I meant to post this video the other day after I mentioned my friend Bukko Canukko, who subsequently pointed out he’s not much of a fan of Midnight Oil, the Australian band who’s song, “Beds Are Burning,” led off that post. It’s the Hoodoo Gurus with a live version of “What’s My Scene,” originally from their Blow Your Cool! LP released in 1987 (the year I graduated law school, for what it’s worth). Bukko also pointed out the other day (and I should have remembered this) that he’s not an expatriate Australian living in Canada, he’s an expatriate American who lived in Australia for awhile before relocating to Canada. So, I stand corrected both musically and factually.
In any event, Bukko was kind enough to stop by again and leave some very thoughtful comments (thoughtful in the sense of being well thought out) on yesterday’s post about my Twitter exchange with Keith Olbermann and what I see as a new opportunity for liberal advocacy here in the States – namely, pushing for the repeal of the debt ceiling. Bukko’s comments on that post (here and here) elucidate what I think is a not altogether uncommon feeling on the left, a sense of disaffection not necessarily with Pres. Obama himself but with the whole of our political system and political culture; and, if I may speak for Bukko, I think he views Pres. Obama’s “failures” as nothing more or less than a manifestation of that dysfunctional political system and culture. By the way, I put the word “failures” in quotation marks not to imply that Pres. Obama has succeeded at every turn (of course he hasn’t) but because I don’t always agree with the way his liberal critics characterize the disappointments we’ve all felt since Pres. Obama’s inauguration. Sometimes, those disappointments can be chalked up to Pres. Obama – that is, sometimes they really are his failures – but often times (most of the time, in my view), those disappointments are the result of the normal political struggles that go on in Washington. Presidents don’t win every battle, and not every loss is their fault; sometimes, the other side just has the votes.
But I digress. The upshot of Bukko’s recent comments, I think, is this:
Ah, Dave, I admire your earnest good citizenship. But – there’s always a but – my attitude is “Why bother?” Since you used some French in your post, let me give you my French saying for this case: “Save qui peut!” It’s the French “run away” call, which translates into “Save yourself if you can!”
I’ve been activating and demonstrating all my life (including in Australia.) Didn’t do a lick of good at stopping fascism. I don’t think the U.S. deserves saving. It’s too full of sociopaths and cretins. Yourself and a good 1/3 of the population excluded, of course. The bastards who cheer the fascists on, and the inert masses who do nothing to prevent their own downfall will get what’s coming to them, get it good and hard.
Peak Oil, peak finance, peak complexity (when a system gets too complex, it starts breaking down) means we’ve hit peak human population. It’s only a matter of how hard it falls during the inevitable collapse. Activism can't stop the forces of nature.
Now that may sound a little harsh (it sounds a harsh to me!), but you have to understand that this is coming from someone who’s not some paranoid survivalist or some rightwing (or leftwing) troll. As he points out, Bukko’s a guy who’s put an awful lot of faith in our electoral system, never missing an opportunity to exercise the franchise even if it seems pointless at times. So if I may play armchair psychologist for a moment, I think the sentiment expressed above is symptomatic of a kind of fatigue so many people on the left are feeling these days: It’s not about being crazy or paranoid, it’s about feeling like you’ve fought and fought and fought and fought … and still havne’t made any headway. And that can make anyone feel like giving up.
I don’t agree with it, but as I sit here staring down 50, I have to say … I understand it.
Anyway, I don’t know if this makes much sense, but here is how I responded to Bukko’s comments, and I’ll reproduce essentially my entire comment here so you don’t have to click back and forth (plus, it’s my blog and I can do that!):
Bukko, my friend, as you know I don’t share your cynicism … but I do respect it, listen to it, ponder it. I certainly don’t reject it out of hand. I still believe there are reasons to fight the good fight, but then again I used to think there were reasons to remain Catholic too. And truth be told, in my heart I left the church and religion generally long before I was able to own up to it. Maybe it’s the same with politics and activism.
Here’s the thing though. I’m not devoid of cynicism; in fact I guess it’s my cynicism that leads me to believe that Pres. Obama is the best we can get in our current political climate. So I take what I can get and I’m happy that – for the moment, anyway – we’re not dealing with someone considerably worse (read: conservative Republican) in the White House. What if all we get out of the country’s first African American president is an incrementally better life for African Americans, an incrementally less racist nation, incrementally more and better opportunities for people of color, and for women, and for other groups that have traditionally been left out of America’s largesse … what if that’s all we get out of Pres. Obama’s election? Well, then, at least we got that.
That isn’t hopey-changey; that’s looking at the world, and America, with eyes wide open.
Anyway, Bukko, thanks for the conversation. I appreciate the challenge and I look forward to the next one.