Friday, August 17, 2012

Conversation as Mutual Affirmation

The uneducated do not discuss or debate when conversing with each other. By “uneducated” I do not mean people without a formal education. A grade eight drop-out with an inquiring mind who reads a lot is far better educated than an MBA who never reads and swallows the mass media garbage. What the uneducated do when they converse, is engage in mutual affirmation of their prejudices. 
They sit around the table and one of them might erupt with a comment such as “Them Indians are belly aching again!” The rest will nod approvingly and one or two might add their opinions that reinforce the bigotry. No one will offer an alternative viewpoint and if anyone disagrees they will keep quiet. 
Mutually shared prejudices are a form of security in a world they cannot understand and find frightening. To offer a different opinion would mark one an outsider, someone breaking up that little community of mutual opinion. The outsider would then be dismissed using some other prejudicial cliche from their repertoire, such as “commie”, “radical” or of more recent coinage, “politically correct.” 
Opposition will bring out anger in the group, for challenging their insecurity brings out defensiveness which manifests as hostility. The very possibility of hostility prevents controversy from manifesting and thus maintains the group. Remember the old saying “Two things we never discuss at this table are religion and politics.” What could be better to discuss, if one was actually capable of discussion? The only areas where different views are allowed are sports and TV shows.

Since the ignorant are not looking for truth, but for affirmation, they are impervious to reason. Left wing campaigns thus fall on deaf ears. The only hope is to somehow exchange the reactionary prejudices with an affirmation of class. The best way to do that is to build a militant and strong labour movement. The affirmation that these people are members of a class exploited and dominated by a parasitic minority will give that sense of communal solidarity that the uneducated found in their cliché and prejudiced world views. As the notion of class takes hold, some of the old prejudices will begin to fade.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Youth, Age and Social Movements

The Arab Spring, the Indignados, Occupy and now the Quebec Student Revolt, show us one more time the importance of youth in the liberation struggle. While drawing support from a wide age range, these movements have been inspired and led, by the young. The advantage of being young is that you are not yet fully indoctrinated by the system, you are not yet worn down by the endless propaganda barrage from the state and the corporations. Nor have youth suffered a defeat that leads to soul-destroying cynicism and passivity. 

They are still free to set their sights higher than their knees.
In traditional societies not divided by class, the aged become the repositories of wisdom. They are the Elders who are respected, not so much for their age, but for their knowledge and experience. When you get to class divided society the wisdom of the aged is constricted or derailed by the dominator class ideology. This situation is worsened in capitalist society where change is the only constant factor and ideas that were useful thirty years ago may now be an impediment to understanding the present.
Lacking experience, youth use pure reason to judge the system that encompasses and restrains their desires. The system cannot withstand the merciless critique of reason. Many adults do not look at the world through reason, but through the faulty, darkened lens of the hegemonic ideology that has been pounded into them by the mass media, religion and “common sense.” Of course, this ideological constraint is not recognized, being so much a part of existence in dominator society. Ironically, the youth wielding their razor like reasoning powers are the ones accused of being ideological.
Thus, youth lacking experience, take “democracy” at its word and naturally feel that the government ought to be responsible to the people. Finding this not to be the case and that the system does not live up to its expressed ideals, youth search for a genuine democratic approach, as we have seen from the movements listed at the beginning of this article. All of this is a very logical development. Many of the older section of the population will have any number of fancy-dancy excuses as to why our democracy that isn't a democracy really is a democracy, is all we can hope for, is in fact the best system available and the youthful desire for genuine democracy is actually totalitarian in nature. (I kid you not, people actually mouth this irrational clap trap)
As for us older folks, our task is dirt simple – support the youth in their struggle for a better world. Those of us with experience in the worker's, environmental, women's and anti-war movements can become Elders and offer up our knowledge and experience when requested to do so. For the bulk of the older generations, who are chronologically older but not Elders, I can say but one thing – You ought to support the youth, otherwise you are damned fools.(*)

* I am not cursing here. My words are carefully chosen. Everyone who works against the struggle for liberty is eternally damned in the eyes of history – think only of those who shilled for slavery or the men who sneered at the idea of women's emancipation. You would not want that to be your legacy. All those who struggled for liberty, though reviled at the time, are now seen as heroes.
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