Why the Democrats' Left Wing Is Muted
Let me tell you all a story. You should probably read this story after you've read the NYT article posted above -- but it's OK if you don't.
I went by a friend's place of employment, here in southern California, just recently. I told her that I had watered the corn, beans, and squash that was planted in her back yard. She told me that it cost her more for the water to water the corn than it would benefit her to harvest the corn. After all, she said, corn was exceedingly cheap at the Farmer's Market.
So what we have is "green living," only we are supposed to worry about whether it is more economical to depend upon the apparatus of the produce marketing system, with all its market costs, than to buy water from the water marketing system, in order to produce one's own produce.
It seems to me, however, that the planting of gardens in southern California would be a good thing on principle. The Farm residents are paving over most of my friend's backyard with cardboard and mulch to kill the crabgrass that grows upon it. Is that all that matters? Why not grow stuff as a vision of the new world to come?
Another attempt to escape the market ripoff is in the Pomona College Organic Farm. But how does the Farm get its water? I asked: Pomona College owns the well which supplies the Farm with its water.
Isn't that sweet? The owning class wins again. But do we have to have a revolution first before we can grow our own vegetables later? I don't think so. It would be a good thing if we could advocate vegetable-growing regardless of its economic status, because that's what growing vegetables is -- a form of advocacy.
All life under capitalism is conducted through a filter of fetishisms. The outward manifestation of these fetishisms are the spectacles that advertise them. The Pomona College Organic Farm sprung up because of some loopholes within the network of fetishisms. Water owned by the campus. College students (and protective faculty and alumni) who think differently. Oak trees which are protected by legal statute.
For the rest of the world, all is property. The purpose of life is to pay money for some "real estate" property so that one can have a place to store one's "personal item" property, which one buys from the endless panorama of shops that line each street.
The enjoyment of nature? Camping, driving, even bicycling, all demand monetary exchanges before they can be made possible. Each is thus drawn into the fetishism which binds commodities to money and binds money to the labor one must sell to "make" money.
None of this is suffering; yet it all deprives life of some of its satisfying qualities. This brings me back to an essential question, a question that must be on the minds of the readers of this blog: why advocate ecosocialism, and not some philosophy of personal satisfaction through Daniel Quinn's philosophy or something like that?
Well... I'm not waiting for a revolution, nor am I perpetrating one now. What I am doing is advocating the most sweeping changes. We don't have to wait for them to happen. In any revolution there will be a period of advocacy. That's the focus of struggle now. The most vital form that advocacy can take is something we will call "teaching," although "therapy" is certainly open as a name for it. There will certainly be an internal struggle, too, a struggle over what to advocate and how to advocate it. Later, or in different places, the struggle will take a different, more institutional, form, a form that the world has yet to learn.
But for now, the struggle is to advocate. Let's all advocate what we can, regardless of our political stripe, and if we can talk constructively with each other, maybe the better ideas will have a chance. This whole "support Kerry" quietism runs completely contrary to the spirit of that. Liberals who cannot advocate, for instance, antiwar sentiment or better social services, because they feel obligated to some empty-set candidate like Kerry, are doing themselves a great disservice. And so I feel obligated to speak out about their worst impulses while supporting what I think are their best ones.
Someday, if we toss aside the applecart of property and possessions will we be free to arrange our social and natural worlds in new and less uncomfortable ways. That's bodily advocacy of revolution.
Advocating revolution is important today because life must go on, and the fetish society will allow us to continue in its name only so long before the blowback from all of our fetishes tears our world down around us. This is about ecological sustainability on a global scale, performed in real-life. If you can perform acts of sustainability now, maybe set up a farm or create a communal household or promote alternative energy, so much the better for you. But it won't "change the world," it might not "make life better" in any significant way, it won't eradicate capitalism. But there are many ways to advocate revolution.
I want to insure that my message is not about just me, nor is it about "government," nor is it some merely tribal thing. It's about the world; yet each individual has a unique contribution to make. That's why I call it "socialism."