Post Empire Survival Guide by Sam Smith
Sam Smith is one of my favorite thinkers and commentators. He has been editing the Progressive Review since 1964. Every Monday he is on the Mark Thompson radio show on Sirius Left. Each Monday he comes up with original ways of looking at the week's events and has a generous and positive way of criticizing the Democrats as well as Republicans. He can put down Obama with such grace and sweetness that he does not get the blow back that Glen Ford gets when he does the same thing on Wednesdays. (Glen is another favorite of mine and speaks truth in a powerful voice.)
Sam has published a Post Empire Survival Guide for our troubling times and I find his ideas compelling and worth our time her at Corrente. He says that the First American Republic is over and it's time to start acting like it is. Are you a reformer or a rebel?
There is a recurring theme throughout this Survival Guide of emphasis on the local and moving energy and organization away from the Federal Government. For example:
Work around it - If a hurricane comes to your neighborhood, you don't just sit around the kitchen table complaining about it; you do things to help your survival. The same is true of the great storm of American disintegration. We have clearly lost what we have lost. We can give up our futile efforts to preserve the illusion and turn our energies instead to the construction of a new time. It is this willingness to walk away from the seductive power of the present that first divides the mere reformer from the rebel -- the courage to emigrate from one's own ways in order to meet the future not as an entitlement but as a frontier.Make the local about far more than lettuce: Because of the foregoing, the role of the local in American life has assumed an enormous yet still largely unrecognized role. It is no longer just about sensible communities, friends or wise buying habits. It is our major bastion against the bastards. Sadly, liberal Americans become increasingly federocentric, assuming that those speaking of states or local rights are just right wing nuts. This ignores the history of every important progressive movement in America: from the abolitionists, to the populists, labor unions, environmentalists, and the advocates of civil rights. In each case, success was based not on playing the elite's game but through mass decentralized organizing and pressure. Few things scare national politicians more than people getting organized.
Read about movements that worked, particularly the populists, the 1960s anti-war and civil rights movements, the gay and women's rights efforts. And don't forget the Beats. They were the warm-up band for one of the biggest eras of change in our history.
He has suggested a platform of his own and encourages us to do the same. Again he emphasizes "government carried out at the lowest possible level":
Come up with a progressive platform, preferably one that can be written on a single side of a sheet of paper. Here are some samples:
- Economic programs aimed at doing the most for the most and an end to Wall Street bailouts, including instead major direct help for endangered homowners and a single digit limit on credit card rates.
- An end to colonial occupation and wars in foreign lands.
- The restoration of democracy and constitutional government in the U.S.
- Single payer health care
- A safe and clean natural environment
- Electoral reform including instant runoff voting, an end to corporate personhood and public campaign financing.
- Government carried out at the lowest practical level
If you don't like that list, then write your own.
The paragraph about elites designing jobs for other elites rings true to me. I get hit up by it seems hundreds of organizations aka lobbying groups who want money for their causes. They hire consultants. But we really need to cut out a lot of the middle men and women. In our little town, ladies got together to create a nature trails park. In order to get "a grant" or more money, they were told they needed "a study" and "a master plan". So they spent $40,000 to hire consultants who hired consultants to come up with "a master plan". Too bad they just didn't use the $40,000 for the park. It created a huge controversy in the town. So one woman's sincere progressive consultant is another woman's interfering liberal crony.
No more stimulus packages for grad school liberals. Use fewer experts from the Ivy League and more from Iowa. For example, in Clinton's first adminstration, one third of the top positions were held by Harvard and/or Yale graduations. End the grad school politics that favors those that collect data, assess and legalize issue over those who actually do something. No more 2,000 pages of legislation. One of the things many people don't like about traditional liberals is how federally oriented they are. This is due in no small part to an elite class that designs jobs for itself in Washington.
An example of this:
a study of Milwaukee County in 1988 found government agencies spending more than $1 billion annually on fighting poverty. If this money had been given in cash to the poor, it would have meant more than $33,000 for each low income family -- well above the poverty level.
Lots to talk about in this guide. I think Sam is right. We need to meet in groups and ask ourselves what our vision for a community is. If the only thing we might agree on is that we are in a lot of trouble, well then, that's a place to start.