- Ian Welsh reminds us of the golden rule that should govern politics and everyday interactions alike:
To paraphrase many of the greatest religious and moral leaders, there is only one law: imagine you are in someone else’s shoes, then treat them as you would wish to be treated.- Meanwhile, Bruce Livesey recognizes that well-placed outrage can serve a positive purpose as well:
Or, put another way, act towards everyone as if you loved them.
The vast majority of political and economic commentary on this blog is commentary derived from those postulates. Note that they are postulates, they are judgments about how you should live. I can make a very strong argument that the more a society acts like this, the more everyone is happy, including the rich and powerful, but that’s not why you should act that way, as powerful arguments can be made for selfish and destructive self-interest. You should act that way because it’s the right thing to do, and you know it is, deep in your gut.
In this we come back to the maxim “if you aren’t good, just act good”. Character and personality are built up in part by habit. Kindness, generosity, love, are habits as much as anything else. Your mind is great at justifying whatever you do. Do evil and it will justify it, do good and it will justify that, and over time you will become a better person inside your head, inside your soul.
There is nothing wrong about being optimistic and hopeful, of course. Yet I contend we are in a time when we need to see people on the left express more anger and less willingness to compromise. For 30 years, unions, social democrats, liberals and other progressives have caved into the right and the corporate sector in the hopes that by giving them something they will leave social programs, labour laws and other progressive institutions alone. And it never works. There is no such thing as enough for the right-wing. They see this willingness to compromise as a sign of weakness and they take advantage of it and demand more takeaways. And bit by bit we have seen our social safety net fray and the power of capital grow to the point it is now pretty much free to do whatever it pleases.- Jeff calls for leaders and members of all parties to recognize and encourage the potential Jack Laytons in their midst:
The reality is, we are living in angry times. And we need leaders on the left who reflect and act on that anger. We have to recognize who are enemy is and articulate not the politics of appeasement, but the politics of class struggle and combat. Workers and the middle class and small businesses owners have been at the receiving end of a class war launched by the corporate sector more than 30 years ago – and have been losing that war. It’s time to get angry and demand that the next NDP leader lose his or her shit over all the terrible things capital is doing to wreck our economy, our planet and standard of living.
Messages of hope and optimism are great, but at some point people need to get really pissed off.
Given the low esteem we hold politicians in the country, the public outpouring of emotion we've seen this week has been impressive. Much of it has to do with Jack's positive and dynamic force of personality, but I think it's larger than that. I think it's the people embracing the idea that Jack has come to represent, in spirit if not always perfectly in practice: a different, more positive, cooperative type of politics. It's the citizenry sending a message that there is a better way.- Finally, I'm curious as to how much of increase in inmate voting is a direct result of more (and less marginalized) people getting incarcerated due to the Cons' dumb-on-crime policies. But it's well worth hoping that the habit spreads as a counterweight to the Cons' efforts to cut offenders off from society.
I think the way forward is multifold. Politicians of all stripes should heed this message, and reconsider their ways. But I think the bigger challenge is for our citizens, and it's two-fold. First, recognize that there are more Jacks out there, and in every party. Seek them out and support them as they try to work in a system designed to stifle them; too many good people give up on public life, but we need them too much. Help them persevere. Second, be the change you want to see. Get involved, up to and including running yourself, in promoting the ideal of public service you would like to see.
It's easy to lament the state of modern political discourse, but it's also a cop-out. We get the kind of politics we demand; if we don't demand change ... if we don't make it change, we'll never get it.