Sunday, February 28, 2021

The tension between ambitious outsiders and disillusioned insiders

 Our society has a lot of problems, and the problems you see depend of where you sit. I'm basically an 'insider' -- current American society works pretty well for me on a day to day level. One advantage of insider status is that I can get my hands on a lot of information and see the inner workings of the system. From this perspective, I see that we have lots of problems and that they won't be solved by slight reforms or simply trying harder. At its worst, I fear that our society is not sustainable and the perception that society 'works for me' is an illusion based on social constructs that could disappear over the course of a few years -- like my retirement account and health insurance.

One of the big factors prompting my concern with sustainability is that our society was built on the strategy of excluding and exploiting various people (esp. Black Americans), and while we have officially decided that we are no longer interested in excluding them, we have not done a good job of including them. This brings us to a phenomenon that I'll call 'the ambitious outsider'. This is basically a person who feels compelled to gain status/wealth/power as a way of supporting a marginalized community. This mentality is promoted by Stacy Abrams in her book "Lead from the Outside". This strategy has been getting a lot of attention recently among the anti-racist movement, where establishment liberals promote leaders from marginalized communities, and anti-racism often just seems like another strategy that a hypocrite can use for their own self promotion. (Note: One reason I respect Abrams is that after losing the Gubernatorial election in 2018 she turned her efforts to improving minority representation in government rather than simply looking for the next high office she could run for -- like U.S. Senate).

The tension between disillusioned insiders and ambitious outsiders arises from the recognition that status seeking and self-promotion are central to the problems of our current society. 

(I may finish this later. For now, this I all I can get onto the page).


The revolution is here and I don't like how it looks

Radical activists are always pondering what 'the revolution' will look like. What are the events that could lead to a radical change of society, and what strategy would facilitate that change. I've taken a rather passive approach to this question-- that at some point a large fraction of society will become disillusioned with the status quo, at which point I would like my ideology to have a prominent position in the discussions about how to change our institutions.

Well, it looks like we've reached that tipping point, and I regret to say that my favorite movement is not in a position to make many gains. Here's how I see the landscape at the moment. For the past couple decades, a wing of the plutocracy has been building up an authoritarian ethno-nationalist movement in their effort to solidify and expand their power in the USA. This ethno-nationalist movement has finally reached the point where they thought they could grab power, which led to Trump's post-election coup attempt. The establishment liberals repelled the initial assault, but have not been able to mount a decisive counter-attack (e.g. convincing Republican leadership to turn against Trump), so the liberals and ethno-nationalists are now locked in a existential struggle. 

The liberals have a few avenues open to them -- the most straight-forward that I see are efforts to secure and expand representation for ethnic/racial minorities, and trying to peel conservatives (and opportunists) away from their alliance with the ethno-nationalists. The problem is that many people seem to deny that the game has changed, and everyone is falling back to their old games and priorities...such as fighting over exactly how high the minimum wage should be. Meanwhile, the multiethnic coalition (i.e. Democrats) is toying with increasingly authoritarian measures itself, such as expanding surveillance and soft censorship (via social media platforms). Regardless of whether the ethno-nationalists or the multiethnic capitalists come out on top, I think we're in a 'revolutionary' period in our society where norms and institutions will rapidly change.

I don't see libertarian socialism having much of a place in the debate right now, nor having much relevance to the big picture strategies of the moment -- except perhaps as a response to ethno-nationalists getting the upper hand.