Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lining The Cage

There's a growing sense among libloggers, and the libs who love them, that things are about to get better. Not perfect, perhaps (though I don't know what a "perfect" liberal world would look like, and frankly don't want to know), but certainly an improvement on the Bush/Cheney era, the darkest, most evilest period in our glorious homeland's history.

I suppose it depends on what "better" means. No domestic spying? No corporate consolidation and theft? No predatory subprime lenders? No privatized medicine? An end to imperial war and geopolitical bullying? To me, that would be better -- not perfect (you don't want to know what my perfect world would look like), but a decided step away from the bloody status quo.

But none of that is going happen, even with a President Obama, who for many libs is already Commander-In-Chief, but is awaiting the formality of trouncing the addled John McCain to seize the Oval Office seat that is rightfully his. Oh sure, Obama is making noises about further taxing oil companies, but it's only June, and there's a lifetime left for Our Savior to "re-examine" the issue, especially if his campaign takes on water after getting torpedoed by "concerned" private interests. For now, however, there is room to dream about political overhaul, and project on Obama all the beautiful things we know he personally endorses and embraces.

The other day, Jon Schwarz and I had a fairly long phone chat about these and other matters, and naturally, Jon is ever upbeat about the future, convinced that American political reality is primed to undergo some kind of serious shift. At least he hopes so. Jon has repeatedly told me that he wouldn't want to live in any other time than right now, what with the Interwomb and all the democratic magic that flows from it. While I, too, appreciate this form of communication, it remains in private, corporate hands, and is thus subject to the whims of the marketplace. There is no constitutional right to online access, any more than there's a constitutional right to owning a Blu-ray player. We who fill these blog pages must pay private companies a monthly fee to remain connected. It's a bit like charging hamsters for exercise wheel access, but what can you buy with soiled wood chips? Thankfully, we humans have evolved to more enlightened forms of financial exchange.

The wonderful world Jon claims to see remains far from my burning eyes. The Web is good for many things, but creating and sustaining serious social and political change is not one of them. And even if a blog or two could make a modicum of difference, where's the social movement that can carry said change into the human meat world? I read plenty of blather at lib sites about "effecting" change, but seriously, how many libloggers actually try to make this happen at the grassroots level? Do Kos, Atrios, Firedoglake, Digby, Yglesias, Ackerman, E. Klein, and Perlstein physically leave their keyboards to knock on doors? Work directly with poverty groups in a bid to politicize the disenfranchised and forgotten? Counsel high school kids about military service? Or do they watch the cable chat shows, read the major news outlets when not reading and linking to each other, and primarily browbeat their readers into voting for Dems?

I've been politically active and aware for roughly 25 years, give or take those months when I licked my wounds in private, or pounded my head against padded walls. I've seen my share of grassroots action, some of it direct, some of it implausible, some of it counterproductive, and yes, some of it inspiring. Yet over that time, our rulers adapted to public challenges to their privilege, their counterattack beginning in the mid-1970s and still in play today. Only now, there's no real people's movement to frighten, much less challenge them. We've been beaten, scattered, crammed into demographic cages where we can chant and wave signs, but the Real Action is miles and miles away from our shouting.

I agree with Chomsky that political dissidence reaches many more people than it did 40 years ago, but so what? Today, dissidence is just another brand, hawking t-shirts, coffee mugs, and bumperstickers expressing "rebellion." The owners have done an effective, perhaps lasting job on us, which is why so many "progressives" cling to the Dems and pray before Obama. It's the only area where their squeals might be heard, and even then, they are subjected to test-marketing and demographic research to gauge just how much the Party should listen.

Can this be turned around? Of course. Anything's possible. But we're not going to blog our way out of our cages, no matter how much time we put on the exercise wheel.