September 27, 2010

YOUR EFFORTS ARE ALL IN VAIN! - a response to defeatism

The Punk Patriot Answers viewer mail!

Thad Allen writes:
I really appreciate your attempts to reform the politics of our nation for the better, but I think you're going to end up wasting your time in a futile endeavor. The system is pretty comfortable with itself as a two party closed off exclusionary system, where no ideas outside the corporate powers get any real say. If the system is so comfortable with itself, how can you possibly change it?

Well Thad, it’s really easy to be a defeatist and a fatalist when you think of things that are fictional and abstract as concrete and real.

When you say “the system” that’s a very nebulous term that includes a bunch of other fictional abstractions, which are also referred to as monolithic unified fronts, when in fact that are terms used to describe thousands of individuals. Abstractions like “media, government, society, political parties, unions, schools, laws, etc”

None of these things are actual things, but are made real through interactions that arise between the individual and these very abstractions that make up our day to day reality.

If we as individuals passively accept what we are confronted with on a day to day basis as “how things are, have always been, and always will be”, then we are no longer passive. In fact, in our complicity we are actively assisting those who seek to keep things the way they currently are.

But the truth is, through the choices we make on a day to day basis we create the world in which we live.

Now new age hippies have this same concept of “creating our reality.” These folks generally take this to irrational extremes, claiming that we can bend physical laws of reality, walk on water, travel through outer space, or physically alter reality using only our minds. I want to differentiate my point from this, as I do not mean that we create reality in a limitless way. I do think that there is an objective reality in which we exist, but that objective reality does not have abstractions in it.

Take for instance the idea of a State. Virginia does not exist. The earth exists, the rivers and lakes and streams and mountains and animals that live in the place we call “Virginia” exist, but the state of Virginia, we create using abstraction.

That objective reality does have physical laws, however, and so we must defer to the laws of physics. Now the Laws of Physics are mathematical descriptions of the world. Mathematics are an abstraction, and a creation of the human mind. The laws of physics apply whether we are aware of the mathematics or not.

So, how do we use this insight to tackle the problem of “the system” and it’s complacency?

Well, we need to step back from this idea of “the system” and analyze what it really is. Let’s break down this word into terms that are more meaningful. The biggest part of “the system” is the Government.

In the USA, we are purported to live in a representative democracy. In this system, individual people use the power of the ballot box to choose another individual person to make legislative decisions for them. Why? Because as a society, we have a division of labor. Different people who specialize in different things focus most of their energy on doing different tasks, much like the division of labor we see in the cells of our own body. One of those tasks we assign to individual members of society is that of legislative leadership.

What’s so great about this system, is the source of justification of power.
In America the justification of power is derived from the consent of the governed. That is in the Declaration of Independence. In other forms of government there are other forms of justification.

Under totalitarian governments, the justification is brute force. And you can’t argue with brute force.
Under monarchies, the justification is that they were appointed by God. And you can’t argue with God without being accused of heresy.

Under our system of government, however, our government derives it’s justification from the consent of the governed. That consent can be arrived at in many forms.

It can be arrived at when the government does a good and just job of meeting the demands of it’s citizens, providing the means to a flourishing society.

But it can also be arrived at through sheer apathy. If people simply do not care what their government does, do not pay attention to what their government is doing, and do not participate in their government, then they are voicing their support to the government by refusing to work to change it.

Working to change things is not a futile endeavor. People far too often assume that progress is impossible. But I’m undaunted by these supposed impossibilities. Indeed, everything that humanity has ever done was impossible.

When abolitionists started meeting and talking about abolishing slavery, that was impossible. When women started meeting and talking about getting the right to vote, getting the right to vote was impossible. When Gandhi defeated the British Empire via nonviolence, that was impossible. When Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and countless others started the Civil Rights movement, everything they sought to do was impossible. When the Czech people threw off the shackles of communism through nonviolent protest, that was impossible. When the Ukrainian people, through nonviolent protests, threw out a government that claimed power through fraudulent elections, that was impossible. Everything good humans have ever done throughout history has been impossible.

So how can I possible change the system? First, there is the fact that I am willing to entertain the radical idea that it is possible to change things, and thus, I do not lend my support to the status quo. Second, I work to change it through what is possible within the constraints reality gives me. I cannot snap my fingers and make things better. But I can join a local or state committee for a political party, run for office, assist others with whom I have a shared political vision in their run for office, lobby my elected officials to change the laws to make things better, etc etc etc.

And I can also join with others who share my vision. It’s not a unique idea to say that all people ought to have access to decent healthcare. It’s not an original idea to think that corporations should be stripped of the fiction of “personhood.” It’s not an original idea to think that third parties should be elected to office. It’s our duty as members of society, if we actually want to change things for the better, to build the movement and connect with people.

We must connect with people in our communities, be they online communities free of the barriers of place and connected by common interest, or offline communities that are rooted in physical place and connected by shared living quarters- Just the fact that you share the same physical space means that you share a lot of the same day to day realities, and thus are affected by many of the same things.

Can we change things for the better? I am confident and can say unequivocally that YES, we can.

WILL we change things for the better? I don’t know.
But not knowing is not a justification for my inaction. With inaction, we are guaranteed that things will stay bad, or get worse.
In fact, not knowing the outcome of the future is the basis for the argument that working towards a better future is the ONLY moral position that a person can take.

You’re watching the Punk Patriot. To Life, Liberty, and pursuit of a less fucked up government.

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