Some of the reaction I’ve seen, on the ‘left’, to Obama’s speech reminds me of a conversation I had a couple of months ago with a teacher friend of mine. This is someone that I would call both highly intelligent and well informed, generally. He was very distressed over the way education is going, trending towards less support, more demands placed on teachers, and more teaching-to-the-test. I sympathized very strongly with all of that. Then he went on to put all the blame on the Republicans, both on the state level and nationally. Well, he might have had a point, barely, on the state level, but nationally? He was thrilled that Obama was promising to ‘ease’ NCLB strictures with increased federal control. That means more control for Arne Duncan, whose career is all about pushing/incentivizing/forcing the Charter School system (privatized, corporatized, de-unionized ‘education’), while diminishing community control over schools. How did my friend not understand that BOTH parties are to blame for the current situation, and one party, as opposed to the other, is not a solution?
I know that there is basic psychology at work here. To keep going on in our lives, trying to make the world around us better, we need to avoid the perception that we are in a (larger) situation where the walls are closing in and options are few and difficult, even if that is the actual situation. This need to believe in options, even if they are basically fictional, becomes more fervent as elections approach. AND ELECTIONS APPROACH EVERY TWO YEARS!
It’s a lovely trap, isn’t it? In yet another Orwellian turn of the screw, elections have become an essential tool for a political/social establishment/structure that blocks and perverts democracy. Elections themselves are controlled on so many levels. Election rules favor the ‘major parties’ and insiders. The media, which the public depends on to know about candidates and issues, are virtually all controlled/dominated by a small number of interwoven corporations, and internet increasingly is too. The amount of money needed to run for office leaves politicians who manage to make it into office beholden to basically the same corporatist elites. Even the voting systems themselves are designed to be manipulable. The election system is rigged on so many levels that it’s almost amazing any pol with an independent thought ever gets through, though it does seem to happen – perhaps as a kind of safety valve, and as an ostensible proof that the system really does work.
So basically, every four years we have a mostly empty ritual called an “election”. But it’s what happens in between elections that really matters. First we have a year of ‘give the guy a chance’. Then we have a year of ‘yeah, but at least he or she is not as bad as the other guy’, with everyone running shrieking behind their partisan barricades. Then we have the mostly empty ritual again.
I love rituals. They can really gather and focus energy. But this isn’t that kind of ritual. So what is the solution?
Go ahead and least/worst, if you must, but at least be aware of what a shabby pretense that really is. Personally, I can’t hold my nose and vote for the Monster that has my tribal colors anymore, though I understand the arguments for doing that. There has got to be a lot more that we do to build a different and better society, because the track we are on looks like its heading for hades.