Reflections on society, politics, and nature XII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature.

One essential way Trump is no different.

But it wasn’t sane before. Obama was not sane; he was led by the same interests that put the corporate business ahead of people, with bread buttered by Goldman Sachs, only now, it is more brash” Sadier said. “For centuries the political class has been fucking poor people off.

This is a view I often hear from regular people, including most of my friends. But I don’t see it much from mainstream politicians, journalists, or social commentators. Of course, the job of the mainstream is to maintain the status quo, even if it benefits the few in the short term rather than the many in the long term. (Or perhaps just for that reason.)

Most politicians and political parties support neo-liberal capitalism, which in turn is designed to maximize profit for multi-national corporations at the expense of nearly everyone else, including nature and future generations. In this sense, Trump is no different from most other politicians, including Obama and both Clintons. He is just less subtle about it.

September 6, 2018

Strawman arguments
. This seems so obvious I haven’t mentioned it before but I wanted to say a few words. When American football players protest during the anthem, they are not disrespecting the US, they are highlighting a very real issue of racism and inequality. And when people criticize or disagree with Israeli policies, they are not anti-semitic. To say they respectively “disrespect the US” and are “anti-semitic” are strawman arguments and it’s transparent and childish. It’s an attempt to shame people into silence and deflect from the real issue by attacking the person. 

The golden rule in politics. Why should we treat others as we would like to be treated, even in politics? For me, it has to do with a couple of things. First, self-respect. If I treat others with respect, I can have respect for myself. The other is for strategic reasons. When I act and speak with respect, I invest in norms I would like myself and others to follow. I strengthen them. Also, if I don’t treat others with respect, I cannot expect others to do the same towards me (or politicians I support) and I am not in a position to ask them to do so. 

This came up for me today since the New York Times has an article about the resistance to Trump’s policies from within the administration. Some liberals seem to applaud this. And I understand the impulse to want to curtail some of Trump’s worst actions. But he is legally elected and the resistance described in the NYT article is actually a subversion of democracy. It sets a very dangerous precedence. And it’s definitely not something I would approve of if it happened in an administration I happened to personally support.

On the topic of the NYT article: The other side is that these unhappy civil servants would do better quitting and speaking out openly about their concerns, or try to get Trump removed if they think he is a danger to the country. It does seem a bit spineless, as Trump said, to anonymously complain in this way.

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Childish Gambino: This is America

 

Donald Glover’s new music video feels iconic and is understandably receiving a great deal of attention.

Why does it feel so iconic? And what is it about?

To me, it feels iconic because of its simplicity, depth, and universal archetypal themes grounded in a specific time and place. There is a strong contrast between the violence and the joyful song and dance. There is a simplicity in that it’s in one setting and mostly shot in one take. It has sincerity, depth, and urgency. The theme is clear but it leaves the interpretation and reflection up to the viewer.

And what is it about? Most obviously, both the violence and the joyful song and dance reflect Black history in the US, and also the current Black experience in the US. Both are part of their history and lives. Beyond that, it’s part of the US culture as a whole, human civilization, and each of us as individuals. It reflects our human experience. We contain and experience both.

It’s interesting that the sequential nature of the video suggests different ways of relating to this. We can bring fleeting attention to the drama of violence and then move on as if nothing happened. (As US society and media seem to do with the current gun violence, and as we as individuals sometimes do in our own lives.) Or we can acknowledge both as part of our history, our lives, humanity as a whole, and us as individuals, and engage with it more intentionally and responsibly and do something about it. Both of these are relatively privileged ways of relating to it.

There is also a third way of relating to it, which is – I imagine – is the reality of many black people in the US. They live with both and compartmentalize the violence and pain so they can move on with their lives.

Again, it’s a very simple theme. We all know that humans are capable of terrible things and wonderful things. We know both are part of our lives collectively and individually. We know that we often ignore the unpleasant things and move on to the pleasant ones. We know that can be fine in the short run but it creates problems in the long run. And yet, we often act and live as if we don’t quite know. And that’s why these reminders are so important, especially as they ignite reflection and discussion as this video is doing right now.

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