Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty: Adventures in looking For the Left

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

I went out seeking a herd of cats so I could finally meet “the left”. You know ….”the pussies”…..

Because the word “pussy” is not a derogatory term you know. But you knew that right? And don’t you dare get offended. Because it means you are a wimp. Politically correct. Because that is the absolutely worst human trait one can have on the left apparently. Being politically correct. Oh. Sinful. You can be a serial killer and we will lap you up as long as you are not politically correct.

There.Is. No. Left.

It doesn’t exist in the United States. It is a largely and invention of the right to explain all those people who disagree with them.

There are certainly people who espouse leftist ideals/progressive notions/alternative points of view. There are certainly people who engage in community action and volunteer work that could be broadly termed leftist because in one way or another they are oppositional. They wish to oppose current economic and political structures. They participate in blogs which apparently isn’t pure enough to be considered real. They are cowards and slackers because they aren’t bashing heads and blowing shit up.

But we don’t have a left. We don’t have an organization, no structure, no leaders, no official spokespersons. There are various reasons for this a lack of unionization, no funding sources which the right has plenty of, a lack of cohesive identity, a mythical belief in America that class either does not exist or does not matter, divisions in the working class along region, gender, and race. Nobody speaks for me. And nobody speaks for you.

Right now, the left is a unicorn and it is either naive or pompous to start making declarations about who we are. If we exist.

Over at Alternet an interesting article declares that the left is lacking.

There is an astonishing lack of anger among liberals, progressives and radicals who have abandoned emotion to the right.

If DD is any representative sample there are plenty of angry people. There is plenty of be angry about. But we did not abandon that emotion to the right. The right have always been angry. This isn’t something new. They will always be angry. When they have power they aren’t happy. We know many of them either require therapy or have gained nothing from it. And anyway who has insurance if one has any at all that even covers therapy. We are all self medicating these days. Except maybe in movies about select American cities where everybody seems to have a therapist and they still don’t learn a damn thing about themselves.

 But what do we do with this anger. Do we turn on one another? Do we use it to turn others away? Do we use it as a shield to protect ourselves? Do we use it to prop up our own insecurities and disappointments? Do we use it to make ourselves feel better? To justify ourselves? Do we bathe ourselves in it?

Our Alternet author seems to be bemoaning our lack of muscularity.

Where and when did we lefties lose this vital part of our social language? Was it in pre-school where we’re urged as toddlers to use sweet reasonableness to resolve disputes? Or have we grown so stiffly respectable that we’re afraid of being loud and vulgar?

He is complaining of course that we are too “politically correct” too concerned with being nice and are largely useless because of that. The problems with framing it that way is that we react against that by declaring our “issues” are too important for us to be either “nice” to one another or those we wish to oppose. We use the gravity of issues to justify being rude, dismissive, or contemptible to one another. Grow up we say to one another. Don’t be so thin skinned.

Here is the thing I, we, can get all that shit from the right. I get called politically correct by my colleagues at work when I call them on stuff they say. If in order to prove my coolness, left credibility, my commitment to the “issues” I have to be an asshole why bother? Is it really that hard to disagree in a way that does not require one to piss on the other?

Things were better in the 1960s….. That is the answer every self designated prog journalist seems to want to drag up.

The last time I remember collective anger as legitimate was in the now-much-derided 1960s with its protest marches and brazen hippie-style slogans. Ever since there’s been a gradual slide – I would argue descent – into sterile politeness.

Except for a few things. In the 1960’s things were awesome if you were a white male middle class hippie who was also straight. Yes. Your voice was important. Your anger was number one. If you happen to be among the chicks, browns, blacks, gays, other non white folk who were not straight you were still having to establish your own voices. I don’t want to go back to the 1960’s and be the one asked to type up the manifesto while the boys got to write it. That makes me kind of angry but since it might not be considered the “correct” kind of anger I might get called politically correct or maybe something beginning with an vowel. Like “P” or “C” or “B”. The spirit of the 1960s, I am down with hat. But they are over.

The author at Alternet legitimately notes that…..

Those who do vent and get angry are put down as crackpots, which they sometimes are. But the so-called left seems to have joined the mainstream (and even the radical) media in under- or mis- or never-reporting what’s actually happening in the lives of so many of us

I am not suggesting that being angry is a “bad thing” but there has to be another way to do it. There has to be a way to master the emotion and direct it without being an asshole. There has to be a way to articulate it all without dropping bile on one another. Sure freaking out and screaming will get the attention but will it keep the attention. Great first tactic but it really a coalition building technique? How long can you scream before you lose your voice?

Right now there is no “we”. But for the sake of argument if there was a “we” and there was a “left” beyond the disagreement about how to priorize “our” agenda is there room for discussion about how we act toward one another and toward strangers who we want to become friends?

What does “listening” really mean? And how do we do it?

No if you slap me across the face I am not going to thank you and smile sweetly. But does it necessarily mean I have to swing the baseball bat at your head? And I am asking these questions of myself not just proposing to others.

If that is the only alternative I am just not interested.


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  1. Not trying to fill prescriptions.

  2. … “political correctness” in its present meaning was invented by the right.

    I wrote a diary on this back in the day at Daily Kos.  I didn’t know much of the history itself and was very surprised at how the right used this as a weapon against the left.

    It’s all about having a seat at the table and how language itself can prevent that.

    I’m very interested in discovering how to use my own power – because I’ve come to realize that I do use it all the time with little awareness.

    I’d rather use it with awareness, lol.

    As long as both men and women don’t grok what real female and male power is, we’re going to have a lot of trouble, and that’s regardless of politics.

  3. The call for civility can also be a weapon in the hands of some.  For example, when people on the anti-gay right join in a chorus calling for gay people to be imprisoned (the AFA, FRC and other right wing “Christian” orgs have done so recently — this is not ancient history), then whine that the response they’re getting is not “civil”.

    Not that I’m saying civility is a bad thing.  But some positions, while you can state them politely by the words themselves, are fundamentally uncivilized.

    Which is worse, someone who wants to put me in prison for being who I am, or me calling that person or organization an asshole or a douchebag?

    Most people and most opinions deserve to be treated with civility or civil responses.  Not all.

  4. Nothing like a bad Toque essay to wake up this sleepy blog, is there?

  5. But how do we develop “we,” organization, structure.  There are lessons to be learned from the old union drives of the 30s, but there is no way they can be replicated.  The blogosphere does exist.  Problem is, it is good at floating like a butterfly, not so good at stinging like a bee.

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