Thursday, December 16, 2004

What Planet Is He Smoking?

Front Page Magazine has a short book review of the latest by Michael Albert, the editor of Z Magazine. Back in 1988, when I was sloshing over the brim with all the wisdom of my 23 years, I was a charter subscriber to Z Magazine. Having just graduated as pretty much of a commie from UC Berkeley, I was an avid reader. One thing that Albert opened my eyes to, is that we are all slaves. Oh yeah, we have "freedom" to work for pay at whatever job we can get, but if you're not willing to enslave yourself by working for The Man's inhuman machine, well then you'll starve. Some freedom. For some reason, I thought this was pretty profound. I didn't like getting up early and commuting through awful traffic to work, there were no hi-jinks like we had in the dorms at college, so it was obvious that THE WHOLE SYSTEM HAD TO COME DOWN, MAN!

It's beyond me that I wasn't able to see that complaining about "you don't work, you don't eat", made about as much sense as complaining that, oh, say, in Bushitler's Amerikkka we don't have any freedom. You jump off a building and Rumsfeld's Gravity Beam is going to smash you into Cheney's Pavement, man. NO FREEDOM!!

Anyway, you can read some of Albert's latest Z Magazine thoughts here, complete with accompanying Ted Rall cartoon.

A taste:
Criticizing Democrats for not running campaigns that address issues honestly is like criticizing owners of corporations for seeking profits or criticizing hit men for killing people. Democrats are just being who they are. Their behavior is continually reinforced by the institutional pressures of the positions they have navigated and now occupy and we should not expect it to change. Meanwhile, Republicans do whatever they want with plenty of funding, unlimited media visibility, and with no qualms whatsoever.

The upshot is that we need much more than a better Democratic candidate. We need a new electoral system and a new base of support for candidates, as well as new candidates. But even a good candidate—Nader, Cobb, Kucinich, Sharpton—is barely listened to. Why?

The U.S. population has a great mental failing. It is greater than its ignorance, which on many counts is profound. It is greater than its racism, which is often substantial. It is greater than its homophobia and sexism, which are substantial as well. This mental malady is that our population believes that nothing better than the corporate capitalist system is possible; that efforts at reform are largely fruitless—either these efforts are defeated or they are rapidly rolled back.


For those still mulling over the possibly venal mind-set of the U.S. population, try this thought experiment which I offered others while in Greece.

Imagine that the just completed presidential election was declared null and void. There is an overwhelming mandate for a new election to be held. Bush will run against someone new, Candidate Z, who puts forward an uncompromising program including:

universal health care

no nukes

major moves toward ecological sustainability

withdrawal from Iraq

dismantling empire

implementing international legality

replacing the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO with real internationalism

implementing effective affirmative action for gender, race, and class

redistributing wealth downward

establishing just wages

vastly improving work conditions

implementing structures for democratizing the political process
and on and on

The election campaign will last for six months. During that time, there will be a country-wide discussion/debate of all the issues and relevant facts in workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, and the media. Information will be fully presented and verified. Debates will be sustained and thorough. The election will then be held: Candidate Z vs. George W. Bush. Now add one more caveat. By some means or other everyone in the country is completely convinced that the winner will fully and successfully implement all campaign pledges. The whole program of either Bush or Z will be enacted, fully, successfully. And everyone believes and indeed is totally sure that we are going to get the list of changes above, or we are going to get four more years of Bush. How many people would vote in that case—only 60 percent; maybe 110 percent?

If you think the turnout be low and Bush would still win such an election then you are right to worry about the underlying psychology and morality of the U.S. population—and of all people everywhere, every when.

But if you think there would be a large turnout and Candidate Z would win in a landslide, then clearly the obstacle to people becoming activists is not that people don’t care, but that people doubt that their efforts can achieve much.

Albert is so darned shortsighted. Why didn't he add "abolishing death" and "repealing the second law of thermodynamics" to his list?

And, oh, yeah, hit men and profits. Pretty much the same thing, man.

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