We who write for alternative media persistently address the current tsunami of vile ills. We highlight Trump aggressively enlarging institutional mayhem. To passively watch the world burn is bad enough. To actively light the fires is existentially worse. To gleefully unplug alarms and incarcerate fire brigades is the kicker.
But another ill resides in ourselves, not Trump, unacknowledged, even unnoticed, and horribly under addressed.
We focus, focus, focus on Trump and society’s most malicious reactionary trends but we barely mention polls saying that majorities have become openly critical of “capitalism,” and even openly positive about “socialism.” Worse, we don’t prioritize enlarging that trend.
Take the polls further. Imagine fears of climate incineration, nuclear Armageddon, rampant poverty, racism, misogyny, and cultural vapidity were, however briefly, not making us depressingly cynical. In a free thinking, relaxed state, assuming we were urged to express desires not fears, what do you predict would be poll answers to the following questions, especially among young people:
- 1. Do you favor killing 20 million Koreans in an inferno of human corpses, or do you prefer negotiating peace?
- 2. Do you favor curtailing solar and wind and enlarging oil and coal at the cost of submerging coastlines and making once a century storms weekly holocausts, or do you prefer emphasizing solar and wind while financially ensuring those now laboring in (but not owning) the coal and oil industries?
- 3. Do you believe government should serve the rich and powerful and their corporations at the expense of everyone else, or do you believe that government should provide services that improve the well being of everyone else while reining in the rich and powerful and their corporations?
- 4. Do you favor transferring wealth from those who now struggle to survive much less enjoy life, to those who are already rich beyond any possible human utilization, or do you favor the reverse?
- 5. Do you favor racism, homophobia, and misogyny that ridicules, denies, sequesters, and brutalizes so many, or do you favor a diverse approach to life that guarantees all people dignity and full rights?
Imagine positive aspirations were widely and effectively enunciated about all these matters by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions and tens of millions of people openly agitated with careful reasoning, abundant evidence, and compassionate empathy on behalf of humane answers. What do you think polls would then show?
I realize that many with otherwise fine values sadly believe that nearly everyone would answer like our disgusting, vile, irredeemable thug-in chief. But for those who think that the preponderant drift of views in society is already overwhelmingly humane, or that it could easily become so with broad efforts at reversing false fears and beliefs – a practical question arises. After all, our point ought to be not just to understand the world, or to have humane views about it, but to change it by actually implementing humane views. Why don’t more of us try to envision and win new institutions in tune with most people’s desires?
Ours is among the worst of times. Just view corporate and government policy trends, international relations trends, climate trends, and even the emergence of fascist constituencies. Power is running roughshod.
Ours is also, however, among the best of times. Just view popular openness to progressive, radical, and even revolutionary aspirations and sentiments and the tenuous basis of contrary beliefs, as well as the incredible reach and scope of narrow issue and short time horizon but nonetheless highly progressive projects and movements. Dissent is turning toward rebellion.
So why do we who write for alternative media so often largely ignore, minimize, or even deny and certainly not aggressively celebrate and pursue the positive? And why do we so often multiply, highlight, exaggerate, and wallow in the negative?
Why do we proclaim and re-proclaim that the societal glass is nearly empty? Why do we discuss and re-discuss its emptiness, try to prove and re-prove its emptiness, and even predict and re-predict its only getting yet emptier?
Why do we look forward and see only dystopian emptiness? Why don’t we envision a fulfilling future? Why don’t we write not just to reveal or better make current emptiness less deadly, but to attain comprehensive fullness?
Is the answer that we are cowed by fear of repression, or that we are callous or lazy? Do the countless people who would humanely answer our hypothetical poll listed above suffer those ills? Do all those people now working tirelessly and courageously for mitigating one aspect of pain or another, or for preventing one reactionary step or another, suffer those ills? I think the idea that fear, callousness, or laziness are what mainly impedes emergence of unified movements seeking comprehensive visionary change is nonsense.
But what about depression, cynicism, and defeatism? Are they what limits our formulations and actions? Do more than a handful of people escape those ills? Does that explanation convey considerable truth?
But even if like me you think it does, why are we so depressed, cynical, and defeatist that it demobilizes us or at least limits the range of our desires and actions to being anti this or anti that, but not pro a real vision of liberation?
Why are so many of us eager to block Trump, but beyond that not eager to win really positive, humane lasting social progress across all facets of society? Why don’t more people want to win back modest prior gains, but to also win new liberation we haven’t yet had? Why do so many of us believe that espousing and working for comprehensive, structural gains is a fool’s errand not worth our support much less active involvement? Why do we accept that the best we can perhaps attain is warding off literal insanity?
Why do even courageous, energetic, socially immersed movements to overcome Trumpism, or to prevent global incineration or flooding, or to block surging racist and sexist violence, or to mitigate corporate greed, rarely rise to the level of seeking more than offsetting current losses or moderately mitigating current injustices in only one or another realm of life? Why don’t they pose truly positive liberating aims, and more, why don’t share and connect them, mutually enforcing one another. Why is there more back biting than having each others’ backs?
Why do so many already aroused and courageous folks, much less folks who are incredibly angry and shocked, but not yet active, disparage even conceiving of new institutions that could really meet human needs and unleash popular potentials, much less working to join them into overarching vision that transcends single focuses?
Why is there so little presentation of answers to the question we so often hear from people we reach out to who say, yes, I know what you dislike, but what do you really want, and why do you think it is desirable, possible, attainable, and how do you think you can win it?
Why do even radicals, and even those deemed revolutionaries, so often dismiss efforts to formulate and present much less to unify around comprehensive demands and innovative institutional social vision and associated program and strategy?
Aren’t these questions worth attention?
If another world is to be made possible, don’t we have to conceive it? If it is to be won, don’t we have to proclaim it, believe in it, and collectively plant it’s seeds?
Is our lack of shared vision and issue spanning mutual aid just a self fulfilling prophesy at work, now and for a long time past? We don’t have a long-term vision, so we don’t have hope much less strategy for long-term transformation, so we don’t pursue it?
Does anything beyond habit held over from the past, on the one hand, and hopelessness stemming from our own unchallenged immersion in a world that says there is no alternative, obstruct us? Can’t we find the audacity to overcome those internal limits?
Whatever other priorities we who write for alternative media, and we who read, and we who organize and demonstrate may have, shouldn’t we also prioritize overcoming our residual and depressed visionlessness before the hopelessness and fragmentation that visionlessness induces produces collective social suicide?
In the old one liner, shouldn’t we “dare to struggle, dare to win” even if doing so requires that we overcome our own cynical doubts and risk ridicule, even from friends, family, and allies for being utopian, naive, or arrogant?