Saturday, May 3, 2014

‘Hope’ Is for Dummies and Sissies – What We Need Is Courage

Let’s get real: hope is like a drug that turns the critical centers of most human brains off and dispatches them to ‘La-la’ land. But this is precisely why shameless politicos will go on using it, dragging it out from their duffel bags of political detritus whenever they suspect it might be useful.

We already know how Obama played the ‘Hope’ card back in 2008, and by deftly using it brought into play an unlikely coalition of youthful idealists, hard core union guys, tree huggers, anti-War advocates, religiously conservative blacks and Catholics, and far left anti-capitalists (like moi.)  The result was a resounding victory with one of the biggest election margins a Democrat ever mustered.

The problem is that despite the Hope card, our hopes were mainly dashed. Guantanamo remained open (still is),  Iraq wound down – but Afghanistan was ramped up – and Obama wants us to remain until 2024, the middle class is still drowning in debt – especially college students and the wealthier are richer than ever. Worse, Obama even dared to put the most sacrosanct Middle class benefit – in Social Security – on the table for a cut (though he didn’t call it that – but realists know it was.)  Meanwhile, the guy instead of being the epitome of hope and change also professed steadfast opposition to all whistle blowers and endorsed NSA mass surveillance.

In this historical setting,  Obama’s words from the keynote speech of the 2004 Democratic Convention certainly ring hollow:

The audacity of hope echoes the best of the American spirit. – the audacity to believe despite all evidence to the contrary.”

Well, I can tell you one thing, given all the “evidence to the contrary” – let me say I am not about to believe that: Obama will pull out of Afghanistan before his 2nd term ends, shutter Guantanamo, repeal NSA mass surveillance, or stop his drone kills and siege of whistle blowers. I’m not even prepared to believe he won’t approve the Keystone pipeline – after the November elections, of course, when it no longer matters to him politically.

To invoke the words of Professor of Philosophy, Simon Critchley (NY Times, April 20):

It is precisely this type of hope that I think we should try to give up. It is not audacious, but mendacious.”

He goes on to observe that it is exactly this type of baseless hope that permeates the national psyche, and as it does – blinds us to the reality of the world we inhabit. This then gives rise to a stupor or paralysis of action, fueled by a sentimental complacency that prevents us from seeing things aright and "protesting against this administration’s moral and political lapses and those of other administrations.”

Thus, the  center Left (mainly) doesn’t want to criticize Obama (despite the fact he’s earned it on multiple fronts as I noted above),  if the Repukes are already doing it. The meme seems to be: “Look,  okay he’s not doing everything right but we don’t want to pile onto the guy!” And so the way is prepped for the forlorn Obamabot to “hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil”.

The same sick apathy prevents Dems from ferociously going after LBJ, who not only launched a massive war on a pretext, but also likely masterminded JFK’s assassination. But oh no, we don’t wanna go there because-  after all - the guy signed into law the Civil Rights Bill, the Voting Rights Act and blah, blah, blah.  And people wonder why our political system doesn’t change for the better?  How can it when most of us are prepared to give a pass to constitutional violations as well as outright treachery (assisting in the assassination of one’s President)?

No surprise then I side with Prof. Critchley when he declares that what we need in the face of what Nietzsche called “a strict, had factuality” isn't  hope but “courage in the face of reality.” Hope then is merely a form of moral cowardice that “allows us to escape from reality and prolong human suffering.”

When democracy goes astray, say under pressure from the national security state, or my state of Colorado turns totally into a fracking nightmare, “hope” will not save the day. Hope will not cause the NSA’s PRISM or MUSCULAR programs to be disbanded, nor will it halt the NSA’s grabbing up of emails, texts and phone lists. However, if states acted on their own to pass legislation to deny NSA centers the resources they need, say water to cool their giant computers, then real change could be brought to bear. But that takes courage for the states to act in that bold capacity – without caving in to the screams of the security fetishists, e.g. “Traitors!”.

In like manner, hope will not save Colorado homeowners from the wrath of the frackers after the next election. (Many of these homeowners looking out from the north side of Denver can see frack derricks for as far as the eye can see).  But courageous action in helping Colorado Dem Jared Polis get a law passed to turn control of fracking – including its regulation or banning – over to local communities, will.

Aeschylus in  “Prometheus Bound” describes the agony of the chained super hero who is interrogated by the chorus and asked whether Prometheus gave humans anything else but fire. His response?

I sowed in them blind hopes.”

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