Things Are Awfully Not Funny around Here

“You know, Mark,” moaned fellow satirist Kram Ettleord recently, “I just don’t feel funny anymore.”

“How so?” I asked my longtime friend. “There’s tons of stuff to riff on. What about those photos of Bush appearing blotto drunk at the Olympics?”

“Hmph. That’d be like sending up Hitler’s breezy side.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s severe.”

“So are Bush and his murderous cohorts. They savage the world and burn the Constitution, yet what do we get? Sanctimonious editorials about John Edwards’ peccadillo. Please!”

“Well,” I said, playing devil’s advocate, “the media did condemn Larry Craig for his airport restroom follies.”

“Yeah, but most of that outrage missed the boat by focusing on how Craig floats his. Who cares how rocks are gotten off? No, his and ilk’s real transgression is the hypocritical vote-getting anti-gay agenda they cynically press, until, you know, one of them gets caught with his pants down.”

“Ha! At least you can still turn a phrase,” I chuckled.

“Yeah, well, that and signing a loyalty oath’ll get me a cup of swill at a Halliburton-built detention facility. One thing’s for sure: I’ll end up in one sooner rather than later if I write what I’m really thinking.”

“What’s that?”

He furtively scanned the café and then whispered: “I want us to lose. Big-time.”

“Huh?”

“Whatever next all-forsaken place the American imperialist war machine decides to pulverize into a fine radioactive dust — whether Iran or the oil-rich plains of the planet Gruptar — I want the U.S to get its ass kicked.”

I gasped. “You realize what you’re saying, right?”

“That more U.S. soldiers would have to die for that to happen?” he said, sadly. “Yeah, I get it. But their fates, and those of untold others, were sealed by the jingoistic bloodlust of millions of American yahoos who mindlessly exhorted Bushco’s slaughter in Iraq from the trumped-up beginning. Sure, the public’s hinky now but that’s mainly because gas prices rocket ever skyward. No, not until America suffers an undisputed, all-out, thoroughly humiliating military defeat is there a chance its global rampage will finally be abated. ‘Course, there might not be a human left alive after such a confrontation but that’s another matter.”

“Wow, that’s not very funny,” I said.

“Nor are a million dead innocents or the transformation of the cradle of civilization into a toxic waste dump. Or that such madness hardly dents the myopic American collective psyche, the same appalling apathy that now allows Vietnam to be retroactively recast as a righteous cause that should have been doggedly pursued until the freedom-bestowing U.S. military could ultimately produce an honorable victory that, in truth, could only exist in the reptilian brains of Bush and his neocon masters, an Orwellian reworking of history that first gained traction during the 2004 faux presidential campaign and steamrolls today with the glorification of the GOP’s standard-bearing buffoon, John ‘Drop ‘Em If Ya Got ‘Em’ McCain, as some untouchable hero.”

“I get all that. But what about the grieving families of U.S. military dead?”

“I feel bad for them, sure. But,” said Kram as he carefully looked around again, “here’s the bloody bottom line: anyone stupid and savage enough to join the military now to willingly participate in one mammoth war crime deserves everything he gets.”

“Man, I hate to see you like this,” I replied. “Plus, that sort of talk could result in your property being confiscated, as per Bush’s July 17, 2007, executive order, for ‘threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq, or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.’”

“Why do you think I’m wearing this fake beard?”

“I was wondering about that,” I replied. “But isn’t the wig a bit much?”

“All in preparation, my friend.”

“For what?”

“Undercover research on my new book, inspired, interestingly enough, by the aforementioned Craig: As America Goes Down the Toilet, a Between-the-Stalls Peek at Gay-Bashing Fascists Who Do the Same in Same.”

I laughed. “A bit unwieldy, perhaps, but it’s great to see you’ve not left the funny business altogether.”

Kram smiled. “No, I guess not. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to Google the floor plan for the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.”

“Whatever for?”

“That’s where the GOP holds its convention next week. The men’s room there should be a gold mine.”

Mark Drolette writes in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at: mdrolette@comcast.net. Read other articles by Mark, or visit Mark's website.

23 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rev. José M. Tirado said on August 29th, 2008 at 8:16am #

    You know, Mark, I understand yes. But there is a big part of me, like Biden, and so many other USAmericans, that cannot stomach this sentiment: “I feel bad for them, sure. But…”

    There can be no “but”. Some of them are my family and I am not willing to sacrifice them on the altar of my righteous political indignation. I have a different view. Get the miliitary onto your side–and you weaken empire. Say “but…” and you push them into the enemy´s side permanently.

    I saw it in the 60s and 70s. It´ll happen again. This article is one of the first salvos that are being fired but I can see it coming yet again. THAT´s what´s scary. No lessons are being learned. Myfather was in the Navy in WW2. My brother joined the Marines at 17. I have a nephew going to Iraq. I have cousins in the Army who may end up there. I have a close friend who is a Col. in the Army in Afghanistan. I know several people now who have died there and know their mothers.

    I am also aware of the USAmerican empire and it´s terrible effects on democracy at home and the nascent democracies it overthrows abroad. The thing that must change is the circumstanmces that make USAmericans like me–and there are way too many–who feel conflicted when they read such writings while agreeing in part with the basic presumptions. THAT is the lesson we need to learn from “the 60s”. When USAmericans have a real and not a Hobbesian choice about joining the military, and when we can cheer the dismantling of our government´s imperial pursuits and return to a Republic by returning power to the people; when we can push through the man-made barriers that separate us from each other and construct man made bridges to each other made of unions and other collective pursuits, then we won´t have to worry about such “choices.” But until then I´ll have to disagree with the author.

  2. bozhidar balkas said on August 29th, 2008 at 8:39am #

    i’ve been smoking…. see visions. see a nuclear war coming within one or two millennia.
    i see domestic terrorism in all of europe, n. america, parts of s. america, and elsewhere.
    plutos are seizing all econo-military-political power. working class people, if there is any around, with nothing to lose, will try countervailing measures. when? possibly even this century!

  3. Lijandra said on August 29th, 2008 at 12:08pm #

    I agree with the author. I wish that Americans would stop joining the military altogether. Then maybe things would change.

  4. deang said on August 29th, 2008 at 5:57pm #

    I agree with the author, too, and my sentiments are much stronger against both the military and those in it. Until those in the US military start rebelling and sabotaging the organization en masse, like they did in the 60s and 70s, I have little sympathy for them. And I have zero concern for those gleefully slaughtering and torturing. As far as I and much of the world are concerned, the people in the US military who are loving all the slaughter and misery they’re dishing out deserve to suffer.

  5. Brian Koontz said on August 29th, 2008 at 9:22pm #

    America won’t suffer a military defeat, because it will spend it’s last cent on the military. The military will bankrupt America (the taxpayers, not the large corporations), then America’s military will fade, *then* it will either suffer a military defeat or withdraw it’s military from it’s role in global imperialism.

    The biggest victim of the American military is the American taxpayer. The American military may leave Iraq at some point, but it’s hands will never leave the purses and wallets of Americans, until those purses and wallets retain only pocket lint.

  6. Lijandra said on August 29th, 2008 at 11:19pm #

    Brian, well said. I find it amazing how most Americans don’t seem to get it though. They eat up the promises from politicians to be fiscally responsible, but that responsibility only applies to social programs and the like. No cuts for the military-industrial complex ever.

  7. Johnny Ray said on August 30th, 2008 at 4:07am #

    The biggest victim of the US military is not the US taxpayer.

    It’s worse to be a child and have one foot blown off by the US invaders.
    It’s worse to be the mother of a child killed or maimed by the US invaders.
    It’s worse to be on your way to a wedding and the US military kills half your party and maims most of the rest.

    Many people are bigger victims of the US military than the US taxpayer.

  8. Rev. José M. Tirado said on August 30th, 2008 at 4:12am #

    Brian, Deang, and Lijandra,
    I wanted to comment a little more on this topic because I think it an important one. Several small things first, though.

    Personally, Deang, I find judging another´s suffering as deserving quite beyond my limited perspective, “not my pay grade”, so to speak. If you think you can judge, go ahead. I remember being taught that in doing so I set myself up for such severe judgement as I mete out. I think caution and some sensitivity to humans is in order and I´ll explain why below. But not all soldiers “gleefully slaughter and torture.”

    Let me ask you all, do either of you know anyone who has joined the Armed Forces? Have you any experience with poverty and the dearth of remunerative jobs that allow greater social mobility than exists without? Have either of you experienced a lack of hope for your future, where “getting ahead” sounds meaningless and college sounds exotic? Are either of you aware that the ranks of soldiers are frequently drawn from the ranks of un- and underemployed youths facing limiting employment, no chance for a future education and no societal respect—all attenuated by joining the military which grants them each? Do either of you read how the ranks of revolutionaries in United States history have always been filled with great distinction with former soldiers, men (and now women) who understand the ugly realities of empire firsthand and not from behind comfortable desks facing computer screens and enjoying the jejune analyses the putative “Left” in the US has always given as an excuse for complicated and discerning analysis? (Look up Gen. Smedley Butler for just one interesting example). Do either of you engage those for whom the future is bleak and find that three meals a day, regular pay, the ability to travel, many possibilities for advancement, the power of discipline and the allure of “honor” are legitimate draws? Are you aware that many, perhaps most soldiers join to escape the monotony of their lives as capitalist refuse and find self-placement as “cannon fodder” a risky, but nonetheless fair option considering the alternatives?

    Identifying “enemies” is an easy enough task, but if done glibly reflects more juvenile thinking rather than any determination to win. To blame the soldiers is akin to blaming trees for becoming firewood. If we wish to exhaust the fuel of imperial fire, it is best if we eliminate the availability of trees rather than spite the firewood.

    Making friends with the poor and disenfranchised, regularly talking with and, more importantly, listening to those who are not as bright and articulate as you three are might enlighten you to the complex causes and to the conditions that leads people to join the military.

    And yes, there will be some for whom such engagement will come to naught and whose personal values are anathema to your own. So what? Are they now the enemy, or is it the system that has produced them the properly identified enemy? Joining a union, or better yet, forming one in your workplace, going to church and engaging the youth groups there, or participating in civil organizations that work daily with communities different from your own are simple ways to understand those for whom your present disdain sounds painfully ignorant (and classist). We do not win by creating a new class to turn our nose up towards but rather, if history is any guide, we build successful revolutions by creating ever more more solidarity—and what use is solidarity with your own choir?

    During the LA riots, I learned a valuable lesson from a then aged Communist. He pointed to the rows of police and then, commenting on the idiotic (and generally wealthier) kids who egged them on with stones and insults said “They [the police] are not my enemy—they are the functionaries of my enemy”.

    He understood that taking away the most visible resource of empire—its foot soldiers—would immediately weaken the imperial project. Make them your friends, he counseled, and our enemies’ numbers will decrease. However, demonize the very working class people who might stand shoulder to shoulder with you with great enthusiasm if you but dared exit your own hermetic bubbles, and you will increase the ranks of your enemies and further engage your own alienation. But then, that takes time and work—two qualities my brothers and sisters on the “Left” find too onerous to undertake. One of the great lessons of the 60s is precisely this narrow-minded and ultimately self-defeating exclusionism. Narrow your base and you are few in number, expand your base, and you can win.

  9. bozhidar balkas said on August 30th, 2008 at 7:00am #

    jose,
    i do not call you reverend because calling any human such a name is odious to me.
    i’m glad to hear you say that most of US soldiers come from poor america. i thought so but wasn’t sure.
    you speak of the Left in america. it seems to me that about 40% of amers are just left of hitler; 45% even with mussolini, and 5% socialists.
    wld you clarify what in your use the Left means.
    you talk about churches. churhes in my knowledge have throughout ages sided with earls, lords, kings; they are now siding with bush, obama, clinton and are manifestly antiworking class. thank u

  10. Lijandra said on August 30th, 2008 at 10:21am #

    Jose,

    thank you for your comment. I understand and respect your point of view, and agree with it too. I think that a part of the problem in the US is that a lot of youth has no other path, but military. That is extremely sad. I wish there was an option of peace service (or community service) equivalent to military with similar benefits and an option of college education later. I’ve been writing to my congressman and getting my friends to do that. I am not sure what else I personally can do about it.

    I know people that joined the military even recently. I tried very hard to convince them not to. These guys, mind you, had other options. That was a choice. Because they still have illusions that in Iraq they will be defending our country. Because their eyes glitter at the idea of getting to hold some fancy weapon. Because they view it as an adventure.
    I suppose it is a choice that has to be respected. In any day and age there is a need for some military. And these people genuinely wanted to follow this career path.

    I think, however, that the real problem is at the highest levels of the government. That keeps funneling funding for ever new military bases abroad, for upgrades to our nuclear weaponry (ones we have are plenty enough to destroy the Earth many times over), and so on and so on. It is a way to fool American taxpayers telling them that they are in danger and must pay for these costly exotic weapons while forgetting about health care, education, etc., etc. That is how the war profiteers are winning at the cost of everyone else suffering.
    If people ever understood that, and stopped joining the military maybe this would change. That is and idea I was merely trying to convey.

  11. Danny Ray said on August 30th, 2008 at 10:58am #

    Reverend,

    I know where you are coming from on the judgment issue. However, having read this site for a while I can attest that the words “JUDGE NOT LEST YE BE JUDGED,” is lost on those gathered here. This group only has respect for the words of the Lord if they can use them.

    As to the American fighting man and woman coming from the lower economic strata of our society I have to differ. Having seen and trained a many young men and women, I would have to say that that it looks more like fifty / fifty to me.

    Some do join to escape the humdrum life they have at home, many join to better themselves. In addition, many join for the adventure. About fifty per cent are from middle to lower upper class homes. Most of these kids know that military on a resume’ still looks good to the corporate people who still and probably always will run this country. Many do it for the honor of serving their country. Honor is not lost on all in America.

    For all the hatred of this country there never seems a big line to leave. And there always seems to be a long line to enter it. If you ask anyone in the third world where do you want to be, its America. No one in the third world I ever talked to said that he would like to become a peasant farmer in Lower Slobovia. For all the whining about how tough it is here you can still do anything you want if you will just get off your ass and do it.

  12. bozhidar balkas said on August 30th, 2008 at 11:29am #

    danny,
    you say that the “judge not lest you be judged” is lost on us posters to the DV.
    so, you judge. and biblical admonition is alos lost on you.
    how about killiing chidren in palestine, iraq, and afghanistan. is the admonition lost on USA?
    and what judgement!! killing/maiming/burning alive?
    have you danny no shame, no humanity left in you? than k u

  13. Rev. José M. Tirado said on August 30th, 2008 at 2:34pm #

    Hello Danny,
    While righteous indignation and the rallying cries of “Justice” and “Peace” are certainly valuable, we all could use a little less moralizing and judging of others and work to make “swords into ploughshares” At least that´s how I feel.

    But there is more. First of all, I never said that our soldiers came from the poor, I said, ” the ranks of soldiers are frequently drawn from the ranks of un- and underemployed youths”. Not always. And I too am aware that many choose for their resumes, for “glory” and for a number of other reasons. And that´s partly my point.

    We on the Left (as I so identify) need to be more cautious in caricaturing our enemies (and I say this to you Bozhdar). It may make us feel good but it is rarely an adequate substitute for keen observation and analysis. If you are not a USAmerican then I understand your confusion about churches. In the United States it has frequently been said that the only Left left is the religious Left. Think about it. The Catholic Worker movement (founded by Christian-anarchist Dorothy Day) and the Civil Rights movement were radical threats to the status quo and were both led and sustained by clergy persons (we often call them “Rev´s” or “Sisters”, but you don´t have to) and people of faith. All around the US church going folks feed the hungry and provide more money for charitable institutions than do non-churchgoing folk. Not a judgement there, just an observation.

    Perhaps you are not familiar with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, or the Rev. Daniel Berrigan (who was a leader of the anti-war movementduring Vietnam), or the Rev. Jim Rigby (who has been featured in CounterPunch) or Rev. Byron Plumley (who leads war tax resistors in Colorado and who was a dear teacher of mine), or the Rev. Robert Drinan (a Catholic priest who was a Congreeman and bitter anti-war foe). Or maybe you are unaware of the deep personal faith of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta (Catholic) of the United Farm Workers; or Archbishop Romero (cruelly assasinated in El Salvador for speaking truth to power); or to Mohandas Gandhi (a devout Hindu) or Malcolm X (Muslim). All these people were deeply religious.

    Now I understand and respect that this makes many on the Left uncomfortable but the simple fact is that most USAmericans hold deeply religious views and spiritual beliefs and rely upon those to help them in making decisions regarding issues of peace and justice. ANd that the leaders of movements to feed the hungry and assist the illegal immigrants, to give succor to the disenfranchised and marginalized have frequently come from the ranks of religious teachers and figures. That there has been horrible, despicable abuses of trust by religious figures is accepted and understood, as well as condemned. But my whole point is to help us see how black and white rarely encompass the diverse and frequently contradictory impulses that have guided USAmerican life.

    If we wish to enlarge our numbers and “win” (and forgive me if these are errant presumptions) we need to appeal to those who normally we do not speak with. Not necessarily because they are opposed to us, but because they are outside of the normal pattern of social exchange.

    Lijandra we actually agree more than disagree. You say “the real problem is at the highest levels of govt” and I say that the gov´t. is only one part of a larger system. I want that system dismantled. I resent the hijacking of our Republic by warmongering imperialists bent on sustaining corporate profit for a few profiteers and their cronies. But demonizing the average soldier will not work because it then becomes a threat to those who deeply worry about the direction our country has taken while making them feel nervous that you are suggesting their loved ones die. I know the mothers of 2 who have died as soldiers in Iraq, and I knew the sons. This is not funny.

    So your idea is laudable and I too have written many letters to congresspeople suggesting similar programs that could easily be implemented. My favorite is four years of national service (say 2, two-year Peace Corps missions, or one four year enlistment) gets 4 years of free college. Enough to put millions of BA´s after millions of kids names. But to wish the milittary simply disappear, or to think that only a materialistic determinism should sustain our philosophical opposition to war is to “make the perfect the enemy of the good.”

    We do not need more internecine struggles. We need solidarity across class and culture. And when the driving ambition becomes to unite the disparate threads of our people into a more just oriented and peace-loving collective, then we can say we are succeeding. But simplistic thinking and disregarding the ambiguities of USAmerican life is burying our heads in the sand.

  14. Danny Ray said on August 30th, 2008 at 3:47pm #

    Reverend,

    I most respectfully bow before a wise man.

    To Deang,

    No one and I mean No One ever walks into a firefight gleefully; you walk in scared, mad, worried, or just wanting to get it over with, but never, ever gleefully. If you have no concern for your own life you must have some for your comrades and unbelievably almost all have some thought to the lives they may have to take.
    Trust me despite all the propaganda to the contrary no warrior wants to go to war. It’s just the mantle they feel that they have to drape over their shoulders.

    As to why a warrior feels it is his duty to stand in the watchtower, I can’t say and if I knew, an ignorant old hillbilly like me would not have the words to express it.
    I can say that all the warriors I know well see things in black and white, there are no shades of grey. Things are either good or evil and that’s the bottom line.

  15. Rev. José M. Tirado said on August 30th, 2008 at 4:09pm #

    Thank you Danny.
    But I am neither wise nor good. I merely a thoughtful man who watched great opportunities squandered during the 60s and 70s because cultural differences got in the way of class solidarity.

    And as for war and warriors, my father, a decent man of his time (1926-1999) who killed people and helped others kill in the Pacific, did Occupation Duty after the war for 2 years. And not once did he ever say a positive thing about war. Not once did he brag about or celebrate what he did. Not once.

    In fact, he hated war and condemned it regularly, despising the chickenhawks (like Bush, Cheney, et al) who cheered war on and sent others to die for their own financial gain. He opposed Vietnam and swore he´d send me to Canada if my number came up (the war ended 2 years before I´d have been eligible). He didn´t romaticize war and I won´t romanticize soldiers. But each of us has a place and, as Ben Franklin said, we mst all hang together or we shall hang separately.
    In solidarity,
    José

  16. Danny Ray said on August 30th, 2008 at 5:41pm #

    Rev,

    Your dad was right. There is nothing good you can say about war.
    The only thing you can say is sometimes it has to be waged.
    And it is up to each of us to decide if it is just or not.
    I do not condemn those who do not feel it right to shed blood in any cause.
    And those who condemn me for following the drum, well, I wish well, and I am happy they have reached peace with themselves.

  17. bozhidar balkas said on August 31st, 2008 at 5:33am #

    tirado,
    i am confused about churches? let’s see about if i am confused about following documented historical events:
    burning at stake,
    christiains fighting christians (ww1, ww2, balkan wars, franco-prussia war, etcetc)
    which hunting
    judeo-christian alliance for the destruction of palestine
    approbation of wars against afghanistan and iraq by most christians (is it by 98%?)
    churches always siding with the ruling classes
    churches making thousands of ‘promises’ (lies) in order for priests to rule over delusional people.
    obviously, there may be a few antiwar priests in ‘rica. how many?

  18. Rev. José M. Tirado said on August 31st, 2008 at 6:42am #

    Bozhidar,
    “Churches” do not always side with the ruling classes. Take “Liberation Theology” which spread like wildfire across Latin America, asserting the “preferential option of the poor” and challenged the Church establishment.

    Your examples are true–and there are plenty of counter examples. I gave you names to research. There are many, many others unnamed.

    You may choose to think in terms of black and white and certainly that is your prerogative. But to ignore the constant stream of heroes and heroines who have regualrly challenged the status quo of any human institution, whether church or state is to deprive yourself of a greater perspective. Just as there are evil doers there are the good who fight for peace and justice.

    Do yourself a favor. Look up the names I mentioned, visit the Peace churches (Quakers, Mennonites, etc.), study the history of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the American Friends Service Committee, the Catholic Worker and the many Jews and Christians who work daily, against many odds to find peace in Palestine-Israel.

    Cling to your anger and resentment if you like. It serves little good however, if you wish to inspire others to challenge the evils of our time. I cannot say that I have abandoned the visceral anger and indignation of my youth, but I can say that I have made more friends and created a community of like minded individuals whenever I searched for the good in them and inspired them more than when I condemned them and listed my many grievances against the world. My life is too short to sit in my bitterness.

  19. bozhidar balkas said on August 31st, 2008 at 11:52am #

    tirado,
    i love what i say. i’m not a bit angry about what chuches do or say.
    i did not put my thoughts in either-or structure. i said that about 98% 0f christians approbate US/canadian wars. i am aware that some mennonites are against iraq war.
    two of them come to our meetings.
    as to many jews/christians working for peace in palestine, i cld ask what kind of peace in view of the fact that palestine is just about to or will be utterly destroyed.
    they may be working for something but not to my knowledge to first of all to end the occupation.
    and pals are legaly and moraly obligated to resist the occupation with whatever means necessary.
    the peace is no longer available. two state solution is also gone possibly for ever.
    unless you reveal to me that these jews and christians are working for one state solution with the right for outdriven people to return to their homes, please don’t generalize; it won’t work with me.
    please, tirado, talk to me. i know every ruse there is. so describe, describe, then conclude ; don’t first conclude and then describe.
    eg, you say many jews and christians (10, 100, 1,000?) are working for peace, that’s a conclusion ( and i treat a conclusion as a conclusion)
    but you haven’t even alit on descriptive level.
    so. shall we talk or not?

  20. Rev. José M. Tirado said on August 31st, 2008 at 3:17pm #

    Thanks, Bozhidar.
    But no thanks.

  21. Andrew Filis said on September 1st, 2008 at 6:21am #

    Jose (and sympathisers),

    your rhetoric throughout is ‘enlightened’ and it appears to me as a reader who does not know you that you are at pains to be ‘objective’- but you make too many consessions to the system. You refer to a need for ‘solidarity across class and culture’ – how is this possible? What’s the incentive for the class that controls the methods of production/wealth to ever show solidarity with the down and out, if their vested (financial, because clearly, the greater more pressing and postponed interest is in harmonising the disparity between levels of quality of life – yet it’s missed on them as it can only be arrived following a more analytical approach to what constitutes their interest than ‘it’s my money – hands off yous layabouts’) interest is in perpetuating the status quo?

    Your ‘objective’ and ‘enlightened’ approach is anodyne and ineffectual – at best, it encourages gradualist fabian (fundamentally misjudged because they prolong situations rather than seek to reverse) approaches to social injustice, at worst, it lends itself to reactionary petty beourgeois discourse. Oh, it would all sort it self out so long as we are all prepared to understand each other a bit better and so on and so forth. We dodge the issue at stake which is that the reality of social organisation that defines the West is fundamentally flawed for it relies heavily on the sacred cows of economic neo-liberalism, and sells itself on the supposedly advantageous and supposedly morally more legitimate institution of pluralistic democracy. But we constanty dodge, or are constantly distracted from noticing or challenging the root cause which is basically in the most manichean terms I can use (as I don’t find any intellectual comfort in sitting on the fence, forever unconvinced and undecided though patting myself for being ‘objective’) the fundamental flaw of the increasingly globalised system which repeats like a shibboleth the words ‘free market’ ‘economic neoliberalism’ , ‘choice’ and all that wank, when really what it means is ‘liberate them markets for us to descend like vultures and exploit more business opportunities while their is time before this earth finally becomes uninhabitable and unexploitable – that’s to say, the fundamental flaw of Capitalism – there you go I used that naughty word. Approaching your softly-softly appoach may make us more likeable to those around us, and may make the more hawkish amongst us to perhaps not dismiss us outright and to listen to what we have to say, but it does nothing in the long run. And I give you this: you talk about charity and all the good stuff people involved in that industy/sector achieve daily. For one, I wouldn’t underestimate the real difference they make in people’s lives e.g., feeding someone that’s starving, or vaccinating someone against life-threatening yet preventable illness, but the point is that Charity is fundamentally wrong because it somehow, though marginally in the great scheme of things, ameliorates the worst excesses of Capitalism whereas proper Socialism leading to Communism removes the social need for charitable acts and organisations and so on for a society foreever striving to social justice, fairness, war against want, war against underdevelopment, and so on would general no need for Charity. Also, your rhetoric admits some element of mysticism (your clergy after all) and ideology – and that’s precisely what Socialism has beef with – we are equipped with the social scientific tools to understand the world (through Hegel [minus the ideology/mystical aspect of his work] Marx, Engels, Lenin et al) and to understand the causal relationship between Capitalism and social ills that scourge the world – the point is to act, not just sit and philosophise ad infinitem.

    I referred to Charity as an industy which has evolved into a posited sector – apparently, the third sector (first being the private and, second, the public) which, really, is an industry – staffed by hordes of well-meaning individuals ‘with their heart in the right place’ but with obfuscated political awareness such as that demonstrated throughout your posts, Jose. It really is unfortunate to read that your sense of indignation and visceral hatred has been somewhat tempered by the process of growing-up – life, ha? I hope the underlying pessimist/complacent message of what has possibly happened in your case acts only as something that is best resisted.

    Andrew

  22. Rev. José M. Tirado said on September 1st, 2008 at 10:44am #

    I hope it doesn´t Andrew.

    And by the way, I make no claims to enlightend discourse or thought.

    Because I have seen, i n the work I have done over the years, people die. Watched them as they took their last breaths. As you, and I will someday do. And when that happens I would hope that the common bonds of our humanity are seen and acted upon with kindness rather than bitterness or anger. That´s neither “anodyne” nor “softly-softly”. We are humand here all. And the examples I gave, from MLK, Jr. to Gandhi, from Dorothy Day to Malcolm X. were all revolutionary in broader ways than any “Manichean” dialectic can imagine. My choice is to make more friends than enemies and to convert the latter into the former when I can, and respect the deeper humanity of the latter when I can´t.

    And yes, years have passed and I see what a wasted set of exchanges I have viewed in the many “conversations” with “Leftists” I have had. I will brook no man the comfort of saying they have tried harder or worked more for socialism or human solidarity or at least have devoted most of their lives to such than I. But would probably disagree with definitions and means. I have supped with and stood shoulder to shoulder with revolutionaries from Guatemala to Palestine, from Cuba to Chicago and I believe the system you describe is as vile and worth fighting against as I did when I attended my first protest march some 37 years ago.

    But I stand by my views that cross class and cultural solidarity is possible (even a cursory look at the history of the USAmerican Left will “enlighten” you on that point) and I have seen it happen time and time again.

    Do you think it insignificant that formerly racist Whites linked arms with oppressed Blacks in the deep south long before “civil rights” was a fashionable buzz-phrase and one more likely to get one identified as a traitor? I don´t. Do you think the many poor Italian immigrants and the German popular organizations in the 1920s who linked arms against oppressive owners insignificant? I don´t. Or today, the many people ranging from farmers in the Mid-west to college kids, from coal miners to office professionals who express great excitement when approached as humans and given rational explanations about why they are suffereing economically the way they are, do you think they are all of the same “culture” and “class”? I don´t.

    What I refuse to give into is the same bitter anger, the same strident rhetoric, the same “passionate intensity” that I once believed necessary and later understood as irrelevant to the broader struggle. I need to put my shoulder to the grindtone and anger gets in the way of doint that. Joy is a greater motivator than obligation, Andrew, and I pursue what little I can do with joy.

    One of the great problems of the “Left” has always been to inspire rather than anger. With what tools will you bring new people to the struggle for peace and justice? Your anger? Do you think that will inspre people to listen to you? Will ranting and raving bring more to your cause than would otherwise (the choir example I gave above) join you anyway? And when your passionate power is seen and felt, will it sustain you on those non-Manichaen moments when some ostensible “enemy” is this close to really hearing what you have to say and maybe even changing their views?

    I was President a union of over 700 members (a UE local in Los Angeles) years ago and while some were taken by my intensity at the time, it was he daily attempts to listen to their struggles and ideas that enebled me to beat a moribund union and fire them up to challenge (and win) against our employer–Warner Bros. Pictures-who had made 700+ million in profit that year. We beat them. People beat them. People who otherwise might not have stood together but that they were treated as co-leaders and rational persons.

    Finally, I never saw a better and closer to my heart explanation for why I believe in socialism than the quote below. I offer here as a closer to this dialogue. Maybe it will inspire another:

    I suggest that the real objective of Socialism is not happiness. Happiness hitherto has been a by-product, and for all we know it may always remain so. The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood. This is widely felt to be the case, though it is not usually said, or not said loudly enough. Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another. And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue.
    – George Orwell (“Can Socialists be Happy?” 24 December 1943)

  23. JBPM said on September 22nd, 2008 at 12:15pm #

    Rev. Jose,

    I think you and the other readers here might be interested to read the latest by Stan Goff, himself hardly one who makes “many concessions to the system”: http://www.feralscholar.org/blog/index.php/2008/09/14/open-letter-to-christian-us-troops-in-iraq-and-afghanistan/

    Once you’re all done reading this, turn off your computers and go do something to change the world. Posting here won’t do it.