Being idealistic about idealism

Date (YYYYMMDD)Alliancel(0001)-31

Racism is the opiate of the masses. Keeping the blacks in their place had the desirable consequence of keeping the whites in their place.  The oppression of racism hid the basic fact that black people and white people had a common predicament and a common enemy.

If it were not for racism, black people and white people might band together and vote against the corrupt oligarchs who have turned this country into a haven for the huge faceless entities that contrive a million different ways to relieve citizens of their livelihood, property, dignity, worldly possessions.

Mentioning class warfare is considered de trop. It’s so, well, 19th century. But look around: Class war is already happening; it’s just that our side is essentially unarmed. Our only strength is our overwhelming numbers.

Racism is the drug that makes people not notice that. Racism is the drug that sets people against people and leave the super-rich alone to do business. Racism has allowed our country to arrive at its current state of apocalypse-level corruption.

Everybody wants social justice. Everyone wants policies that restore human dignity. Hardly anyone believes that American democracy, as it is currently constituted, will do anything to fulfill those goals. There is too much fluidity between government and business; too many think tanks, lobbyists and bundlers. The ruling class does what always does; it perpetuates itself. Also, it rules.

We wanted to get away from a king, but we’re still all subjects of an arbitrary system, cogs in an economic machine. We’re getting into 30s-eras Commie-pinko territory now, but why not? Let’s form cells and talk about the masses . The masses are still screwed. Russia is now another capitalist greed carnival. Making money is our religion, and we have proselytized the entire world with our message of hope: Someday you could be really rich, but probably not. But see, here’s the gleaming bauble. Worship it!

West Oakland, Sequence # (1)-39

Is overweening greed essential to human nature? Pragmatists say yes, and they’re probably right. But what if?

All this is idealist talk, I know. I’m old, and I have been seduced by idealism before. I idolized Jack Kennedy for what I thought he was. I idolized Barack Obama for what I thought he was. But, one way or another, they served the masters of the universe. They had no choice; the game is set up that way. The only solution is to change the game — and that hardly ever works.

Revolutions have a tendency to end badly.

Have I been thinking about Bernie Sanders? Well, yes I have. You want an example of racial harmony? Watch Killer Mike talk with Bernie.  You don’t need to know who Killer Mike is; context will explain it all. Watch and, as we used to say in the old country, dig that.

I do understand the immense downside of a potential Sanders presidency. His foreign policy pronouncements are only a shade more nuanced than those of Donald Trump. His executive skills are unproven, and probably not very good. His fabulous persona, the cranky Jewish grandpa who gives impassioned mini-lectures about income inequality, touches some clear need for authenticity in the electorate. He’s entirely charming, but is it a political trick? As the president reminded a questioner, somewhat impatiently, Bernie Sanders is a politician. He knows his schtick is working. Today’s media culture makes all candidates hyper-aware of the metaphorical nature of their ambitions.

Other candidates have wanted to seem plugged in and hip. Bernie went the other way; he cultivated the image of a guy who might very well complain about his new-fangled smartphone. Maybe that’s the real Bernie; I dunno. But it’s also a very shrewd choice; when Hillary goes after him, she’s like a brusque night nurse at the assisted living facility.

Sanders is peddling an attractive line of goods. Hillary is enmeshed in the liberal way of doing things, a philosophy that started in the FDR administration and has remained essentially unchanged since then. Her beloved Clinton Foundation is a beacon of compassionate capitalism, in which all the corporations that have pillaged the world for a century are encouraged to give gigantic (although not painful) donations to fight poverty and hunger in the developing world.

The poverty and hunger in the USA: Not so much.

Hillary’s ideas are bold, and her mastery of dirty details of policy implementation is unrivaled, but she is a gradualist, manipulating the system cleverly to achieve her laudable goals. But Bernie presents a more compelling argument: Gradualism has not worked; things have gotten worse for wage earners and the poor no matter which president sat in office.

And Bernie tells the truth. Over and over again, he tells the truth. He’s finding an audience. Listening to him, people might find a new way to think about the world. People might band together, not because they love each other, but because they need each other.

I gave $100 to Bernie, but I don’t know whether I’ll vote for him. Clinton knows where the levers of power are; in the end, that might be more useful than ideology. But I like that Bernie is part of the conversation.  I like him touring the country, presenting visions of struggle and unification. I came of age in the Sixties; of course I believe in struggle. I believe in marching in the streets; I believe in the peaceful redress of grievances.

Maybe it could happen. What have we got to lose?

west oakland6

Photography by Tracy Johnston

Spam folder expertise by Michelle Mizera

24 thoughts on “Being idealistic about idealism

  1. “Bernie Sanders’ critique of Clinton is not that she’s cartoonishly corrupt in the Tammany Hall style, capable of being fully bought with a couple well-compensated speeches, but that she’s a creature of a fundamentally corrupt system, who comfortably operates within that system and accepts it as legitimate. Clinton has had trouble countering that critique because, well, it’s true. It’s not that she’s been bought, it’s that she bought in.” – Alex Pareene, Gawker

    “It’s not that she’s been bought, it’s that she bought in.” – That’s exactly my reason for supporting Sanders. Come the election, should Clinton be the candidate, I’ll vote for Clinton, but I’m far from ready to give up on Sanders.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This is a great piece, with a deep perspective I can share whole-heartedly.
    Just one quibble. I see Bernie as the New Deal Democrat-type. Restore big (benign) government, tax the rich, create jobs–pretty much FDR’s playbook. Clinton has indeed bought in to the system, but the system is now dominated by crony capitalism with a polite nod to the remaining remnants of New Deal liberalism.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I dunno, Jon – I tend to agree with you most of the time, but this does bring to mind an occasional response you’d get from a reader – sounds most like an attempt to stir comments…….”What have we got to lose?”…
    It doesn’t take perpetual study of the news to see the effects of revolutionary change – take a look at the results of the “Arab Spring” – 2 regime changes, stifling repression, arrests, citizen disappearances — and this isn’t unusual – this is the norm….
    So you say the pragmatists are probably right…but what if?….
    So I only know I’ll probably vote for Clinton, but Ill DEFINITELY vote Democratic..
    (An enlightened vision was once filmed by Lindsay Anderson called “O Lucky Man” – a Candide story in London – young man seeks his fortune in the Big City, finds disappointment with society at every turn, is running from a mob, and as he turns a corner in an alley, graffiti on a fence behind him is the phrase, “revolution is the opiate of the masses”)…. .


    1. So what’s wrong with an attempt to spur comments? I’d do that in Jon’s place. I am way to the right of JRC at this point, but not in love with either HRC or BS. I think BS is an experienced politician at this point, and think if elected he would not be all that much of a radical. But I appreciate the knowledge that HRC would bring to the job, because she was Secretary of State. I am not bothered that she took the chance to earn a lot of money as a speaker — it’s the American Way, and it’s good if she acquired an understanding of Wall Street. I don’t think this will affect her policy much — didn’t with Obama, who had lots of Wall Street support early on (and almost no Wall St support in 2012)

      I really liked Martin O’Malley better than both, in part because he has a real record of accomplishment, and would be a very strong candidate in November. As it is, I’ll wait until June to make up my mind who to vote for in the primary.


    2. Yes, now “what’ve we got to lose” is the possibility of having a progressive Supreme Court replacement for Scalia!


  4. The Presidential Campaign: Electoral Politics for the Simple Minded.

    This is black.

    This is white.

    “Voters” may not agree but they love the simplicity, including the imaginary simplicity that electing a President will change everything even when they ignore local and Congressional elections.

    American Idol… Who won last year? Who cares.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if more people found the election process to be more than just amusement?

    In a better world, all the Reublican candidates would have been ignored long ago.



  5. Thanks, Jon. Your thoughts resonate with so many people.
    If there is anything that watching ‘Shawshank Redemption’ 20 times has taught me, it is that Hope is a Good Thing. Probably the best of things.
    I want very much to see a woman as president, but not this time. Go Bernie!


  6. I luv generalizations, big fukkin’ bold stokes of what-ifs and could’ve-beens. Yeah, JFK seemed Sir Lancelot and Tricky Dick was a creepy Cootie and Goldwater was going to blow up the world … and now, all that is subjective, dreamy history, ’cause today, almost no one cares. Racism? … Grant money hasn’t decoded it. American schizo? – Human DNA? … Maybe someday eggheads from Planet Xerkon will make sense of it. Go to Vegas for the odds.

    Right now, on cable and satellite, what we’re staring at isn’t just Trump, Cruz, Bernie or Hillary … what’s happening is … the scary fact that media obsessed Facebooked clicktavists are doing the electing … and if vapid, dumb and stupid want (fill in the blank) then that’s today’s democracy and thank you Koch bros and a watered down bi-lingual educational system with no auto shop or chess teams… and kudos to non-gluten-free Fox News and the NRA and Walmart and whatever else pushes your buttons – all that shit is screaming, “Bingo!”

    And, Geritol nap taking 74 years old Sanders? Libs are gasping, crossing their fingers and pretending progressivism is still part of The Dream. Truth is, Bernie’s warmed over McCarthy and McGovern (with a small dash of RFK) … pass the bong, Pete Seeger’s singing, and it’s a feel good 60s-70s perspective. Lean back, it’s a classy Disneyland ride, strap yourself in, close yer eyes and imagine: Bernie raising his young fist and raving to Mario Savio’s gear speech. Everyone now, chant along, “No rain… no rain”.

    George Carlin is one of the few that got it… we’re circling the drain and you either ignore that fact, rage against the moment or you simply hang on, paddle your canoe to a closed state park and enjoy the demise of the Anthropocene epoch With a beer. Or Merlot. Or Ambien. Or Metamucil.


  7. Thanks for the Killer Mike/Bernie interview link. I watched all 6 six segments. Good on Mike and Bernie for waxing eloquent and intelligently on the issues of importance. What an education! This should be required viewing for every potential voter. Wow! Jon, thanks for sharing. Again. Please keep on letting us know what’s on your mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love BFS, and I appreciate what he’s doing, but it isn’t running for President in earnest. To the extent that he’s created cover for HRC to move to the left (or appear to, which is practically the same thing), he’s done a real mitzvah. That’s he gotten people excited about what our country could be if it can be kept out of the hands of the 1%, he’s kindling hope.

    But he keeps poking holes in his own hull, and apparently purposely. Recently he announced he was not involved in organized religion. As much as I may welcome a nonbeliever to the field, it’s political suicide to disclose it.

    And then yesterday he lets it be known that BHO demonstrated no Presidential leadership. He needs 70 million votes in November, and he just told 65 million of them that they made a mistake.

    He’s clearly telegraphing that he’s been abducted by aliens and forced to run for POTUS. The stupid; it Berns.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “Hillary is enmeshed in the liberal way of doing things, a philosophy that started in the FDR administration and has remained essentially unchanged since then.”

    Unfortunately, Hillary’s way of doing thins has very little in common with what FDR started. Her husband, with her help and approval did much to unravel what FDR started with the repeal of Glass-Stigeal, NAFTA, appointment of Wall Street advisors like Larry Summers, giving into special interests on single payer, and a right-centrist list that goes on to this day. FDR represented America at its best, and Hillary’s policies continue to erode this. FDR was not perfect. Racism was rampant and healthcare was not dealt with but he started moving the country in the right direction. With very few exceptions, especially in the last 30 to 40 years, we have been on a continuous downhill slide and Hillary will do little to stop this. She is too vested with the power that allows her to be heard.

    I know by your article that you know all this, but can’t for the life of me understand what is keeping you from making up you mind to VOTE for someone who not only would get us back to the values of FDR, but has the track record to prove it.


  10. It IS hard to see our 60’s dream play out again and destined for ashes. Only thing more scary than ISIS is Trump and all Republicans bought by the oligarchs. Pardon me as I go upchuck. Thought provoking column, though, and I like Tracy’s photography. Excuse me now.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. 1. Racism is a sucker’s bet, devised in part to turn members of the working class against one another rather than target the oligarchy. I’ve believed this for at least forty years. It plays well to the red meat crowd, and also proves that the co-opting of Carson, Rubio, Cruz (filth in human form, imho) and the like means nothing.
    2. The most important thing is that the GOP does not win the presidency. The damage they can do is incalculable.
    3. That said, there is great danger in a Sanders nomination. He is a Jew, and the amount of anti-Semitism in this country is still high enough to motivate those who hate Jews to create the dirtiest campaign imaginable. It would make the Wiillie Horton business look like child’s play.


  12. Thank you so much for the thought you put into this particular article as well as the link to the You Tube talk between Bernie Sanders and Killer Mike. I have never heard of this particular interview and I felt like cheering the whole time.


  13. Thank you Jon, for your insightful thoughts. I just heard Bernie Sanders speak for the first time last Thursday and was heartened by his words. Also appreciated the link to the Killer Mike interview in the barber shop. Real people speaking with passion about real issues. May we collectively wake up, before we self-destruct.


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