Sunday, October 30, 2005

Dinner with the Socialists

"Don't insult yourself by calling yourself a liberal." "No, my god, you're much too interesting for that." "You're at least a radical." "She's a socialist, just like the rest of us." Last night, I had a long, leisurely dinner with the Professor, her blonde colleague, and two old, old-school socialists from Chicago. It was awesome. I know you're going to find this hard to believe, but I don't consider myself very leftist. I think that "the individual" is kind of a bullshit concept designed to make us feel okay about neglecting our obligations to each other and I believe that a person's happiness and well-being are of prime concern to the community because it directly affects the well-being of the community and that the community's well-being is of prime concern to each person because the community's well-being affects us. You might think this would make me a socialist, except that I think that something very interesting and important happens to ideas as they play out on larger and larger scales--they tend to work the opposite of how they do on the small scale. So, I think it's stupid for you and I to run around thinking of ourselves as individuals with no reciprocal obligations to anyone else and to not keep those relationships and obligations at the forefront of our political thought. But I don't want to live in a socialist country (well, except for the healthcare). I want my government to think of me as an individual with individual rights that need to be protected both from other yahoos and from the government itself. I think it's important to maintain that tension between the needs of the group and the rights of the "individual." I also think that what we're kind of trying to maintain here in the U.S. is the only way to work it. The most powerful body--the government--must protect the rights of the least powerful--the "individual" (a being so powerless that, in my worldview, it doesn't even exist). And the less powerful--the people--must invest in maintaining the more powerful--the community. And the tension between all those things must be sustained in order to keep things healthy. I don't think this is such a radical position. And when you're having dinner with people who belong to the socialist party, it's really not very radical. It puts you left of the Democrats, but shoot, it's hard not to be left of the Democrats. But it's not very far left. So, I'm tickled to be reminded of that, because Christ, sometimes when I'm reading y'all's reactions to the shit I write, I feel like some of you think I'm writing to you from way out in left field. It's nice to be reminded that there's a lot further left one might go. If you think I'm a radical, you should have been at dinner.


Anonymous Chris Wage said...

You might think this would make me a socialist, except that I think that something very interesting and important happens to ideas as they play out on larger and larger scales--they tend to work the opposite of how they do on the small scale.

You might find the writings of Benjamin Tucker and other early 20th century individual anarchists to be pretty interesting, if that's the case.

You might also enjoy Kevin Carson's blog -- he calls himself a "mutualist" -- "free-market anti-capitalist". He's pretty out there from a practical standpoint (in my opinion), but well worth reading because his theory is pretty well-grounded and thought-provoking.

10/30/2005 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Church Secretary said...

Hello, Aunt B. Fascinating post. That's the funny thing about language. Forgive me if this gets a little wild, because I'm using language:

When you speak or write something, you are attempting to freeze an idea into a static form so that you may convey it to another person. That other person (or group of persons) receives that static form (the word or words, written or spoken), but they have not received your idea. They have only received a static facsimile. For a strained analogy, I envision trying to convey the beauty of my wife to a stranger by showing them a polaroid of her.

To make it even more complicated, the words only have the meaning that the receiver places upon them. The resemblance of the original idea to that which is perceived by the receiver will likely be no closer than the respective psychic value systems of both members of the idea transaction.

My point-- if I can call this cutting to the chase-- is that words such as 'liberal' and 'socialist' are so loaded and subjective-- especially in the dramatically politically charged public discourse of U.S. society-- as to be almost meaningless as adjectives.

While I agree with the gist of your point about the "individual," I believe the other words-- at least when used as absolutes-- usually only serve to keep us all at a level of disconnect from the community (each other). Our disconnect in turn generates a tension that certain individuals of our community exploit to their own ends (which in turn puts further stress on the community, etc., etc.).

What am I saying with all this? I have no freaking idea. I would like me some of that 'socialistic' universal health care, though, even though my own health plan ain't bad.

10/30/2005 09:35:00 PM  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Now days we call a person who believes in shared property and wealth and investing the greater good of the larger community a socialist. In the first Century they were called Christians. (Read Acts in the Bible.)

Of course that was before the government replaced the Church as the primary sustainer of happiness and life. Government is a counterfeit Church, no matter what ideology is in power.

But we Christians have stopped living like we are greater than any government. We invest in government, call upon it to cure problems early generations believed on GOD and GOD'S PEOPLE could solve. Pursuit of happiness? Can George give me happiness? Life? Can George give me life? Liberty? Can George give spiritual freedom, the only kind of freedom that doesn't re-enslave us in our own selfish ambitions. Can George do anything at the soul level, anything permanent, anything to end poverty and corruption all by himself? What the hell?? We keep fighting over the White House and sending our kids off to die for country. Country is finite, bordered, puny. The Kingdom of Heaven is now, infinite, powerful, the solution to physical and spiritual poverty and corruption. Citizens of Heaven revolt, stop voting for the solution and get off your posterior and BE the solution. You weren't "saved" to sit on your ass in a pew and wait to die. Heaven begins now when we build it here on Earth, instead of building a bank account or fan base or legacy. Die to build an Empire that matters. Share. Give. Serve. Sacrifice. Die doing it. Don't conform any longer. That's what we Christians started out shouting and living isn't it?

Now that's radical weird crap to say out loud. Try saying that in a Baptist Republican White dominated American faith subculture. Scary. Makes socialism look safe.

Socialists are just knock-off Christians without faith in anything greater than humanity. And we all know humanity can't be trusted, no matter how it votes.

10/31/2005 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...


You radical, you. I am sincerely regularly in awe of how brave you are. I was just telling a dear friend this morning how it's easy enough to stand before a crowd and say "look out at what's going on" and much harder to say "look at us, all of us, even me."

In times like this, are you afraid? I'm very fearful, regularly, for my dad--a man I think you'd like very much. When he says things to his congregation like "we must be the body of Christ in the world," and I see their open hostility towards him, I'm afraid for him.

Most people don't want to act, they just want to sit back and pass judgment (I, of course, want to do both) and they get really hostile to folks who suggest otherwise.

10/31/2005 04:33:00 PM  

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