Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Comfortable IIlusions


Yesterday, Neddie said:

***
Have also been reading John Powers' Sore Winners, a survey of the cultural landscape of the Bush Years by LA Weekly's media critic, who is also a film critic at Vogue. He put his finger on something I've been trying to formulate for some time:

"Since the fall of Communism and the rise of centrist Democrats, even the faith in action [among the Left] has largely disappeared. The remnant of the Left is largely defined by patterns of consumption -- which magazines we read and which movies we see -- or by newfangled ideas of organizing -- such as Howard Dean's Internet-grassroots campaign. What passes for the serious Left isn't a set of shared ideas or values attached to a living social movement. It's an audience brought together by big-name freelance "radicals" -- [Michael] Moore, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Arianna Huffington, Jim Hightower, and showbiz figures like Susan Sarandon or Martin Sheen. What these folks have in common isn't a vision of the world -- it's fame."

This bothers me. Doesn't it bother you? Discuss among yourselves. In your discussions, please consider this month's Theme Statement:
Blogging provides a comfortable illusion of activism. In fact, it is no such thing.

***
There is a lot of truth in that blurb. I think it pays to take a step back from time to time and ask ourselves why do we do what we do? If we want to change our circumstances, sitting behind a desk and pounding on a keyboard is clearly NOT the way.

I can’t say why other people choose to blog, but I know why I do it, and it isn’t because I am under any “comfortable illusion of activism.” I suspect that the above does apply to many bloggers.

Back in the 80’s when I was under an uncomfortable illusion of rock stardom, there was a band of 40 somethings at the rehearsal studio that we frequented, and they played Motown and Classic Rock covers. They weren’t very good, but they were there every Wednesday night. One night the sound engineer referred to them as “The Bowling Band.”

“The Bowling Band? Is that their name?”

Laughing, he said, “No, they don’t have a name. They’re just a few guys that get together to jam. They decided it was more fun than bowling once per week.”

Well, here I am. I love to write, and I have plenty of strong opinions. Pushing 50, I’m painfully aware that even the best Op-Ed columnists have very little impact on the political landscape. They reinforce the beliefs of their like-minded readers, and stir the ire of their polar opposites, but few people ever change their minds as the result of an Op-Ed column, let alone a blog entry written by an aging, jaded software engineer. The fact that a handful of people come to visit and read my entries and leave their comments is extremely gratifying to me. I’m not, nor am I ever going to be Paul Krugman, or even Neddie Jingo. I see this blog as rehearsal studio for a gig that I’m never going to play, and that suits me fine.

Regarding the John Powers’ quote: The same could be said about the right, except that the people in power are ruthless, so activism is not needed. Their “audience” can afford to be passive. We cannot.

I’ve been thinking about what is I am able to do, and I’m not sure yet, but I know this: Nothing is going to change if we do not ensure that future elections are free from voter fraud and corruption. We can never again allow a political party to suppress voters and control the voting mechanisms.

7 Comments:

Blogger jomama said...

Left wing, right wing?

I thought wings were for birds.

Time for a new game. One without a ball, to say nothing of wings.

9:04 AM  
Blogger joebftsplk said...

Aside from our angry oppositionalism, what vision of reality do we have to offer? The cold hard truth in every case is that moderation isn't selling, and that no writer I'm aware of is advancing a marketable image of what might be. A kinder, gentler American Empire in an ongoing age of resource scarcity? Commitment to social justice at home? I'd like to see bright people define the terms and show the left the possible shape of things. Gimme some Truth.

9:50 AM  
Blogger cali said...

"Blogging provides a comfortable illusion of activism. In fact, it is no such thing."

"The same could be said about the right, except that the people in power are ruthless, so activism is not needed. Their “audience” can afford to be passive. We cannot."

Spooky. I've been thinking along these lines too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thanks for welcoming me to the Bowling Band.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Decatur Dem said...

One reason for blogging on the sub-Krugman level has to be that it provides an arena in which one can actually formulate one's ideas. Before we can publish them, we have to put them down in sentences and paragraphs; then we can read them over for spelling, grammar, syntax, and to see if we've written something we're willing to sign our name, or nom de blog, to.

The Bowlers could sit around and swap half-baked notions about music, politics, or any other subject. They weren't required to back them up. When they became the Bowling Band, they had to put something behind the blather. So they'll never be the Allmans, and the Viscount won't be Kos or Josh Marshall. (What do I know? Maybe you will).

I'm not a blogger, just a lurker. But I know I'm rarely as focused as when I am struggling with a letter to the editor. (I'm way past the age when I have to submit a term paper for English class). If our ideas about democracy, or music, literature, history, seem important to us, then writing them down in coherent form seems a natural path to take. We might find we can change our minds; we might strengthen our half-baked opinions. Who knows where it might lead us?

9:16 PM  
Blogger jemison said...

"Nothing is going to change if we do not ensure that future elections are free from voter fraud and corruption."

I agree. The definition of liberal is (according to my American Heritage Dictionary): having, expressing or following political views of policies that favor civil liberties, democratic reforms, and the use of government power to promote social progress. Neocons, on the other hand, use government power to line their pockets. There really is a choice between the two and we should be gravitating toward the protection of the individuals from corporate interests and abuse.

I volunteered last election during the early voting to help out anyone who was either a) challenged to enter their vote, or b) confused about how to fill out the ballot. It was gratifying and I was not taking a political stand--just helping individuals exercise their right. A small suggestion for anyone looking to get off the keyboard and get into the game.

Great post, very thought-provoking.

2:02 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

>So they'll never be the Allmans, and the Viscount won't be Kos or Josh Marshall. (What do I know? Maybe you will).<

No worries "DD." I'm very flattered that my blog attracts repeat visits by people such as yourself. Being just "The Viscount" is fine by me.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Live music, even amatuer live music, almost always finds an audience.

We do preach to the choir, but sometimes new people show up in the back of the church. They find us even though they didn't know they were looking.

Not everyone's minds are already made up about everything. We can hope to influence people who don't already have fully formed opinions.

Imagine you first heard "Blowin in the Wind" at a concert by a cover band. You would always think that's how it's supposed to sound.

I don't sing or play, but I do blog.

4:42 PM  

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