Saturday, May 28, 2011

Discovery: It's Actually Kind of Hard to Prevent What's Already Taken Place

One of the more intriguing conceits of the Modern Progressive Movement ("We're Not Libertarians, So Stop Saying That!") is the consistency of effort aimed at preventing what has already occurred, whether it be economic catastrophe, global warming, cuts in Medicare and Medicaid or reductions in Social Security benefits, Imperial wars of aggression, the End of Civil Liberties -- or what have you.

After a while, it begins to feel like Modern Progressives are always fighting losing battles.

It's not just losing battles, though. It's more insidious than that. It's perfectly reactionary because it lets the Barbarians (as it were) set the agenda for everything. The Modern Progressive merely responds, and the response is almost always the same: preserve and/or extend the status quo.

Which is not...actually... "progressive". But that's another issue.

I was looking at some of the pictures of the tumult in Europe, particularly the police action against protestors in Barcelona. Of course, it reminded me of the Old Days when Americans used to do things like this, actually take risks -- physical risks at that -- to Make a Point about this or that issue of importance to the People.

They'd get their heads knocked in, they'd be gassed and bludgeoned and they'd be dragged off to "detention" for greater or shorter lengths of time while the Authorities "struggled" to restore or maintain "order." It was the way things were done. Not necessarily routinely -- because most sane people don't like to confront a more powerful Authority if they can avoid it -- but it happened often enough and was bothersome enough to The Powers That Be to make the point of popular displeasure with actions of the High and the Mighty.

These protests have been going on in Europe for a good long time now; they actually pre-date the Arab Spring, and I think they were in truth the direct inspiration for the protests in North Africa that brought down the corrupt regimes of Tunisia and Egypt. (No, it really wasn't because of WikiLeaks' Leaks. Really. It wasn't.) The Spanish protests have taken a leaf from the Egyptian ones -- ah, synergy! -- in that the protestors have been camping out in the squares of the major cities to make their presence known and their voices heard above the clattering din of their rulers who are scrambling to comply with the dictates of the various Euro-banksters who have determined that the living standards of your average European sod is way too high and must be reduced sharply in order to ensure the comfort and convenience (and continued financial lubrication) of the regimes and their sponsors.

So. The August Authorities assert themselves against the People, and we have scenes like the one above. Or this one:

But as I say, we used to have protests like this in this country fairly often but we don't have this sort of thing -- much -- any more.

It is said that Americans pretty much stopped protesting in this manner (except for the Anarchists and their Black Bloc associates, of course -- the Black Bloc being widely understood to be provocateurs) when it was realized that the High and the Mighty here pay no attention to tumult among the rabble, and besides -- even worse -- the media won't cover it.

I mean, after all, the whole point of having a Protest is to get on the TeeVee. Ask Medea Benjamin (who I happen to have enormous admiration for, so don't take this as a slam. She will put herself at risk to make whatever point she feels is necessary. And she'll often enough get on the TeeVee when she does it. Yay, Medea!)

It's not that no one in the United States will do these sorts of things. It's more a question of who does it, when, what they are protesting, and to what object. Americans can sometimes be persuaded to participate in very polite weekend protests, for example, that are arranged primarily for their convenience. Yet strangely, protest by convenience isn't very effective.

Of course earlier this year, enduring protests erupted in Wisconsin over the Governor's plan to take away collective bargaining rights from public employees and to restrict the ability of their unions to collect dues and function.

This was actually one of the most inspiring protest movements we've seen in this country in a generation, and it led to more and more protests around the Midwest and eventually all around the country. Solidarity!

And then it petered out. The energy behind it hasn't been entirely extinguished, but the message has been thoroughly muddled as the protests led to a) political reaction, ie: the recall elections in Wisconsin which may or may not be successful, but whether they are or not won't be known until later this summer; b) court action, ie: delay in implementation of some aspects of the Governor's plan until the courts have resolved the issue (with the prediction that the state supreme court will carry out the orders of its billionaire sponsors... sigh).

In other words, most of what the Governor of Wisconsin set out to do has been accomplished in spite of the protests, just as most of what the Governors set out to do in other states that have experienced these kinds of protests has been accomplished. The protests have been effective in raising awareness and consciousness among those who have been paying attention, but they have not been successful in preventing the actions that are being protested.

It's kind of hard to prevent what's already taken place, eh?

And in essence, that's how the Barbarians (as it were) consistently get their way. How they are able to make consistent progress on their plots and plans while "progressives" stand still or beat a retreat.

This has been the constant... error... of "progressive" action. It is not -- for the most part -- action at all. It is reaction to the outrages of Our Rulers. This dates back at least to the advent of the Bushevik Regime, when tens of thousands of protestors gathered in Washington to protest his inauguration (ignored by the media of course), when in fact the deed was already a done deal. The protest needed to occur previously, and it needed to put forward Something Better.

What happened instead was that those who were convinced that Bush Rule was the shiznits were assembling, often armed, all over the country, and they were DEMANDING their way or the highway. It was either Bush on the Throne or Teh Revolution. And by golly, they got their way.

"Progressives" retreated to the metaphorical shadows where they have been ever since, trying mightily from the shadows to revive something -- through the political process and the courts -- that really doesn't function anymore.

We have been witness to, and in some cases unwitting participants in, the extinguishing of the American Experiment in Constitutional Self-Government.

For all intents and purposes, the Republic is... over.

There is a piquant irony in that Obama has tried rather strenuously to restore the Constitutional Authority of the Congress (and to restrict some of the overreach of the activist courts), and it's not worked out well. The function of the Congress was so corrupted prior to Obama's advent on the Throne that his efforts to restore it to a more traditional -- and Constitutional -- role have led to some truly appalling results (which I won't get into here) that have had the effect of further alienating the People from their Government, especially the Congress and the Courts.

In other words, Representative Government no longer works.

It's a bad joke.

Under the circumstances, the People have the Power to essentially dismiss the Government and come up with something different (which may or may not require active Revolution). But the American People aren't doing that. Instead, they are largely passive, much as the Roman public was as the Republic was extinguished in all but name and the preservation of institutional formalities for centuries after the establishment of the Imperium.

So if we're actually going to make progress under these circumstances, we have to come to grips with the way things really are, and what is really necessary to change things for the Better.

Starting with, oh I don't know, demanding better.

Why not?

The status quo isn't good enough.


  1. Morning's MinionMay 29, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Ché, fantastic post. Like you, I remain stymied at the inertia and lack of motivation in this country. Helen and I drove to DC in March for the anniversary of the outbreak of the war. In 2003, before a single bomb fell, I marched with a million people. This March there were a few thousand. How does that work? Now that there are nearly a million dead it doesn't matter or count any more?

    It --demanding better-- matters more with every passing day. Spain should inspire us. Those of us who are still among the living need to get out in force, exert double-tap and use a Twinkie, but stop being zombies.

    From Zombieland:
    Columbus: "Oh, America. I wish I could tell you that this was still America, but I've come to realize that you can't have a country without people. And there are no people here. No, my friends. This is now the United States of Zombieland."
    I would add, democracy is a participatory activity. Thanks for an inspiring post, Ché. I always admire your work. --MM

  2. Thanks, MM.

    What I see going on in Europe -- now especially in Spain -- has been roiling the continent for the better part of a year. These people are not stopping and they are not quieting down -- and they are not intimidated by the polizei. (Mossos in Catalonia.) They are not only demanding to be heard -- which, in theory, their parliamentary representatives are supposed to do -- they are insisting that their demands be met. And they will not go quietly when so ordered by Authority.

    They are the ones I believe, truly, inspired the uprisings in North Africa which have spread throughout the Arab world. These protests -- demanding better -- are all of a piece. There is no sign of their let-up any time soon.

    The situation here is very different. First of all, our government is not responsive -- to us -- at all. Not through elections and not through mass protests. Nothing has moved them to listen to us on the important matters for close to a generation. Millions can take to the streets -- as we did -- to protest the looming invasion of Iraq, and it makes absolutely no difference at all to those who rule us, regardless of party.

    It made a slight difference in Britain and other countries where the government agreed to go along with the invasion -- in that the electeds at least had to acknowledge that a "substantial portion of the public" was not on board with the invasion.

    But the invasion and brutal occupation went forward just the same. And peoples (here and abroad, and especially in Iraq) quickly realized that their interests were part of the equation.

    So the question arises, "What do you do?" When the usual processes of politics and elections and protests and what have you don't work, what do you do? Those who rule us insist that the answer is that you acquiesce. Yield. Obey. That's what most people quite naturally do when confronted with an implacable superior power.

    Our rulers have long counted on our reversion to our natural state of passivity and ineffectual argument. So far, it's worked for them pretty darned well.

    But the signs in Europe and the Arab world are pointing in a very different direction. The peoples there are no longer willing to be passive. They know what is wrong and why -- and who is responsible -- and they demand better than their unresponsive governments are willing or able to provide.

    So, we're witnessing revolutionary struggle abroad -- though it is only recognized as such by convenience.

    It has already inspired sparks of fervor in this country, and it will continue to do so intermittently. In order for these sparks to blossom, though, we have to see real success on the ground, whether in Ireland or Greece or Spain or North Africa or the Persian Gulf or wherever. That hasn't quite happened yet. But the People are not giving up. And that, all by itself, is an inspiration.

    Best to you and Helen. Keep at it. Don't give up. Demand Better!