    Do you want to regulate trade? Regulate the stock market? Suddenly get rid of the corporations, and replace them with…?

    Tear up the titles to land and issue new titles to somebody else?

    Dismiss the military and build a new military that’s loyal to you?

    Build a new election system that lets the people choose better legislators? A new legislative system that is not designed to be dysfunctional?

    A new form of social security that will take care of our many old people without being too much of a burden on the young?

    Some way to regulate farming to produce enough food and good food, and get it distributed to where it’s needed?

    How will we deal with US foreign debts? They tend to be denominated in dollars which makes it easy in a way, but we don’t want a whole lot of creditors mad at us. Or do we?

    What about water rights? Under any reasonable system we would mostly depopulate Los Angeles. It doesn’t make sense for most of those people to be there, sucking water out of several states. But given cheap subsidized water they haven’t been interested in leaving….

    Which of the many problems that government is currently enmeshed in can we depend on to take care of themselves, and which of them need precise solutions quickly?

    It isn’t enough to render the previous government incapable of governing. You have to replace them quickly, with something that the public is predisposed to accept.

    Or maybe there could be a way to do it slower, with something that might not be called a revolution.

  39. CaliannG

    Depending on which microbiologist you talk to, the time period before Armageddon is ten to twenty years; no effective antibiotics=human+animal death on a scale unprecedented since the Great Pestilence.

    It’s just as well you’ve got the goats 🙂

Leave a Reply