Progressives Climb a Slippery Slope
Tom Morello, Harvard graduate and renowned guitarist, was once asked why Rage Against the Machine signed with Sony considering the band’s message denounces corporate domination.
His intention was to fight fire with fire.
The major label was not only going to get the music to the masses but give the band complete creative control. Eventually, the band broke up in part because of diverging political perspectives.
Their situation parallels the conundrum facing the left. Progressives must carefully walk the tightrope of self-examination so as not to fall into the abyss of hypocrisy.
At what point does fighting fire with fire become feeding the fire?
My own liberal opinion commentaries carry a tinge of irony. A couple of months ago I wrote an article in the New University regarding the pressing issue of global warming.
The devil might be in the details. Consider the trees cut down in order to print the New U. and the fossil fuels burned so I could drive my car back and forth from the library. In a sense, driving a gas-powered vehicle is driving the ‘war machine.’
Writers such as myself specialize in pointing out the flaws of society without really improving the situation or ourselves. I, too, succumb to the worst forms of hedonism and materialism.
I will even go so far as to say that many Bush supporters, such as my mother, are more compassionate than some of the prominent Democratic pundits.
Speaking of supporting the war, Tucker Carlson, the bowtie-sporting conservative on CNN’s ‘Crossfire,’ criticized liberals who supported the troops but did not support the war because the two ideas are virtually equivalent. Unfortunately, he is right.
Parents are sending brownies and body armor to their enlisted children so they can kill the ‘enemy’ more efficiently. After all, a dead soldier is a useless soldier.
Likewise, progressives without a strong awareness of consumer activism unknowingly supports industries with strong ties to unfair labor practices and/or environmental degradation. I wonder what percentage of Democrats still shop at Wal-Mart, buy Guess or Nike or eat at McDonald’s.
There are four keys to making any real accomplishments as progressives.
First, we must arm ourselves with the knowledge provided by independent media as well as academia. 90.7 KPFK and 89.9 KCRW are two commercial-free FM stations that provide hours of thought-provoking political material as well as some decent music.
Second, study the methods and especially the language of neoconservatives. Pick up (never purchase!) the National Review or attend a Young Republicans meeting.
Try to make friends with evangelical Christians and relate to their perspective as a means to open up the dialogue.
I highly recommend reading George Lakoff’s ‘Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.’
The Berkeley linguistics professor is co-founder of the Rockridge Institute with seven other UC professors and has become Karl Rove’s nemesis to a certain extent. Lakoff deconstructs the Orwellian doublespeak made famous by Rumsfeld and his cronies.
Third, we need to admit when we are wrong and recognize inconsistencies both personally and politically in order to correct them.
For example, I was wrong to criticize the Libertarian party without acknowledging their honest opposition to Bush’s fiscal irresponsibility.
Many third parties share similar values but perhaps disagree on methods and tactics for achieving positive outcomes.
Fourth and finally, progressives must pursue a well-defined platform with an uncompromising passion and aggression never seen before in the public arena.
It is our legal right and duty to inform anyone and everyone about our genuine concerns.
Kevin Collins is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.