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August 14, 2007

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bUM fREE

Great stuff, Q, thanks.

...grappling with deeply troubling issues that lurk in the background (whether we like it or not)...

...By too often sidestepping minefields like these, immigrant rights advocates have demonstrated their fear of them,...

And lurking in the background of the deeply troubling issues are root causes that don't exist.

Doh.

bUM fREE

I am one simple mofo but it sure seems like all this could be perpetuated by promoting individuation, having the effect of reducing one's collective actions to the pursuit of self-interest en masse.

Anti-communism evolved to anti-communionism?

Double-doh.

Albert

Thanks for your comments, BF. I'll alert Q so she can respond to you directly (she's not quite used to this blogging thing, so I don't think she's checking comments).

I resonate with what you say. The self-interestedness can get pretty granular -- to use a term currently in vogue. I certainly see it in myself: a disinclination to have my world-view shaken by another moral being who reaches conclusions substantially different from my own.

Q

Thanks for your comments, bUM fREE.

I agree that we're all too used to acting in what we think is our own self-interest without considering other people.

On the other hand, acting for the good of the group can be even more dangerous, depending on how we define the group we belong to - the "us" that is essentially defined in opposition to a "them." Fanatics tend to care more about the collective than the individual, and mobs are horrible and scary.

I'm not sure how group vs. individual identification plays into the immigration debate.

But fortunately we don't need an answer to that in order to make progress for immigrant rights. Workable and humane immigration reform makes sense for individuals and for communities, although we're not very good at making that case yet.

Q

bUM fREE

Q

I think that in your position I would feel like a volunteer fireman constantly putting out fires set by arsonists with carte blanche.

Demoralizing, at least. Enraging, at least. Debilitating, at last -- if the arsonists aren't stripped of their credentials and squashed.


Musn't we begin by insisting that fire chiefs call arson, arson, instead of a lightning strike?


As a citizen, I have given up volunteering to jump out of bed to join the bucket brigade. Not out of cynicism, but out of self-respect, out of refusing to be duped indefinitely.

An influential "architect" just "retired" to spend more time with his family and write books. The architect is a known, credentialed arson whose specialty is to convert his competitor's greatest strength into a liability.

In the world of political in-fighting, ok, fine, whatever. But he and his kind don't limit themselves to that. They are rewriting the codes. They are taking the finest qualities of the American people and converting them into manageable liabilities.

They are burning down the house. And we are sleeping.

Pleasant dreams.

bUM fREE

Maybe i have a good question to ask the blog:

If you are in a dirty fight (ie, you are being fought dirty upon) how dirty are you willing to fight in return?

Have you been tempted, have you yielded to tempation and acted, have your ethics not allowed you to yield, or is the question just hopelessly naive to a professional fighting big fights in the real world?

If you have not yielded (or if you have) and you are willing to hit rock bottom (the place of reinvention) can you do that as a group without a spiritual communion with your fellow warriors?

The communion of failure? Or each individual bearing the full weight of the group failure upon his/her shoulders individually?

How prepared are we for the latter?

And who would not avoid it?

bUM fREE

Just ran into this over at Tom's place:

9/11/07 General Strike

bUM fREE

"What is at the root of our crisis of confidence? What drains us of our conviction at crucial moments when we are tested? At the root, I think it’s the notion that we have accepted, which is that our ideas have already been tried and found wanting. Part of what keeps us from building the alternatives that we deserve and long for and that the world needs so desperately, like a healthcare system that doesn't sicken us when we see it portrayed on film, like the ability to rebuild New Orleans without treating a massive human tragedy like an opportunity for rapid profit-making for politically connected contractors, the right to have bridges that don't collapse and subways that don't flood when it rains. I think that what lies at the root of that lack of confidence is that we’re told over and over again that progressive ideas have already been tried and failed. We hear it so much that we accepted it. So our alternatives are posed tentatively, almost apologetically. 'Is another world possible?' we ask."

Albert Ruesga

It's like those art critics in the 50s who declared "the death of painting." Of course, new generations of painters continue to surprise us with their work.

Q

Thanks for all of these interesting thoughts and questions, bUM fREE. You've touched on a lot of subjects and I'm sure I can't address them all here.

It's hard for me to write about all of this without feeling preachy and starry-eyed, but here it goes.

My own personal feeling is that if we want to create positive change in the world we need to cultivate it through love, humility, discipline, and critical thinking, and that if we act like our adversaries we join their ranks. If we really believe we are right in any kind of broad sense, shouldn't we be trying to get our adversaries to act like us rather than the other way around? And wouldn't that require that we behave in ways that we would like our adversaries to follow?

Thinking about all of the reasons that progressives have been on the defensive for the past many years makes my head spin. But I think one of them is that we have become too self-indulgent of our anger. We've needed a new Martin Luther King for a long time now. Our anger - however justified it might be - leads us to feel overly self-righteous, to feel bonded in an unhealthy way with people who we share our anger with, and to be blind to our own misperceptions and ignorance. Our anger prevents us from seeing things clearly or from being critical of ourselves and of how our groups operate in dysfunctional ways that keep us stuck. It also alienates people who aren't part of "us" - who do not share our often-peculiar constellation of misperceptions, ignorance, lingo, and even hairstyles and ways of dressing. At least I have come to recognize this dynamic in my own life.

I think we need to look at how we - progressives - unintentionally perpetuate the evil we see in the world, either by letting our anger and pride get away from us, or by allowing our personal and group dysfunctions to blossom, or by thinking we somehow get permission to act amorally when our adversaries have supposedly taken the first punch. Or simply by taking the easiest or most popular path most of the time.

bUM fREE

Interesting, Q, ANGER is a core thing with me. Someone suggested to me many years ago that anger is a two-sided coin with fear on the flip side. Is fear always the source of anger? I don't know -- it seems as though I have flashed directly to furious out of some deep indignation at something. It has served me well at times but it's very very tricky.

An interesting thing is how quick the flip from fear to anger is. This makes it easy to honestly deny fear in a quick self-assessment. Subtly, though, on deeper reflection, the flip is often there.

My sense is that anger born of fear isn't gonna work too well rhetorically. Is there another, "clearer" anger, that enhances a debate?

I wonder.

bUM fREE

Albert, how has the new generation of painters surprised you?

Albert Ruesga

Re: Painters: I'm a big fan of outsider art. I'm constantly surprised by how these artists approach themes, how they confound our expectations of the space depicted in a frame, etc. Because new canvasses continue to startle, I think the declaration of the death of painting was premature.

bUM fREE

Can you point me to an example or two online when you have the time?

Here's a link to two artists:

Standing side by side, they work simultaneously on a horizontal surface. Periodically they place the piece on an easel to view the progress from a fresh perspective. There is little communication until it becomes apparent that the piece is beginning to develop a direction. At that time they may finally discuss it in a very general fashion. The artists allow each painting to more or less reveal itself.

I know one of the guys pretty well. (I no pimp-um ... just present-um.)

bUM fREE

MLK was an amalgam of love, humility, discipline, critical thinking -- and probably anger.

A well-integrated, whole man.

Does that seem true?

Un Autre Singe

MLK was an amalgam of love, humility, discipline, critical thinking -- and probably anger.

A well-integrated, whole man.

Does that seem true?


yes .. whole, even given his reported peccadilloes. Actually, I think they made him even more interesting, but of course provided both the gummint and people who probably should not have been opponents the means with which to harass and denigrate him.

Albert

BF: Thanks for the links. When my beatnik buddies come to town, we do a road trip to this museum. This is what it's all about.

Re: MLK: Can one man's infidelity affect the truth of the proposition that all men are created equal? And how do we assess a life? When somebody asks us, "What do you make of the life and work of M. L. King?" are we required to answer in sound bites, with some kind of pat judgment? I'd resist this, especially in those domains where we can bid our interlocutors to take off their shoes and have a drink before they pop the first question. (Homer tells us the Greeks never conducted business until everybody was satisfied in food and drink.)

bUM fREE

From the site:

Art is at its best when it forgets its very name. -Dubuffet

Thanks, Albert  :-)

Tidy Sum

This summer I spoke to dozens of immigrant leaders who said as much:

The movement is stuck.

The national organizations are out of touch with the field and have painted themselves into policy corners.

The myth of "if we all can agree then we can win the fight" is slowing everyone down.

Immigrant organizations continue to struggle with constituency building and leadership development.

The anti-immigrant climate and the nasty raids are affecting our mental health. Folks are really scared and depressed.

Tidy Sum

This summer I spoke to dozens of immigrant leaders who said as much:

The movement is stuck.

The national organizations are out of touch with the field and have painted themselves into policy corners.

The myth of "if we all can agree then we can win the fight" is slowing everyone down.

Immigrant organizations continue to struggle with constituency building and leadership development.

The anti-immigrant climate and the nasty raids are affecting our mental health. Folks are really scared and depressed.

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