Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Middle Ground

That appears to be James' roommate.


Fly the chopper back to Brooklyn

Counterpoint to Skinny's post, only I substitute hyperbole with arguments

Perhaps the most salient problem with "anarchists" is the way that the bad behavior of certain segments tends to distract from and become the message. I don't agree with the political philosophy of "anarchism" (although I know it's not monolithic) but I largely agree with their idea that the increasing rigidity and entrenchment of bureaucratic structures tends to concentrate the flow of ideas and the processes of democracy at the top.

I don't believe that it is necessary to work through existing or conventional means towards change in order to address problems, nor do I believe that these are the only outlets for dissent or opinion. I also have no problem with people dressing like buffoons, eating cheese from dumpsters or any of the rest of the hallmarks of the stereotypical anarcho-crusty lifestyle whose identity is superimposed externally over the entirety of any broad lefty protest movement.

To digress to the topic at hand - it is nearsighted to conflate street begging trustafarian Steel-Reserve-swigging crusties with a broad gathering of individuals with a wide range of protest issues, just because they are in the same place at the same time. Furthermore, knee jerk reaction of this kind by liberals is at cross-purposes with their own aims.

Let's not forget that the Seattle protests of 1999 were a pivotal moment in the mainstreaming of discussion about all issues related to globalization. The grievances voiced in 1999 were not the unique province of the protesters - many on the left were concerned about issues ranging from climate change to farm subsidies to Third World resource privatization. But the existence of a visible and vibrant protest element on the left has always served to create a middle ground for moderate left individuals like Skinny to actually gain bargaining power with the moderate right.

The logic here is that the moderate left agrees with the radical left on many issues, but has a strong difference of opinion about the means towards an end and the value of compromise which keeps them working at 501(c)3's and not riding freight trains from protest to punk show to protest. The visibility of a leftist protest element provides an opening for the moderate left to say to the rest of the political world, "Well obviously these issues are important if people are getting so irate about them, but you don't want to deal with those guys. Talk to us."

The viability of this model is longstanding. The American government's two party system (and separation of powers) preserves overall systematic stability at the expense of immediate change and thus mainstream politicians and political organizations are slow to action - wary of being wildcards in a slow moving system. But on issues ranging from civil rights to the environment - once characterized by protest movements subject to intense FBI scrutiny, public skepticism and political marginalization - they've come around in time.

The element breaking store windows and bathing in the bathroom at a hardcore show is beyond counterproductive, but let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Without these guys - YOU are the crazy ones.


P.P.S - G20 music post up on

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you don't know what we do

To the dudes smashing bank windows as a protest against the G20 this week in Pittburgh: what exactly is your goal here? Yes, you don't like capitalism. And what then? Anarchy? Are you 13 years old?

I can't remember the context for this quote at all, but someone on NPR made the very good point that while Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden etc had a massive following they don't really have an endgame. Oh you want to establish a Caliphate? How exactly do you plan on doing that? I guess it would be something like a military dictatorship except with more random stonings for women who think out of turn. But law and order is a small fraction of actually running a government.

My least favorite type of people are those who complain without proposing a solution. Saying something is wrong is easy, fixing a problem is hard. I understand the problems with the G20 and why people want to protest it. I have no beef with Free Tibet protesters because that's a movement with a goal. The Chinese government are a bunch of assholes and need to fall the fuck back and let the country of Tibet live. That's pretty straightforward.

I don't think I'm really breaking new ground with this rant, but I think it's important to restate this in the era of Obama. I protesting Bush. I protested the war in Iraq. I cut my teeth campaigning for John Kerry, Jeff Smith and really just anyone who was on the left and progressive and forward thinking. Honestly, were it not for Bush being such an easy target, I may have never joined Billy Wimsatt's League of Pissed Off Voters, gone to Columbus, OH for the national conference in 2003 and really gotten a taste of how shit works.

I don't think I'm the only one for whom Bush was a catalyst for political action and, to make a very easy analogy, a legion of politically active and motivated leftists could have been the crop that sprung from the fertile soil left behind in the wake of a destructive volcanic eruption. So here we are, with the most progressive president in American history. This should be an insanely productive period! There's stimulus money out there! We're in the middle of a green revolution! Put down your damn black flag and go write a grant! Or start a bike exchange! Or a local garden!

But those things take effort and organization and responsibility and hard work, significantly less so than squatting under a bridge for a week, putting on a bandana and screaming until you get shot with a rubber bullet.

Don't get me wrong, the fear-mongering jackasses on the right telling tales out of school about piss balloons and "Children Of Men"-style attacks using burning cars can eat a big bag of dicks too. And cops are cops, some are real cool, some are genuinely enjoying tossing tear gas canisters at the commies. But if you are destroying private property and you can't tell me succinctly what your long-term agenda is (and I don't mean "the end of capitalism"), you are on some Benedict Arnold shit.