Why I'm (still) a liberal
In Why I'm not conservative; why I'm not liberal, the perspicacious artman2003 praises my reality-based community writeup, and even contrasts me with Rush Limbaugh. Little old me, on par with a notorious bloviator? Mercy.
Artman2003 criticizes, however, my contention that the "real" reason our leaders went to war in Iraq was for oil. He suggests this is the kind of stupid thing liberals say. As a liberal and Christian I'm opposed to any war, but given the imminent arrival of peak oil, if we are going to have a war over anything, oil seems like a good reason to me.
Perhaps artman2003 means to suggest our leaders had no rational basis whatsoever for the War on Iraq. To me that way lies madness. I have to believe the war was waged for oil or to justify or conceal other nefarious activities. It's simply insane to think that our leaders would torture, kill and destroy for no good reason. On most days I can't make my thoughts go that way. Today, however, I read that Newt Gingrich is talking up "World War III" (as if it were a good thing) and apparently what he means is some sort of Middle East Armageddon against Iran, Syria and maybe North Korea (?). It's hard to believe that this idiot used to be Speaker of the House.
I didn't sit down to write this daylog, however, to argue with artman2003 about Iraq, but rather to say more about what "liberal" means, or used to mean. I come from a long line of clever peasants who manage to rise above the rabble to positions of minor distinction. In Marxist "class" terminology, we are the petit bourgeoisie. What the petit bourgeoisise wants more than anything is to be seen as the same as our "betters" in the upper class. (If not by the upper class itself, then at least by those "beneath" us). In Europe, this class could be counted on to be reactionary in politics. In Germany, they were the kind of people who rallied around Hitler and formed the backbone of the Nazi Party. In the United States, however, we rallied around FDR and the Democrats. In the United States, or at least the Northeastern part which used to dominate the country, our "old money", patrician, WASP establishment is liberal. The Irish-Catholic nouveau riche Kennedy family, for example, which joined this class, is liberal as well. There is a different dynamic in other parts of the country, the South in particular, but I grew up in the Northeast and went to a snobbish private college, and so I naturally aspire to liberalism.
Anyway, all that is pretty much irrelevant today. A classic patrician liberal like Ted Kennedy can't get elected President today, and I would be hard pressed to identify a classic conservative, like Eisenhower, among politicans today. They just don't make 'em like they used to. The younger Bush seems to have partied his way through the Ivy League and then absorbed the Western States approach to life and business, where status doesn't mean shit and failure is just a part of business. You drill a well: sometimes it comes up dry, sometimes it's a gusher. Either way, you dust yourself off, leave a huge mess behind, and go out and drill another one. It's a high risk, high reward economy supported by a great deal of pure malarkey, bullshit and bravado. It's also completely unsustainable in the long term.
As I think artman2003 and I agree, however, neo-conservative "social issues" are also unsustainable. Some day everyone will realize that sexual promiscuity is a "moral" issue, but not homosexuality, and that society needs to promote marriage and family for everyone who is willing, even if they are gay. Eventually pragmatism wins the day in America. This is the sort of thing I meant by calling neo-conservatism "idealism": a dogmatic, rigid, authoritarian idealism. To be sure, the word "idealism" can also apply to utopian yearnings for world peace and universal social justice, but I had in mind a form of self-deception in which the representation of the thing has obscured the thing itself. The Christian term is "idolatry". Lacking a theologically-freighted word for the same thing in politics, I call it idealism.
When Newt talks about "World War III" --and keep in mind he claims to be a historian-- does this make any sense at all to anyone? I mean, no matter how evil you think Iran and North Korea are, they can't be taken seriously as a world domination threat. I guess the objective of this talking point is to try and link the current violence between Israel and Hamas and Hezbollah to the Republican "idea" (idol, if you will) of the "Global War on Terror", and further suggest it is a Good and Just War, like World War II.
If any problems looming on the horizon deserve this historical analogy, it would be peak oil and global warming. Things can't go on like this without a combined global economic and environmental catastrophe, something like the Great Depression. I'd like to believe we could work through these problems, but we seem to be as clueless as we were in the late 1920s. Right as the shit was about to hit the fan, the people of the United States elected Herbert Hoover. Hoover was a good choice in some ways. In terms of character and qualifications, he probably represented the best that corporate America had to offer: a competent engineer, uncorruptible (compared to Harding and his cronies) a skilled manager and someone who could get behind a humanitarian relief effort (Belgium, during World War I) and make it work. Unfortunately, as massive problems loomed, he applied the same old Republican bullshit policies: cut taxes and subsidize corporate America (then: tariffs, today: tax breaks). Which turned out to be exactly the wrong thing to do.
Today we don't face a crisis of overproduction; we seem to have that consumption thing down. We have a long way to go, however, before we have a mature, efficient, sustainable industrial society that can serve as a model for the rest of the globe. I believe that America has everything it needs to win the War on Fossil Fuels. Mostly what we need is skilled, ingenious people, and we have them. All that potential is going to waste, however, as when people were unemployed and impoverished by the Great Depression, but today the underutilization of talent is more subtle.
Engineers are busy filling out forms to implement crazed business models wherein managers delegate management to the workers, and then declare projects completed which haven't even been started. Lawyers have to do stupid shit like fight attempts to teach "intelligent design" in schools. Billions of man-hours are wasted supporting Microsoft's shitty excuse for an operating system. Name your favorite atrocity: we are fat, lazy and stupid, and sometimes it looks like it's going to take something like World War II to get us off our fat asses and get to work.
Is it really going to take an economic crisis on the scale of the Great Depression to make the American people elect some adults who know we have more serious problems to worry about than "gay marriage"? Does South Florida have to disappear under the waves?