Things Are Not as They Seem
I am disgusted with liberal politics as usual. I am disgusted with the self-congratulations, the self-gratification, the feeling of moral and intellectual superiority voiced by liberal pundits and their sickeningly predictable, patent, self-important, arrogant and superior-feeling followers. Is it enough to be happy that people are throwing shoes at Bush? Are people so gratified with Bush-bashing that they have forgotten that the entire capitalist system is on the brink of collapse? Do they not wonder in disgust as their liberal Democratic heroes work like mad to save the sinking ship? Shouldn't they wonder why such repairs as they recommend come solely at the expense of working people like themselves? Shouldn't the conclusions of leadership be more drastic? Liberalism as it stands has no answers. No answers for the disaster that faces us. Even Barack Obama stated that the usual list of remedies for liberal economic reform is just about spent. Liberalism has nothing left, or next to nothing. What it does have left will not fix what ails us.
Meanwhile, these "remedies" for the workers and the economy at large are being inaugurated by the very liberal Democrats that everyone elected to change things. Oh, there will be changes. Changes in attitude toward the poor, but not the end of poverty. Changes in attitude toward identity groups, but not material changes in their lives. Changes in how people are referred to, but not changes in the quality of their lives-other than the "sacrifices" they will be expected to make. What sacrifices will Wall Street moguls be expected to make? Notice how big finance was bailed out without a hitch, big finance that produces NOTHING, while the auto industry will not be bailed out, even after they conceded everything-on the "behalf of" the workers? That should tell you quite clearly what liberal Democrats are good for. Class warfare, but not the kind suggested by Republicans. I'm sorry to have to say this, but since no one else is saying it, I guess it must be up to me. The liberal Democrats have been brought in for one reason and one reason only. They are there to soften the blow, to deliver the bad news, to deliver the bad news in milder tones, from a different identity standpoint, so that it's more acceptable-to tell more people in milder tones that they are out of luck. The bad news will simply have a different, more unlikely and thus acceptable bearer, one that didn't enslave them, or lead them to war; or so they think.
Liberalism just wants everyone to feel better about things, to feel that things are better because, hey, we have a black president. That makes every liberal feel better. I am not a liberal but even I feel better. (I'm a Marxist, which is not liberal, left-, nor rightwing.) But I don't want to feel better. That is, I don't want to feel better about things as they are! I want things to actually be better. As Marx wrote about the young Hegelians, they believed that change meant merely changing the consciousness of the oppressed. Liberals, today's young Hegelians, are about changing the consciousness of the oppressed. They are not about changing the conditions that oppress them. Nothing could be clearer than that today. Nothing is clearer than the fact that liberalism can offer nothing, or next to nothing.
Economic reform is impossible under liberalism today because capitalism is failing. Capitalism cannot offer concessions and reforms. That's what liberalism was generally good for, so what is it good is it now? Instead of positive reform, the likes that FDR, the self-proclaimed best friend of capitalism ushered in, liberalism will now do the workers a favor by offering concessions in their name. Thanks. Thanks for keeping afloat the system that oppresses us. Thanks for bailing out a system, using our tax money, our public funds, our wages, to screw us over further in the future. Thanks for "saving" a system that will serve to cut our wages, destroy whatever savings we may have by chance accrued, gut our retirement packages, and decimate our health care systems. Thanks. Yesterday's New Deal is today's Raw Deal.
Since liberalism has nothing more to offer in terms of economic reform, what will it present to us?
An endless parade of feel-good identity politics and the "proper" attitudes- toward Republicans and Bush, toward the environment, toward war, toward minorities, toward "difference." Get ready for nothing but attitude, nothing but sermons and admonishments for the 'bad' people, and self-congratulations for the 'good' people. Such will be the fare of the day because liberalism has nothing else!
Liberalism will now inaugurate a new, fleeting era of good feelings and feel-good politics aimed at making everyone feel equal. The key word here is "feel," because people will not actually be equal, except in the most abstract, de jure sense. De facto, some people will be equally dispossessed and a smaller number will be equally disconnected from the dispossessed. But, alas, this feel-good moment will be fleeting, because it will be outlasted by the economic disaster that liberalism cannot prevent or ameliorate.
But for the time being, liberals will now sit back on their electoral laurels and enjoy their feelings, not the least of which is their feeling of moral and intellectual superiority. They have ushered in the "correct" attitudes-toward religion, toward science, toward the environment, toward minorities, toward homosexuality, toward race. First will come a season of laudatory self-congratulations all around. The talk show hosts will continue to knock each other out with pats on the backs for their proper, correct, feel-good, self-satisfied feelings of moral and intellectual superiority. They did it. They helped elect a black president. Identity politics will be used, as usual, as a thin scrim to hide much deeper problems. For those who heralded it--they will continue to consider themselves the superior moral beings. Bravo!
But as Marx wrote, the new Hegelians (equivalent to today's liberals) think that people are enslaved by their consciousness and that to liberate people, we only need to liberate people from false consciousness---from ideology, from religion, from retrograde attitudes about science, evolution, sexual orientation, minorities, difference, race, etc. All we need is to have the right ideas and everything else will be fine. But people are not enslaved by consciousness, ideas, or attitudes. No, people are enslaved by the material conditions that produce their consciousness, ideas, and attitudes. If these material conditions do not change, or get worse, their feelings will return to the bad kind that liberals seek to change through their attitude adjustment programs.
This brings me to Marx's famous pronouncement about religion, which is so poorly understood. Never did Marx condemn people for being religious. Such a condemnation is anathema to a truly humanistic understanding of religion. Denigration of religious people is a denigration of people, and thus, anti-humanistic. Unlike snobs, who smugly denigrate religious people (Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Bill Maher come to mind), Marx never condemned people for being religious. What Marx does condemn are the conditions of a society that make religion necessary:
Religion exists as it does because people are oppressed, because "hope" for a future, for goodness in some other realm, in some other order of being, for freedom from oppression, is all that they have. Religion is a displacement of equity, prosperity, and justice onto a realm outside of the human realm, because the human realm lacks such qualities. To denigrate religion is to denigrate human desire for all that religion displaces. But the fact that people can imagine such goodness, such justice, such benevolence and freedom testifies to the fact that human society can be all that it lacks. As such, the existence of religion disproves the cynics who claim that "human nature" simply involves selfishness, nastiness, competitive individualism, and so forth. Likewise, a true humanist doesn't work hard to eradicate religion. A true humanist works to eradicate the conditions that make religion necessary. In other words, a true humanist condemns liberals more than religions, because liberalism permits such oppression as makes religion necessary.
So what do I recommend instead of liberalism, which has recommended nothing but an attitude change? For starters, I recommend a nationalization of all major industries with assets of over 10 billion-owned by the people, not bailed out by the tax payer and only to be used for more profit and exploitation of the very same people who paid to bail the bastards out. The bailouts are all so sickening I can barely speak of them. But their support by the Democrats should be the final tip-off to anyone really seeking change that the Democrats are not and will never be the ones to bring it about. I recommend finally dismissing the illusion that Democrats offer anything other than attitudes and words. This comes at a strange time, you may say, just when liberalism seems to be more than it ever was. Well, this is a last hurrah, I tell you, a last gasp at seeming, and it will soon be clear that things are not as they seem.
Rec, The Rec Report
Michael D. Rectenwald, Ph.D.
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