Monday, June 15, 2015

Working and winning with the energy around #FeelTheBern

So I think something of interest and value is happening with the Bernie Sanders campaign.  I can't put my finger on it, and I think we need to be careful in thinking that online activism and a few meetings of former occupy activists (like myself, who has joined in) are what "winning" will look like.  This isn't about what personality is sitting in the White House.  We need to think bigger than that if we want to win.

But I still think something of value is happening that we need to be thinking about and building from.

We push, rather than nitpick at the imperfections.

With that in mind as I was reading Jodi Dean's book Democracy and other Neoliberal Fantasies she hit upon a theme that resonates with me.  That the left gave up and much our our weakness is from our own actions, not big monsters defeating us in the arc of moral history.

I see and hear (and sometimes too often share) in the defeatism.  But also that we cannot confuse our membership within the "typing Left"--whatelse is the netroots but clicktivists and writers who want to talk rather than actually organize?--for action.  You can't be building power by yourself, there has to be other people  involved and typing and reading are isolated actions that actually help to inform those with power what we think so that they can better sell their product to us via Public Relations spin.

Insert extended quote (my emphasis):
Left Enjoyment or Victory in Defeat 
The political, economic, and social changes associated with the decline of disciplinary society, obsolescence of Fordist production, and defeat of the Keynesian welfare state have been accompanied by increased emphases on the singular, individual, and personal.  Commodities are no longer marketed to broad types--housewives, teenagers--but are individualized such that consumers can specify the features they desire in a product: I'll take a grande half-caf skinny lattee with extra foam: I'll design and order my own sports shoes; I'll save television shows, edit out the commercials, and watch them when it's convenient for me. Media, ever smaller and more integrated, are not just many-to-many, as early internet enthusiasts emphasized, but me-to some-to me.  The rise of the consumer as producer hyped as Web 2.0 and signaled by Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube designates a shift in media such that increasing numbers of people present their own artistic work (videos, photography, music, writing), express their own views, and start in their own shows.  They want to make themselves known and visible--not just read or hear or see others (one example: 93 percent of U.S. teenagers use the Internet; 39 percent of them post their own art, stories, and ideas online). At the same time, the experience of consuming media has become progressively more isolated--from large movie theaters, to the family home, to the singular person strolling down the street as she listens to the soundtrack of her life or talks in a seeming dementia into a barely visible mouthpiece.  This isolation in turn repeats the growing isolation of many American workers as companies streamline or "flexibilize" their workforce, cutting or outsourcing jobs to freelance and temporary employees. Insofar as too many on the academic and typing left have celebrated isolation as freedom and consumption as creativity, we have failed to counter the neoliberalization of the economy.  Even worse--we have failed to provide good reasons to support collective approaches to political, social, and economic problems.  it's easier to let the market decide.
Rather than accepting responsibility for this failure and for our own enjoyment of the benefits and pleasures of networked, consumer-driven entertainment and communication media, though, we continue to blame the other guys--conservatives and neoconservatives, Republicans, mainstream Democrats, neoliberals, religious fundamentalists. After all casting blame is infinitely easier than envisioning alternatives to global capitalism, combating climate change, or securing peace in the Middle East.  As long as leftists see ourselves as defeated victims, we can refrain from having to admit that we are short on ideas--or that the ones we have seem unpopular, outmoded.  Thus, we need a strong, united enemy.  if the right is weaker than we are prepared to admit, then our retreat, our cowardice, is all the more shameful: We gave in, gave up, before we needed to.  We actually didn't lose. It's worse than that.  We quit.
                                                  --Jodi Dean Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics
We need to be organizing in our local communities.  The meme we are utilitizing, so to speak, is the Bernie Sanders campaign.  But the task at hand is to build local networks of power around an agenda that focuses on the need to make sure everyone has their basic needs met when it comes to food, shelter, health care, education.  Groups of people talking and organizing around those principles can't be stopped.

At this moment we are working with the energy built around #FeelTheBern.  But we can't reduce it to emotions we share on social media--we have to leave our houses and organize.

This isn't about what personality is sitting in the White House.  We need to think bigger than that if we want to win.