Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Actually, two other things instead.

Again tangenting off of Digby. Digby writes here about an article in the American Prospect that basically disses political activism vis-a-vis taking to the streets, etc.

Both pieces are longish. The one in the American Prospect is worth skimming so you can see what Digby's up about, and his, then, is worth reading.

Between the two of them I had a couple worthwhile thoughts: 1) We are seeing the development of a new sort of protest movement from the contemporary right; 2) There is a huge difference (from left to right) in the very nature of organizing in the United States.

First the new protest culture of the right.

Consider, the culture of the right is on the side of authority, but urging for the exercise of greater authority. The culture of the right is based in a context that assumes a certain degree of freedom from material wants, has a higher level of assumed commodification, if you will.

These points are specific to certain sub-groups on the right, of course. For instance I am leaving out the Patriot movement and the poorer groups within the extremist Christian circles that I know nothing about but assume exist.

I am talking about the suburban, "middle class" (probably closer to wealthy by most reckonings) agitators that one finds at abortion clinics and modern political theater events like the Schiavo brouhaha.

This is a different group. They are here to get in the way and be seen, but not to cause trouble. They go home and go to the mall. If they do drugs, it's Zoloft and Welbutrin. In the sense of the status and situation of thier own lives, it is not clear what they are protesting.

Protest they do, however, and consider this: They are likely to become more and more the public face of a political crusade in this country.

A few things occur to me regarding this group. First, that the idea of protest, and the personal catharsis that the naysayer from the American Prospect talks about, these are very powerful creatures in people's lives. Once they've been engaged they tend to grow towards a recapitulation of form at a greater level of magnitude. In short, it is possible that at some juncture these protesters may start showing up to cause trouble as well.

If they have the support of the Federal Government against local authorities (or, say a circuit court decision), how does that play out?

Just asking, of course. I don't see that as too near on the horizon. The passions for this crew are artificially levelled, remember, and their hair should not be mussed. But all the same.


Second, some of the basic differences between organizing on the left and the right.

(This will be but an introductory glimpse; at some point I would like to write a much longer-form piece that explores this. Tonight, however, it's on my mind and related to the piece in the Prospect, so I'll tumble out a few main points.)

On the left, in general, (today in the U.S. etc.) the basic underlying thrust of our argument is that we would like to be able to devote our lives to meaningful things that there are few remunerative opportunities for. Or that the offense occuring out in the wider world is great but should still be balanced by a rich and fulfilling personal life. (Again, these are broad generalizations, but I think you can see what I'm getting at.)

The right wing activist, however, tends to be, on one side, an activist as an extension of white-collar career opportunities and per se and etc. On the other hand the activist on the right is a married woman with a church community and social hierarchies and per se and etc. Or else the right wing activist is a very well paid professional enforcer.

In any of these cases there is a positive feedback loop twixt accomplishment and activism. Continuation of the activists work is reinforced by an increase in status and, often enough, material well being.

For the left wing activist, success in activism usually means that other goals have been put aside. IF there is a sufficient degree of success, the left wing activist is fairly likely to feel relieved that she or he can go back to their normal life, or move on to something better.

Like I said, there is a lot more to get into here. The motivations for the two groups are almost certainly significantly different as well, for instance. I will, however, have to devote more thought to those differences before I can present them here in a meaningful way.

Any thoughts?? Please comment.


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