The most vocal critics of Our President might not be the contenders for the Republican nomination. Book Review No. 2 suggests that a different dissenting point of view is available in Chris Hedges's Death of the Liberal Class. The reader must understand, however, that Liberal Class is not about Daniel Patrick Moynihan or Hillary Clinton or Rachel Maddow. Oh, no, no, no.
Turn to page 122. The New Left of the 1960s, and French poststructuralism are "political sterility" and a "charade of protest." (On the right, calling these things a lot of wordnoise, or primeval nostalgia, is good enough.) Just having a bad day, or perhaps an expensive cup of coffee during thinking time? Not at all. The message is one in which the policy impulses of the Social Gospel and the era of muckrakers is crowded out by bipartisanship and the corporate media, with a few "fascist" characterizations thrown in for good measure. Go forward by going backwards, as this call to action at page 156 suggests.
The best opportunities for radical social change exist among the poor, the homeless, the working class, and the destitute. As the numbers of disenfranchised dramatically increase, our only hope is to connect ourselves with the daily injustices visited upon the weak and the outcast. Out of this contact we can resurrect, from the ground up, a social ethic, a new movement. We must hand out bowls of soup. Coax the homeless into a shower. Make sure those who are mentally ill, cruelly abandoned on city sidewalks, take their medication. We must go back into America's segregated schools and prisons. We must protest, learn to live simply and begin, in an age of material and imperial decline, to speak with a new humility. It is in the tangible, mundane, and difficult work of forming groups and communities to care for others that we will kindle the outrage and the moral vision to fight back, that we will articulate an alternative.
Set the Wayback Machine to 1848 and start over. The book was written before the Occupy protesters hit the street. Plenty of outrage, but not much by way of humility there. Other recommendations in a similar vein might be, with modifications only to the politics, useful for survivalists seeking to withdraw from a society in collapse because of too much preference for the weak and the outcast.
What about Our President? That's page 199.
Obama had almost no experience besides two years in the Senate, where his voting record was a dismal capitulation to corporate power. But, once again, the electronic hallucinations that assault us rendered most voters incapable of thought and response. The superficial, the trivial, and the sensational mask our deep cultural, economic, political, and environmental disintegration as well as the newest political diversion approved by the corporate state. We remain hypnotized by flickering images we mistake for reality.
The academic Left likes its false consciousness. Rush Limbaugh likes to denounce slick marketing and packaging. You're more likely to hear sniping from the Right about Senator Obama voting present.
Ultimately, though, Mr Hedges gives the impression that it's harder for Nation scribblers to get an audience than it used to be, that is, unless you're dorky-looking enough for MSNBC. See page 209.
Journalists, once able to sell articles to publications overseas, now see their work flash around the globe without hope of compensation. We are starving our professional critics and artists. We are turning culture and art over to part-time amateurs.
He continues, trying to have it both ways. On one hand, he writes of "idiotic distractions that draw huge number of You Tube hits or public-relations created propaganda." With no shame at all, he follows with, "And any work that cannot gain corporate sponsorship or attract advertising dollars will be ignored." Next comes a gripe about the weakening of intellectual property rights and the destructive effects of what he calls "digital collectivism."
Perhaps boring institutions such as well-defined rules of ownership and contract, and division of labor, have more potential for improving the lives of people than all the voluntary communities of protest can ever do.
(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)