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View Diary: The Seduction of Cynicism (227 comments)

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  •  If you've embraced cynicism (6+ / 0-)

    there is not much I can do for you.  Otherwise I can tell you I've had really hard times in my life also.  But in fighting the cynicism that continues to creep into my soul, I tell myself these things:

    1) Achieving widespread cynicism is exactly what the corporate oligarchs want.

    2) It does me no good and discourages me from helping others when I can.  Politics is not just about improving my life but improving life for everyone.  

    3) I take courage and inspiration from the civil rights movement.  Never have I had to deal with what African Americans did in the 50s, 60s (or even now for that matter).  I actively look to MLK for inspiration on his attacks on poverty, racism and militarism.  I try to join social change groups but I never completely give up on politics.  I take Jesse Jackson to heart:

    In 1960, Martin Luther King supported Kennedy instead of Nixon to prevent America from going backward. Then he marched in the streets of Birmingham to pass the Civil Rights Act to move the nation ahead.

    In 1964, Martin Luther King supported Johnson instead of Goldwater to prevent America from going backward. Then he marched in Selma to pass the Voting Rights Act to move the nation ahead.

    For Dr. King, there was no conflict between voting strategically to prevent the triumph of reaction and leading a nonviolent mass movement to pressure a president to achieve profound social change.

    When we in the movement struggled for social justice, we helped weak presidents become stronger. When we in the movement struggled for social justice, we helped good presidents become great.

    Americans are sensibly dismayed at Washington’s corruption. The banks get bailed out, while homeowners go under. The entrenched interests like Big Oil keep their subsidies; the unemployed go without work.

    Dr. King understood how formidable entrenched power is, but he also understood the power of democracy. Only the people can break the logjam of powerful interests. Change comes not from the bottom up.

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Tue Oct 23, 2012 at 06:51:06 PM PDT

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    •  Cynicism is what the corporate oligarchs want? (6+ / 0-)

      More accurately, what the corporate oligarchs want is more along the lines of people sticking with the status quo duopoly. They want people to be relatively content with the way things are.

      Just get in line, vote, and everything will be okay. Don't think too hard about the fact that most of these candidates end up serving the corporate elites to more or less the same degree, with enough differences thrown in to have at least some argument that there is a distinction, no matter how slim. Every year that goes by, the differences are less and less.

      The last thing the oligarchs want is deeply felt, lasting, widespread, broad public discontentment with the the electoral system to the point that people choose to engage in direct action, en mass. The last thing the oligarchs want is more people like me. The ones they can ignore are those who just stick to the same old solutions.

      I may be cynical about the electoral process (a complete sham which they largely control, so of course that is what they would like us to put our faith in), but I am not cynical about other forms of activism and dissent.

      You've heard of that nice catchphrase about inequality between the 1% and the rest of us, resulting in the now famous chant "we are the 99%!"

      You can thank direct action for that slogan working it's way into the national political debate. You can thank the activism of OWS for that, and that is where I've chosen to focus my activism. I was evicted from three public parks, saw my s.o. pushed into the mud, saw beatings and brutality from police whose orders came from democratic mayors across the country.

      And before you tell me how naive I am, look at the history of the labor movement in the early 20th century. It was the raw, relatively spontaneous direct action that accomplished more change in the work environment than even the much better organized unions that came on the heels of those early protestors. The unions toned down the direct action in favor of electing union bosses (who would then negotiate with industry leaders) and some of the energy went out of the movement, and less dramatic changes were effected.

      And politics is, indeed, about "improving my life." To say it isn't is simply false and rather manipulative. My life matters, as do the lives of all the people. There is no conflict between these two goals, since my needs are pretty much the same as everyone's. What helps the people helps me, and vice versa.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Tue Oct 23, 2012 at 07:43:54 PM PDT

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      •  Well said. nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "I'm grateful for my job - truly, but still...ugh." CityLightsLover

        by Audri on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 08:12:19 AM PDT

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      •  This is fine... (0+ / 0-)
        I may be cynical about the electoral process (a complete sham which they largely control, so of course that is what they would like us to put our faith in), but I am not cynical about other forms of activism and dissent.
        But the context of this diary and whole thread is about cynicism about the electoral process.  That's my sole interest here.  I'm the last person to suggest that voting every 2-4 years is automatically going to solve everything.  I've been active in social justice, environmental and union organizations for decades.  I've followed the income inequality issue long before OWS showed up.  I've been part of the action and applaud our initial impact with OWS.  (Its ironic that Mr. Reich put out a good book on the topic a year earlier than the first OWS Zuccotti Park action. He also deserves kudos for that.)

        Jesse Jackson said it best.  Keep doing the social justice action, but keep voting strategically.  It's what Dr. King and his organization did.  It's what smart social justice activists do.  You apparently think there is literally no reason to vote ("a complete sham").  I think it is noteworthy that the social justice movements that have suffered some of the worst injustices of this society and been active the longest still find a purpose to vote.

        Estimates of Americans that die annually due to lack of health coverage is in the tens of thousands.  When it goes fully into place, Obamacare will start to make a major dent in that.  It took 80 years and 7 presidents trying to make it happen but we finally turned a corner.  I'm not going to pretend it's perfect but lives are literally being saved by the fact we have a President, some Senators (RIP Sen. Kennedy) and House reps that were willing to work hard to put this in place.

        There is ample reason to believe that if Repubs gain power in the WH, House and Senate Obamacare will get rolled back.  It's certainly what they say they'll do.

        I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

        by Satya1 on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 10:44:28 AM PDT

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        •  A few points... (4+ / 0-)

          If all we do is keep voting, even to the point in which much of what we're voting for is against our interests, we're becoming more and more like those uninformed voters we often find ourselves chastising.

          I don't think any rational person can argue that this does not at some point cross over the line of what can be tolerated, even for the most ardent party loyalist.

          At some point we all must decide this has gone too far. If we can't acknowledge that basic premise, then we've truly become unthinking followers of a party, and even of individual party personalities, rather than adherents to anything that can be defined as "social justice," no matter what groups take claim to such labels.

          And what's obvious is that many have found themselves coming up to that very line in the sand, and end up deeply troubled over what they see, pondering if we have in fact reached the point in which it is time to have a discussion about whether or not we've gone too far in supporting policies that are untenable to our goals.

          Some, in their accustomed support for a party simply walk right over that line without a moment's thought, as if party trumps policy. They are the loyal supporters of the team, and the support is so complete they are willing to blithely cast aside concern over such acts as the NDAA, indefinite detention, kill lists, drone terrorism against innocent civilians, the cozy relationship with Wall Street, health care bills which serve primarily health care corporations (I've done my homework and have determined this bill, in my circumstances, won't likely provide me with actual health care), prosecution of more whistle blowers than all administrations in previous history, torture by proxy, inhumane treatment of political prisoners, bailing out Wall Street while giving homeowners practically nothing, the TransPacific negotiations in trade, support of more NAFTA-style agreements... my god, the list is so long I need a data base to keep track of all the acts of malfeasance against progressive policy.

          As it stands, some have decided we now find ourselves at the edge of this line, and we see people stampeding over it without even so much as a slight hesitation to think about what we're in fact voting for, so captured and mesmerized they've become with the fervor of what they claim to be voting against.

          At some point, we will have gone from being mere citizens voting in an election for the best choices, to being literally complicit in the actions of the officials in all the aforementioned atrocious policy decisions.

          All but the most blind loyalists know this line in the sand exists. Of course, it exists. One would be an irrational fool to not admit that basic reality. Many well meaning and decent individuals are acting as if we're not there yet; that we can vote in good conscience and feel we have done the electoral system right, despite its obvious flaws. Others, equally well meaning and decent persons, feel we've reached the point in which the line is being crossed, and in good conscience are refusing to step over it.

          But few who would stroll right over that line (and I would count you, personally, as one of those), have had the decency to acknowledge that there is a time to draw any line whatsoever, much less admit a line even exists, and thus they openly exhibit disrespect for all those whose limits of tolerance of these atrocious policies are not as cavalier as their own (these individuals are ironically more tolerant and defensive of drone warfare against innocents than they are of those of us who would protest against it).

          I suggest that those who find themselves standing among the first to blow the whistle on this overstepping should be respected for their acts of conscientious objection by the more loyal party adherent. They should be treated as acting in good faith. Even in the midst of disagreement, they should be honored for having the courage to place limits on how far citizens should go before raising a voice of protest.

          That these people of conscience are sneered at, ridiculed, excoriated, and spit upon suggests just how far we have drifted toward a form of party nationalism (for lack of a better term) in which the party must be supported no matter how corrupt it becomes, because ostensibly the other choices are always deemed worse.

          But if we can't place limits on what we will support, we've already lost. If we can't speak out and make our objections known, for fear of giving unwitting support to the oligarchy, that oligarchy has already won. If we must support horrible atrocities because not doing so invites even more horrible atrocities, the corporations have so thoroughly painted us into a double bind that the game is over.

          The only way out of this double bind, as painful as it may be to face it, is to return to casting each vote with as much consciousness of what we are voting for as what we are voting against. We must recognize that there are limits which even the most fervent partisan must not cross in our fight for justice. If we cannot do this, we have become far too much like the enemy against whom we fight. And if we cannot do this, we have truly lost that fight, for at such crossroads we have become almost indistinguishable from those whose policies we would claim to stand against.

          And if some cannot acknowledge that those of us who speak such words of protest are as moral, as smart, as worthy, and as justified in taking this stand as they are, then it serves to demonstrate how this moral corruption is infecting not just the elites at the top of the party hierarchy, but the entire Democratic party.

          I don't condemn or ridicule anyone who wants to vote.

          And I ask the same respect for my choices. I will, by the way, be voting in the election. I will look at all candidates on the ballot, both for President and down-ticket, and make my vote according to my conscience.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act". -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 12:34:46 PM PDT

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          •  You speak about (0+ / 0-)

            ceasing tolerance of certain policies and about not crossing lines, but your language is a little vague about what not crossing the line entails other than speaking one's conscience with criticism.  You sometimes seem to imply that voting is nothing more than cooperation with the evil.  (There have been times I might have agreed with that - but not this year.)

            I'm concerned about all of the issues you mention but I'm also concerned about returning control of government back to the party that has over 200,000 Iraqis on its bloody hands.  Our nation is steeped in violence.  We export it via arms sales, we have a history of propping up violent dictators (changed a bit under Obama), we have an epidemic of violence within our boundaries.  The military-industrial-congressional complex is dedicated to keeping that violence churning 24x7x365.  As you can see at my top comment I am concerned about how far militarism has crept into even progressive values but that doesn't stop me from recognizing that there is one party that is a bit less disposed to it.  (At least most Dems in Congress voted against the AUMF.)

            Of course there is a "line in the sand".  And there are a lot of lemmings running right over it, often motivated by the most superficial of inducements.  But "line in the sand" is just a cliche until there is a real action plan to do something about the sometimes insane policies sponsored by US government.  There may be some situations where the line in the sand means stop participating in electoral politics entirely - including voting.  I've certainly felt that in some previous years.  For some, the third party protest vote was a choice.  But not this year.  That line moves from year to year, from issue to issue, and is subjective.  

            I can see the evils our government commits.  But I can also see some good things too.  When there is a clear choice between two sets of policies it would be irresponsible for me to not vote for the party that gives us the better chance for some progress.  It doesn't mean I have to be naive about the destruction of some of the policies either.  But it is a complex choice juggling good and bad, priorities and none of us are perfect at it of course.

            If avoiding another Iraq scenario in Iran thanks to Dubya's advisors being recycled by Romney is important...
            If keeping Obamacare is an overall benefit for tens of thousands...
            If fighting against the corporate oligarchy gains thanks to the Roberts court is important...

            Then there is just enough reason to vote Dem as a firewall against greater damage - a strategic vote.

            I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

            by Satya1 on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 08:08:38 PM PDT

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