19 June 2008 0:48 AM (unwelcome guests | cooling out | red pill | the matrix | naomi klein)
I am, in some sense, relieved that Obama won the Democratic primaries this year, defeating the Clinton machine and its +47 cloak of inevitability. It is possible that Obama effect some meaningful change in the US, and in the world.
Although there can be something invigorating about being in such a large crowd of like-minded people, I feel more passion and energy in a march, where we are more participants than audience.
Strangely, as I wrote those very words, Naomi Klein spoke of the need to stop treating politicians “as celebrities, as rock stars” - that is, that the public should have an active relationship with their politicians, pushing back and shaping their actions and policies. As she puts it, “the greatest gift you can give Barack Obama” is to keep the pressure on, so when he talks with Wall Street backers he can say “Look: I've got no choice. They’re crazy out there!”
We're crazy out here: being realistic, demanding the impossible!
It is with this perspective that we should approach the upcoming Obama election. Let's cut the rock star crap (in politics and elsewhere: here's looking at you, Jono), and start to focus on organizing to get what we want, on direct action. Obama is an instrument of the people, not an agent for the people; any other formulation is anti-democratic.
Klein continues, in a riveting speech that starts at about minute 43 in this 30 MB MP3:
The hard truth is this: Obama may have the energy, and the anger, and the networks of the anti-war vote, but he does not have a plan to get us out of Iraq.
What he has is a plan to downsize the occupation of Iraq, not to end it.
He talks about keeping the "green zone" intact and calls it ending the war. Let me tell you, you cannot keep the "green zone", which is the symbol of the foreign occupation of Iraq, without a massive troop presence, which includes the military contractors like Blackwater as well.
He may have the very real rage at the income equality that has opened up in this country and around the world, but I am sad to say that he does not have a real plan to close that gap.
And he may have the incredible, inspiring idealism of young environmentalists, who are terrified about the future of this planet, but he does not have a green agenda that is a match to our climate crisis.
the cooling out of america, or: "we, the marks"
I can understand that people want to support Obama. I hope he wins. But how can Big Pharma give $700K to a candidate that will do what needs to be done to US healthcare? (What the hell is a "Health Product" anyway?) Or what about the bankers, the authors of the recent and ongoing securitization debacle and subsequent commodities speculation?
Or, to take things from the other side, where is the money going? Well, it's basically funneling back into the institutions that sold us the Iraq war in the first place: according to my readings of the interwebs, about half a million a day just on television, an American institution so shameful it makes Berlusconi jealous.
Back in the Clinton years, former computer programmer Richard Moore used the red pill / blue pill metaphor of The Matrix to write of the state of popular delusion:
When I started tracing historical forces, and began to interpret present-day events from a historical perspective, I could see the same old dynamics at work and found a meaning in unfolding events far different from what official pronouncements proclaimed. Such pronouncements are, after all, public relations fare, given out by politicians who want to look good to the voters. Most of us expect rhetoric from politicians, and take what they say with a grain of salt. But as my own picture of present reality came into focus, "grain of salt" no longer worked as a metaphor. I began to see that consensus reality -- as generated by official rhetoric and amplified by mass media -- bears very little relationship to actual reality. "The matrix" was a metaphor I was ready for.
Among the chief strategies for construction of a humane, red-pill future has to be a creation of new media. The apparati through which we perceive the world must belong to us, and work for our interests, instead of trying to sell us cars and pan bimbo.
In recent months, my most consistent source of political analysis has been Unwelcome Guests. Lyn Gerry is sharp, and caring. I've grown rather fond of her plodding voice. And she's an old hacker of sorts: with a few other folks back in 1996, she founded radio4all, an interwebby place to exchange radio clips for broadcast on community radio. Also, "[t]he Radio Project supports the Free Software Movement, and uses free software wherever possible."
But I digress. Gerry is great. I've probably listened to 400 hours of her shows over the past six months, easily worth more in mind-expansion and education that a number of classes I endured in college, put together. She is my red pill.
a mar revuelto, ganancia de pescadores?
The red pill, once taken, opens the mind past the current Oceania-vs-Eastasia sports-like rivalries that the media take as the gamut of allowable political participation. Obama is not some crazy human hope, object of mystery and fervor -- he is merely a tool, a tool of the people, a stake in the ground in a much larger fight. Gerry says:
It makes me crazy every time I hear some talking head or pundit or politician pretend they didn't know from jump street that, for example, the Bush administration lied about WMD in Iraq. You and I knew it was a lie, and if I, a radio producer with a budget of 0, and a staff of 1, who lives in a rural town with a population slightly above 2000, can find that out and report on it, you bet those well-funded networks can. The people that run them may be craven and they may be cowards, but they're not stupid. They lie to us because they want us to be ignorant and subservient. Knowledge is power, and that's why a free press matters.
So if you find yourself with 20 or 100 bucks, and in an impassioned or drunken moment want to use it to change the world, think twice before clicking "submit" on barackobama.com. Maybe your local community radio or your radical press or Z communications or radio4all.net could use it more.