Sunday, August 20, 2017

Liberal Crack Up? Or New Burst of Renewal?

Mark Lilla, of Columbia University, writing in the Wall Street Journal, suggests something many others have noted: Liberals have lost their mojo, lost their groove, their riff, which is to say, have never found an answer to Ronald Reagan's one, two punches of "Government is not the solution; it is the problem," and "The ten scariest words in the English language: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.'" 

Of course, once he got in office, he realized he couldn't simply stop all government functions--there were a few programs like Medicare and Social Security which even the folks in Montana and Alabama would have missed. And there were the farm subsidies all those rugged individualist folks in those broad red states depended on and there were all those fat defense contracts which flowed through the government teats to South Carolina, Alabama, Missouri and virtually every red state where they hate the gov'ment but they do so love the money.  
Under Reagan the national debt tripled. So did the deficits.

Never you mind about all that, Rush Limbaugh and Fox would love to resurrect Reagan, in their fantasies at least. 
The reality of no government in a continental nation of 300 million people who need roads and airports and bridges and an electric power grid, not to mention health care and retirement programs is a different thing altogether.

The Republicans have got a consistent riff, which keeps selling: We don't need no gov'ment. We need to be left alone.

Which reminds me of that wonderful scene in the Daniel Day Lewis film, "The Last of the Mohicans," where a proper British lass, having stumbled upon a frontier family, massacred by a Huron war party, asks the Deerslayer how that family could have chosen to live  the ultimate off the grid existence, out there alone, with no protection and the Deerslayer, looking up at the blanket of stars in the night sky says, "They chose to live out here where they were beholden to no king, where they never had to ask anyone's leave to do anything," and waving at the stars, he says, "That is their memorial."

It certainly wows the young lass, but it sent a cold chill through me. Without others, you are on your own, and when a war party arrives, they are not on their own and you are bludgeoned, along with your children.

So, the conservatives get that, and most of them are for an army to protect the population, except those who really embrace the idea of living off the grid with their own arsenal of weapons, but of course, there is always a bigger arsenal.

But, as Lilla asks and as U.S. Grant insisted--you have to offer more than a criticism of the Republican off the grid metaphor.  You have to have an idea of your own.
You have to think of what you are going to do to General Lee.

For this, you need a eutopian dream. 
I'm working on mine.
It will have to include an economy which gives everyone a job, but not a job which totally consumes them, which allows them enough time off to recover, to enjoy life, to vacation, to have children and to participate in the raising of those children. It has to provide enough income to buy the basics: home, transportation, food.
It will have to have health care.
It will have to provide for retirement.

Of course, I'd like to see some provisions for sexuality. No good eutopia is appealing without that. Brave New World would never have gained notice were it not for the idea that women would be provided with contraception--condoms in the days Aldous Huxley was writing (1931), pre pill, pre IUD. I'd provide every 12 year old girl with an IUD, HPV vaccination and every 16 year old boy with a thirty to forty something woman to bring him through the wonderful world of sex in an expert manner. 

Oh, we could work on this.
1984 and Brave New World were about the imagined future where the community or the authoritarian state controlled individual destinies.  Where psychology and biology were used to alter life for the individual, where the very thought process of the mind was beyond the control of the individual.

My liberal eutopia would allow for individual variation, celebrate it even, but provide the basics so people could pursue work which benefited not just them, but those who depend on them and the greater society.
Stay tuned. 


  1. Mad Dog,
    There's few out there who'd quibble with your proposals for the perfect Utopia. Well that is until one arrives at your plans for state run sexuality..Now, now Mad Dog isn't that quite a plan-but why do the boys get a 30 or 40 year old "instructor" to break them in and the girls just get an IUD. In this case, what's good for the gander should be good for the goose, right? Shouldn't the girls have access to their own 30 or 40 year old male teacher to "show them the ropes" ? Oh, except now we're entering the area of sexual abuse which just doesn't sound that Utopian now does it...

  2. Ms. Maud,
    Well, I need to hear from you and Gloria Steinem on this.
    As I read it, and correct me if I'm wrong, the idea of a 17 year old boy having sex with a 30 year old woman is repugnant only to the boy's parents, and not even to all parents. But the idea of a 17 year old girl having sex with a 30 year old man, is repugnant and becomes "child abuse" in many cultures outside the Game of Thrones. I'm not sure why this is, but there's a "yuck" factor, apparently, which explains why there's the phrase "dirty old man" but no such complimentary phrase as "dirty old woman."

    Why we even need to throw a discussion of sexuality into the Utopian dream, I'm not clear, but most of the famous Utopias which which I'm familiar spent significant time on the subject. Even the Shakers, as I understand it, weighed in.
    Only George Bernard Shaw's utopia in Major Barbara did not mention it much--he focused on the economics, saying if people made enough money, everything else would take care of itself.

    You'll notice I did not mention religious institutions at all. I believe the American experiment got that right with a tolerance for people to choose whatever they like. Only the Bible thumpers, with their insistence that their beliefs guide life for everyone else have damaged that hands off approach.
    But, to answer your question, I have no problem with providing girls with whatever access to the WWS they choose. I presume their parents would want a say in this.

    Mad Dog