Elections '06: Identities Politics

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For the last month we’ve been focusing one show each week on an individual house district or a full state-wide senate race as a way to create, in aggregate, a sort of pointillist political portrait of the country. We’ll be continuing this series on Tuesday when we focus on the Missouri senate race, but first we’re hoping to spend an hour talking about the future of ethnic, racial, and identity politics. This was suggested, in a roundabout way, by a number of disparate threads, including white Tennessee’s response to Harold Ford Jr. as described by John Jay Hooker and the rise of the African-American gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick here in Massachusetts, who won the Democratic primary over, among others, an Irish-American.

We’re wondering if, in this Tiger Woods era in golf, we’re watching a Barack Obama trend coming in politics — not the notion of Obama as the great Democratic hope, but a complexifying of ethnic and other identities where skin color means many things or nothing, and the Irish vote may mean less than, say, “defense moms” or “Log Cabin Republicans.” For example: What does it mean — if anything — when pundits and pollsters talk today about the Latino or black votes as monolithic entities? What about Cubans in Miami, who supposedly vote Republican? There are still many Italian-Americans in Rhode Island. But is there an Italian vote there? Or an Irish vote in Boston?

MoveOn.org, Focus on the Family, NARAL and the NRA may have replaced local, ethnic political machines, but have they supplanted them? Which of our identities matter most when we pull the voting booth curtain closed behind us?

Yvette Alex-Assensoh

Associate Professor of Political Science, Indiana University

Editor, Black and Multiracial Politics in America

James Morone

Professor of Political Science and Urban Studies, Brown University

Author, Hellfire Nation and The Democratic Wish: Popular Participation and the Limits of American Government, among others

Mark Sawyer

Associate Professor of Political Science, UCLA

David Slavitt

Former candidate for Massachusetts state legislature

Author, Blue State Blues

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  • plnelson

    I think these labels mean absolutely nothing to actual voters. I think they’re the creation of the political marketing boffins desperately trying to position their parties’ vague or ineffectual policies to an electorate that eludes their understanding.

    Those of us in industry know that marketing is NO SUBSTITUTE for good products! Republican leadership has been a disaster, and Democrats only offer vague promises and intimations of worn-out 20th century New Deal thinking unlikely to work in a 21st century world. It’s like Ford and GM trying to save their dying companies with clever slogans and new marketing categories (“I know – let’s pitch the Lincoln Navigators to soccer moms who are also home renovators and enjoy buying ETF’s for their retirement!”) instead of producing good cars people want to drive at an affordable price.

    Enough!

  • jdyer

    “I think they’re the creation of the political marketing boffins…”

    “Boffins,” that’s British slang. Are you British?

  • Old Nick

    Here’s a column about identities unacknowledged, unlamented, and ignored.

    http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061015/NEWS05/610150598/1082/COL01

    Identities whose fates we American voters are in no small part responsible for.

    Cheers.

  • Did anyone else spot the total omission of class identity from the lead-in to this show? I wonder if it shows the complete triumph of capital interests to the point where all material-based differences are conflated and obscured by ethnic, religious, gender and other axii of identity. I am not suggesting class politics should triumph all others, but it should at least fill up a good and rowdy portion of the civic arena.

    My questions: Who are speaking up for the working people, be they unionized, contracted, in the job lines or on the sidewalk? Also, why in the US do workers vote against their own class interests in order to take some kind of confused moral high-ground pitched as Christian belief?

  • Sidewalker: thanks for this comment. It was an embarrassing ommission in retrospect, but I agree with you that it’s telling. When I was thinking about easy acronyms and names for various interest groups, not a single one came to mind that was primarily about class. We’ll definitely talk about this tonight.

  • Brendan

    Well I’ll be.

    Boffin: (British) A scientist or engineer, especially one engaged in technological or military research

    You learn something new every day.

  • plnelson

    “Boffin: (British) A scientist or engineer, especially one engaged in technological or military research”

    Exactly. I imagine a bunch of white-coated, lab scientists with thick glasses surrounded by arcane equipment and computers having a “eureka” moment when they discover some hitherto unknown new demographic subcategory. Seriously – did you notice that recently they’ve discovered a new species of Christian fundamentalist environmentalists? I’m not making that up – I haven’t seen so much excitement since someone spotted an ivory-billed woodpecker.

    But I would urge my fellow ROS’ers NOT to get sucked-in by this nonsense! Going on as one poster did above, how they’ve missed this or that category – “working people” or “class” – is just what they WANT you to do!

    The FACT is that good leadership benefits EVERYONE. A nation at peace; a nation not threatened by terrorists, a nation with its fiscal house in order, a nation where top officials are not corrupt liars, a prosperous nation, a nation with low inflation and low unemployment, is good for people of ALL social classes and ideologies.

    Both parties WANT to switch our attention away from their failures and lack of ideas and vision, to focus on trying to keep score in a game of their own making involving divisions of class, ideology, ethnicity, and “identity”. That fact that ROS is even doing a show on this represents a victory for the bad guys.

  • katemcshane

    For me, class is THE most powerful factor. My father who was a steelworker, was one of 10 children and during the Depression had to place his four youngest siblings, two boys and two girls, in orphanages, because the family could not support them. He, himself, had to quit school in 8th grade and this was a loss that not only made it extremely difficult for him to find work, but was something he mourned bitterly for the rest of his life, because he was very intelligent. Almost before I learned anything else, I learned about politicians from my father, the way they disregarded human beings for the sake of money interests. All my adult life, I have had so much trouble listening to people from middle class backgrounds talk about this society, partly because they sound clueless to me, as if they’ve been indoctrinated by a “good” public school system, brainwashed,and partly, because it is still so painful for me, personally. Sometimes when I listen to guests on this show, even though I may understand their intellectual arguments, I think they’ve insulated themselves from the truth. I’ve been trying to learn how to do some political writing, and though I’m capable of an intellectual argument, I want to find a way to write about the truth, with an intellectual appreciation but the ability to say something in a true and moving way. I may listen to and enjoy Noam Chomsky, but the people whose writing moves me SO much more are Grace Paley and June Jordan. And on ROS, some of the best political commentary I’ve heard were the men on the show about hip hop.

  • plnelson

    “Also, why in the US do workers vote against their own class interests in order to take some kind of confused moral high-ground pitched as Christian belief?”

    Because the whole model is BS! You’ve been suckered-in by a concept – “class interest” – that’s a complete fabrication to start with. Ever heard the expression “divide and conquer”? Trying to get people to focus on their alleged differences is a smokescreen.

    Look, I’m a good example – My wife and I work for successful high-tech companies. We are educated, high-income workers. We benefitted BIGTIME by the GWB tax cut. Our nice house is almost completely paid-off – our remaining P&I is about half what the average student pays for an apartment in Boston (and we get to deduct the I and keep the P) ; we travel extensively and enjoy fun hobbies. We have enough money socked-away that if everything went down the toilet last night we’d probably be just fine, thank-you. Our stocks are going through the roof. Recently I was called for jury duty and was able to avoid being on a 4 week corporate trial because I owned stock in one of the companies. What were the odds of that? In my case, pretty good.

    So by the dubious theory of “class interests” we should be GWB’s biggest supporters. So how come we think this is the worst government we’ve ever had? How come we’ve been seriously investigating moving to Canada? It doesn’t make sense, you say? It only doesn’t make sense if you buy their ridiculous theory.

  • pryoung

    At the risk of being castigated as a dupe of “them”, I would suggest there’s a difference between acknowledging the enduring (and in some ways intensifying) reality of class and insisting upon the determinacy of class.

    Far from wanting people to think in terms of class, I would say the two parties have done everything they can to banish it from the American political vocabulary. Republicans from Nixon through Reagan to Rove have turned class resentment into cultural resentment aimed at a largely-imagined bi-coastal “cultural elite”. For their part, the ever-shameless and opportunistic Clinton Democrats ended all talk within the party of the working class, speaking instead of the “suffering middle class” and promoting the laughable delusion during the boom 90’s of capitialism having magically broken free of its cyclical patterns.

    The fact that the American working class is increasingly one of color and one lacking in unionized political organization abets this “making invisible” as well. While I think, along with plnelson, that a class-based politics really has little chance of making much headway beyond local struggles, I wonder what the alternative is to simply pretending it doesn’t exist. John Edwards talks about poverty in credible and galvanizing ways, though I wish he and other politicians would use the word “insecurity” more readily than they do. Insecurity is really in my view coming to be the thread that ties us all uneasily together. The politician who can speak honestly to that while also tapping into the American need to hope will do well, I think.

  • pryoung, you make a good point about avoiding a class determinant argument. Yes, to ignore class-based realities and the changing nature of capital and hope that some enlightened group will deliver the nation from it woes and malaise is the ultimate diversion.

    The notion of security/insecurity is one that deserves a broadening since it now resonates with the public.

    Is this what you are getting at, pinelson, when you tell us your overflowing cash bags don’t bring sufficient satisfaction? No matter how much one has, can they really feel secure if social order is threatened by want? Enclosed neighbourhoods and more prisons won’t address this feeling of peril any more than border fences protect the nation. There is also the emotional insecurity of living in a society where one is reminded daily of others’ suffering.

    But I still wonder why people in the US are so anxious about discussions of class. Would such an acknowledgement kill the myth of the American dream and expose the faultlines in the national bedrock? Even if unlikely, maybe this is necessary to build a more socially secure polis.

  • jdyer

    I don’t know what David means by “identity politics.”

    Could he or someone else working on this show define it for us?

  • nother

    WOW!!!

    Barack Obama basically announced his candidacy for President on “Meet the Press” yesterday. This is a historic event my friends, this will be the first time a black man will have a realistic chance to lead this country – to be the leader of the free world! So much has changed in so little time. A few years ago Colin Powell’s wife was talking him out of running for fear of assassination; only nine months ago, Mr. Obama said defiantly he would not run; now he is changing his mind, what has changed? I have a feeling it’s the populous that has changed, not him. As Obama moved around the country, he encountered a nation turning its lonely eyes to him. A rehashed Gore, or Kerry is not what they yearn for, a Clinton that supported the war is not what they yearn for, an inspirational leader is what they yearn for.

    It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it, the dam of diversity is about to burst in America and the old white guard can only stick their fingers in so many holes to stop it. When our diverse populace begins to BELIEVE the reality of a non-white man in the oval office, they will believe anything is possible and the winds of change will have us white men circling the wagons of identity, fighting a pathetic battle for a hollow hegemony.

    Winston Churchill said the following quote, I’m wondering if in 10 years Barack Obama could say the same words.

    “It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”

  • Jdyer: Wikipedia does a relatively good job in defining identity politics. (Although it’s worth emphasizing that I pluralized it, mainly because the notion that any of us has just one identity is silly.)

    Anyway, here it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_politics

  • nother

    As DNC Chairman, Howard Dean has implemented an important change in this regard. Until recently the party would designate a different phone desk for different identities, they would have a black person calling black people to get out the vote, a Hispanic person calling Hispanic homes, and so on. He has thankfully removed that archaic strategy.

  • Old Nick

    Re: Public Leadership

    http://www.kuow.org/programs/weekday.asp

    (quote)

    Can public leadership be taught?

    (Audio available at 11:05 a.m.)

    Can public leadership be taught? Some people think leadership is a natural gift. Author and educator Eric Liu is trying to teach leadership at the Evans School at the University of Washington.

    Have you learned to be a better leader? If so, how? If you know a leader you admire; what have you learned from them?

    Guests:

    Eric Liu is author of Guiding Lights: The People Who Lead Us Toward Our Purpose in Life. Former Foreign Policy Speechwriter for President Clinton and deputy domestic policy advisor during his 2nd term. He is also a lecturer at the Evans school, where he teaches a class on Leadership.

    (unquote)

    It airs in about 20 minutes (10 AM Pacific), reairs this evening at 10PM Pacific here: http://www.kxot.org , streams in perpetuity from the KUOW Weekday archives, and will be available as podcast for about five days after today.

  • pryoung

    I hope the show will explore the differences between left and right wing identity politics. It’s often forgotten that the latter has its own older, and in my view far more toxic, version of identity-based politics. It is one that tends to be more exclusivist, embattled and resentful, and its track record in the twentieth century speaks for itself. From late nineteenth century European anti-Semitism through the “Southern Strategy”, the Christian Right and the Minutemen, the right has on the whole been far more militant in promoting an aggressive sense of cultural/racial identity against perceived threats.

    Far from being eclipsed, that identity politics seems at present to be flourishing, doesn’t it?

  • plnelson

    “Far from wanting people to think in terms of class, I would say the two parties have done everything they can to banish it from the American political vocabulary. Republicans from Nixon through Reagan to Rove have turned class resentment into cultural resentment aimed at a largely-imagined bi-coastal “cultural elite”. For their part, the ever-shameless and opportunistic Clinton Democrats ended all talk within the party of the working class, speaking instead of the “suffering middle class”

    I don’t see how any of the above examples represent examples of banishing discussions of class. To me they seem like examples of REINFORCING the concept of class by trying to make the definitions more concrete and marketable. Coming up with ever more finely-graded categories of cars – SUV, off-road-SUV, car-based SUV, sport-sedan, rally cars, touring sedans, etc, doesn’t eliminate the concept of cars.

    Having, narrower, more precise definitions of classes REINFORCES the concep because it creates the illusion that finally we’re talking about something real and precise, whereas before we were just using sloppy language. But I say we’re still using sloppy thinking but we’re just dressing it up better.

  • plnelson

    “Is this what you are getting at, pinelson, when you tell us your overflowing cash bags don’t bring sufficient satisfaction? No matter how much one has, can they really feel secure if social order is threatened by want? ”

    It goes beyond security – it’s not the kind of society I want to live in.

    The only “identity” I think is relevant to a national political discussion is “American”. That’s the ONLY identity with a clear, concrete definition, the only one that’s not the artificial creation of some polemicist, and the only one we (voters) are guaranteed to share.

    So to me the “identity” question is whether I want to be “identified” with a nation as screwed-up and misguided (literally – not well guided, not well led) as the US.

  • pryoung

    “American” has a clear, concrete definition? Were that the case, we would have no politics. Isn’t American politics largely a contest over conflicting and evolving visions of what exactly that means?

  • plnelson

    “Barack Obama basically announced his candidacy for President on “Meet the Press” yesterday. This is a historic event my friends, this will be the first time a black man will have a realistic chance to lead this country – to be the leader of the free world!”

    I like Obama, but I think that’s a big mistake for 2 reasons –

    1. He’s still a VERY junior senator. A president should have more experience.

    2. As a major star for the Democrats he has the opportunity to serve the party well in the Senate for years to come and THEN be President. Keep in mind that once you’re president, that’s it. Two terms and you’re put out to pasture as an “elder statesman”. Obama is too young for that. (technically he *could* go back to being a senator, but that’s almost never done – I think Andrew Johnson did it, but that was after being impeached).

    Putting up Obama is a sign of the Dems’ desperation.

  • nother

    Pinelson, they said Theo Epstein was too young and he now he look pretty good with his ring.

    The time is now pinelson, Obama may only do two terms but in that eight hears he could instil hope in a time of crisis. His compassion could change the hearts of others when they think about Americans. His example will influence others who would otherwise take a different path from politics, and will take the baton after eight years.

    The time is now.

  • nother

    Does the “Brown paper bag test” factor in here? It’s not a coincidence that the black men in the national political spotlight, Barack Obama, Harold Ford Jr., Deval Patrick, are of similar skin color. In his 1996 book The Future of the Race, Henry Louis Gates Jr writes about the “bag party” he encountered at parties at Yale, where a brown bag was hung on the door. As he writes “Anyone darker than the bag was denied entrance. That was one cultural legacy that would be put to rest in a hurry – we all made sure of that. But in a manner of speaking, it was replaced by an opposite test whereby those who were deemed “not black enough’ ideologically were to be shunned. I was not sure this was an improvement.”

    Is there a brown paper bag hung on the door of political “parties” in America. If Obama, Ford, and Patrick, had much darker skin would they be denied entrance to the party. The issue has come up in Tennessee, as you report “Ford alleges that the Corker campaign darkened his complexion in campaign literature.”

    How are the dynamics going to play out here? Is the skin color of these men not white enough for a majority of white people, is their skin not black enough to galvanise the dormant black vote? Or is their beige skin a place where we can all come together to begin the drastic change that is so necessary.

  • peggy sue

    plnelson said: “Putting up Obama is a sign of the Dems’ desperation.”

    Haven’t you noticed? The Democrats ARE totally desparate! The country is desparate! We are ALL desparate!

    Obama is the only politican out there I can feel any excitment about. Like nother I was thrilled to hear about his decision.

  • Potter

    I don’t know why I am not turned on by Obama- at least not for President, not yet. Let him ripen somemore. There is a desperation though and that’s when mistakes are made. The Republicans were desperate and put up GWB in 2000. I remember how desperate they were to get the WH.

    I really would love to see Deval Patrick win for Governor. I was thrilled he passed the first round sinning the nomination. First he passes the decency test: positive and constructive, above the fray. But I have to admite that fact that he is black ( or African-American decent) it a big plus for me. I would love to see a black person in that seat finally and I think he would be an excellent choice for the first black governor of our state. It is a matter of pride in MA for me, as with it has been in so many other elections.

    On the other hand- my mother- who is against the war and a Democrat all her life is pro-Lieberman (even though she does not live in Connecticut) simply because he is Jewish. It’s a very strong pull.

    So personally on identity politics, I think there is a lot to it.

  • Potter

    Sorry- for typos.

  • I’m also not sure what the hype about Obama is. I heard him speak at the convention and he is a charismatic speaker. But I heard no substance. And he hasn’t been at the job long enough for me to know what kind of leader he really is. How does he envision addressing problems with a very broken two-party system.

    I’m still waiting for a visionary leader. Someone who inspires us to a new vision of how we can create a sustainable America that we can all be proud of. That means inspiring us to discover these things within ourselves. We need radical shifts. Who’s offering that?

    Just as I would love to see us break the gender barrier, I would love to see break the race barrier in our perceptions of leadership. But the person really has to be a leader. Without that, it actually backfires. This has to be a person who leads as though gender or race is irrelevant. So, we have to vote as though race and gender do not matter.

    As for identity politics, it sickens me. plnelson is right. It’s about divide and conquer. Surprise, surprise, but I’m not a fan of labels. And I don’t want to hear pundits and pollsters defining us into corners. We’re people looking for leadership that allows us to lead decent lives.

  • Isn’t it possible that with the numbers of inter-racial/ethnic couples that any ethnic or racial identities are going to be so diluted they become politically irrelevant.

    I have long believed that racism in this country is often more about classism. The “American Dream” is about being wealthy. Those who have inherited or achieved wealth don’t like to be exposed to those who have not. Guilt, maybe? Those who have not feel less than. Though we have the Horatio Alger model in our collective psyche’s, the reality is that relatively few people will manage to move into a different economic class in their lifetime. Typically, 1st and 2nd generation immigrants might. After that the chances are exceedingly low. We cling to the stories of those who do even though they are the anomaly, no the norm. And we don’t want to discuss the fact that in order to pull people out of poverty and make room for everyone to have even a middle-class life, there would need to be a huge shift in resources away from the few who have accumulated so much and control just about everything.

    We need to have a “Share the Wealth” movement that fights for systemic structures that force the re-distribution of resources. Why should anyone be allowed to own 2 or 3 or 7 homes when so many are homeless? Why should anyone be allowed to have plastic surgery when so many do have health insurance?

    These are difficult moral dilemmas. Our national philosophy is based on free market principles that lack any human ethics. How do we build that in without losing the ingenuity that the prospect of making money motivates? What kind of crisis must we face before we are willing to speak truth to the power of the monied elite?

  • Ben

    Sidewalker, also thanks for pulling in the class. Regarding voting with religious motivation: it’s good to keep in mind that there is in religion a mobile, highly organized infrastructure in place that has no secular parallel outside labor or trade unions and other professional orgs which have all been in decline for a generation. It’s a strong organizational tool for getting people to show up someplace. This is going to get really interesting as it works with or against 21st century identity politics while traditional radical evangelical elements continue to divide the attentions of formerly conservative politicians. Religion had a lot of influence in civil rights change, it is a powerful machine. Don’t leave out the Vatican’s (and other central authorities) influence on the 2004 election either. What will this footprint be in the 06/08 run?

  • jazzman

    plnelson says: The FACT is that good leadership benefits EVERYONE. Both parties WANT to switch our attention away from their failures and lack of ideas and vision, to focus on trying to keep score in a game of their own making involving divisions of class, ideology, ethnicity, and “identity

    He’s right – identity is a cynical tool of both parties – remember soccer moms? Any “identity” that is exploited does so by their own jingoism.

    plnelson says: I like Obama, but I think that’s a big mistake for 2 reasons

    I also like Obama and think it’s a mistake for him to run in ’08 but I don’t think experience is a factor (how does one get experience in presidentin’?) VPs are usually ciphers in presidential governance, being a state governor is probably the closest one can come as far as preparation goes. Kennedy had little experience, as did most previous 1st term presidents.

    I saw Obama speak with Charlie Rose and Tim Russert and he avoided the weasel-worded double-speak that is so prevalent in politics today (likely it’s been forever) – he stated that he said he had no presidential aspirations shortly after he was elected and that was true for him at that time. Now (after desperate tugs at his coattails, urges, and whispers of support) he is mulling it over (unlike Kerry, I believe he would easily squelch the Flip-Flop chants). If he’s as smart as he appears, I believe that he will wait until ’16 to make a serious run (assuming a Dem is elected in ’08 and is worthy of 4 more years, if not he could run in ’12). He also may angle for the 1 heartbeat position in ’08 which might be more tenable (winnable.) Anyway the parties no longer put up candidates – much to my dismay abandoning the “smoke-filled room” for the primary process. Instead of nominating a strong candidate with a good chance to win for the good of the party platform, there is usually a co-opted compromise candidate who has been torn down in the media by members of the party vying for the nomination.

  • jazzman

    Potter I really would love to see Deval Patrick win for Governor. I was thrilled he passed the first round winning the nomination.

    I am still voting for Patrick (my wife volunteers for his campaign) but I’m seeing the lawyer (dark side) and semantic sense of truth (shades of Clinton) come out in him. He’s still a better choice than Healey for numerous reasons but I feel let down that he is not straightforward in the way the Obama is. He could have easily owned the charges that he paid for DNA testing by being upfront and explaining that as a defense attorney it’s his job to try by any legal means to disprove the charges against his client, but he tried to weasel around it by disremembering only to remember when there was incontrovertible evidence. He has defended unpopular (reprehensible) clients but not a until the last debate when he started to redeem himself did he have a truthful comeback. I was excited when he first announced because he seemed refreshing and positive (he still is comparatively) but it seems that I vote more against a candidate than for someone who shares my ideals. As I told rc21 I vote pragmatically for the candidate that I believe is closest to my philosophy and can win irrespective of their party affiliation (but as I have a libertarian philosophy – I almost always vote for a liberal) or personal peccadilloes but it would be nice to actually be for someone.

  • jazzman

    Allison I’m also not sure what the hype about Obama is. I heard him speak at the convention and he is a charismatic speaker

    That charisma is as close to the “vision” thing as the Dems can muster at this time. I agree that the 2 party system is very broken but until it no longer functions to the point it can be supplanted by another system we have to work within it until that time. I would love to see a visionary leader (ala the Dalai Lama) but most people are afraid of “radicalism” and radical change (remember it could be a radical shift in the opposite direction you want. Much like the last 5 years.) I, like the recently resurfaced A Little Yellow Bird, believe we get the government that we deserve because we as Americans are generally more interested in our entertainment and pocketbook (breads & circus) than we are in self examination or peace. We as a fearful people worry about terror, taxes, and getting ripped off and we get what we concentrate on which then justifies our fears on and on in a vicious circle which is then easily exploited by fear mongers (you can see it works very well). We as a nation don’t have peace because as a nation we’re not peaceful nor is the majority of citizens. I am peaceful and I enjoy peace. I don’t worry about money and somehow always have enough to meet my family’s needs. I don’t fear that my taxes will be spent subsidizing someone who may be scamming the system. I have no control of how my taxes are spent other than to elect the ones who will spend the money more to my liking so why worry?

  • jazzman

    Allison Says: We need to have a “Share the Wealth” movement that fights for systemic structures that force the re-distribution of resources. Why should anyone be allowed to own 2 or 3 or 7 homes when so many are homeless? Why should anyone be allowed to have plastic surgery when so many do have health insurance?

    This sounds suspiciously like “each according to his ability, each according to his need.” Who are you? – Who are we? Who is anyone to decide how to re-distribute wealth in the Robin hood method? Homelessness and poor self image are problems which cannot be solved by forcible re-distribution of wealth. We live in one of 4 Commonwealths and that is a group oriented philosophical statement by those who live here. I suspect that any re-distribution that is imagined in this scenario would be accomplished by violent means and resisted just as violently. If it weren’t then there would be no need to re-distribute anything as there would be no inequity. The only way this will be minimized as an issue is when peoples’ consciousness is sufficiently raised to the point that they recognize that individuals are responsible for the conditions they create.

    Peace to ALL,

    Jazzman

  • dmf

    Great discussion – just think of the “Matt Santos” voters or all of the imagined parallel worlds of TV or online politics that have given the public the chance to imagine their leaders with different identities and apperances – and policies – that contrast the typical examples in the “real” world.

    DMF

  • jazzman Says: Who is anyone to decide how to re-distribute wealth in the Robin hood method?

    jazzman, I would like to turn that question around and ask: Who is anyone to decide how to re-distribute the Wealth (think public resources, shared land, social networks, infrustructure, etc.) in the Robber Baron method?

    Is it because this method is so insidious and backed up with the threat of state violence (police) and private militia (security forces, lawyers) that it’s accepted?

  • I wasn’t thinking about anything physically forced. I was nowhere near Sherwood Forest. I don’t harbor ideas of how the resources should be re-distributed. You jumped onto a completely different path than I was on, I was thinking more of a leadership model that truly inspired people to think about the well-being of their fellow man. An ethos that guided us as a culture to understand how much grander life would be if we truly provided for one another rather than focused on accumulating for ourselves.

    Do you really believe that people born into desperately poor neighborhoods, surrounded by prejudice, violence and a lack of education or worldliness beyond their street are responsible for the fact that they cannot find or create opportunities to better their lives? That it is an issue of “poor self-image”? I have a deep spritual practice that I live through my work and my child-rearing, but to state that extreme poverty will “only … be minimized as an issue is when peoples’ consciousness is sufficiently raised to the point that they recognize that individuals are responsible for the conditions they create.” is what I would call a bit a “spiritual bypass”.

    I don’t belong to any group or -ism. I do believe in coming to the aid of those in need. I don’t mean filling up bank accounts. I believe in compassionately teaching people to fish. Still, they need a teacher, a pole, a line, a hood, some bait, a clean river/lake/ocean, tools to clean the fish, etc. You can’t get all these things when you start with nothing and those who have everything don’t want you to get anything because they are afraid you’ll compete for and perhaps get some of what they’ve got.

  • jdyer

    Deval Patrick is a shoe in, here. This is more because of the lousy candidate that the Republicans came up with than because of his merit as a candidate.

    Still, I am glad he will win, because I am tired of the Republican governors we have had.

    As for Obama, he may get the Democratic nomination, but I doubt he will be elected Prez. He is to young and too inexperienced for the job and the Reps will eat him alive especially if the nominate someone like McCain.

  • jdyer

    David: “Jdyer: Wikipedia does a relatively good job in defining identity politics. (Although it’s worth emphasizing that I pluralized it, mainly because the notion that any of us has just one identity is silly.)”

    If you pluralize identity than the notion of identity politics becomes irrelevant.

    btw: the wikipedia article definition of idenity politics wasn’t very clear.

    For one think it didn’t offer a definition of what human identity either in its cultural, linguistic, or personal modes.

  • rc21

    Many people here are excited about Obama, Mainly because of his race. To my way of thinking that is a somewhat racist way of thinking. If Obama was a white male first term senator would these same people be as excited? I think not.

    What is his body of work. What outstanding credentials does he bring to the table. And last but by no means least has anyone in the media even attempted to ask him a tough question? Who will be the first to really scrutinize him ? The NY Times, Chris Matthews, NPR, Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw, 60 minutes. Eveyone is so enthralled with him,that they will be so busy sucking up to him, they will totally disregard the fact that they are supposed to be objective journalists.

    Obama has as good a chance as anyone to win, and he knows it. With a little help from his fiends anything is possible.

  • Old Nick

    On Obama: I disagree with rc21 that people are excited over Obama because of his father’s ethnicity, or his skin color, etc.

    Obama is the Democrat’s best orator. Period.

    He just happens to be ‘biracial’.

    Better yet, he’s the Dems’ most charismatic candidate. His ‘race’ is window dressing, a side-story, a possible strength, but also a weakness in the esteem of our body politic’s closet racsits.

    I expect he’ll succeed or fail on his oratorical and political skills, not on the nation’s “approval” of his skin color.

    Whether he develops a compelling message powerful enough to win 270 votes in the United States Electoral College remains to be seen. (I wish him nothing but good luck. He’ll need it against the Right’s heavily-funded attack dogs, and to counter the dregs of racism still polluting our society.)

  • Ok, Old Nick, Obama is a charismatic orator. But what does he talk about? What accomplishments does he have under his belt? What vision is he offering? Why should I think anything would be any different with him in office? I’ve never heard any of this kind of substance. Everybody simply seems to be charmed by him.

  • Old Nick

    On the conversation between Allison, Jazzman, and others:

    I love this distinction I’ve just discovered, courtesy of Irshad Manji:

    “Individualism—I’m out for myself—differs from individuality—I’m myself, and my society benefits from that uniqueness.”

    Unfortunately, people conflate individualism – which is an ideology dedicated to the perpetuation of selfishness – from individuality – which is a gift to both the individual person and to the person’s society.

    The GOP has succeeded ideologically for a couple of decades now because it bills itself as the party dedicated to protecting individual liberty. (Worse yet, the Democrats have seemingly ceded this position to the GOP without a fight.) The GOP champions the “rugged individualist”, conveniently overlooking that, in most decent democracies, individualists are not granted carte blanche to exploit other individuals.

    Decent democracies rein in the exploitative excesses our 18th century constitutional environment allows to flourish in the 21st century USA. (And, yes, the Constitution creates the environment that the body politic inhabits.)

    Most other modern Western democracies are founded on more than mere individual liberty. Most give tripartite equal emphasis to “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity”. The GOP doesn’t seem to care much for the second and third legs of that triad. They leave that domain to the Democrats, who talk up ‘Equality’ but without much sense of how to articulate it into a winning position. Meanwhile, Fraternity (and Sorority, or better yet, the awkward but righteous ‘Siblinghood’) is a nearly meaningless concept in American politics. And to our detriment. I’d rather live in a society that understands itself to be an extended family of individuals rather than a society of individuals first, with little if any sense of responsibility to the rest of the ‘family’. Again, read the lovely distinction given above from Irshad Manji (and leave it to a Canadian to nail it so effortlessly).

    Elevating ‘equality’ to co-suzerainty with ‘liberty’ would change our country fundamentally. We’d have an ethical and even a moral imperative to restructure the educational system. We’d have to generate a federal educational system that ‘leaves no child behind’ in reality instead of in mere sloganeering.

    Such a national ethic would do much more than that, but education is the first place to implement it.

    We’d also have a reason to revisit the Constitutional allocation of representatives: allowing proportional representation, and retiring the system of election of individuals.

    I can think of nothing more promising for the health of our republic than a change in our body politic’s constitutionally created environment.

  • Old Nick

    Allison, I recall Obama’s speech at the ’04 Democratic Convention, but only that it was quite good, not for its message.

    He’ll have to offer us something fresh, and a message laden with more than the usual pablum of platitudes if he’s going to challenge the growing McCain Machine.

    Again, I wish him well. I’d love to have a compelling reason to vote for a Donkey instead of against those corporate-class-warrior, irascibly selfish Elephants.

  • nother

    Allison, I’m not sure what you’re looking for in terms of substance. He was against the war in Iraq, he is for stem cell research, he voted against Alito, Roberts, and Bolton, voted against the “marriage’ act. He is on the right side of (left that is) of all the major issues.

    I urge you all to check out his web site. http://obama.senate.gov/about/ I had a big discussion with my family last night about the governors race in MA and everyone was regurgitation the rhetoric they heard on the TV commercials. With Internet access so easy we have no excuse not to go to the candidate’s website and explore their take on the issues.

    Among other things Mr. Obama’s site gives the transcripts from his major speeches: http://obama.senate.gov/speech/

    This from a UMASS commencement address:

    My third piece of advice is to cultivate a sense of empathy – to put yourself in other people’s shoes – to see the world from their eyes. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world – one that makes you understand that your obligations to others extend beyond people who look like you and act like you and live in your neighborhood.

    Someone on this site said we are only excited about Obama because he’s black. Think about that statement, by that rational ANY black man I support for office in the future must only have my support because he’s black – gimme a break. I’m excited about Obama because he is an outsider (the color of his skin probably contributed to that) with intelligence, compassion, and empathy.

    Allison and who ever else, what more are you looking for in a leader?

  • Old Nick

    Allison, here’s a link to a terrific interview of Obama: http://www.kuow.org/programs/powerofvoice.asp

    It will archive (I think) under Monday, October 23rd, 2006.

  • plnelson

    “Pinelson, they said Theo Epstein was too young and he now he look pretty good with his ring.”

    Theo Epstein doesn’t work in a field where after two terms at the top you’re automatically out to pasture.

    The Democrats are not thinking strategically.

  • plnelson

    “American” has a clear, concrete definition? Were that the case, we would have no politics. Isn’t American politics largely a contest over conflicting and evolving visions of what exactly that means?”

    Nope.

    If you are a legal citizen of the United States; if you qualify for a passport and a social security number you’re an American. There’s nothing fuzzy about it.

    I had to laugh when I saw Nother’s comments that “Until recently the party would designate a different phone desk for different identities, they would have a black person calling black people to get out the vote, a Hispanic person calling Hispanic homes, and so on.”

    So what makes THOSE things “identities”? Suppose you are a black software engineer living in Lexington Massachusetts. Suppose your wife is a marketing director and between the two of you you pull down $190K. You got two kids in the Lexington school system, and vacation in Europe. Is your “identity” the same as an AIDS victim in Baltimore just because you have the same skin color? I have a relative with the same skin color and last name as me, living in rural Appalachia, who’s a drug addict, works at a gas station, and in and out of jails and rehab centers most of her life. Because we have the same ethnic background does that mean we have the same “identity”?

    I’m tyring to tell you guys – this concept is a sham.

  • plnelson

    Peggy Sue says . . .

    “Obama is the only politican out there I can feel any excitment about. Like nother I was thrilled to hear about his decision.”

    ‘Excitement’ and ‘thrills’ are emotions. Appealing to people’s emotions are how the Republicans convinced Americans to invade Iraq and do a lot of the other stupid things they’re got people into. One of the reasons this country is so screwed up is that voters and the leadership are “thinking” with various body parts OTHER than their heads – their adrenal glands, their genitals, etc.

    Barak Obama is a powerful resource for the Democrats and they should think logically about the most efficient way to utilize that resource. He can run for President in 10 years and still win and be a BETTER president then due to more experience – in the meantime he can serve them better in the Senate. Obama in 2008 is an illogical choice as well as a sign of desperation on the Democrats’ part that they can’t think of anything better.

    To use a sports analogy, it’s like having a really BAD football team with no talent at any position. But they’ve managed to pick up a phenomenal first-round draft choice, Heisman Trophy winner, and now they expect that rookie to get them into the Superbowl.

  • plnelson

    “Deval Patrick is a shoe in, here. This is more because of the lousy candidate that the Republicans came up with than because of his merit as a candidate.

    Still, I am glad he will win, because I am tired of the Republican governors we have had. ”

    I’ve actually been fairly happy with the Republican governors we’ve had – I’m a fiscal conservative and they’ve reflected my values in that respect, without offending too many of my social liberal values.

    My biggest problem with Patrick is that Massachusetts will be a one-party state. It is NEVER good, as we’ve seen in the federal government for one party to dominate EVERYTHING. Anyone’s who’s live in Massachusetts as long as I have knows, for example, in races for US Congress that about half the time the Democratic incumbent runs UNOPPOSED!

    Think about that for a second. Even in the old USSR you could vote “Da” or “Nyet”. In Massachusetts you don’t even get a “Nyet” vote in some elections.

  • rc21

    plnelson, You are right about the one party system. It matters little if Patrick would make a good govener or not. The big problem is going to be the house and senate of Mass.

    They now know it will be possible to tax and spend at a rate that will have us wondering why our paychecks have disapeared. Every special interest group is currently lining up at the trough in expectations of a big handout. At least the GOP tried to limit the damage. We are not known as Taxachusetts for no reason.

  • Identity matters because people believe it matters. Why do they believe it? That’s a question which leads down different paths of explanation, including lived experience, subjectification, ideology, personal inclination, fear, etc. This is the human condition and, yes, it is exploited for political and economic capital. But to claim there is only one significant basis of political community for the House and Senate elections, that of national identity, is to deny the messy social reality of class and ethno-cultural struggles, that operates behind the hopeful rhetoric of One Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all. It was not this at the time those words were written and it won’t come about through some wishful call for people to remove their emotionally tinted glasses and with reasoned minds see everyone as red, white and blue.

    I agree, pinelson, that having the same ethnic background does not lead naturally to a shared identity. But this is the same with national background. That’s why a nuanced consideration, which includes gender, class, age, ethnicity and other aspects of self, is important. Sadly, marketers turn this fine texture into slogan and it is mass produced for easy consumption. Though audience research shows us that people interact and creatively play with these identity costumes, these “shams”, as you call them, and create their own forms of self-expression and attachment.

    The challenge is finding common ground that can lead to socio-economic change. Herein lies the appeal of class-based interests and notions of human and cultural rights.

  • plnelson

    “But to claim there is only one significant basis of political community for the House and Senate elections, that of national identity,”

    I didn’t say it’s the only “significant” one; I said it’s the only one you can COUNT ON being REAL, and not the fantasy of some paid market manipulator.

    If you have an African American woman engineer who’s approaching retirement, WHICH of those various “identities” is the one that will determine her vote for a particular candidate?

    The reason why economics is not a predictive science – why you can’t reliably predict stock market peaks and crashes, and how far this or that commodity price will rise or fall, and how low the unemployment rate can REALLY go before inflation sets in (the NAIRU has getting recalibrated for 15 years now) – is precisely because economics cannot model individual humans. Because they are too complex, and their decisions are subject to too many interacting influences. Likewise, “identity” politics ireduces the complexity of actual, real-world human beings to one-dimensional stereotypes. And it fails for that same reason.

    The other problem with “identity” politics is not whether “PEOPLE” beleieve in “identity” but that POLITICIANS believe in it! What a GOOD leader should do is base his positions on his philosophy and values and understanding of the facts, and then clearly communicate what his positions are and why he took them. But “identity politics” has created a race of political monsters that are constantly recalibrating themselves to appeals to this or that “identity” group and avoid offending some other “identity” group. The whole thing becomes a markting game devoid of any true leadership. The failure of the Democrats to articulate clear, definite programs and plans is a EXCELLENT example of what’s wrong with “identity” politics, because that’s such endless recalibartion leads to.

  • plnelson

    “Herein lies the appeal of class-based interests”

    But what’s a “class”? How many different classes are there and what are they called? How do you tell who’s in what class? And what’s a class interest? Can class be objectively measured or is it like good art – ‘we know it when we see it’ ?

    As I demonstrated above, a strong economy, a secure nation, a government free of corruption, etc, benefits EVERYONE regardless of income, education, age, gender, etc. I don’t think you can point to any uniquely “class interests” that will be so universal.

  • Potter

    plNelson: This “greyhair” ( who colors) surmises you are a DINK ( correct me). (Brendan don’t delete me).

    I like Sidewalker’s articulation just above.

    There are two strains to this conversation and they get mixed. One is about what is and maybe celebrates that at least in part. in part, the other is about what should be but is not.

    Regardless of what politician’s believe, it either works for them or it does not.

    Identity politics is a kind of language-( politician to voter) “I understand your problems, and concerns” (and I’ll prove it by eating the same food you eat). It’s a fact of life. If it did not work, politicians would not use it. People as groups seem to want that attention at election time even if it’s schmoozing and phoney. In the end it’s up to individuals to wise up to how they are being manipulated. Because so many are not tuned in to what is going on in this country, they are vulnerable, and so we all are.

  • plnelson

    “Identity politics is a kind of language-( politician to voter) “I understand your problems, and concerns” (and I’ll prove it by eating the same food you eat). It’s a fact of life. If it did not work, politicians would not use it. ”

    That doesn’t justify it. You could say the same thing about playing the race card or scaring voters with vague threats of terrorism or WMD’s as a way of getting votes or gaining support for some policy. Those things “work”, too.

    “People as groups seem to want that attention at election time even if it’s schmoozing and phoney.”

    I can’t parse “people as groups” – I don’t know what that expression means. Do you mean individuals like to hear politicians address groups they are in? I don’t think that’s important to most people. Let’s see – I’m a software engineer, webmaster, poet, painter, photographer, runner, cook, investor, and a bunch of other things. I’m a member of all kinds of professional and special-interest organizations and I can’t recall the last time any of my elected officials made any specific comments to or about of those groups.

    Politicians may take positions on things that affect me – Sarbanes-Oxley, f’rinstance or First-Amendment rights (I have content on my website that some people would like to censor) but I couldn’t care LESS if they give a speech before some organization I’m in or make any specific references to people with my vocations or avocations.

  • A couple of things: I think plnelson is right about characterizing the concept of identity politics as a ‘sham”. That is, it oversimplifies and takes leader away from their intuition and internalized values and drives them to cater to some demographic that some researcher has defined. The whole thing is trying to make the job easier when it’s by definition a confoundingly difficult one.

    It is also used as a manipulative tool. Politicians try to speak the ‘language’ of the researcher defined demographic they belive they need votes from. The voters, in an attempt to see which politicians they are aligned with, start buying into to these identities. Whether it’s Meyers-Briggs, high school cliques or identity politics, we seem to need to find our ‘tribe’. It makes us feel safe. So we can be manipulated into accepting these labels. Politicians and marketers of all sorts have found this to be a successful way to sell their products.

    But it is destructive. We can analyze it to death, when what we might do instead is reject it. Ultimately, for humans to start living together constructively we have to reject all notions that we should be classified. We can identify common problems we want to address, common projects we’d like to undertake and areas where we respectfully accept our individual differences. We don’t have to label ourselves bassed upon these commonalities and differences. I would prefer if if politicians referred to issues rather than demographic groups. Labels remove fluidity and, therefore, the concept of change. Once you start saying, “I’m a _______” and your idenity is based upon that, it becomes a lot more challenging to become something else. It is very different to say, “I robbed a bank, where do I go from here.” Than to say, “I am a bank robber, where do I go from here?” One questions says, I want to look at what I do. Another says, i want to look at who I am. It’s a lot easier to do something different than to be something different.

    I’m blathering now. For many of you this is a topic I’ve gone on about before. The bottom line is that yes, it has become a successful – and, therefore, meaninful – tool for poiticians to practive “identity politics” but at the core the concept is a destructively, manipulative sham.

  • Potter

    What you say sounds correct Allison- I believe it. But again you are arguing the way things should be. The fact is that people are emotional as well as rational and when the tribal button is pushed, it works. This takes time- generations perhaps, to become ineffective but then there is always a new group who’s button will be pushed. It also takes awareness. I think the obviously manufactured “soccer mom” thing wore off, a total manipulation. But other identities are very deeply held.

    plnelson: all the categories that you mention that you fit in don’t have the emotional tap root that some others do, like African American/Black or Jewish or Latino ( the underclass especially). “Categories” or identities such as webmaster, poet, painter photographer are quite different and weak by comparison to the point of speaking of apples and oranges. It’s ridiculous to talk of the “amateur photographer’s vote”. C’mon……….

    There is a difference between what is and what ought to be. As long as there are politicians who want power influence and office more than anything else, they will take advantage of such weaknesses. It’s also about the culture of how office is gained.

    FWIW- Perhaps a hopeful sign, I just heard a report about how voters in Massachusetts are sick of the negative advertising and Deval Patrick, certainly the less negative and pandering of the two candidates, has quite a lead now, the report said, because of that difference.

  • plnelson

    “I’m blathering now. ”

    That’s never stopped ME before . . . 😎

  • plnelson

    ” It’s ridiculous to talk of the ‘amateur photographer’s vote’. C’mon……….”

    Depends on how you frame it.

    As a high tech worker for a foreign-owned company, surrounded by mostly non-US born workers, getting close to retirement age, I fall into all kinds of demographic groups that politicians are attempting to pander to.

    Also as a photographic artist whose website features lots and lots of nudes I have to regularly contend with email from the people on Christian right who think that I’m sending this country and its moral straight to hell.

    And if you saw my earlier comments WRT to Israel you know that I’m an outspoken supporter of many Israeli policies and have pissed of lots of pro-Islamic types.

    Any of this makes me fodder for categorizing, but I’m categorically uncategorizable.

  • jazzman

    Sidewalker says: jazzman, I would like to turn that question around and ask: Who is anyone to decide how to re-distribute the Wealth (think public resources, shared land, social networks, infrustructure, etc.) in the Robber Baron method? Is it because this method is so insidious and backed up with the threat of state violence (police) and private militia (security forces, lawyers) that it’s accepted?

    In our 2 party, Representative Republic, it is our representatives who decide how the public wealth is distributed (recently the SCOTUS has even opened the door to re-distribute private property by the state/ municipality – see Kelo vs. City of New London .) Most representatives (especially conservatives) are less than altruistic and favor legislation that benefits their cronies, families, and themselves and maneuver to death or neuter bills that don’t, rather than further the common weal (as in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.) When it comes to feathering their private nests most are corrupted by power and rationalize that they need to press their advantage to stay in power to continue to “serve the constituency.” The entrenched party has gerrymandered class dense (their constituent class) districts to this end to create safe seats and remain in the majority. The robber-baron analogy is not that far off and it is as you say backed up by not only the threat of state violence but the fact of it. That it is insidious depends on the perceptiveness of the citizenry. Karl Marx thought he had the answer and believed that the “noble goal” of a classless society justified violent revolution which was an integral part of the natural order of “social evolution”. I don’t believe any human being has the right to physically harm another or deprive anyone of personal property regardless of the amount of property one possesses. In order to preserve a reasonable modicum of social order, we as citizens agree to abide by our representatives majority rule or peacefully petition for change. See Absolute Morality below.

  • jazzman

    1) Do Respect and Honor ALL Life/Nature. EVERYTHING in the universe has purpose, meaning, and an innate right to exist. (No need to invoke God or Evolution)

    2) Do EMPATHIZE with others in all transactions. Consider the effect of your actions vis a vis others. Don’t take advantage of people via trickery or superior intellect. This is the root of the Golden Rule – no vengeful tit for tat.

    3) Do not kill more than is needed for physical sustenance. I believe that most people would agree that the deprivation of life for gluttony is less than ideal and should be discouraged.

    4) Do not commit violence on yourself or others, life, or the environment. Violence is a result of unexpressed pent up aggression, fostered by a sense of powerlessness to attain desires by the incompetent, ignorant or impatient and NEVER justified.

    5) Do not attempt to attain an IDEAL by violating any of the above propositions. The “All of the above” Meta-rule – IDEAL ENDS NEVER JUSTIFY LESS THAN IDEAL MEANS.

    Compare to your Creed or Religion if you prefer.

    1) Revere all other humans: they are you in different bodies. They see, on your behalf, what you cannot. On your behalf they hear what you cannot. On your behalf they smell what you cannot. On your behalf they taste what you cannot. And on your behalf they feel what you cannot.

    2) Revere all other creatures: they may not ponder as profoundly as you, but they feel just as deeply.

    3) Revere the plants: they feed you, whether directly or through animals that consume them, that you consume in turn.

    4) Revere the mountains and the valleys, the forests and the deserts, the wild steppes and the tamed plains. Revere all water, no matter its amount. Earth and water combine with sunlight to make you and all other life.

    5) Consider carefully – with empathy as your guide – the effect on other creatures and people any action you make.

    After empathy guides you, choose the action that harms the fewest other sentient creatures.

  • jazzman

    Allison says:I wasn’t thinking about anything physically forced. I was nowhere near Sherwood Forest.

    Allison, I generally am in concert with your opinions, I apologize for any harshness inferred above. The few occasions where you advocate the need for force such as your post http://www.radioopensource.org/cold-wars-and-how-to-survive-them/#comment-5974#comment-5974 where you advocate intervention between parent and child by outsiders and http://www.radioopensource.org/gary-hart-peter-beinart-and-richard-perle/#comment-5546#comment-5546 where you wish we had intervened in Afghanistan for more “noble” reasons (which you graciously retracted) are the exception to your predominately balanced and sage postings.

    When metaphors such as “fight” for systemic structures that “force” re-distribution of resources are used, I think Sherwood Forest, and when rhetoric such as Why should anyone own… by implication more than they need, I think of Robinhood’s modus operandi. The proscription of plastic surgery (implied by dint of law) for anyone due to lack of a Universal Healthcare System seems rather harsh to me so I reacted in my typically strident fashion. Again I apologize for my reaction to your post, not that you took offense (if indeed you did.) Let me address your other questions.

  • jazzman

    Do you really believe that people born into desperately poor neighborhoods, surrounded by prejudice, violence and a lack of education or worldliness beyond their street are responsible for the fact that they cannot find or create opportunities to better their lives?

    Yes I believe that everyone’s circumstances are TOTALLY their responsibility. I believe ALL consciousness creates its environment by choice for reasons as diverse as the universe itself. Those in desperately poor neighborhoods provide challenges for themselves and opportunities for others to empathize and provide aid. Living with prejudice allows one to see the benefits of not prejudging others for superficial characteristics. Living in a violent atmosphere provides the opportunity to eschew violence and embrace peace. As I told rc21 in the College thread, if there is a strong enough desire for education, one will create a way. All persons can better their lives no matter how short, how long, or how horrible the circumstances if they consciously choose to.

    That it is an issue of “poor self-image”? I was referring to voluntary plastic surgery for cosmetic (not reconstructive) reasons which I see as an issue of “poor self-image” but it is a person’s choice for whatever reason they feel is necessary and who am I to say they can’t have it – even though I believe it is misguided.

    but to state that extreme poverty will “only … be minimized as an issue is when peoples’ consciousness is sufficiently raised… is what I would call a bit a “spiritual bypass”

    I stated that homelessness and poor self image would be minimized – not extreme poverty, that is an issue even the historical Jesus stated was an opportunity for his flock to help, saying “The poor you will always have with you.” I help anyone in whatever way I can when I create the opportunity (i.e., the needful enter my personal reality) and contribute to many charitable causes. (mainly foodbanks, and underprivileged chlldren’s causes.) By all means teach to fish and give fish so that one might have strength to fish and never fear anyone will lose anything because they gave to someone else.

    Peace and Charity

    Jazzman

  • nother

    identity politics has been replaced by issue politics. Whereas before people would stay loyal to their co-identity even if they disagreed on certain issues, now people stay loyal to certain issues even if they have different identities.

    The groups banning together are people who feel strongly about immigration, abortion, gay marrige, civil liberties, anti imperialism.

  • pinelson:But what’s a “class”? How many different classes are there and what are they called? How do you tell who’s in what class? And what’s a class interest? Can class be objectively measured or is it like good art – ‘we know it when we see it’ ?

    Yours are good questions and I think I will add the topic of Class to the activated suggest-a-show thread. Very (too) briefly, for me class is based on an objective measurement of people’s economic, cultural (e.g. education), and political capital, what Bourdieu referred to as their habitus. This goes beyond Marx’s emphasis on surplus labour time, and allows us to measure not only the economic wealth and rewards for ones productive effort but also the degree to which someone can control their employability and mobility.

    I am thinking of class in very functional terms, not the descriptive labeling that spinners indulge in (and which needs to be countered). Nother mentions issue politics above. What more important issue than one’s means of livelihood. Class-based political movements, then, would work towards creating a more equitable system, globally, by pressing for redistribution though, as jazzman stresses, non-violent (but more pro-active) means.

  • rc21

    To Jazzman: Your post 10-24 at 9pm was spot on Once again I agree with you.

    almost 100%. To plnelson; I read your posts on poiticians and identity politics.

    The reason you don,t fit is because you are not the classic hardcore liberal.You don’t let yourself get pigeonholed into thinking all left wing plicies are good and all right wing policies are bad. You may lean left but you havent tipped over yet.

    I am now conservative for the most part. I would rather say libertarian but people in this day and age have little desire for our country to actually follow the constitution. Big govt on both sides has changed the country forever. I am still in favor or should say not against gay marriage, legalized drugs to a small extent. first amendment rights. with no restrictions either rightwing or left wing. The only exception would be people who are engageing in acts of treason.Abortion rights(can we please have a common sense compromise).

    Affirmitive outreach programs(Not forced quotas) Govt assistance for the mentally and phisically impaired. This does not include drug abusers and alcoholics. I’m for legal immigration. I’m against illegal aliens.I’m agnostic but fear the ACLU and other left wing groups are trying to unfairly attack religous groups. (The boy scouts is one example) I love the environment and try and recycle and do my best to not harm nature. But I hate it when Green peace or other groups try and tell me how to run my life. I hate guns. I hate hunting. But what I hate even more are people who try and sh-t on the bill of rights by taking away the rights of honest citizens.I hate socialism. I’m for capitolism. It feeds and clothes many more people than all other economic models. I’m pro Isreal. I have actually been to the middle east .I think I have a much better idea of what is really going on than do the talking head leftist academics that I so often listen to.

    What should my political identity be?I think that there are more people who

    lean one way politically but can listen and agree with some policies that another group advocates.

  • jazzman

    Correction:

    The 2nd 5 tenets in the Absolute Morality paragraph – http://www.radioopensource.org/elections-06-identities-politics/#comment-34281#comment-34281 should have been credited to Nikos who posted them in the God in our Genes Thread as his made up “religion”. http://www.radioopensource.org/is-god-in-our-genes/#comment-8273#comment-8273 in my rush to leave work at 9:00 PM, I inadvertently pasted the comparison between what I call Absolute Morality and the tenets of the Nikosian “religion.” My apologies to Nikos

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  • hey jazzman, I don’t disagree that we all have power over our reality. But as a white woman with half of my family coming from the privileged class, I believe it is too easy for me to make that claim. I can’t possibly know the relentless pounding you have push against to make change when you are born into poverty and violence. Yes, some – very, very, very few – find a path to a better life, but the vast majority get constantly beaten back. I feel it is a little smug and dismissive of me to claim that they simply need to accept responsibility for their own reality. Its a paradox, because on the one hand I do believe that, on the other, I don’t feel it’s my place to make that judgment on others and to assume that my belief is the only truth.

    And, while I don’t have a plan in mind, I do find myself wondering why it is okay to leave the property and resources in the hands of the few, so many of whom’s ancestors accumulated those resources via the labor of slaves or exploited labor. I think this is a moral dilemma. So, while you don’t believe anyone should have to give up what they own, I’m not so sure. It’s an exploration I would like to see us have in the public dialogue. It’s all well and good to free the slaves, but if the slave owner – who has committed a crime against humanity, in my mind – gets to keep all the property and the wealth generated from the slave labor, while the slave is told to go off and see how she does in the world, something is not set to rights. I’m not talking reparations, here. I’m thinking about railroad barons who made fortunes on the backs of abused laborers, mining companies, etc. In all of these situations, we may have addressed some of the abuses, but not the unreasonable distribution of the resources attained in these situations. Like I wrote, I don’t have a vision for what kind of action this would mean. I do think a sincere public dialogue might lead to some kind of catharsis.

    As for forcible action, you can probably tell that I struggle with this one. I don’t use physical force myself. At least I like to believe I am. Yet, I wonder, if my child were being threatened, how I would react. I don’t think I can truly know my nature unless that is tested. Which I hope never happens. And as a child who was abused, I can tell you that I would have liked nothing more than for someone to forcibly stop my mother. As an adult, I do think that intervention can most often happen without the use of force. Jazzman, if you were standing near a man with a gun at a child’s head – let’s say he’s a psychopath – and you can’t see any way to save this child without physically harming the man – would you do so? Is there ever an appropriate moment? I am only moved to the idea of physical force in order protect another. But I kow that this is a slippery slope. I certainly know that stopping abuse doesn’t always require physical force. Still, sometimes, it seems it does. Thought, I also know that things get to that point because we don’t address bad behavior or it’s cause early enough.

    These are just some of my thoughts as I read your comments to me. Especiallay having been called out for that which you don’t admire. (see writes with a wink.)

  • nother, thanks for the info on Obama. But do these votes represent anything different from most left-leaning democrats? Perhaps, they do, but I’m also looking for something more than where he stands on issues. I’m looking for a vision. An inspirational vision that offers us somewhere different to go, some fundamental shift. Do you think he offers that? If so, what kinds of visions has he espoused? Or how does he approach things that signifies some sea change?

  • correction: in my post above to jazzman, there is a sentence missing. Between “I don’t use physical force myself.” and “At least I like to believe I am.” should read: “Though I loathe labels, i suppose I would say I am a pacifist.”

  • nother

    You make a good point Allison. If he runs, I’m sure we will know where he stands on every issue inside and out, so I guess that’s not what gets my juices flowing. There are two things that make me think he could encompass the inspiration you so often talk about – eloquently.

    (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hanging pictures of him on my wall yet) First, he is positive, simple as that. Until I heard him speak I didn’t realize how much of what I was hearing from other Democrats was negative. If you listen to Joe Biden for example, you’ll here a litany of reasons the Republicans have screwed things up and how he predicted this all along (I’m leery of more of this happening if the Dems win Congress) I yearn for the tradition of President Lincoln who didn’t gloat after the war, he was positive and looked forward. Now some may see Obama’s positivity as political rhetoric and that’s their prerogative, I for one sense sincerity and compassion. I especially like how he measures his words in an interview, not in a contrived way, but in a way that says he actually listened to the question and does not have a rehearsed soundbite for every possible occation.

    The second thing that gets my juices flowing with Mr. Obama is the example he will set for kids with darker skin throughout the world, just by holding the highest office in the land. I’m sure you know that one of the biggest factors with racism is internalized racism. For so long a young dark skinned child never dreamed of being a doctor much less LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD. I can almost hear the imaginations of children everywhere expanding to new bounds – new circles of dreams.

    What more could you possible want to get excited Allison. He’s has a humble heritage, check, he was the top of his class at Harvard, check, he’s on the right side of the issues, check, he’s charismatic, check.

    Now it’s possible that he is not progressive enough for you, or me for that matter, but that might come in time, in increments. The reality is he has to appeal to the whole electorate.

    My point is, I look his way and see light, it may not be all encompassing sunshine as yet, but there is light and I’m heading in the direction of the light – I hope you’ll come along.

  • hey nother,

    well, you certainly have my ears perked up. I’ll be listening and watching and seeing if I see the same light that you do.

  • jazzman

    Allison you say: I don’t disagree that we all have power over our reality. But as a white woman with half of my family coming from the privileged class, I believe it is too easy for me to make that claim…. I feel it is a little smug and dismissive of me to claim that they simply need to accept responsibility for their own reality. Its a paradox, because on the one hand I do believe that, on the other, I don’t feel it’s my place to make that judgment on others and to assume that my belief is the only truth.

    You agree that we all have power over our reality and believe that people need to accept responsibility for their own reality, and imply that the same is true for you. If you believe that you create your own reality then why are you loath to grant the same power to others? You are not judging others; you are judging a philosophical stance. You may have been born to a privileged class but if you accept responsibility for that fortune as well as your misfortune and abuse then you have every right to make that claim.

    I do find myself wondering why it is okay to leave the property and resources in the hands of the few, so many of whose ancestors accumulated those resources via the labor of slaves or exploited labor. I think this is a moral dilemma.

    As I stated in the Talking Turkishness thread, The past is a mental concept, composed memory, hearsay and beliefs based on hearsay – there is only NOW and the point of ALL resolution is NOW. No amount of redress (non-violent) for past grievances is appropriate except by the parties directly involved. Not the descendants, not the friends, not the government (except where the state has violated extant citizens’ bodies and chattel or is the only party that can resolve institutional malfeasance) Going forward NOW with everyone’s baggage that they managed by earning or gift or inheritance as a given is the only neutral way to proceed. The unfair advantage while violating Absolute Morality and deplorable is between the exploiters and exploited. They each are responsible for their dramas and if the recipients of this ill-gotten gain wish to make amends then it is up to them and their conscience – NO ONE else.

    as a child who was abused, I can tell you that I would have liked nothing more than for someone to forcibly stop my mother. As an adult, I do think that intervention can most often happen without the use of force.

    I was also abused by a father who was frustrated and had no outlet for emotions that he had problems controlling. I wished my mother would stop him but she abetted the behavior and told me that if I had behaved appropriately that I wouldn’t make mad. I was told that it was my fault and I believed it (for the wrong reasons as my belief system didn’t contain the understanding that I have in retrospect). I left home at 14 and didn’t return until I was 22 with a broken leg and was not able to easily care for myself. My parents are now in their late 80’s and we have a relationship that is better than it used to be (they deny the abuse ever occurred and believe I left home because I was headstrong and adventurous) so I let them have their illusions and don’t try to disabuse them. They are failing mentally now (mother with Alzheimer’s and father with brain damage due to heart surgery) and it is sad to see but I still love them and don’t destroy my children’s images of their grandparents by recounting my history.

    Jazzman, if you were standing near a man with a gun at a child’s head – let’s say he’s a psychopath – and you can’t see any way to save this child without physically harming the man – would you do so?

    If I found myself in such a situation (i.e., created the conditions for such an intersection of spacetime co-ordinates) and I would hope I never do, I would attempt to reason with the psychopath and if it were my wife or child, offer myself in trade. One never knows until one is in a situation how one will react but I would hope that I wouldn’t commit violence in any case.

    I believe due to my pacifistic belief system, I have a peaceful life and only create seemingly negative circumstances as signposts to point me in the appropriate direction (as I told fiddlesticks, devils are only angels in disguise). I am blessed with good health, a good job, and a family with good health, who has never caused me trouble other than normal childish boundary testing. I am to be a 1st time grandfather this January and am excited influence a new generation.

    Peace and a wink to you,

    Jazzman