One Foot Out

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Embedding–great for videoclips, not so much for journalists or critical thinkers.

Unembed yourself.

Don’t completely identify with the representations that you most prefer.

Keep one foot out.

One of the difficulties with this critical distancing, or ironic stance, necessary, imho, for critical thinking, is that it is in tension with the activist need to present unalloyed support for whatever candidate or cause.

While I do believe that any Democratic president would be exponentially better than John McCain, and I am a Barack Obama supporter, I harbor only slim hope that a Dem president and a Dem congress will really accomplish our progressive goals. What will you do in 2012 if/when the Dems have once again disappointed us?

It is still important, imho, to try and progressivize electoral politics, but it is also necessary to keep a critical distance from the entire enterprise itself, indeed from the dominant values of “our” culture itself.

Yes, electoral politics are of extreme importance, but they are also a distraction. As time ticks away, people are being tortured by the US govt, the climate crisis worsens, and millions of people are struggling and suffering more and more.  Crashing the gate is a good goal, but without always applying pressure to the dominant system itself instead of only trying to improve it from within, we will never see the massive change we want need if we as a species are to survive and with justice and dignity.

What am I suggesting? Let us keep up with our political activism and our determination to improve politics from within the system, but let’s also always be aware of how we each individually reinforce the very system that we are trying to change. So even if we maintain the distancing necessary to critique our pols, we need to self-distance so we can critique and change our own practices and even some of our deeply held beliefs. I think cultural critique is just as important as electoral reform.

Do you really believe in the climate crisis? Or do you think that lots of it is rhetorical hyperbole to galvanize activism? Do you believe that mindless consumerism fuels all the worst trends of this declining world? Everyday we have the choice to unembed ourselves. To not hop in the car for a solo trip to buy something we don’t really need, for example. Everyday is a new day for our struggle against dehumanizing corporatism to which we all contribute, even if it is only by eating junk food or smoking cigarettes.

This is not a plea for purism. To the contrary, for political purism is a myth that helps continue systems of exploitation. This little ditty is merely a kind of action alert that we are embedded in the very system that we are trying to change, and we need to continually work to unembed ourselves as we also take seriously the fact that we all contribute to our own exploitation. That entanglement may not just be a contingent error that can be eradicated, for this is a very complex problem that involves all kinds of economies–not just financial ones–but also economies of desire and recognition.

We can also think about cultural critique at a larger level. One thing that people are hesitant to confront head-on is overpopulation and how that is the major contributor to this world’s problems. Do you really want to have children? Children of your “own”? Why?

Of course it is not possible or maybe even desirable to unembed yourself completely from the dominant representations, but the work of reform and change is not entirely the province of electoral politics. It is also the work of incessant cultural critique and criticism.

So keep your ironic distance–the space to question authority–even while working in the name of your candidate or your cause.

Keep one foot out.  


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    • srkp23 on April 13, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Also posted at the great orange nut-house.

    • sharon on April 13, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    since i met you at an impeachment protest at rangel’s birthday party!  good essay.  i try to practice what you preach.

    • RiaD on April 13, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    So keep your ironic distance–the space to question authority–even while working in the name of your candidate or your cause.

    Keep one foot out.  

    maybe the hokey-pokey IS what it’s all about?

  1. thank you……

    right now I have withdrawn both feet and am holding onto the dock with but  a finger……

    readying myself to let go…..

    to allow the currents of the growing chaotic transition to carry me to where it is I am to go….

    loved the essay….

    distancing, entrainment……

    I allow my curiousities, my loves, and my joys to guide me…..

    this is the heart of adaptive advantage in a chaotic system……..

    • kj on April 14, 2008 at 12:05 am

    yep, yep, yeppers.  thanks for saying this so openly, srkp23.  

    • pfiore8 on April 14, 2008 at 12:15 am

    about how great we think he is (those of us who met up in Boston last night with undercovercalico)…

    you are another of our favorites… but we have only one minor thing::: we all said we’d like MORE…  more essays, please.

    we all wished you were there with us… the gals are great (masslass, Victory Coffee, and undercovercalico). i was up until 4ish in the morning with these women talking talking talking… it was fucking GREAT!..

    i am exhausted. have no opinions left and am v.v.v. happy to veg out.

  2. Far too many netroots folks seem to believe that electing a Dem president will end the war and solve all of our problems.  Based on the performance of the Dem Congress we elected in 06, that is a pretty frail reed.  We need to keep the heat on.

    • Robyn on April 14, 2008 at 1:53 am

    …but sometimes we have to wonder if anyone is going to fight with us.  And maybe the only way to do that is to stand back and see who steps forward…if anyone.

  3. Your Diary is absurd…

    You are entirely embedded in the very disturbed and confused presentation of America that the Government presents of itself……

    Obama wants to continue the war, not stop it….You people have to start paying attention to the man who wants to withdraw troops and keep them there at the same time to protect BASES and to fight insurgents…..

    It’s a very disturbed policy and reflects well you very disturbed confused diary of trying to act as though you are outside the mainstream of media propaganda while acting within it.

    It’s either one or the other NOT BOTH.

    And this kind of simplistic ambivalence is utterly destructinve.

    Do not vote for candidates who want to S L   O   W  L  Y….Withdraw the troops…C A R E F U L L Y …so as to protect the Iraqi people from…..uh ….uh…..uh….I’m sure you can think of something…..

    1 MILLION DEAD…almost 50% of the population of a MODERN, EDUCATED NATION WITH INFRASTRUCTURE….disembowled…..and displaced, dead or injured…..and WHAT? Your going to stick around??????

    You are embedded..

    • Turkana on April 14, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    but if i’m slightly leaning towards clinton, at this point, the number one reason is that i believe too many liberals, and too many ostensibly liberal bloggers, have lost the ability to keep an ironic distance, when obama is involved. i’ve never seen so many democrats and liberal independents abdicate the responsibility to think critically and question authority. i can’t wait to see what they’ll do if obama wins, and governs as the safe, centrist democrat he really is. purple america is not the america i want. but if obama wins, many supposedly liberals will suddenly decide that purple america is the ideal.

    • kj on April 15, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    i’m sorry i don’t have the words to express to you just how thoughtful, important, well-written and valuable i think this essay is. it, to me, demands musing, and i will re-read several times. i just wanted to thank you again for offering it here.  

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