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Local anesthesia

vastleft's picture

It's a popular and reassuring meme, that as our politics fails massively on the global and national level, there's salvation to be found on the local front.

To be sure, "act locally" is good hygiene, and an individual might accomplish more in a small pond. But the "local-is-where-it's-at" fixation sometimes smells more than a little naïve.

IMHO, SocProf gets it right:

I have mentioned before my skepticism for this fetishism of the local. The local is not inherently more democratic than the national, regional or global levels. Many sources of oppressions are rooted in local communities and “traditions” invoked to reject universal human rights. Also, one only needs to look at the United States and its local political forms (such as elected school boards) to see how the local can go horribly wrong.
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Submitted by lambert on

The article ends:

I don’t think [resistance to barbarism] will come from a core areas politicians (certainly not the current crop of US and Western European leaders), but more from people like Lula and other leaders from semi-peripheral or peripheral areas.

My locality is peripheral (like Detroit, say) and so I perhaps confuse the local and the peripheral.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

remember that George Washington was considered peripheral just as Versailles was collapsing. lula is where it is at.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm not clear why the resort to religious imagery.

I'd be more than happy to support a party at the third pole. I don't see one on offer. So at the same time I withdraw energy from the legacy parties, I put it locally, since I can see some visible good (and also a degree of safety in case collapse is really soon and really bad). Or I put the energy into national, but alternative ideas, like the Fiscal Sustainability Teach-In, and may there be more of them. Maybe that will help the third pole.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

... and I'm not trying to give you, personally, a hard time. But in the past couple of years, as evidence of the widespread political rot poured in, I saw many people push the idea that "the real action is local," invariably to murmurs of deep approval, as if this were a truth etched in marble.

SocProf refers to this as "fetishization" of the local, and I think she's onto something. That's all.

Submitted by lambert on

... if the rot at the national level were irretrievable, no? And surely that's a tenable position. And I've said that, so I'm perfectly willing to defend such a position, modulo vacuous phrasing like "the real action", and the mumbling.

So, I guess I'd like a little more evidence and reasoning here. How about one link that exhibits these memes? The Intertubes are pretty large, so maybe I've missed something that deserves a good skewering.

Submitted by lambert on

... I think you would be, and in fact have been, the first to rightly question a sloppy rhetorical formulation like "in the air." You might even call it finger-wagging -- especially given the complete lack of evidence, reasoning, linky goodness, or any operational way to address the presumed, yet gauzily insubstantial and unsubstantiated problem.

You might have also questioned imputing religious rhetoric like: "salvation," "gospel," "refuge," and so forth.

And imputing medicalizing rhetoric like: "anesthesia," and "hygiene."

And converting my request for evidence -- you may have noticed that practice here -- into "I must have dreamed it." Sheesh. Of course, I don't think you dreamed it. I think you read it, or saw it. But either you don't remember where, which I'd argue makes all this trivial, or you won't share where, for reasons that are opaque to me.

But I don't know where. And I haven't read or seen what you, as I suppose, have.

If you've got a point to make, why don't you make it? I read the post, too, and if there's substance to the ideas, it's not evident there.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Zeitgeist observation. If you're not encountering that phenomenon (localism fetishism), then by all means be skeptical of it.

Sorry I don't have any great examples handy (nor much time to go digging -- I can't think of a good Google search that isn't brimming with false positives about specific local campaigns, etc.), so if this observation doesn't ring true with your experience, I can't knock you for awaiting evidence. I'll keep an eye out for examples in the stream of stuff I read.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

only because most of us do not have the ability to start a national movement. And most national movements started small, which often means local. I would take, for instance, single payer. Most of its leaders started out working locally on the issue. There is a national movement, but to a significant extent it is made up of smaller, local units. Because that's where marginalized people can actually do something. Local action can be - but isn't always - the seeds for growing a larger national movement.

I think the "Think Global, Act Local" people were onto something. The local action needs to be tied into the larger scene, a part or potential part of something bigger. If you lose the "think global" then the "act local" becomes much less useful, IMO (although not necessarily insignificant as I'm sure the people who are fed and housed at my local homeless shelter will tell you).

Submitted by lambert on

Except you certainly need to think locally as well. (As above, so below does apply, but not completely.) And you may need to act globally as well. Here, however, we're handicapped by (a) the mildewed nature of our current political arrangements in Versailles, and (b) the cautionary tale of the incredible rapidity with which the rot spread in the "progressive" blogosphere 2006-2008 such that "the left" was, in essence, decapitated (or, to unmix the metaphor, a version of the "tall poppy" syndrome took place). I think anything based on "act globally" needs to take that tale into account. (These are systemic issues, so this isn't a personalized argument about purity. "There but for the grace of...," and so on.) It's my hope that a more locally grounded approach will make for a something something something that is more resilient. It ought to be possible to use the Intertubes to keep policy discussions vibrant/synchronized, and thus decrease the need for centralized, national offices (which are targets of opportunity). This is what the blogosphere should have become, but failed, or was prevented, from becoming. I know all this is vague; I'm a writer, not an organizer.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Remember that scene in Dr. Zhivago where the evil commissar asks Dr. Zhivago what he plans to do in Uriyatyn and Zhivago responds live, just live. I think that is the sort of internal exile lambert is talking about.

local is not inherently better than national, as the civil rights moved proved, but there is so much you can do at the local level. For example, you can make sure that your school system uses real text books rather than ones which were developed for the Texas model. You can make sure that science in taught in your schools.

and that is just the beginning. even though our political culture is totally degenerate, there are small things we can do that will make things better for at least some poeple.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

should have said Varykino, Uriyatyn was near Varykino.

Submitted by Lex on

Local is not a be-all-end-all type of solution; rather, it is a starting point because it is in the local that we can take control of our lives.

It is an answer to the feeling of powerlessness engendered by subservience to national politicians, corporations and global finance. But it should not be an end to itself.

It's also fine preparation for the eventual splintering of a nation that's too large and divided against itself in many ways.

It needs to be balanced with the knowledge that all localities are interconnected and interdependent. So it's like any good idea: taken too far it becomes a bad idea.

Submitted by lambert on

Especially the part about "splintering." Out on the margins, "when the trucks stop" is seen as a real possibility. When that happens, our local ties had better be strong.