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sábado, octubre 03, 2009

Starting Over: Pontifications From A Nobody

Yesterday, I put up a diary at GOS decrying how our writing had become so completely predictable, so formulaic, so prosaic. It was derivative, and it was funny. But it was also extremely sad. In many ways it was a commentary on the powerlessness of progressive bloggers: we can yell louder, we can scream, we can write explosive rants. But you know what? It isn't changing anything. And frankly, I'm tired of our dogged, persistent pursuit of something that's not working. And, I suspect, isn't going to work.

Maybe you're lucky and can write face blistering essays on this site and you can have readers tell you how right on you are. How smart, how important, how clear. But if you're poor and without a job, or if you're sick and you don't have insurance, or if you're running out of unemployment benefits and the next job isn't in sight, or if your kids are in trouble and you don't know how to help them out, or if you are overdue to retire and you don't have the funds and have to work, or your wage slave pay isn't going to bail you out unless you win Megamillions and you're not too big to fail, or your kids are in the military, these essays aren't going to help you. Not at all. They're just going to highlight how you have somebody's boot on your neck. And you cannot get it off. And they're bound to inform you, if you don't know it already, about how very weak you are and how very powerless we as a group (I'm talking about progressives) remain.

Look. I'm just a writer. I'm mostly anonymous (though I have a web presence). I have my opinions. I have some ideas. I have my private life. I have my work. I wish, I really do wish, we could all be free from suffering and illness and hatred. I wish progressives had some real power. I wish we had influence. I wish we'd all wake up tomorrow morning and be covered by Medicare. I wish the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan would be over. I wish unemployment would be extended until the economy turns around. I wish foreclosures would be stayed. I wish we'd all have enough to eat, adequate shelter, first rate health care, decent education, a whole shopping basket of safety net programs. I wish we would have something that resembled a moderate, socialist European government. But we don't. And despite the electoral win this past November, we're not going to get those things. Ever.

We may have thought, in our desperation and gullibility, that our lives would change. But here we are, October, 2009, and if your life is better than it was in October, 2008, I'll be amazed. In other words, it's the same old same old and it's now time to see it for what it really is. It's the same if not worse than it was a year ago. The fantasy of structural, fundamental change was just that, a fantasy. The illusion that the Government would help is was just that, an illusion. There are still homeless people. Sick people without insurance. Unemployed people in foreclosure. And the prospect of a change for them, a change they can believe in, well, it just doesn't exist. It's not happening this year. Or next year. It's probably just not happening.

Strange as it may seem, I'm not discouraged. To me all of this means that I was making a mistake in what I thought was happening, so now I need to revise my thinking. I'm a writer. I revise all the time. I'm good at editing. I'm good at rewriting. I've spent far more time at that than writing first drafts. So I suggest to my friends who are writers, blogger@s, that we forget about starting to write chapter 2 and go back immediately to rewrite chapter 1. Put another way, we need to rethink all of our expectations, our hopes, our dreams, our demands. We need to remember that the change we can believe in was something we could be believe in, but, alas, it was just another dream. It was not real. And when we woke up, poof!, it was gone.

So I suggest that we retrench slightly, that we retreat, that we pull back. Only for a few moments. I suggest that we stop acting like the Government gives a hoot about what we think or say or write. It clearly doesn't. And I suggest that we go back to basic, modest, local things we can actually improve. That we stop being all puffed up and making believe we're powerful, and recognize that all of that, that dream, that illusion, that hope, wasn't real. No, it wasn't. We need to recognize that the struggle for a progressive America is still ahead of us in the future.

For me this means no more money to politicians or political parties. None. Nada. Zilch. I'm giving the money to local programs that help people who need help (the local co-op, the food bank, e.g.). I'm going to try directly to help people whose suffering is not being addressed.

For me this means no more acting like the national Government is influenced by what I say as opposed to those people who can and have written fat checks to the incumbents and the PACs and the political interest groups. Just look at the health care debate. I want a single payer plan. And I have insurance and in a few years I'll have medicare. It's not my personal battle, as if I would battle for a 5% "public option" anyway. I want all of us to be safe and to have appropriate care. But this debate isn't even about health care any more. Now the Administration refers to it as "Health Insurance Reform." Jeebus. But I digress.

For me this means no more acting like people read what I write on blogs and just by reading it, it changes their views. Only the trolls disagree with what I write, and we all know they suck. The rest of us, those who agree with me, are great and wonderful people. But I'm just preaching to my own choir. I like the choir, really I do. But our singing doesn't matter. Here's an example. I've been writing about Honduras. People who are for democracy agree with me. Golpistas and Republicans don't. There are lots of "Democrats" who don't understand and are so anti-Chavez that they support the golpistas. Who are these people and why are they tormenting me in the comments? If they're not being paid by the Golpe de Estado or Republicans to troll what I write, they need to get a life. And by the way, so do I. Another digression.

For me, what I'm saying means that it is time to get down to basics. Does our writing change anything? I suspect it might if we were talking about something modest, something smaller. If we had good ideas. If we had action steps that were simple. If we had a real plan. If we had command of what was wrong and what had to be done, and it didn't involve enormous, structural changes of the national legislature.

Does what we write have an effect on national or international stories? I doubt it.

What about our fame as writers? Certainly, it's not about the money (which for me has been nonexistent). What about our being recommended, making the recc lists, being "up" for days on end, being famous, being named as famous, being cited? Yeah, that's all really, really nice. And maybe some of us are in it for that, but to be frank, I'm not. I like all of that, don't get me wrong, but that's not what it's about. It's about something else. It's about being heard and having that make some changes in thinking and actions. Does that happen? I doubt it.

For me this means I'm now going to get back to basics. I've taken down the hit counters on my blog. I'm going to stop posting at Naranja. I'll continue here and at my blog and at the other small blogs that I like.

I'm going to try to break out of the formulaic box. I'm going to try to find ways we can actually make a difference. I do hope you'll all join me in that. Our present way of "doing business" is a road to persistent irrelevance.

If it's true that the keyboard is mightier than the sword, and sometimes I have my doubts about that, we need to use it for what it can do rather than as a paperweight.

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