Monday, September 27, 2010

Why I want to win, and win the right way.

I got into a tweet fight with @toddeherman about this on Sunday. Todd is a long-time colleague of mine, and he is also currently the director of social media for the Republican National Committee. Though I would like to consider him a friend, obviously that friendship is going to be strained by our fundamentally incompatible political goals, and we're certainly going to get into it from time to time, and Sunday was no exception.

I'm not interested in repeating the thread here, though if I get bored later, I might try to reconstruct it. Basically, what was at issue was my anarchist leanings. Todd expressed skepticism that I could be an anarchist if I backed Obama-care, the welfare state, unions, etc.

What Todd says is true under ordinary circumstances. A "pure" anarchist quivers in rage at any sort of government no matter what it tries to do. However, such anarchists aren't very effective, because they have no place to put a stake in the ground and work for change. They are immediately isolated and neutralized as threats, probably by the criminal justice system, and thus they have no hope of having any impact.

Because I understand this, I have to be more crafty in my approach to anarchism. It comes down to this: I resent terribly being forced to support the system of global capitalism as a matter of personal survival. Just about no matter what I do, I have to participate in the destruction of people, species, ecosystems, and possibly the planet's future ability to sustain any form of significant multicellular life. Sure, it SICKENS me.

But if all I do is run around blowing stuff up like my anarchist ancestors did, what good will it do? I'll end up in jail and/or dead, and the system will go on. I can't fight this system by targeting people with violence and making THEM miserable in revenge. That doesn't get me anywhere. First, I'll alienate the very people I'm trying to help. Second, I'll be neutralized. I guess on that score I'm not a very good anarchist.

Or maybe I'm the best anarchist ever. Because I have no effective choice, I no longer have to feel bad about participating. Maybe I can use the rewards of the capitalist system to work towards its destruction. Maybe I can put my financial resources and creative talents working towards its destruction from the inside. Maybe I can get others to join me.

Look at it this way. America, as it is today, is doomed. More generally, capitalism. More generally, our civilization itself. All are based on endless expansion, endless exploitation, endless violence, and endless environmental destruction. Well, not endless. Eventually you expand to the edges of the earth. Eventually you run out of new resources and people to exploit. Eventually you kill everyone you can get away with killing. Eventually you wreck the planet so much you can no longer survive. Sooner or later, the system WILL collapse. And in that way, I will win.

Unfortunately, if I win that way, I'll be dead and so will everyone else. So will most of the life on the planet, and it will be millions of years, if ever, before the ecosystems recover.

So, what to do? Well, we have to replace our civilization with one NOT based on endless expansion, exploitation, violence, and environmental destruction. Given that few civilizations have ever survived without these principles, I am not realistically expecting to succeed. But it's our only chance, and I get a thrill towards striving towards low-probability high-reward outcomes.

Thus, today I am a progressive. I fight for unions. I fight for the welfare state. I fight for universal single-payer healthcare. Development of sustainable agriculture, cities, and energy. And I'm going to get more and more insistent we implement these things. And if it undermines the "efficiencies" of capitalism, GOOD, because we need to undermine its "efficiencies" before those efficiencies kill all of us.

Tomorrow, I'll take it to the next level and fight for internationalism. It wasn't communism and fascism that killed a billion people in the last two centuries. It was NATIONALISM, and nationalism is a central feature of the mental disease that is Western Civilization. And we must get rid of it. We must learn how to find a way to relate to other people without regard to lines on a map.

I don't know what happens after that. If we are still here, though, I'm sure the path will be obvious. And I hope to see you there to walk down that path with me.

Oh, and I'm not even going to be sneaky about it. I'm going to do this right under your nose. If I do end up dead or in jail, you'll know that it was because someone is lying about what America stands for. Which, sure, most of the "America first" people do anyway, but that's besides the point.

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