Thursday, January 05, 2006

Why the Left Blows
By Ean Frick

Capitalism sucks, most people know that whether they say so or not. The vast majority of the problems that people suffer from are somehow attributed to the system we live under. Who has a crappy job? Who finds daily life boring? Who doesn't have enough' free time' (that very phrase says it all)? Who wants more out of life than pointless commodities? People who become anti-capitalist usually do so by having some sort of association with the monolith that is the Left. But they'll tell you that they came to the persuasion of anti-capitalist because of the way capitalism exploits the farmer in Colombia or the peasants in Chiapas and most people in the"privileged" West find it hard to relate to the abuses of that system. While I certainly agree that capitalism is a horribly malicious system that is based off the exploitation, by any means necessary, of workers (especially those in the Third World) to create profit, why do we think only to use those reasons to explain our disgust? Isn't it as equally valid to say I hate capitalism because I can't go to Larz Anderson park at night without some cop coming and telling me to leave because the park is closed (as if Nature hasvisiting hours).

Obviously the oppression of the Iraqis or Palestinians or Colombians at the hands of empire and capital is far greater than my conflict with the uniformed defenders of private property over my right to happiness but why prioritize to the point that my claim would seem petty or illegitimate in the eyes of most card carrying leftists. The game of objective importance is forced upon us everyday. Work is important, play isn't. What is reported on the news is what's officially important but what we personally find interesting isn't. Securing for the future, becoming morally responsible, Doing well at school to get a good job, "growing up", blah blah blah blah blah. No one wants to hear that. People could figure out what they wanted and what makes them happy if they actually had time to think and weren't constantly being told what to like and what to want from politicians and the mass media. Do that many people really want a SUV, a Mc Mansion in the suburbs and an eternity trapped in the hell of wage labor and the constraints of the nuclear family? I don't.

How boring. I don't know what I'll be doing in 20 years and I like that. Spontaneity and the unknown is what makes things fun. Why can't I just read or make collages and paintings all day, or go to the beach or sit on a hill and just enjoy the natural environment that surrounds me? Why should I be doing something 'important' ? Why can't I just be? Contemporary civilization is based on the idea that being productive is essential to living, but what is exactly meant by ‘being productive’ is where the problems come in. If I waste my day on menial labor that won't even be attributed to me when I'm finished but instead to some business for some measly pay I'm being productive. But if I sit in bed all day because I want to, I've committed some sin or crime against what I supposedly should be doing. However the truth remains the only Grand Plan that exists is the one we create ourselves. Now that that rant is out the reader may be asking her or his self what does this have to do with the Left per say? Well, my point is that the idea of objective importance is a tool used by the agents of Capital but also by the Left as well. When one becomes involved in the ranks of the Left they soon see this. Leftists will say they became activists because they felt somesense of duty, that they should be doing something with their free time. So they fill up all the time they have when they aren't cogs in the machine (as that is what free time is) running around making fliers,setting up meetings and espousing some dogma. Ideas are constantly in a state of flux and can come from anywhere, but when they are ordered, rationalized and placed in a nice little package and labeled for consumption they become dogma. Unbreakable rules popup that exist in the metaphysical realm but whom the dogmatists will tell you will cause serious consequences if broken.

Of course there are all sorts of dogmas on the Left, from pacifism to liberalism to Marxism-Leninism, all pushing for hegemony, for a totality, a fixed state where ideas can no longer move freely. Only recently have some on the Left recognized a need for organizations based around ideological pluralism, but whether this has produced new ideas out of the synthesis of others or just old dogmas bumping into each other like a tennis ball with a brick wall is yet to be seen. All dogma is is a police officer in your head. Blow his brains out.

The productivity of the Left is the same as the productivity of wage labor. After all those fliers that have been put up and all those meetings scheduled and all that literature sold what do you have to show for it? All that time and effort for what? Sure some minds were radicalized and exposed to new ideas, that is an achievement, but how much of it was discarded to end up in the rubble of information that fills the cracks of the streets in every city. More people went to antiwar demonstrations against the Iraq war than Vietnam by far, but was the war stopped? In fact the people who are doing the most to the end that war are the citizens of Iraq who are picking up guns and rocks and whatever else they can get their hands on to get the occupying forces out of their country and preserve what's left of their culture and dignity. While the white liberals of the American Left chastise the Iraqis for their violence and try to get 100 people to show up somewhere with signs with hackneyed slogans on them and hope the media notices their poor excuse for a spectacle. Then after they will analyze the (non)importance of their actions in some coffee shop and go back to their lives, separating the personal from the political and succumbing to the bourgeois trap of specialization. The Left forgets that people act in their own interests. They think people will want to sign on to some cause if only it’s sold properly. So ending war, saving nature, fighting bigotry, and even smashing capitalism just becomes treated like some other commodity. So when people refuse to join it because digesting it would take alot longer than some crap from WalMart, the Left either works harder to sell it or they lapse into saying that everyday Westerners are just ‘bought off’ by the decadence of the system.But people aren’t bought off so much as they are conditioned.

The Left has to face the fact that the Spectacle is better at misappropriating people’s desires than they are. And as for the ‘privileged’ West, this attitude is completely uncritical of the utter shit that is Western consumer civilization. Granted it’s no paradise to live in a Third World country with the immense poverty, the terror of the state, and the sweatshops; but many Third World nations still have a strong indigenous culture though that is also being destroyed by globalization and neoliberalism (imports from the West, no doubt). But the culture of the West is one of McDonalds, Thomas Kinkade and Coca Cola. While the regions that make up the monster known as Amerika have their own traditional cultures based on the ethnic groups that live there, that is well on its way out in favor of the cultural hegemony of a KmartNation.

Also the natural environment of Amerika is being completely paved in favor urban sprawl, a nation of strip malls. Many Third World communities also still have a sense of exactly that, community, but life in the West is alienating. Where is the local community to be found? The mall, of course. Any leftist who thinks life in the West is more pleasurable to live in hasn’t yet begun to scratch the surface of any serious criticism of capitalism. The point is nothing is absolute, the West is no better off than the Third World, and the Third World is no better off either. Life is these places are grim for different reasons, but the reasons for this can all be attributed to capitalism. This brings me to my next point: the enemy is capitalism, not the Bush agenda oreven the right wing, for capitalism works under dialectics as does everything else and it needs a leftwing to keep it going. The political spectrum is a product of capitalism, the left and right wings of the system. Also the idea of a spectrum presupposes an absolute, to moderates a leftist is a liberal Democrat, and to right wingers Hilary Clinton is a communist, to the League for a Revolutionary Party Nader is a nativist and a Dems sympathizer, and to the International Socialist Organization Nader was the only leftist choice in the ‘05 election. But who has the audacity to say that their view of what is truly Left and Right is correct? The truth is that there is a system and those support it and those who oppose it. That is the only dichotomy that should be allowed. As long as the Left is bent on ‘realism’ it will fail to pose any serious threat to the global order of capital or recruit any new young people who could possibly help turn it around from the sorry state it’s in now. Despite the fact that the words ‘progressive’ and ‘leftist’ are commonly held to be synonyms, most leftists I’ve encountered are extremely suspicious of new radical intellectual trends. Philosophers like Jean Baudrillard, Henri Lefebvre, Guy Debord, Deleuze & Guatarri and even Sartre (who is far from a new philosopher) have all made excellent contributions to an intellectual critique of the damaging effects of capitalism on individuals in everyday life. Also Theodor Adorno and other members of the Frankfurt School brought anti-capitalism to the realm of culture, another topic the Left is, for the most part,ignorant of. In all their tirades against colonialism, there is a shocking lack of any serious attack on cultural imperialism. To have a nation impose its culture by force upon another its always a reactionary thing, but its even worse when the aggressor nation is obviously culturally inferior. One need look no further than the current occupation of Iraq where you have Uncle Sam prying open the hungry mouths of the Iraqi populace and force feeding them Friends, Gap clothes and American Idol which they are promptly throwing up in the form of day to dayattacks on the new “democracy.”

I recently heard on NPR a new story about the contractors in Iraq (i.e.mercenaries) where one merc admitted to Terry Grossthat he had to educate the Iraqi men he dealt with not to hold hands, which is a sign of fraternity in Arabcountries. In the West, specifically America, this lack of an organic national culture outside of consumerism is a problem that resonates with many disaffected people, especially the youth. If we have another world to win, we’re going to have to build anew culture in place of the garbage that masquerades as one now, and no socialist realism or cult of the proletariat is going to help either. Toni Negri and Felix Guattari wrote an excellent book titled Communists Like Us, which noted how the realm of production in a late capitalist society has moved outside the old factories and is now operated in a much more social realm. The line between worker and consumer is being constantly blurred, and the average proletarian is stuck in the position of perpetually creating and buying commodities. This means that the realm of labor has moved into the social realm so you have a whole society of worker/consumers who have no break from the means of production. This leaves us all very tired at the end of the day and with little patience for the wage labor-like productivity of the Left. If the Left wants to seriously change things for the better its going to have to make some major changes, like a serious break with the dogmatists and reformist-grounded liberals who have no tolerance for extraparilmentary or direct action politics, an admission that we live in a new era of capitalism that requires new strategies and criticisms, an opening of a cultural front that would work with youth and avantgarde countercultural currents where grass roots, organic, and DIY ethics are practiced, and an abandoning of spectrum politics, which reduces every issue to left or right instead of capitalist and anti-capitalist, authoritarian and autonomous. Unless the Left starts to make these or similar changes, its going to continue to be part of the problem instead of the solution.


Thinking outside the square said...

I promise to add something interesting about this article another time....I'm a bit drunk at the moment

Thinking outside the square said...

This is quite an interesting piece of writing.

It just shows you that some left-wing people may have good intentions but in the end they don't really make that much difference.

Unfortunately they only seem to cause more harm than good in the long run.

Jeremiah Harrington said...

The dolphins are smarter than us.
I'd really like to live like a dolphin.
Think about it.