Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Giant Hamster Wheel of Political Rhetoric

I really believe that the arts are vital in times of strife, and that's particularly true with witty orators and writers. They are the court jesters who get away with more than the rest of us can, and they're necessary to any rebellion. So I appreciate how Anthony Jeselnik discusses politics at the end of this conversation with Colin Quinn (at 53:53 min.):

He talks about deciding not to use a prepared joke about a shooting in the wake of a recent shooting:
"I don't want anyone to think I'm on that side. . . . even though I like playing with that side. . . . People go, 'You joke about the things we're all thinking but can't say.' No, I'm not. . . . I do not pander to that crowd. . . . I'm not more careful, I'm just more conscious about what I represent. . . . I want people to be scared of me, but I also want to be able to do good and be the kind of villain that other villains don't want to fuck with."

I think that's the kind of attitude we need, not just in comedy, but in politics. I think of all the Dems running, really only Bernie has that no bullshit stance. He spoke to Joe Rogan recently about the soundbite non-debate method used in the primaries, gun control, medicare, climate change, etc.:

But, yesterday in Truthdig, Chris Hedges made it clear that no democrat will change the system. Not Bernie, not AOC, nobody who's part of the system. He wrote about the activism of Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, who recently gave a 90 minute speech, "Time to Act Now," and about the Green New Deal, first promoted by Howie Hawkins, who's running as the Green Party nominee in the U.S. presidential election. Hawkins might be this year's Ralph Nader, taking much needed votes away from the less bad party, or he might have no effect at all in the machine that's running the world into the ground. Hedges writes,
The drivel and invective that passes for political discourse is a giant hamster wheel that goes nowhere. It masks the root causes of our political and economic decline and fractures the population into warring camps that increasingly communicate through violence, which is why the United States has suffered mass shootings with three or more fatalities more than 30 times this year. We will save ourselves only by pitting power against power. And since our two major political parties slavishly serve corporate power, and have few substantial differences on nearly all major issues from imperialism to unfettered capitalism, we must start from scratch. . . . The Democrats, if they had a functioning political party and were not owned and managed by corporations, could easily displace Trump and demolish the Republican Party in electoral landslide after landslide. . . . A genuine populism and New Deal socialism are the only hope of thwarting the rise of neofascist movements. This, however, will never be permitted by the Democratic Party hierarchy, led by figures such as Pelosi, Joe Biden and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who are acutely aware they would instantly lose their power without the prop of hundreds of millions of corporate dollars. They, and their corporate sponsors, will block all reform even if it means another four years of Trump and the extinguishing of democracy. The only thing they have to sell us is fear—fear of Trump and the Russians. While Trump sells the fear of immigrants, Muslims, people of color and those he brands as socialists. This is a toxic diet. . . . 
All meaningful resistance takes place outside the formal political structures. The 10-day protest in April in London led by Extinction Rebellion—which saw 1,130 people arrested as crowds repeatedly shut down major parts of the city in demonstrating against the failure of the ruling elites to confront the climate catastrophe—is what we must emulate. . . . “We’re looking at the collapse of the world’s agriculture systems,” Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, told me when we spoke in London. . . . “We need to insulate all housing stock,” he said. “We need to turn over the economy so that it’s completely electrified. We need to have all the energy coming from renewables. We need a social transformation, so the rich are taxed and pay their fair share. We need to organize communities around quality of life so that people can learn to adapt to these changes, these traumatic changes. This is a matter of physics. It’s not a matter of political opinion. These changes are coming. It’s far too late for massive increases in temperature not to happen. What we’re looking at now is whether we’re going to go extinct or not. I know that sounds like science fiction, but it’s true. We need to look at the figures. It’s like going to the doctor. This is cancer. You don’t like it, that’s fine, but it’s not going to stop you from dying. The only option is do you want to accept that this is the situation? Or don’t you? If you don’t, you’re going to die. If you do, there is a chance. But you’re going to have to get a move on it.” . . . 
[The Green New Deal] was articulated 12 years ago by the Green Party, which called for massive job and public works programs to transition our energy infrastructure to renewable energy. The deal was promoted by Howie Hawkins when he ran for the governorship in New York in 2014 and by Jill Stein during her 2016 presidential run. The proposal for a Green New Deal by the Green Party has a fundamental difference from what is touted by progressive Democrats. It does not argue that structural change and a transition to renewable energy will come by making alliances with corporate power. Instead, it insists that we bring about a transformational change in our economy by crushing corporate power and establishing a socialist system. [Hawking says,] 'Trump is a racist scapegoater. He is a freeloading leech who doesn’t pay his own employees, contracts, taxes. He lies to the people. He needs to go. But if you replace him with a Democrat, they’re not going to enact ‘Medicare for All.’ They’re not going to do a Green New Deal. They are backing Trump, who now wants a war for oil in Venezuela, while the planet is burning from burning oil. It’s madness.' . . .  We have to reorganize all sectors [of the economy]—agriculture, manufacturing, the military, transportation—toward sustainability. Or we’ll never get to 100 percent clean energy.” Switch off the electronic images. Ignore the media burlesque. The endless political shows, which turn presidential campaigns into mind-numbing, two-year-long marathons, are entertainment. Do not trust anyone in power. We will save ourselves by building mass movements to overthrow corporate power. I am not certain we will succeed. But I am certain that if we fail, we are doomed.

At this point, it feels like we're doomed. I can't get any students remotely interested in rebellion. The bread and circuses on their phones has melted their energy - most of them anyway. But it could all turn a corner on a dime. We could be one good, rousing speaker - political or otherwise - away from changing the world. Just maybe.

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