Do not pity progessives

From an article at Truthdig entitled “Do not pity the Democrats” by Chris Hedges, this opening paragraph:

There are no longer any major institutions in American society, including the press, the educational system, the financial sector, labor unions, the arts, religious institutions and our dysfunctional political parties, which can be considered democratic. The intent, design and function of these institutions, controlled by corporate money, are to bolster the hierarchical and anti-democratic power of the corporate state. These institutions, often mouthing liberal values, abet and perpetuate mounting inequality. They operate increasingly in secrecy. They ignore suffering or sacrifice human lives for profit. They control and manipulate all levers of power and mass communication. They have muzzled the voices and concerns of citizens. They use entertainment, celebrity gossip and emotionally laden public-relations lies to seduce us into believing in a Disneyworld fantasy of democracy.

This is, with appropriate substitutions, true also in Australia. I have for a long time held that we live in a society largely run by special interest groups, a form of governance I call “lobbocracy”. It is the perversion and substitution of liberal democracy by those who hated it. That includes organised labour, commercial interests, the media, the military and especially the political machinery. At some point, we are going to have to take back our respective countries, and hung parliaments and third party options are a good start. But that won’t work all that well given that those who oppose actual democracy (in contrast to the mob rule that is exploited by the lobbocrats) are well funded and control all the power outlets, both literal and figurative.

Progressive parties, which are the traditional academic’s solution, have failed badly, supporting either big business (because that is where the employment now comes from, a self-reinforcing perversion of the old capitalism) or big unions (since that is where their apparatchiks come from). Liberal (in the non-American Millian sense) parties, which are the traditional solution of the trader and businessperson, have become so conservative they do not retain any of the individualism of their ancestors. There are no progressive parties or individualistic parties left.

I don’t think that libertarianism or Naderism is the solution, though. If you look closely, you’ll see I allow an animated GIF advertising the Australian Sex Party in my sidebar. This is not just a joke. They may be somewhat disreputable (which aspect a philosopher can only love), but they have a serious point to their politics: government should be for grownups. Whenever societies are run as if for children (somebody think of the adults!), things rapidly go out of kilter, and get corrupted by those who treat citizens as children. The Sex Party (so far!) treats adults as adults, and children as children. That, I believe, is how you get back to democracy. We should insist upon it.

16 thoughts on “Do not pity progessives

  1. I don’t think lobbies are the problem here. Rather, it is the parlous state of our media, with its ‘balance’, misinformation and scandal seeking. Ironically, the only party that is really driven by a lobby is the Sex Party.

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    1. I think that we have many lobbies for primary producers, the media organisations (ask why there is no diversity in the Australian media, Neil. It was because Labor, under Hawke and Keating, didn’t want to enrage Murdoch or Packer), religious bodies, manufacturers, and so on. Here’s a list of the known ones, and some others, including NGOs. That doesn’t even consider the “astroturf” “thinktanks” that constantly seek to pressure governments and voters with arguable “studies”. It’s all PR. It isn’t democracy, that’s for sure.

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      1. I don’t think lack of diversity in the media is the problem either. Other countries have more diversity without this helping. The media is a branch of the entertainment industry and therefore cannot function to inform people in relevant ways. I agree, though, that the power of lobbies ought to be limited: at least there should be transparency requirements wrt who they have access to and what they provide.

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      2. I don’t think lack of diversity in the media is the problem either. Other countries have more diversity without this helping. The media is a branch of the entertainment industry and therefore cannot function to inform people in relevant ways. I agree, though, that the power of lobbies ought to be limited: at least there should be transparency requirements wrt who they have access to and what they provide.

        Interesting study published yesterday by Monash. Less than 20% of voters favor the possibility of boat arrivals applying for permanent residence. In no category was there a majority of voters in favor of permanent residence – not even in the category of Green voters. There is no lobby pushing this (business in particular likes the cheap labor these people provide). It is the product of the fearmongering of the media, which they do to sell their product (and thereby advertising).

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  2. There are probably lots of things we could or should do but society is very ponderous and largely impervious to sensible opinions. I used to think I was making a difference writing to politicians but soon realised this is not going to change anything. These days I make the odd point here and there to young people (including my kids) in the hope they’ll think a bit more for themselves and grow a slightly more collective concept of society. The sex party certainly has a few good concepts and Bonobos are worth taking note of as well.

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  3. Oh gosh, too true in the UK as well. We have a coalition (or “Dem-olition”) government which includes the Liberal Democrats, who have got their first taste of power for almost a century supporting a right-wing Conservative administration.

    The LibDems gained some (much?) of their support from progressives who were sick of the outgoing Labour government’s toadying to big business and bankers, and its lack of concern for public freedoms with its obsession for re-introducing lengthy internment without trial (primarily for brown-skinned people) and criminalising anything it could get away with. The Labour government was clearly one which had to go; it didn’t bear thinking about what mayhem it would cause when it could claim to have a mandate for all its idiocy.

    But the LibDems – supposedly a progressive party – sold their souls to the Conservatives, with the party leadership abandoning all its principles. From being an anti-nuclear weapon party, they announced yesterday that they were keen to upgrade the current nuclear arsenal. For them, black is white and blue is gold in their new world of kiss-my-backside power.

    The one comforting thought is that the LibDems have written themselves a suicide note as an influential party. They are a relatively small party at the moment; come the next election (whenever that is, it depends on the extent of unrest at the economic warfare and campaign of destruction against the country and its people that the banker-friendly Conservatives are about to unleash) they will be reduced to a very small rump. Because anybody who agrees with what they are doing will shift to the Conservatives and those who don’t will wish to spit on the party’s grave for their dishonesty.

    I don’t believe politicians are all evil from the start. But clearly proximity to the levers of power clouds one’s judgement and loosens one’s principles.

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    1. “But the LibDems – supposedly a progressive party –”

      There is a less influential progressive element in the party, but it was no secret that the leadership errs heavily towards the Orange Book line. But I agree that the downplaying electoral reform and backpedaling on Trident is very disappointing.

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    2. This intake of tory ministers scared me more than normal. My brother went to uni with a frightning number of them, so aware more than usual of just how ill-equiped they were for taking on such roles as running the economy.

      This has been the highest Oxford intake in years.

      Not a good advert for democracy when so many come from such a tiny section of British society.

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  4. John, is there a way we can do bolter on Bolt and Stefanovic? I know they’re just symptoms, but like a bad case of syphillis, they do itch. I want both to be consumed by grumpy crocs, or smashed by ageing silverbacks if possible….

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  5. “Liberal (in the non-American Millian sense) parties, which are the traditional solution of the trader and businessperson, have become so conservative they do not retain any of the individualism of their ancestors.”

    Oh, it is a bitter pill to have to listen to these fucking religious fanatics banging on about “free and competitive markets” and quote-mining Smith and Paine when not only are they all state capitalists at heart, but they’re provincialism and authoritarian leanings are diametrically opposed to the wider philosophy underpinning classical liberalism in the first place.

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  6. Brilliant piece. Applicable, really, throughout the Western world, not just the US. The alternative to some form of resistance is the boot, stomping on a human face, forever.

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      1. What do you mean by first book you ever read? I suspect first book you ever read except for all the ones that don’t count for some reason – being a dozen pages long with two words a page or whatever – but how do you define the first book that counts? (If you’d said first novel I’d understand: I was probably eight when I did that, because as a child I went in mainly for the non-fiction, junior-encyclopedia genre. Childcraft and all.)

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        1. I read, on my own, and from start to finish, Nineteen Eighty-Four, at the age of eight. My dad’s friend gave it to me. Prior to that I hadn’t read a whole novel so I felt quite grown up. Afterwards, I just felt sad 🙂

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      2. It is the perversion and substitution of liberal democracy by those who hated it.

        in my all-too-plentiful-nowadays worst moments, I fear they see Orwell’s book less as a warning and more as a blueprint.

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