Getting Clear

July 29, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Society

A unique feature of American culture is the presupposition on the Left and the Right that the individual is central to society.  For the most part, this presumption is an unexamined presupposition.  It is not unlike looking in the mirror and assuming the whole world looks like you.  For the Left, it is a problem.  The concept of the individual is often in direct conflict with a new, yet ancient, alternative paradigm or frame of reference.  This new paradigm does not reject, but includes the one we’re in.

Demonizing socialism and liberalism has helped the Right to stigmatize this alternative world view.  The Right elevates a whole cluster of concepts that includes the words “personal, liberty, independence, patriotism and the individual.”  The Right contrasts these concepts with a seemingly different orientation that is contrary to corporate or capitalist interests.  And so stewardship, communal, social, interdependent, interconnected, personal sacrifice and the commons are concepts shamed to the outskirts of discussions as inappropriate to an American understanding of the way the world works.

The Left is having difficulty articulating the emerging zeitgeist, which is a seamless converging or merging of the two.  The Left seeks to represent non-elite interests and put into words what contrasts with Right Wing confabulations of extreme independence.  Instead of representing a fertile synthesis, the Left gets ideologically marginalized as supporting a failed system.

Many of us thought that with the fall of the Soviet Union, Western culture would soon embrace some of the benefits of a communal point of view because their standard bearers were not a threat.  I felt deep relief that fingers were not hovering over buttons anymore.  Corporations estimated ways to harness that relief.  Forces in the West deeply adept at making money by encouraging the purchase of products that champion independence as a frame of reference felt encouraged to further exaggerate the paradigm.

Catapulting a society into a new and different way of looking and being in the world occurs by yanking back in the opposite direction.  An exaggerated Capitalism leads inevitably to a recognition and embrace of what the opposite represents and looks like.  It’s time for the Left to stop articulating only what capitalism is not.  We’re now entering the phase where visionaries are articulating what a world looks, sounds and feels like that reveres both the individual and the commons.

The Left deeply believes in the power of the individual.  We believe that an individual personally and politically empowered can change the world.  At the same time, the Left honors the commons.  We experience that we are all connected and seek to behave in ways that respect the influence our actions have on others.

The elites promote mirrors, not windows.  It’s up the Left to make clear how glass is integral to both.


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