Monday, November 1, 2010

The Phantom Left

Chris Hedges discusses the specter of the American Liberal class in the new century, or what he calls the Phantom Left, that exists perhaps, but outside of public discourse. What I mean is, the values of the radical Left, whether they have disappeared or remain only in the congregation of "elites," have become caricatured by both the Right-wing establishment and extremists, but also the Democrats, whose timidity (and let's add lethargy) can only be explained by their "selling out" to corporate interests. The most recent example is Comedy Central's rally to Restore Sanity, which conflated serious ideas with (sometimes) witty entertainment, politics with spectacle. What is needed, Hedges insists, is a return to the serious, radical organizing of the mid-twentieth century. It "would require the liberal class to demand acts of resistance, including civil disobedience, to attempt to salvage what is left of our anemic democratic state." It seems as though a Leftist dissent from partisan politics as usual is overdue. I agree with Hedges as much as I do with the Situationist critique he hearkens to, but with the populace generally absent from a serious commitment to self-informing scrutiny, cannot publicizing this view only further sever politics from spectacle, ideas from entertainment, further obfuscating (because purifying) the former? Isn't this election (and the Tea Party) evidence that power is still attained, and secured, by promoting collective anxiety, hysteria, and good ol' fashion ethnocentrism? I am the last one to stick up for popular anything, but even the elites understand that the public's lack of support for Healthcare reform is linked to this administration's evasion of transparency and articulation. In other words, Hedges gets why the Left is impotent, but I don't think he gets political efficacy. I personally wish there were a more vibrant, self-critical Left movement in the U.S., but my fear is that 1) it would breed the kind of mock-worthy antics and soundbites we hear from the Tea Party, and 2) if the majority of Americans cannot relate to the President (who most on the far-Left would call moderate), what makes us think that an intelligent, committed, purist Left would be any more understood? I don't have many of these answers, but I sit for now on the position that the moderate, entertainment-style Left of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is the our only current hope of political influence. Does it beckon the Corporatist sabotage-scheme into the spotlight? No. Will it take a few years for voters to see the detriment wrought upon our legislative and electoral processes by corporate interests? Probably.

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