Sunday, June 12, 2011

WWFDRD (What would Franklin Delano Roosevelt do)?

Bear with, cause it's about to get rambly up in here.

I've heard, hell I've said, that what we need right now is an FDR, not a BHO. We need a new New Deal, a new WPA, a new social contract to break the strangle hold Big Money has on us in every single aspect of life. But if we look at things with a cold, hard, historical eye then we'd have to admit to ourselves that just having an FDR wouldn't bring about the changes we desperately need.

We've all heard the Gandhi quote "Be the change you want to see in the world". Sometimes that seems a bit trite when such powerful forces are using every effort to keep squashed. But if we think back to what kind of push back the elites were receiving when FDR was president, then we can see concrete examples of what be the change means.

FDR was able to get his progressive policies passed because in the world at the time there was a MASSIVE push from the underclass. There were socialists and communists and anarchists on every corner. There were strikes and pickets and rallies and speeches. There were average people making the elites afraid.

And the elites ONLY EVER ACT IN THEIR OWN BEST INTEREST. FDR could be a progressive capitalist because to the elites progressive capitalism was preferential to straight up socialism, or god forbid, communism and state seizure of property and capital. But, and this is a big, questionable but, part of the fear the elites were feeling was physical. I love Emma Goldman and all her big, bold ideas, but she was a proponent of actual physical violence.

It is long past time that us progressives started acting offensively instead responding defensively to the increasing levels of state violence. I'm not a pacifist, I do firmly believe in the right of people to defend themselves. But I also know that when we let revolution come at the hands of violent uprising, the philosophy of the winning elites may change in tone but the violent tools used to contain the populace do not change. And quite frankly I am tired of the prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex and economic blackmail of us peasantry. I don't want those things to be part of my world anymore.

So how do we make the elites afraid enough to let change happen without becoming brutal hooligans? The first step is to strip the system of it's veneer of legitimacy. Legitimacy is a huge part of political theory. It is the main tool used for distributing power, political and economic. Legitimacy has been established through the divine right of kings, or the brute force of military dictatorships, or through the simple act of voting. When we vote, we grant the political class legitimacy to govern us. For decades we've been told to vote based on defensive fear. Vote for one side of the binary or the other out of fear of what the other side will do if they win the horse race. But politics, like many things, is not a simple binary system. There are more, many many more, ways to distribute power and resources in a society than just Neoliberal and Neoconservative. By voting for the lesser evil, we guarantee a system that is still evil and we give that system legitimacy. We put our actual mark of legitimacy on things that we abhor. 

The first step to creating fear in the elites is to stop giving them legitimacy through elections. Vote for anyone other than a legacy party politician (even the so-called good ones) or don't vote at all.  It doesn't matter if you vote Green or Socialist or even for the damn Libertarians. Just don't give either of the two big parties the legitimacy they need to keep stealing from us. Be the change by being the person who commits the single, radical act of not voting for your own demise.

Without that kind of change, the powers that be will continue to have the permission of the populace to squash and crush us. Without that kind of change, there is no mechanism for creating the fear that the elites need to allow positive change to happen. Not voting for evil is simple, cheap and non-violent. It doesn't even require us to risk jail time for protesting. It can be done by just about every citizen (excluding, of course, those citizens and residents that the state has already decreed dangerous to the system by purging them from voting rolls). It was fear of lost legitimacy that made a rich man like Roosevelt the champion of the poor and disemployed. We have to put that same fear in the heart of every democrat and republican, every banker and insurance exec. Once they realize that we no longer consider them legitimate, change can happen. But not before then.

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