Ambitious Goals are Not Enough

I keep hearing about what an ambitious plan the Green New Deal is, how bold and grand its goals and the programs it points to are, implying that “in the real world” it is “impractical.” Granted, the Green New Deal was a giant step forward when you consider where the Congress, the media pundits have been on the issue – exactly nowhere.

Of course, in a society where the only sacred thing is “the economy,” anything that might disturb the corporate vision of “economic growth” talking heads deem evil, “socialist,” or just plain stupid.

Policy Dissembling

Even the supposedly progressive (yet corporately constrained) MSNBC commentators have little to say beyond vague political generalities about “climate change.” The Democratic presidential candidates have said little of any substance on the gravest existential threat to humanity ever – until the Green New Deal gained increasing national attention. In the first two rounds of the debates, the average time spent on climate crisis was under ten minutes in a three-hour event. The greatest existential threat to humanity was sidelined amid regressive jockeying around Republican talking points.

Just as with the gun control issue, genuine proposals specifying how to constrain carbon emissions from the global industrial-consumer economy have not seen serious public discussion, despite the unequivocal scientific evidence of imminent existential danger. Such talk is so far away from the public discourse that is is almost entirely out of sight. At least, the Green New Deal points in the right direction.

Aspirations or Action

AOC and Markey unveil Green New Deal

@AOC & Senator Markey unveil the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is, after all, an aspirational resolution in the Congress proposed by its most progressive Democrats. The attempt to get a genuine public political conversation going about mounting a national response to the climate emergency faltered amid claims that it would be too expensive or that it is a socialist plot to take away our (consumerist) freedoms. However, emergent social movements like the Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement, along with outspoken new progressives like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez have gained significant public attention with their blunt talk on the climate crisis.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee was the only presidential candidate to base his run for the nomination explicitly on responding to the climate crisis. Inslee posted on his website serious detailed proposals that extend beyond the other candidates’ lip service proclamations. He dropped out of the race because he just could not get enough traction amid the myriad candidates and sound bites on the stage. The debate moderators had presented the climate issue as somehow just another topic for a brief question. 

The Challenge

Jay.Inslee

Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee and the vocal supporters of the Green New Deal have certainly brought the climate emergency to a public that is increasingly aware of the reality of damage already done by climate disruption. Elisabeth Warren offered a climate plan that Mother Jones Magazine gave a grade of C-Bernie Sanders has released a far more detailed extensive plan. Yet, in the short history of climate science, the fossil-fueled propaganda supporting climate denial has set us decades behind when we should have taken rational action. So, we can understand why some view the mere statement of the major actions necessary now, as “ambitious,” bold, or even “unaffordable.”

Yet, ambitious goals are not anywhere near enough. Only massive concrete societal actions will give us a chance to avoid total climate and ecological chaos leading to societal collapse. To curtail carbon emissions to slow global warming and ecosystem destruction enough to salvage some livable degree of climate stability, we need to take drastic actions that will necessarily transform the way we live, as well as the way we relate to each other and to the entire Earth System on which we depend for survival. “Ambitious” as used seems to imply unreasonable or unachievable. Yet, how ambitious is the goal of human survival, as conditions into the Anthropocene turn increasingly unlivable?

Here Comes the Hate!

The misogynist racist good ol’ boys (well, rich old white men) are out in force now. Their hateful ridicule targets any outspoken woman who happened to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the midterm elections.

Alexandria Octavio-Cortez, dubbed AOC, the celebrity underdog who handily beat the old white male incumbent Establishment Democrat, is the iconic target of their spite. How dare she challenge their comfortable corporate feed trough? How dare she expect their super-rich handlers to pay their fair share of income taxes?

Tax the Rich?

The “extreme” marginal rate of 70% on the highest segment of the excessive earnings of the wealthiest Americans would be lower than that charged in the 1950s, when the Americans people (not just the rich) prospered more than any time before or since. GOP-driven (Democrat accepted) tax reductions for the wealthy have stifled economic growth and driven up public debt during every presidency from Reagan to Trump.

The progressive income tax scheme @AOC proposed is a bit lower than Nobel Prize-winning economist Peter Diamond calculated would be optimal – not too much, not too little – for the richest Americans to contribute their fair share to a healthy economy. She offends on several counts: her gender, her brown skin, her policy recommendations that challenge both patriarchy and plutocracy, and the shock of her demands for social, economic, and climate justice. On top of it all, like her colleagues, she just won’t “sit down and shut up.”

Patronize the Pantsuits?

And they expect her not to demand that children be healthy and well educated too, and that the Trumpist outlaw ICE-MEN return the children they kidnapped from their asylum-seeking parents. What next?

Oh, yes, these brash new representatives want a Green New Deal too. Why those anti-oligarchy democratic “socialists”! (Oh, is that still a dirty word?) They don’t even want to protect the plundering plutocrats from the ravages of facing up to climate chaos?

Women Reps in WhiteOh, maybe they just don’t like white pantsuits, or women’s suffrage for that matter. That would go 10x for any woman wearing a headscarf, unless of course it was a gingham print and meant only as an accent for that beehive doo that might MAGA! (Remember the beehive? We’re talking 1950s here. They were as big as the tailfins on a 1959 Chevy.)

What these ol’ codgers really hate is an uppity woman who has brown skin, is even smarter than she is pretty, can easily outsmart them, and just “don’t know her place”. “Whoa there, young filly! Back in the kitchen with them barefoot brats!” That avalanche of smart progressive women of color entering the chambers of the political good ol’ boys club is just more than their privilege-addled brains can process.

Fascists in Victim’s Clothing

I never could quite understand why so many people confound the Jewish people with the state of Israel.  Many people I’ve met around the world love Americans and America, but not its imperious government. I know of no nation-state in this world that is so pure and good that we should all declare it off limits to political, humanitarian, or policy criticism of any kind.

It was the Jewish people who suffered Nazi terror, not the state of Israel. I feel equally outraged by the ruthless violence of Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet, Netanyahu, and others too. But, any time someone criticizes the genocidal treatment of the Palestinian people, they are accused of supporting Hamas and terrorism. Nation states are the problem, not their people.

Go Figure. Well, you don’t have to figure much. U.S. politicians are terrified that someone might accuse them of being anti-Semitic. Closet racists often proclaim, “I am not a racist.” Same with closet anti-semites. Closet fascists claim to “bring democracy to the world” with state of the art military hardware. Too many Americans remain blind to nativist racism, even now when Trumpery has green-lighted its open expression.

I would suggest an analogy here. So many victims of abuse by parents, stepparents, or others with power grow up and become abusers themselves. Plenty of Israelis find it ironic and tragic that their government treats Palestinians nearly as badly as the Nazis treated their great-grandparents. Too many Americans are blind to the racism they tolerate because it does not directly interfere with their personal lives. Some are just clueless.

Too many easily fall into the hatred-on-the-rise that the new American fascists foment. The surge in violent hate crimes in the U.S., including anti-Semitic hate crimes, is no accident. It is part of the pattern of moral decay and political nihilism enabled by the political demagogues. That will only lead to more authoritarian politics and enable dictatorship to crush democracy unless the rest of us resist the hate.

Conservatives, Liberals, Deviants and Rebels

What’s up with all this controversy over Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her diverse freshmen Democrat colleagues in the House of Representatives? What is so different about their public pronouncements? Why are even centrist Democrats attacking them? Something is happening here and their elders don’t know what it is, do they, Mister Jones?

Most of us believe that we act reasonably and hold our beliefs because they are true. Yet, we disagree so much and so often. How can that be?

Imagery and emotion often control how we view facts and how we apply reason to evidence in everyday life, and especially in politics. We all started out with “questioning minds.” That is why children drive parents to distraction by incessantly asking “Why?” As often as not, the answer elicits another “Why?” In our maturity, we question only those who fail to conform to what we have come to believe.

Conservatives Conform

As they grow up, most folks stop questioning everything and accept the conventional explanations of how the world works. We conform to the worldview of those around us because it seems to make sense, and, after all, those most respected around us hold these views.

Most people want to “fit in.” They gradually shape their understandings of the world in the context and with the perspective of the social group to which they belong. That works well for most people in most situations, especially when things are stable. However, in the late stages of the modern world, as we have known it, things no longer seem all that stable.

Liberals Accept Deviance

Some do not simply conform to the norm, they deviate from what others consider normal. They take on the identity of rabble-rousers if they are outspoken in their challenges to the conventional wisdom. If they break with convention, adopting peculiar lifestyles or dress, sociologists label them deviants.

Some deviants just go about their lives just wanting to be left alone to their different lifestyle. They simply deviate from the norms of the social group, community, or society they belong to because they have taken on a different perspective. These deviants get in trouble to the extent that conservatives demand that they conform, sometimes invoking laws against deviant behavior. Liberals generally defend the right of deviants to deviate, as long as nobody gets hurt.

Almost Nobody Likes a Rebel

The social deviant is considerably different from the rebel who intellectually and openly challenges the status quo and the conventional wisdom about life and some core societal arrangements. At some point, the moral dimension enters the picture. Some rebel against particular norms, conventional practices, or unfair elements of the social structure itself. That is where moral indignation becomes political protest.

The “establishment” in any society resists all forms of protest or demands for change, particularly in the structure of power itself. Elites, who sit comfortably atop the establishment, frame such demands as threats to the social order, and as challenges to the core values of the nation. The propagandists and marketing directors they pay, know this well and exploit it fully.

Values become quite malleable, especially when propagandists reinterpret or distort them to exploit emotions like fear. We sometimes hold tightly to the comfort of sacred words, not realizing that powerful forces have changed their underlying meanings. Dominant institutions, advertisers and politicians often manipulate the imagery and emotions attached to our key cultural concepts.

Moral Protest

The corporate, financial, and political elites who for decades have concentrated more and more power among themselves, fear and despise moral protest. It points directly at their ethical failings. We see their fear today in their responses to the challenges of the

Alexandria.Octavio-Cortez..twitter

@AOC

New Progressive Democrats in Congress, the @AOCs and the Sunrise Movement. These new progressive members and their allies are self-aware rebels who have penetrated the core of the political center of power. They are not afraid to speak their minds and ask “Why?” which shocks and offends their elders. However, they know that “well-behaved women rarely make history.”

These political rebels consciously (or should I say, conscientiously?) fail to conform to the “traditional” norms that require new members of Congress to sit down and shut up until they have secured the privileges of seniority and rank among their older (mostly white male) peers. The new progressive female congresspersons of color will have none of it. They have arrived to speak truth to power, so naturally, they offend those old white men who have hidden behind their privileged status for decades.

George Lakoff explains in his book, Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, how corporatist “conservatives” often win politically by “framing the debate” with emotions and imagery that influence voters far more than the fact-filled policy-wonk talk of conventional “liberals.”

All they are trying to conserve is their own power and that of their corporate sponsors, not any core American values, such as those expressed in the traditional American progressive ideas of a “Green New Deal.”

In that, they are bucking the tide of growing public sentiment against their privileges, against excessive wealth and power, and for saving people and planet from their sanctimonious greed.