Looking Beyond Election Day

As you know if you read my frequent political rants and shpeals, I am a firm supporter of Barack Obama, and have vociferously petitioned for him to become the next President of the United States. I have also donated, for the first time in any election, a number of times to his campaign.

Now that the election is looming, I want to again remind all of you to get out there and vote. But I also want to begin looking beyond the current election, and shed some of the starry eyed endorsement that I have portrayed here on my blog for Obama. I’m assuming that Obama is going to become elected, which might seem conceited of me, but it simply is due to the fact that I found out that my Dad, of all people, is voting for Obama. Listen: if my Dad is voting for a non-Republican, than you know that times have a-changed. He’s about the most stolid conservative I can imagine. When he told me over the phone that Obama was the best candidate, I knew that there was hope.

(A caveat: I also don’t want to be sticking my foot in my mouth here, either. His election is neither certain nor definite at this time, and like all other supporters at this moment, I am still slightly frightened. In a post Al Gore-Florida-2000 world, nothing in an election is ever certain.)

Obama, as defined by Colin Powell in his eloquent and intelligently framed endorsement, is indeed a “transformational figure”. He is transformational not because he represents, as so many conservatives seem to be petrified of, a radical shift from right to left, but rather because he represents a bridge between right and left. He is a center-left politician, but it would be a stretch to try to hoist any radical ideologies onto his shoulders. He is unique at this particular moment in American politics because he can appeal not only to left wing progressives, but furthermore to fundamentalist Christians and neo-conservatives (except for the blatantly racist ones). Such a politician has been hitherto unimaginable.

In recognizing his centrism, however, it is important to note, for a radical tending left winger such as myself, that he represents for progressives simply the potential for change, not the guarantee. McCain represents a step back, the step back that W. Bush so horrifically embodied. A step back in the sense of a bureacratic rejection of scientific and intellectual advancement, a continuing division between a tiny populace of rich and a large and ever increasingly larger populace of the poor, and a similar boorishness in foreign policy that guarantees that the United States as a society and civilization is destined to collapse in the face of environmental and economic changes.

Obama represents a step forward in that at least we know that with the right kind of applied pressure, he will make decisions that are based more heavily on pragmatism rather than ideology, and on populist necessities as opposed to super-rich welfare. But what I want to emphasize is that we cannot afford to sit back on our laurels after Obama is elected and expect him to make all the right decisions for us. He is an able and intelligent leader, and he requires the right information and feedback to respond effectively to our needs. And as progressive as he may seem in the light of the past 8 years, he is also simply a politician and he must respond to all constituencies, and he is severely limited by the controlling majorities in the House and Senate. The most we can hope is that he can start the ground work for the herculean struggle of righting the United States from its spiralling path to the precipice and begin paddling back upstream, bit by bit.

So while I may have seemed to be that uncritical starry eyed supporter of Obama, in fact my support is due in large to political pragmatism. He is the only candidate who can become elected that will potentially respond correctly to the challenges that our nation and our globe currently face. We need a leader who recognizes the intrinsic value in diplomacy, compromise, and bridging partisan divides. We need a leader who recognizes global interdependence and will respect and strengthen global institutions such as the UN and global drives for aid to the poor, collaborative environmental objectives, and international law and regulation.

I would prefer a candidate whose platform was built entirely on sustainable environmental policy reform and more solidly and specifically on building a regenerative green economy, with foreign aid to developing nations. I would prefer a candidate who was more proactive and radical on pushing through environmental legislation, with the aim of achieving oil independence within a shorter time frame, such as Sweden has already done. In an ideal world, I would be voting for the Green Party. But the time, unfortunately, has not yet come for a third party candidate in US electoral politics. In being pragmatic, I recognize that the candidate who is realistically electable and will potentially respond to environmental challenges effectively can only be Barack Obama at this moment in time.

I don’t expect the man to change the world. I expect that the world can only be changed if we apply appropriate and effective pressures onto his administration in order to affect necessary changes, regulations, and policy reform. But at least with Obama’s administration, we know that these changes are possible. With Bush, no change, other than regressive, has been possible, and the only hope has been in getting rid of the bastard.

It is indeed a brighter day. But the challenges remain ever more difficult. And it’s only potentially another 4 years that we have to move forward. In looking forward, we must bear in mind that we have to be active in politics constantly and consistently, not only on election day.

Death of laissez faire?

The Economist posted an interesting article defending free-market capitalism. What surprised me about this article is how unusually defensive, clear and one-sided its perspective is. While I agree in principle with the premise that what we need is “not bigger government, but better government”, I think the author mistakes the movement in general towards greater regulation and government oversight. No one wants a communist government nor to refute capitalism (other than for fringe idealists who don’t understand economics), nor, for that matter, to overly constrain the market economy. We simply want government to do what it is supposed to do—formulate responsible policies and regulations—rather than sit idly by and allow the market to run wanton (and destroy the environment in the process).

Part of this is making government policy and electoral processes more transparent and efficient, which entails utilizing internet and software technology. That means streamlining government, not adding to its bureaucracy. I don’t think that the way to the future lies in more overtly “Great Society” type of programs, but rather in simply attempting to bring the government back up into the present age, to keep up with businesses and civil society.

I would like to say much more on this timely and interesting topic, but I have to dash out the door to work right now. Talk amongst yourselves.

The Bigger Picture, Based on Our Current State of Affairs

Well, it’s ’bout time for me to post some thoughts about the current state of the world. I sometimes wish that I had a column in a major newspaper, so that I could generate national debate and establish talking points for The View. But, alas, my blog is just too random, too all-over-the-place, too largely mundane and only intermittently insightful, too much me, to ever hold such a place in the pantheon of established punditry. I wouldn’t have it any other way, of course. I will hold forth, in any case, as if the entire world listens attentively to my every last quest for meaning.

To the point: the major news item on our collective plate is the economy. We all know that the “bailout” plan, as it is called, is pretty much a bunch of hogwash, but we also all know that we need to do something, and not many of us are economically minded enough to know quite what that is. We just know that we want our retirement funds to stop being depleted, etc. First of all, I recommend checking in with Paul Krugman’s blog from time to time for some academic economic insight parsed down, relatively speaking, for the average Joe. He has written a short paper explaining what he thinks is going down right now, and to parse it even more simply into my own think-speak, it basically has to do with the global interdependence of financial markets. Which is why shortly after our economy started nose diving, the European economy has started feeling the effects of free-fall gravity as well.

If you follow my random output of thought consistently, then you’ve noted that I have a certain fascination with the concept of interdependence (go ahead and check out my posts filed under the topic of ‘interconnectivity‘ if you don’t believe me). I see interdependence, interconnectivity, the intwinement of multiple beings into one collective entity, as a source of greater strength. An individual vulnerability that establishes greater collective depth and power. This is the strength of the artist, the strength of the family, the strength of the nation. It makes us more open to superficial attack, but better resilient to sustained barrages.

Our economy—and hence, the global economy—is undeniably, at this point, in for some hard times. For how long, of course, no one can say. I have discussed elsewhere about how the economy is inevitably headed towards seeming disaster, but also about how what appears as tragic at the moment could potentially turn into a deeper manifestation of something necessary and redemptive i.e. the movement towards a more sustainable society. However, this transformation can only occur if we are willing to make some changes, such as move towards more Democratic—even *gasp* Socialist—notions of political governance as opposed to continuously giving in to Republican “small-government, big business” ideals. Obviously, putting Barack Obama into office is a great first step on this path. But beyond the presidential campaign, we need to push much harder for a move towards responsible government policy and regulation.

It’s sort of ridiculous that it takes a crisis or tragedy for people to awaken to the importance of individual sacrifice for collective betterment. It’s what we do in hard times, and it’s what people who live in poverty always do: help each other out. It’s about time that we start taxing the rich, taxing or putting caps on destructive and wasteful practices (such as lawns, SUVs, and plastic product packaging), and investing back into our society as a whole.

We all know that Communism and/or Fascism has failed. We all know that we believe in freedom and democracy for all. But it’s time that we grew up and recognized, as mature adults, that firm regulation, investments, and incentives must be established for people and businesses to do the right thing. And we must further recognize that we can’t go this alone. We need Government, with a capital ‘G’, and that means ‘G’ as in Global in addition to national. The US, for far too long, has been able to get away with insouciant and unconsidered behavior because we once were a superpower. We will henceforth be known as the last of the world’s superpowers. There will be no more superpowers, just as there will be no more Picassos. There will always be nations that have greater power, just as there will always be individuals who have greater influence. But no longer will there be a singular entity that can completely dominate and determine the direction of world commerce or culture.

What does this mean for us as a nation, and as individuals, then? It means that we have to become a team player. It means that we have to know our place in the world. It means that we have to not only compete, but cooperate. That’s what it means, at an extremely basic and fundamental level.

This ultimately ties back into deeper issues such as environmental stewardship, spirituality as opposed to religious fundamentalism, scientific advancement and technological development coupled with social progress, etc. But I’m not going to get into any of those wonderful issues at the moment because I’m beginning to get sleepy, and I’ve got another long week looming ahead of me. Due to my inability to post as frequently as I would like to, I’m going to begin utilizing WordPress’ nifty new function of sticking old posts up on my front page, so that you can see some selections of my old shit that I feel is worth perusing. Til next time, piiiiigs iiiin spaaaaaaace. . .

American Change (Outside of the Box of Media)

Inevitability: this is the crushing weapon that the Republican party so effectively wields, bludgeoning the American public with such a banality of lies, misinformation, and bluntness of political manipulation—all oriented around sidestepping deeper issues of actual policy—that people talk wearily of the inevitability of McCain being elected president. Here are the arguments for this position:

The American vote is skewed towards the middle American states, where most Americans are so brainwashed that they would vote for a melon if they thought it stood for fundamentalist Christian values and gun rights.

Americans are simply stupid in general.

George W. Bush was elected for 2 terms. Enough said. Americans are hopeless.

These are perhaps convincing arguments if you tend towards fatalism. However, it disregards and slanders the majority of the American people. Yes, many Americans are extremely misinformed and formulate their political ideas based on petty and irrelevant issues. Yes, the vote is heavily skewed towards Americans who think red meat, rifles, and religion are the defining issues of our day. However, these Americans, known colloquially as rednecks, are the ones most affected by bad policy in Washington. They will be the ones losing the most jobs, they will be the ones most affected by environmental degradation, they will be the ones continuing to have their working wages taxed by a government they distrust and loathe.

Were they fooled by W. Bush? To a certain extent. But they understood, more fundamentally, that he stood for status quo. He would give us exactly what they thought America stood for: individualism, small government, and big business. Now McCain is playing the status quo card once again, while pretending to give just enough of a hip “maverick”-ness to the situation to win over those on the fence.

Many Americans, while the economy was still apparently riding high, didn’t want change. They called for status quo. They called for continuing to do just what America had been doing. It seemed to work, sort of.

Now it’s not working. It’s failing terribly. And the prospect before us is harrowing. Even while official analysts shrug and dismiss the current economic downfall and refuse to call it a recession, Americans who are most affected by the downturn know exactly what it is: hard times. Unemployment is high, the divide between rich and poor is untenable, health care consists of ER visits, basic food item costs are increasing, and SUVs no longer make much sense to working folk who can’t pay off their mortgages or credit card bills.

This has not much to do with failed foreign policy that has led to neverending warfare, or a regressive position against contemporary science. It doesn’t even have to do with the impending and disastrous consequences of climate change, nor with the depletion of topsoils and overall degradation of our earth.

It has to do with a fundamental flaw in the American conception of what has been working in the past, and what will work in the future.

We fought ferociously against the concepts and institutions of communism and socialism, and we relished the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. It was the triumph of capitalism. It was the triumph of individual choice, freedom of markets, competition between all for the benefit of the common good.

We’ve been so knee-jerk allergic to ideas of government involvement in economics that we’ve failed (officially) to recognize that the times have changed. A little dose of government intervention is necessary in times of crisis. And therefore, the Democratic vision of politics is no longer quite as unsavory as it once was. The idea of “change” (in the sense of a non-Republican dominated government) has begun to make sense. The status quo is driving America to its knees before the world. The dollar is falling, our imperialist foreign policies are antiquated, and our fierce individualism is costing the entire world the possibility of dealing effectively with united stances against climate change.

I don’t think Americans are as stupid as the media and the Republican party assumes it is. I think that the majority of Americans simply allow themselves to be led when they see no reason to change the way things are, when it seems to benefit them. It is becoming quite apparent that change—real change—must occur for America to remain a viable force in our world. Our businesses will fail if they cannot innovate. They cannot innovate if the government does not provide incentives for them to innovate. The government cannot provide incentives if the people do not call for policy change.

The time has come for Americans to unite, truly unite, not in the sense of warfare, not in the sense of blind following of political deceit and big money, not in the sense of willful ignorance and bigoted small-mindedness. Americans will unite because the only path to a hopeful future is clear. And it is not the status quo.

The Teetering Unifocalism of the Republican Party

Well, so the question in the presidential campaign of the moment is: will the blatant strategic political maneuvering of the Republican party, which has worked so well for Bush/Cheney, still work its deceitful magic and captivate big media and its captive conservative audience? I think another phrasing of this question is: are Americans as a nation still too easily manipulated and gullible to put 2 and 2 together?

The media has been blabbering ecstatically about the strategic “daring” of McCain’s pick of an almost neolithically conservative Alaskan woman, but let’s recognize it for what it is: an act of both cynicism and desperation. The strategy behind it is obvious: pick a woman to appeal to women voters, as well as to pretend that suddenly McCain is a progressive (simply because he’s picked a woman), while at the same time, conversely, appealing to their essential Christian Coalition base of voters, because Palin may be a nice looking woman, but she’s also a Christian fundamentalist.

To the Republican strategists, who are always eager to harness the most unsavory aspects of fundamentalist religion (whether Christian or Islamic) to garner power, such an act of political theater is hardly daring. It is right in line with the type of cynical PR strategy that’s been used for Bush and his administration time after time. To the rest of the nation, however, I hope that this act of desperation is seen through for what it is: a demonstration of what McCain and his backers are really about: a blind grab for power at all costs, utilizing any means and political posing that will take them there. Please note that Obama chose his VP carefully, picking someone who not only would aid him strategically in winning the bid for presidency, but would more importantly serve as a strong addition to the White House in the role of Vice President.

It’s no secret that Palin has absolutely none of the qualities (she’s currently got a scandal brewing in Alaska) nor experience (they say that Obama is inexperienced? Give me a break.) to serve our nation as an effective Vice President. She’s just there to fill a symbolic strategic role. Seen for what it is, this purpose is actually quite demeaning to women. McCain’s pick for VP is not daring at all; it’s a pathetic excuse to try to gather in a hypothetical mass of voters who would judge only on shallow appearance. The Republicans are hoping that with enough of the media (we all know that Fox will be doing the cheerleading) in their pocketbooks, they can manage to mockingly sweep aside the obvious implications of their strategy.

So the question is: does this approach of putting voters into one-dimensional boxes really work? They have looked at the power of the votes of women, they have noted the power Hillary Clinton generated amongst women voters, and they have single-mindedly decided that women will vote for women. How incredibly reductionist of the plurality of identities that women can occupy beyond their gender designation. Did they stop to consider that women may have supported Hillary not simply because she is a woman who champions women’s rights, but furthermore because she is an incredibly intelligent and adept public representative?

This ploy is desperate because it demonstrates that however strategic and cynical this maneuver was, ultimately, it means that McCain’s puppet-masters are responding to the tone that Obama has set in the campaign, rather than calling the shots. Obama has struck the chord in America that finally, we have a politician with integrity, someone with energy, populist agendas, and the diplomacy and intelligence to work across partisan divides. Obama has run his campaign stressing the importance of change and a new direction in American politics. McCain has been turning against his own record in Washington by now pretending to be a “maverick” and “progressive.” He has positioned himself as a decoy of change by simulating seemingly progressive stances, such as picking a woman as VP and verbally denouncing our dependence on foreign oil. Wow, how progressive of him. Good thing his VP strongly supports big oil, has already demonstrated political abuse of power in her home state, and is fiercely anti-abortion.

So will the desperate and cynical strategems of the Republican party work this time around, even when Bush and his party’s popularity is at an all-time low, both within the nation and around the globe? Will the farce of Republican progressive change win over the true progressive agenda of Obama? Will the decoy win over the real thing? Superficiality over integrity?

I think not. There was a lot of true positive energy generated at the Democratic National Convention. There was a palpable force felt in that stadium that reached out across the dry and drab news network television coverage. The hunger for real change stirs somewhere in America, and I don’t think it’s just in liberal enclaves. People are waking up to the cynical, power and money hungry political maneuvering that operated the Bush administration, and hopefully, they have learned to navigate past the bland relativism presented by the media, where somehow truth seems to have no meaning until it’s already too late.

I believe the one-dimensional, unifocal political strategies of McCain’s puppet-masters will fall over on themselves. They have built the fantasies up a little too high this time around. Casting Bush Jr. as a born-again working rural man with divine conviction may have worked for a little while, but casting McCain as a simultaneous agent of progressive change AND conservative fundamentalism is just too much of a stretch. It can readily be seen through to what it is: a blind and misguided and desperate fumbling for power by a Republican party riddled with cronyism, corruption, scandals, and neo-conservative simple mindedness.

I will enjoy watching their politics of deceit finally topple over and fail in the public eye. Like Obama said in his speech at the convention: “they just don’t get it.”

Think Politics Are Tired? Think Again.

I don’t care if you are Republican, Green Party, or Anarchist: watch Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. This is what we all have been aching for. It is graceful, eloquent, emotional, direct, forceful, filled to the brim with conviction, politically adept, aggressive, embracing, beautiful, and intelligent enough to wow all the politicos and policy whonks.

And watch the Obama biography video that came directly before his speech as well. It’s truly powerful, and it answers the questions that people on the fence that don’t know much about Obama might have. He is the candidate that America so desperately needs.

Do I sound captivated? Don’t take my word for it. Don’t listen to the talking heads on television. Go see this shit for yourself. It’s wonderful, and it will make you not only believe in politics, it will make you believe in the promise of America again. Really.

Vote

I’d like to make the case for voting in the upcoming elections. I’ve made some of these points before, but I feel that it is an issue that requires some more attention. I’m going to be orienting this argument towards the people out there that believe that voting is a pointless and meaningless endeavor.

There are a lot of people who choose not to vote—not because they are apathetic, but because they believe that by boycotting the electoral process they are “making a statement”. Unfortunately, this statement doesn’t result in any kind of positive affect. In fact, this “statement” seems to be welcomed with open arms by the neo-conservatives who have been running our country, because they wouldn’t have the opportunity to hold such blatant power and influence otherwise. You non-voters out there who refuse to vote in order to make a statement: the only statement you are making is that you are selfish and small-minded.

So you choose to withhold your vote because your single, individual vote doesn’t hold much sway. But is it not obvious that if everyone voted, then that cumulative total could make a quite powerful statement?

So you choose to withhold your vote because you don’t even believe in either of the two parties that hold power. But is it not obvious that by becoming completely uninvolved in the political process, you are allowing the politics in the US to become even more deeply divided and distant from your personal needs and beliefs?

What would you have? That your country should collapse and fail because you are so selfish that you can’t allow yourself to compromise and utilize whatever limited tools and options you have as a citizen to become involved?

Yes, the democracy in this country is mostly a sham. Yes, the choice between party A or B is almost as bad as no choice at all. Yes, the individual voice is lost and suppressed in the clamor and lobby of moneyed interests.

But my question to you is: what are YOU doing to change this situation? Are you hiding away in your pseudo-intellectual hole? Are you going to move to Canada?

We indeed have limited tools available to us in order to enact progressive change as a people and as a nation. But the choices before us in this upcoming presidential election couldn’t be more clear: either you choose not to become involved, and you send this country down the path of another four years of bad policy, bad foreign affairs, poor economic decisions. . . or you vote for Barack Obama, and you vote for an intelligent politican who has integrity, clear and strong progressive policy agendas, and who stands as a living representative to the world of what America wants to be about: diversity, intelligence, and charisma.

This election will determined by whether the non-voters out there get involved or not. If you choose to make your statement by boycotting the vote, then who do you think you are putting into power? The same kind of administration that has been winning consistently in the past for that very same reason. Is that the kind of statement you want to make? Think about it.

I’m sorry that American politics are not ideal and perfect and truly democratic. Getting involved in politics is involving yourself in an imbalanced, often one-sided, and messy relationship. You have to compromise. You have to be patient and determined. But you have to be involved if you want to make change.

We need to get Barack Obama into office. Then we need to stay involved in order to put the pressure on his administration to roll out the changes that we want to see.

Or we can just sit back, and keep complaining. Watch our country fall apart as the super-rich get richer and the rest of us lose our jobs. At least it will give us something to feel righteous and indignant about.

Collaborative Interdependence

I’ve been undergoing a mild case of “writer’s block” lately, wherein everything that I attempt to write just comes out flat or completely uninspired. Frustrating, because then it drives me to playing mahjongg instead of articulating deeper sentiment (mahjongg here being the virtual “bottle” in which to drown my woes).

One of the things I’ve been constantly trying to write about but having trouble clearly spelling out is my perspective on enacting progressive change. I’ve discussed elsewhere my evolving views on politics and economics, and I’ve been trying to find a way to more fully explicate my new views while still embracing, intellectually speaking, the perspectives which I’ve developed out of, such radicalism, anarchism, anti-globalization, postcolonialism, etc.

Rather than present a cohesive thesis, therefore, let me just discuss what my thought process is at the moment vis-a-vis these general topics and maybe I can work my way over the obstacles I’m currently facing just by talking it through.

I think what I’m finding is that I can still relate very well to viewpoints such as socialism and anarchism because such perspectives are ultimately humanist, in that there is an idealistic attempt to extricate humanity from what are perceived as inhuman and oppressive structures. There is still a lot of misunderstanding out there about what “anarchism” really means, and you can see this quite powerfully in The Dark Knight as depicted by the Joker, as one current example. People think of chaos, terror, pimply youth in black apparel heaving Molotov cocktails as an expression of aimless hormonal angst. But anarchism is not about chaos and terrorism: it is simply a philosophical rejection of the need for institutionalized systems of governance. Extending out of this are many disparate branches of anarchist philosophy, but that is its central tenet. Contrary to being a negative and nihilistic perspective, this is in actuality an extremely positivist take on human nature, in that anarchists believe that human society will run much more efficiently and naturally when not subsumed to overarching systems.

I was drawn to anarchist philosophy because of this deep humanism, and some anarchist writing is the most well-articulated writing out there on politics. You don’t feel like you are being talked down to. Go here and browse through the library to see for yourself. It isn’t much at all about violence or chaos. It’s about believing in a world that can be better than what we are taught to accept.

However, one of the problems with this perspective is in answering the question: well, how do we get from here to there? There are many different answers to that, some of which I will agree with, but ultimately, what one comes to understand is that holding the highest of ideals makes it extremely difficult to come to terms with the existing state of the world, generating anger, bitterness, and violence and/or apathy.

I will devolve into an oblique comparison here: in a long-term relationship with another human being, you come fairly quickly to realize that compromises must be made between you and your partner’s ideals in order to live together. If your ideals are too high, it may be that instead of coming to terms with the human reality of your partner and accepting them as they are, you are rejecting parts of them in order to try to fit or mold them to your ideals. These high expectations can blind you to the beauty of the person that already exists right before you, if you could allow them to be themselves rather than what you want them to be. You both can work together on developing towards the ideals that you share and cherish.

This does not mean that you should accept a drab reality. What I am getting at is that there is a process in working towards ideals. There must be development and evolution in order for ideals to become reality. Perfect harmony does not just fall into your lap without extensive effort. So one could feasibly hold anarchist philosophy as the ideal state of human society, but still work within and around existing government and market structures in seeking to achieve that ideal.

That is fairly self-evident, I suppose, but as I talked about in my other post, it seems to me that there are a lot of idealists out there who are constricted, rather than motivated, by their ideals.

In any case, even though I sympathize with the philosophy of anarchism and of radical thought in general, I ultimately feel that it is misguided. Anarchists and other philosophies of dissent rightly perceive that there are problems with institutional and market systems, but they wrongly perceive the correct redress as being a complete rejection of these systems. To use another obtuse analogy, it is like looking at a fan which doesn’t blow air very efficiently or equitably about a room, and deciding that the solution is to throw out the fan. While such a solution might appeal to instinct, it would make much more sense to attempt to analyze the failure of the fan and seek to alter, jerryrig, or otherwise upgrade to a whole new model.

To say this, however, doesn’t mean that one couldn’t choose to live ones life according to anarchist or other radical ideals. One has that right and capability. But what I am talking about is being involved in the greater community, and subsuming some of those ideals to accepted law and policy in order to extend greater influence.

Another issue I think I see with philosophies that reject existing market and government systems is that they are often mired in a mentality of a bygone era. We have come into a time, due to the unforeseen confluence of technology and rapid information dissemination and sharing, in which civil society and individuals as a whole have a power and command that they did not once have. Civil society thus is becoming evolutionarily enabled to play the critical part in balancing and restraining and guiding the efforts of institutions and markets in providing a fairer and more sustainable society. Demonstrators and protesters, even when not covered explicitly by the big media outlets, have a strength that corporations and governments have had to pay close attention to. Anti-globalization protesters, though misguided in their conclusions (multi-national corporations and interconnected markets = evil), have had a tremendous and positive impact on drawing attention to economic inequity and iniquitous barriers to trade. Similarly, the increased influence and power of “bloggers” has given big media a run for its money. Due to this increased power of civil society and of individual citizens, people are not simply oppressed workers underneath the inhumane strictures of the one-dimensional demand of capitalism. In collaboration—not opposition—with public policy, the legal system, and economic investments and incentives, civil society, government, and the economy can work in tandem to address the problems that exist in society.

This is not an argument against dissent or protest. What I’m attempting to get at is that the process of speaking up and getting involved and asking critical and probing questions is in fact a necessary and positive aspect of well-organized and functioning social systems. It is not a movement against the “system” or against the “machine” or whatever one chooses to call government and business structures: rather, it is a movement that enhances, collaborates, and guides these systems into greater harmony.

I have argued elsewhere for the need to view these systems in the sense of design, with a holistic, whole-systems approach. This is especially apparent when it comes to entrenched issues such as the current failure of many of our public schools to adequately and equally educate all our nation’s children, irregardless of race, class, or gender. Educational policy, on both a federal and state level, often nobly, but wrongly, attempts to tackle their problems solely within the confines of the classroom by initiating misguided programs that work to increase performance on standardized tests. Obviously, there are circumstances outside of the classroom that are critical to a child’s success, such as family, friends, and wider local community support, in addition to institutional programs. It will take a multifaceted approach, addressing not only education, but furthermore socio-economic conditions, access to information and technology, not to mention access to healthy, positive, inclusive environments and public spaces for children to study and play in.

Our schools have become effectively segregated due to the seemingly innocuous effort by well-to-do parents to place their children in “successful” schools. The successful schools being the ones with money and community support. It is thus apparent that investments must be made simultaneously not only in education and the public school system in general, but furthermore broader investments must be made in low income neighborhoods, to provide access to healthy public spaces, to provide access to technology and information, to provide smart planning for a sustainable future in employment, etc. The more that the middle class divides itself from the poor, the greater problems will become.

What is evident in an issue such as this is the approach that I am talking about: a whole systems, collaborative approach. Civil society must do its part to draw attention to the problems. Government must do its part to respond with effective and unbiased policy changes. The market must do its part with directed investments and innovative micro-businesses. What is apparent, to me at least, is that we can’t rely on any one of these systems to do the job for us. The market is not going to solve any of our problems unless we direct it and harness it with policy and incentives. Government will not update its policy or open up funding unless it has its attention drawn to the problem. Civil society, NGOs, citizen organizations must agitate, petition, utilize the media, and organize to focus on the problems.

Furthermore, policy making and business governance and legal affairs cannot be over-specialized. They can’t be compartmentalized and vivisected such that they can’t work effectively across the fields of public health, education, fiscal tuning, management philosophy, environmental departments, etc. They need to be able to unite and work within these fields all at once.

This kind of approach demonstrates that no matter what ones particular ideals may be, what is the most important is a pragmatic and responsive attention to the current climate and issues in our society. Putting our heads in the sand, whether due to reactionary or radical or centrist thought, is simply unacceptable. Good management, governance, and policy practices are forged by looking ahead to the future, constantly and consistently. Our future lies in our children. Whatever our beliefs may be, we all want our children to be healthy, to be successful, to have access to the resources that will empower and enable them. We want them to be educated, to be well fed, to be well read, to be sound of body and of mind. We want them to be positioned to respond effectively to reality, to be positioned for a market that looks ahead to sustainability.

The process, therefore, in achieving an equitable and sustainable future is determined by the collaborative interdependence of differing aspects of human identity, mind, infrastructures, and society. Only when these multiple points converge and work together are effective and positive changes made. It is misguided to focus ones efforts solely in rejection and opposition to existing systems. The more positive approach is to focus on working across boundaries to enact changes beneficial to all.

Phew. You can see why I’ve had trouble laying this out. It’s kind of a big mess in my mind. I’m working on getting this out in a more concise manner.

Movement Towards Inclusion

“The bell jar [as described by Braudel, signifying the exclusivity of the capitalist sector of society] makes capitalism a private club, open only to a privileged few, and enrages the billions standing outside looking in. This capitalist apartheid will inevitably continue until we all come to terms with the critical flaw in many countries’ legal and political systems that prevents the majority from entering the formal property system. . .

Few seem to realize that what we have here is one huge, worldwide industrial revolution: a gigantic movement away from life organized on a small scale to life organized on a large one. For better or for worse, people outside the West are fleeing self-sufficient and isolated societies in an effort to raise their standards of living by becoming interdependent in much larger markets. . .

Like computer networks, which had existed for years before anyone thought to link them, property systems become tremendously powerful when they are interconnected in a larger network. . . .

Political blindness, therefore, consists of being unaware that the growth of the extralegal sector and the breakdown of the existing legal order are ultimately due to a gigantic movement away from life organized on a small scale toward one organized in a larger context. . .

The primary problem is the delay in recognizing that most of the disorder occurring outside the West is the result of a revolutionary movement that is more full of promise than of problems.”

Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

De Soto’s insights are tantalizing: his essential message is that the poor are seeking to become a part of the larger market system, but are denied access through exclusive laws and fiscal policies. Faced with the inability to become a part of the global market, the poor then must operate within small-scale, community “extralegal” markets and negotiations. I have referred to this market activity, so visibly abundant and active within South America, as a “micro-economy,” not recognizing that this teeming market life was not necessarily included within the larger economy in a formal sense.

What I also like about De Soto’s vision is his recognition that the poor have always historically recognized the opportunities inherent in a larger market. The movement to urban centers during the Industrial Revolution is well documented, and the same movement is now occurring in developing countries daily. The poor innately recognize opportunity when they see it, and recognize that fundamentally, global markets can provide access to a wider network of capability and progress.

Of course, simply giving the poor land titles and opening up their economies to globalization does not necessitate a better life, due to the great imbalance of power and wealth in favor of developed nations and small populations within developing nations. De Soto’s simplistic diagnosis has thus been rightfully critiqued. But with corrected fiscal policy and global law, these imbalances can be addressed to become more inclusive. De Soto’s insights can very neatly be coupled with the insights provided by social entrepreneurs like Muhammad Yunus. With the tool of microcredit, the poor can be given the ability to become included within the wider market and use their properties as capital assets.

The wider the embrace of networks can become, the more powerful and effective they will be. A market that can include and embrace all of the teeming activity of the micro-economies of the poor (and thus raise them out of poverty) is a healthy and balanced market.

What I also appreciate about De Soto’s vision is his emphasis on the global movement towards interdependence. Accepting membership into a greater community is to shed a degree of self-sufficiency and isolation. There is a strong undercurrent within environmental activism as well as nationalist reactionaries towards self-sufficiency and isolationism. It is certainly important to have integrity and inner strength. But at a certain point, interdependence within greater networks provides a greater strength and resiliancy.

I can best phrase this within the context of death: when someone you are close to passes away, you can feel a humongous hole cut out from inside of you. It makes you realize just how interconnected you are with everyone else in your life, and of how illusory is the concept that you are alone and detached.

When acts of violence and terrorism are committed, they are best viewed as perverted and desperate attempts to become included into the networks that they have been excluded from. The answer, therefore, in fighting terrorism is not in utilizing weapons and occupations, but rather in fighting poverty, by seeking to include, in an effective and positive manner, the developing nations and those in extreme poverty into the global market and body politic.

It is no secret that those nations mired in extreme poverty harbor terrorists. So what should we do? Bomb them? Or seek to include them into the greater networks of which they so desperately want to become a part of and which they have been routinely denied. Isn’t the answer obvious?

The Hypothetical Clinton Supporters for McCain

Alright, so would someone like to explain to me this now common media pundit snippet about irate Hillary Clinton supporters who now say they will vote for McCain? What the fuck? It just doesn’t make any sense. Anyone who supported Hillary Clinton would recognize that Obama clearly supports many of the same initiatives, and relative to someone as contrary McCain, is in fact nearly indistinguishable on the political spectrum of things.

It makes one wonder if this supposedly substantial percentage of voters now claiming to vote for McCain in the absence of Clinton is simply a creation of the media. And if there are any voters out there that exist who would vote in such a manner, well, let’s just say that they must be extremely confused people, with perhaps little capability of utilizing the critical faculties of their noggins.

Geography of the Mind

Why can’t we look at people based on the color of their minds, the fruit of their perspectives, their intriguing meshed inner map of happenstance and outward trajectories of decisions, the varying shades of individualism interwoven within the living fabric of all that exists? We’ve got people convinced that somehow the color of their skin defines their capability and outlines their personality. That the accoutrements of one’s gender defines their ability to succeed or perform. That we’ve got to talk a certain way, act a certain way, perform a certain way.

It’s now been proven that sexual orientation is a formation of the brain before thought. There is no will, no choice in the matter. What appears can and often will contradict what is.

In the United States, we have furthered and maintained the myth of an identity known as the ‘black’ or ‘white’ person. Is the type of genes that one possesses relevant to anything but one’s healthcare provider? The color of one’s skin only becomes relevant outside of such concerns in a society that has bigotry at its core. The classification of black and white should not be used to subdivide cultural identity. We are all citizens of our country, with common goals and standards. Our perceived differences should merely lie in geography and ideologies, not in genes.

We live in a world based on diaspora. The identity of the citizen of a country is no longer based on the color of one’s skin nor even necessarily on the language one speaks. We create artificial subdivisions based on wealth and seclusion, and use excuses like racial identity to explain away inequity.

There is no escaping the conclusion that we all share common goals and agree to accept the standards of capitalism and democracy and human rights. Beyond that, why are we divided? Beyond that, why are we afraid? Beyond that, why do we classify ourselves as limited due to our appearance, when all of the evidence around us points not to what we look like, but where we happen to live, or what we happen to belief in?

All this hullabuloo during the presidential campaign has revolved around race and gender politics. What a petty misdirection of our attention from the issues that truly matter, and what concerns us all. It’s like everyone is patting themselves on the back because a woman and a black man are finally considered viable candidates for president of the United States. But guess what people? Wait to pat yourselves on the back until the day comes when we dismiss race and gender as completely irrelevant to the realm of politics—and to any other realm of public domain.

Thoughts On Money & Poverty: Part III

I’ve had some more thoughts to add to my developing perspective on poverty that stems and evolves from my last post; there I had begun the line of thought that poverty is not an issue of charity and indifference, but rather of a systemic need to provide recourse for the poor to make their own money in a legitimate manner (duh!). Continuing this direction in thought, I would like to now confront a fundamental obstacle in the path to the poor helping themselves: those with the money and the power.

It is the onus and privilege of those with money and power to pretend that they have nothing to do with poverty. I am now going to begin speaking of these folk as “we”, in the assumption that if you are reading this post, you are probably not living in poverty. And I include these poor, destitute 20 somethings in NYC who are forced to flirt for free drinks and eat junk food while living in their loft apartments in midtown Manhattan (follow that link up there to read yet another article that demonstrates just whom the NY Times caters their news towards). At this point, you are probably throwing up your hands and backing out the door, saying, “I’m not responsible for poverty. I can barely afford my credit card bills, fill up at the pump, or pay back my student loans.” But you are. We are all responsible, because of the very reason of such a denial. We are responsible because we are complicit.

Don’t worry, this is not going to turn into one of those liberal assays of guilt and blame. I simply wanted to make my point very clear: the major obstacle in the way of the poor raising themselves out of poverty is not themselves—it is those who hold onto money and power and deny it from the poor. We are all complicit in this act because of reasons such as I had detailed in my last post on this issue: we believe that the poor are poor because they are lazy, stupid, or simply because we need poor people in order for there to be rich people. And so we either extend charity or pity, or we remain indifferent. And thus complicit.

Beyond complicity, there are those who work directly to keep the poor poor, and these are the people with the major money and power. The Bush Administration, along with groups like Enron and Halliburton, have clearly demonstrated what kind of stripes these people wear. They are greedy sons of bitches who will not hesitate to lie, cheat, and betray all of the world in order to get what they feel is their entitlement. And because we are complicit, we slap their hands, but we do nothing to stop them. Because we all want to be this powerful and have that much money. We all want to become the real life embodiment of the American Dream.

But to assume that simply because we live in a capitalistic society and that our market thrives on competition that we require for there to be have and have-nots is ridiculous, and in fact completely anti-capitalistic. The more people that we can allow onto the playing field of the economy, the more that there will be enhanced competition as well as collaborative growth, and the more the market will develop. Poor people need to be extended credit and resources to start their own businesses, fund their own developments, build their own communities, and invest back into the bigger pool. The more that micro-economies thrive and teem and interact with smaller fry, the more that the macro will be stabilized and efficient and healthy.

The fact is, there is no credible reason to keep poor people poor. The only thing that keeps poor people poor is the greed, complacency, bigotry, short sightedness, and all other forms of small mindedness from those with money and power. It is therefore only extreme indifference and cruelty that allows us to see, when taxes are cut and budgets are slashed and essential programs and social services are jettisoned, not the devastating effect on human lives, rather solely the hypothetical increase in our own coffers. We put up blinders to our own humanity to think in such a manner. The fact is that there is no excuse. There is no acceptable reason for accepting poverty.

And there is no acceptable reason, for that matter, of accepting any kind of tainted and bitter revolt against our own humanity. Compassion is much stronger than pity. Understanding is much more powerful than fear. Everyone on this earth has the potential to be beautiful. Everyone deserves to be beautiful, to shine, to be seen as the treasure and gift that they are.

We need to fight back against the ugly despair, disgust, and terror that is our nightly news. We need to fight back against the complacency and indifference that is so easy to succumb to, the avoidant eyes on the subway, the challenging aggression on the streets, the burning short fuses on the freeway.

No one said it would be easy. But there is a fundamental step within our own minds that must take place for anything good to happen: we must determine whether we will fight for joy, fight for beauty, fight for wonder, and fight for humanity, or whether we will simply step back into the shallows of our temporary alliances and turn against what we know is true. We know that the existence of poverty—ever, anywhere, but most especially now—is simply

unacceptable.

So what do we do? Do we start throwing our pennies in the cups of homeless on the street? No, of course not. We need to start affecting change in the structures and environments of the most destitute and impoverished areas of our cities. We need healthy, beautiful, clean, and affordable living spaces. We need access to public transportation. We need the extension of credit and access to money. We need access to well-funded educational and youth development programs. We need nutritious food. We need potable water. Is any of this complicated?

Essentially, all that the problem of poverty and its related issues requires is ATTENTION. The solutions then flow from creativity, community, and collaborative dedication. And turning our attention to these matters should not be seen as charity, selflessness, and other forms of saintliness. Rather, we turn our attention to these matters because we recognize that we are enhancing our greater community—because we are removing the root source of fear, bigotry, and despair from all of our lives. Like what I was saying in another post about the need, in our personal lives, of cleaning and organizing every hidden and unattended spot in our living spaces and mind, so too in our civic spaces and minds we must focus on those areas that are ignored, have been left to fester and decay, have turned into dumping grounds. Because these are areas that are parts of ourselves.

We cannot detach ourselves from each other, except to the detriment of everyone’s humanity.

The More the Problems, the Simpler the Solutions

In this day and age, as the perennial problems of humanity grow ever greater in the face of our increased global interconnectivity and environmental fragility, it becomes more evident that all of our problems are interrelated and cannot be solved without an enlightened holistic approach. We cannot tackle the problem of public health without tackling the problems of poverty, which cannot be tackled without confronting the issue of rampant hydrocarbon dependency, which cannot be conquered without resolving fundamental issues of human rights and freedom, and this goes on and on and on. It can also be phrased thus: we cannot ignore human rights abuses in Sudan, nor environmental degradation in China, for the cost will ultimately fall upon all of us.

While that may at first make resolving any of the major dilemmas humanity faces in the oncoming years of increased natural disaster and antibiotic resistant microbes seem especially daunting, these compounding converging problems in fact present us with opportunities to enact revolutionary structural changes that can work to harmonize disconnected and fragmented elements of humanity and bring them together in a greater, unifying global interconnection.

An example of this point could be taken quite literally down to the case of a human body. Our bodies eventually let us know when we have pushed them beyond their capacities of maintaining health, and some organ will fail, or a disease will take hold, or a heart will exhibit stress. At that point, we look at immediate symptoms and seek a means of addressing that sole symptom. Beyond that, however, we then seek to discover how to prevent a reoccurence of this problem, as well as to prevent other related issues springing from the same source, and we thus must seek manners of altering our lifestyles, our behaviors, and our perspectives in order to resolve more fundamental issues.

Our environment is letting us know that we are toeing the line–and may well have already significantly crossed–on the path to complete destabilization of all life supporting habitats. There is no doubt in the mind of any cognizant scientist, activist, politician, nor concerned citizen that we are facing some major problems due to global warming and widespread environmental stress. And so we are now looking at immediate ways to address these symptoms, such as by seeking alternative sources of energy, carbon emission cap and trades, and worldwide standards of environmental regulation. But as we begin to look beyond these immediate symptoms, we also begin to see that we must address even more fundamental issues in our societies, governments, economies, cultures, and perspectives, as they all stem from the same source.

So now is the time that we are really gaining the opportunity, as a human species, to deeply address issues that we have had since the birth of human consciousness, such as disparity between the rich and the poor, segregation and bigotry due to birth and appearance, and all other manifestations of hatred, division, and greed. Does that sound idealistic and glorifying of my own age and time? Undoubtedly. But what can also undoubtedly be stated is that the world we are living in, as of this writing, is a world quite unlike the world that it was a mere 50 years ago. We are globalizing, networking, trading, and traveling at an exponentially snowballing rate. And due to this global interconnection, all of our actions and behaviors become magnified in effect. So while once upon a time we were only destroying some land downstream, now we are destroying the entire globe. We cannot detach ourselves from the fate that we are creating. We cannot ignore the effect that our actions will have on our children.

Anyway, I could go on like this for a while. The point that I wanted to make is that all of these major problems that we are now facing can be seen as an opportunity for widespread positive change. Never before has humanity as a species been so positioned as to fundamentally address our disconnection from our planet, from each other, and from ourselves. The time is now.

Let Obama Stand for What He Truly Represents: US

Well, corporate media has done it, you gotta hand it to them: they’ve consistently portrayed the presidential campaign as completely boring, distanced from all real issues, and overblown so many small dramas out of proportion that most people are sick of it all already. Good job guys! Way to promote apathy!

And guess who the winner will be if this environment of apathy and disconnect continues to be so convincingly portrayed? Why, the party that appears to best benefit from voter apathy, ignorance, misunderstanding, bipartisanship, and bigotry: the Republican party.

I don’t want to see this happen. So I’m urging you to please bear in mind when scanning your newspaper or Google news or whatever source you use to get your information that politics is not simply about soundbytes, allegations, and big media-backed rebuttals. Politics can be whatever people demonstrate concern about. We don’t have to allow ourselves to be steered into gossip politics, where the “hot topic” revolving around Barack Obama is something that his pastor said. Who cares what his pastor has said? (Heard what some of McCain’s spiritual advisor has said?) What about what Obama himself is saying, or any of the other candidates, for that matter? Have you been listening to any of that? Well, the media sure ain’t. They are just looking to sell drama and sensationalism. Apparently they don’t think that issues that actually matter will mean anything to the masses.

What’s frustrating is that the whole national discourse has changed, and politicians are reflecting this change, but the big media is still desperately plugging away with the same routine. Haven’t they gotten it yet? I want to see headlines describing the environmental policy stances of the candidates. I want to see investigative articles about long-term plans the candidates will have to combat our country’s educational system decline, global warming and carbon emissions, and suburban sprawl.

What’s especially interesting when it comes to Barack Obama is that they are obviously looking for some weakness in his armor, something they can use to bring him down. But the worst they can find is something his pastor has said. The worst they can find is the fact that he is calling for trying diplomacy first before wildly dropping bombs and invading all enemies (remember why we ended up in Iraq in the first place?). These tactics must be seen as the pathetic diversion that they are: attempts to keep the public from concentrating on the real issues that matter that Obama and Hillary have been bringing to the fore, such as increased coverage of health care, working together across party lines to create a common plan and vision for the future, dealing with climate change, and attempting to address the problems in Iraq in a more healing manner than simply throwing contracting money and troops at it.

I’m going to keep bitching about big media until I consistently see important issues reflected in the presidential campaign, not just squabbling, gossip, and smear tactics.

Political Transformations

7-10 years ago, whilst embedded in what was seen as the necessary destination after completion of high school—college (I can’t believe it was that long ago)—I was a very angry and depressed young individual, aware to some degree that many of my peers were sheltered and unconcerned with problems in our society that existed visibly and blatantly all about them (this was in Los Angeles, a city which provides immediate and stark contrasts between those who have and those who ain’t got). Like many other somewhat intelligent folk I know, this resulted in a lashing out (psychologically speaking) against the structures, edifices, and assumptions of my society. Part of this backlash in my mentality was the rejection of a vanilla cultural identity, as well as a rejection of the standard mentalities of history, economics, politics, progress, and science. I also deliberately sought to detach myself from family structures and their repressive definition of self, as well as reviled the destructive processes of globalization and corporate defined superficiality. Nothing could be more sinister in my mind than a corporation, tied into the political structure of commerce and propaganda, backed by a heavily armed police force and hazily endorsed by a god.

But I’ve undergone some fundamental shifts in perspective since those bitter days of yore, and I’ve come to recognize the bittersweet value in structures, histories, economies, political congregations, and general networks of humanity. I’ve come to terms with capitalism, evolution, and superficial identities. And I’d like to share the reasons for these shifts in my own mentality in the hope that perhaps I can help bring into the fold other similarly angry, deliberately disenfranchised folk.

I know a lot of intelligent people out there who share a lot of the misconceptions I had, and who thus do nothing for themselves nor their society because they refuse to be part of a profit generating workforce—i.e. “becoming a suit“. They are frightened of losing their identity and integrity to commerce—even though they never really had a solid identity to begin with—and they fear structures due to reluctance to be put easily into a box and defined. So instead, they drift laxly from one menial seasonal job to another, growing older but not wiser, allowing all of their personal power to be subverted by “the system,” despite their thinking that they are the ones keeping their power. They fail to recognize that there are many profit generating and non-profit institutions which are working within the system to change it dramatically from within.

I have not shifted my mentality in the sense that I no longer think my society—and the world et al—has any problems. I still see the same problems I did—and more—than when I was angry and detached and bitter. However, I view these problems through a much different lens. I no longer see the solution to these problems as being a matter of attempting to dismantle the greater “system” and all overarching structures, and letting it all collapse in something like a revolution, and starting it all over again “the right way”. A lot of people think this is the answer, either overtly or unconsciously, and they aren’t usually the fist pumping anarchist that such ideology might seem to produce. Rather, they are simply confused, apathetic, and storing pent up frustration, because they don’t see any sure and definite methods of achieving their idealistic visions. So instead, they complain about how fucked up things are, and they do nothing about it, except to abstain from interacting and changing the “system” in positive ways, which only ends up increasing its problems.

An easy example of what this attitude results in is demonstrable in the election process in the US. For a long time, I refused to vote, because I didn’t want to take part in something I didn’t believe in. I used to view politics as an exclusive club run by the super-rich in which my actions had no influence. And then when I finally did start voting, guess who kept getting elected? Exclusive club/dynasty member #1, born again son of the Bush clan. It was disheartening, to say the least. But the reason such politicians keep getting elected is simply because no one who really wants it to change is voting. And this is because they are so idealistic that they are in actuality apathetic.

My argument for voting is simple: pragmatism. I don’t believe that by placing a vote I am going to change much of anything. I don’t believe I’m making the world a better place. I don’t believe that my chosen politician will turn things around, start raising the impoverished out of poverty, start taxing the rich, and refuse to listen to the siren lobbyists for corporate welfare. BUT—if I believe that the system needs to change, whether I believe the system needs to be completely overturned, revamped, updated, or just slightly tweaked, whether I am an anarchist, Libertarian, Green Party member, Republican, or Democrat—then the fact is that voting should be viewed for what it is: a very, very limited tool to implement change from within the system. And as someone who wants to alter this system, I need to use whatever tools I have been given. Starting with voting. Then extending logically into lobbying, petitioning, writing, calling, e-mailing, pamphleting, blogging, networking, and so on. THAT is what democracy is about. It’s about people using whatever limited tools they have been given to enact the changes they want to see. Otherwise, all of their power has been relinquished, and the super rich who abolish all taxes for the super rich and subsidize the corporations of the super rich will continue to be placed into positions of power. And as long as the idealists refuse to get their hands dirty and utilize limited tools to effect limited change, then politics will continue to not reflect their concerns and interests.

So to bring this all back to myself and my evolution in mentality and where I am today: I have subdued my rampant idealism in favor of an optimistic pragmatism. I believe that I can change the world, but that I can most effectively do this by working with whatever means I have—whether it is within established structures, or whether it is outside of those structures. Altogether, any action that I choose to make has a consequence and a power, whether it is part of a “system” or not. I no longer completely reject these systems, these established structures, these histories, these given identities. Rather, I embrace them in order to change them, to enhance them, to re-design them, retrofit them, work within them and outside of them to strengthen them for the future. I can change my identity to suit whatever need I have at the moment: I can be what others tell me I am, I can be what I think I am, I can be what my job function is, I can flit from box to box without being confined in any, because I know where my integrity lies, and I am not frightened of losing an identity I never had any longer. My identity is all these things, my face, my heart, my genes, my nation, my soul. Undefinable and easily photographed.

I no longer believe that corporations are evil, or that capitalism is contrary to human nature. I think that such views are kind of like someone who comes into a plot of land which hasn’t been farmed well, and they decide to level everything, till the earth, hose down the weeds with roundup, apply fertilizer, and start completely anew. It can be done, but it’s not the best way. It’s better to look at what is growing well, and to learn from it, and chop back what is not doing well and mulch it, and utilize knowledge from all sources to enhance and nurture new plantings to add nutrients to the soil. To look at the system as a whole, and seek to balance all components with each other and foster interrelationships that work together, instead of in opposition.

So politically speaking, I’ve come to learn the value of meeting with the “other side” halfway and understanding where they are coming from. And I think a lot of other people are coming to the same conclusions, because if you look at the current run-up to the presidential campaign, you see that there’s a lot of people straddling what were once indivisible walls between left and right. There’s a movement and struggle not simply towards the left, but towards the center. Republican, Democrat, and everyone who is undefined by such categories are all attempting to find a common standard of political understanding, a basis for shared understanding of what we all need to do to move forward into this great evolutionary unknown that is the future.

Democratic Race Still On

So the race between Hillary and Obama is still on! Though I am mostly in the Obama camp myself, I respect Hillary’s intelligence and political polish, and I’m excited to see both of them competing and reflecting the political paradigm shift of the times. Both of them share the same fundamental positions—with minor differences—on policy, and both would enact much needed critical change in Washington (taking politics back to somewhere in the center, as opposed to the far, extreme, distant and cold right). Like most of my generation, I am excited simply by the fact that politics is suddenly exciting. I’ve been frustrated by apathy and withdrawal by progressive and independent voters in the past, and it’s nice to finally see some of them getting off their high horse (i.e. lazyboy sofa) to cast some votes, make some calls, sign some petitions, and get involved. That’s the only way we can get some real democracy going in this quasi-democratic nation. We’ve got to use whatever limited tools we’ve got to make whatever degree of change possible.