Facebook again. I have close to 800 “friends” now, which Dunbar’s number tells us is impossible. If I wait an hour, I’ll have dozens and dozens of posts and links to read. Many of my friends are self-described activists, so I get plenty of bad news.
I have friended a lot of political people who are issue-affinity friends. They read something that perhaps demonstrates anti-racism, or an acknowledgement of male power in society, or something from my earlier days as a leftist organizer, or about my ever-more-visceral opposition to (all) war; and they assume that I am within their own ideological constellation.
My Facebook friends see me post my own share of bad news. There’s plenty to go around. And my bad news, like their bad news, is often about people in power, about people who want power, and about the people (and even nature itself) who suffer under the power of others.
There’s a tendency to assume that if we share certain discernments about a situation, then we share an opinion about what ought to be done about it.
I abhor war, therefore I must also invest myself in the struggle to elect antiwar candidates, for example.
This is a non sequitur. I do not invest myself in these struggles, except where they are revelatory — deepening our discernments — because…
ONE, as the kind of heterodox Christian I personally am, I foolishly, irrationally, and absolutely recognize only one sovereign — a Palestinian Jew who was executed as a political prisoner two milennia ago — and…
TWO, as a purely intellectual conviction in our shared and observable world, I do not believe that management-from-above and peace are compatible, no matter who the managers are. In other words, I think we often are wasting our time.
On #1, I won’t engage the theological argument on FB, because its pointless to argue conclusions when we don’t share epistemoloigcal premises.
On #2, I do argue the intellectual points, because they are about what we can observe in our shared universe.
My FB friends assume that I, like they, want to seek power — collectively, of course — to fix the things that other powerful people are allegedly responsible for. This point-of-view, that someone has to exercise power against power, is absolutely hegemonic. Few people will even bother to question it.
Republicans believe this. Democrats believe this. Residents of the US believe this. Most people outside the US also believe this. The evangelical right believes this. The secular left believes this.
As a society, we are absolutely committed to the idea of “the management of society from above,” a Yoderian turn of phrase, the contest being over who will be the managers, and what will be the management philosophy.
People are jarred, disappointed, even angry, when I don’t support their actions on behalf of this conviction of the necessity of managerial rule. Specifically, there are two recurrent points of disagreement that seem to exercise my friends and me: elections and my pacifism.
I’ll find another time and place to explain my pacifism, with the note that many of the people who actually oppose pacifism have never taken lives… so when they go on hypothetically about why they would resort to violence, they really really do not know what they are talking about. They’re just constructing neat scenarios that never come to pass neatly.
Elections! The heart of democracy by some accounts.
If anyone has any evidence that elections in the US have shifted power from the ruling class, I’m all ears. And don’t tell me FDR. He was driven to do the things he did by the threat of mass destabilizations in the teeth of a depression. And he rescued capitalism, as usual, with war…including the racist roundup of Japanese-Americans.
Being short on the matter, I don’t give a shit about “democracy.” In practice, it’s just been a way to justify 51% forcing themselves and their grandiose schemes on the other 49%. The argument that it is the best of several bad choices still assumes that we need top-down control, because it is always compared to other top-down philosophies and practices.
I’m still carrying a grudge about wasting 12 years of my life in a “democratic” institution called public school, where children — who should be exploring their own curiosity in a diverse world — are imprisoned and trained like lab rats, and segregated by age, creating one of the monstrosities of modernism — youth culture, a thing separate from the age-diverse world where they might learn something interesting and practical instead of memorizing test answers and saying the damned pledge allegiance. Compulsory public school has, more than any other single thing, driven a wedge between generations and left our children vulnerable to the stupidity of their equally inexperienced peers and predatory advertising.
I know we aren’t going to see the end of the state any time soon, but does that mean we have to keep making it the center of our universe? It has never been subject to popular control; and never will be. Managerial systems naturally tend to consolidate the power of the managers themselves.
We aren’t going to see the end of hateful people or vengeance or corruption in our lives either, but we don’t have to base our existence on how we relate to these people and things. We encounter them, just as we do the state, on a case by case basis, and when the time comes to disobey, we need to be able to take our licks. State violence reveals the state for what it is. That’s why the Freedom Riders got the hell beat out of them, and won the day. Fighting back only makes us like them. And contesting for their power only wastes our efforts or coopts us into their power as player in this fixed and malevolent game.
As long as we continue with the delusion that we need the state, or that we need to fight the state with the same kind of force the state uses, we will remain apart from what really matters: each other. Our mangerial society has placed a force-field of isolation around us all, and subsitututed rules and regulations for the bond between souls. Moreover, the modern managerial society has taken moral responsibility away from the individual, and thereby metastasized the lonely narcissism that infects modern society.
Democracy makes us liars. Look at the grotesque apologetics deployed by “liberals” (I am emphatically not liberal! nor conservative! nor progressive!) to justify continuing support for the institutional cesspool called the Democratic Party. We stifle our basic powers of observation on behalf of a game that we never win and that never stops and that we never win and that never stops; and we would become like them if we did. We jump on the great hamster wheel of democracy, cycling through election after election, complaining about the things we have abandoned to management for this vanity, and blame those who say no to the wheel.