Monday, December 20, 2004

What the hell do we stand for?

Matt Taibbi (of Wimblehack fame) writes - and please excuse the giant quotation:

The other side is energized because its vision of the future is clear; it wants a return to the days when the one organizing concept of sexual relations was marriage for life, when patriotism was putting on a uniform and fighting for freedom, when the goal of life was a good job, hard work, kids, the church, a house and a well-attended funeral.

These are all reasonable goals to have when you know heaven is at the end of it all. That's what it comes down to. They're fighting for a simple path to heaven, while the rest of us are fighting for something a little less exciting: the desire to have a more rational and inoffensive political atmosphere within which to wrestle with the underlying problem of existential despair in a confusing secular world whose only offered paradises are affluence, sexual freedom and consumer choice.

What's ironic is that a lot of what motivated the progressive sector within and even outside the Democratic party this time around was a rebellion against this very set of circumstances. Certainly there was an intellectual basis for a lot of the anti-corporate anger that goaded people onto the streets in the past years—legitimate disgust over the idea that the honest jobs that used to be held by Americans had been exported abroad, where Asian children working for pennies an hour stitched together the sneakers we all bring to the gym—but it went deeper than that. There was a lot of anger out there at the underlying concept that the ultimate purpose of life was to acquire things, that the answer society provides us to each of our personal problems was a product.

Most of us are aware and despairing on some level that our lives have become de-eroticized, that love and romance are not all around us but have to be hunted for with the kind of desperation that people used to bring when they went west looking for gold. But the answers that society gives us for this sexual desert are Viagra and Cialis and Levitra, products that allow us to stay hard for hours as we hump the indifferent mannequins we run into in bars. The country is lonely, self-obsessed and the individual members of the population are offered a thousand ways to improve their individual appearance and vigor. But there seems to be no solution on the horizon that anyone is offering to bring us more together, to give us the things we really need—love and acceptance and community.

We blame corporate America for this state of affairs because this ideology of individual acquisitiveness is the religion it naturally preaches. But it's our failure to come up with a competing ideology of getting along that's the real problem. Down south, in those "backward" red states, they vote the way they do because they see this individualistic religion as a creature of the cold, greedy, north, which has chosen to attack the idiocy of the right-wing church rather than admit to its own spiritual unhappiness.

Bush is our fault. He's our fault because too many of us found it easier to hate him than find a way to love each other. If we work on the second thing a little harder, we won't need to rely on the cynics in the DLC to come up with the right "formula" the next time around. Because happiness and hope have a way of selling themselves.



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