Friday, February 07, 2020

Moving on to bigger politics

Caught up on Phil's post on the failure of politics which digs into the state of voting and why politics is pretty depressing to some of us right now:

Boris Johnson produces a good upbeat impression of politics. But even the people who voted for Johnson don’t actually believe it or trust him. They voted for the spectacle of of a bumptious toff offering fake solutions (an “oven-ready deal”) to a fake problem (the EU).

Like Phil, I haven't really been posting political stuff over the last few years. Some of that is just stage of life and not having the time and energy to assemble thoughts into something coherent, and something I'm happy publishing. I don't really have the time or energy to have follow-on discussions either, and taking it to Twitter is like ... well, it would be more productive to beat myself with a heavy stick.

I'm also staying away from public opinions a bit more for 'professional reasons' - I haven't really reconciled being a senior member of a company that needs to be politically impartial with my own public practices. C'est la vie.

But then, I'm not sure I ever have been particularly partisan anyway. My interests and approaches don't ever seem to fit in with a 2-3 party system. Politics carries on whatever the vote, and often feels more tied to the individuals in power than parties.

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The bigger picture is more interesting, scarier, and more so for being clearly in our face, like climate change. John Michael Greer has an excellent post, 'The End of the Dream', tying together the rise of the spectacle, the mistrust of 'experts', and the kickback against managerialism and the assumption by those in power that people are here to be controlled.

It reminds me of my own distrust in things, garnered from growing up through an educational system, which recognises that the methods of a 'technostructure'/'biopower'/'surveillance state'/'testing culture' - while productive and convenient - are not there to encourage anything unprofitable, including creativity, happiness, and communities with little to offer after they've been exploited.

(Yes, you can view communities in the exact same way as land under this view - resources which are provided with support only as long as they produce value.)

Greer digs into Michael Lind's book, 'The New Class War':

The populist backlash that put Trump into the White House and popped Britain out of the EU, he argues, arose in response to the takeover of the public sphere by the managerial class, and will continue until the working class majority knows that it can get its concerns addressed and its needs met by those in power. 

And picks up on a key point on why politics is so depressing for me - it deals in symbols, not what I would like to phrase "practical hope".

He insists that the populist movement has no policy goals of its own—no, of course not, it’s simply reacting blindly against the policies of the managerial elite—and that if the populists win and displace the managerial elite entirely, then the result will be the triumph of demagogues who have no constructive policies to pursue and who will not enact any of the reforms Lind considers necessary. It would be much better, he insists, for the managerial elite to welcome working class majorities back into the decision-making process in politics, economics, and culture.

These days I spend a lot of my time, as a comfortable male manager, wondering if I'm the 'elite' or not. I don't know if this is defined by material wealth, responsibilities, or what. I think maybe it comes down to something else - attitude. Which, in turn, influences how you wield your influence.

Attitude is not something you can be trained up in - or not formally, at least. For training, one must look more to things like Buddhist and other Eastern approaches, such as doing the hard work on Loving Kindness meditation. Stop up the mouth, block off the eyes, listen to the world, and become a mendicant.

I digress. And yet I don't. What we're talking about here is the fundamental ability of Democracy (any version of it) to connect people. It's why citizen assemblies are, I think, so important - not because they reach a more 'effective' or 'productive' outcome, but because they encourage us to explore the connections between the differences we have, which in turn stops us from literally killing each other.

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Writing this post has got me fired up again. I think I might have to read Lind's book, along with a hundred others. I have time, want to do more in this area, want to disrupt it. I need to define the challenge, find others making the same moves. It's 2020, for god's sake.

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