Free healthcare and education. Land reclamation for public use. Labor theory of value. Union representation and collective contracts. Freedom from advertising. Legalization of “drugs.” Rehabilitation over incarceration. Strength through peace. Producing, selling, and buying local. Public transportation. The end of discrimination in all directions.
We’ve barely scratched the surface. Want to take a guess why no leftist political movement ever gets far in the United States before fizzling?
It’s not just that we have so many failures in addressing the needs of the general public. There’s another aspect that is probably an even larger roadblock to progress. We live in a country where there is one major party with two names that argues with itself endlessly over bills that would have no significant impact on any part of the lives of average American citizens. They argue over moderate changes to the tax code of people who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. They argue over whether or not the Pentagon should have deadlines for acts of aggression toward the Middle East… not whether we should be there, but whether we should even have a solid plan for ever coming home.
What’s scarier is the list of things they don’t fight about: Drone strikes. Cannabis prohibition. Letting bankers off the hook for massive fraud against American citizens. Funding military activities in sovereign nations. The PATRIOT Act, the TRESPASS Act, the NDAA, and so on. The theory of a “two party system” went out the window when we ceased to have two parties and instead had two wings of the same conservative ruling party.
By this point, a few of you may be breathless just following along with the many facets of corruption, inadequacy, and dissonance shown by our elected leaders. It’s merely a brief introduction of how it feels to fight for a change in direction, so if you’re already worn out, you can’t blame a lot of our potential leftist voices for falling into a state of apathy toward the entire system, the predicament of our nation as we drift further and further toward a corporate-beholden police state.
They told Occupy to get a list of coherent goals but they ignored the list because it was too long. They told Occupy to get a leader but they forgot that it wasn’t a single-issue movement. They told Occupy to work within the system but they wouldn’t demand campaign finance reform.
(This isn’t to pick on the Occupy movement specifically; they did a lot of great things, from Occupy Sandy to Rolling Jubilee, discussed previously on this blog.)
Gradually, over decades, the powerful in this nation (and in many areas of the first world) have shifted the conversation from “individual versus collective” to “individual versus the welfare bums that want to steal all your money and do drugs and never work and let their houses fall into disrepair and lower your property values and rape your mom and teach your kids to hate Jesus.” That’s a pretty easy choice to make if you believe in the Myth of the Welfare Queen introduced by Reagan.
Apathy is the norm on the left because the issues have become so varied, so numerous, so complex that it’s impossible to print them on a bumper sticker, which captures the attention span of the average American reality show viewer and uninformed voter. Who wants to fight for a lost cause? Who wants to be the guy standing outside the capitol with a megaphone yelling to nobody, demonstrating against a bill that passed without incident, backed up by an empty public square and belittled by every passerby that honks the horn of their Lexus, only to shout “get a job you Goddamn hippie” when he turns around to wave?
Nobody on the left wants to be the face of a revolution. It could be due to the collective mentality of leftists, the desire to help everyone without credit. It could be due to the fear of being left all alone on the pedestal to put oneself out there for the world to judge. It could be fear of retribution from an employer, ostracism from one’s peer group, violence from a powerful opposition… It could be as simple as the fear of standing alone on a large and important stage to be the voice that is expected to bring us together.
In any case, the Objectivists are well-prepared to be individuals standing on the hill, preaching to the masses in the voice of powerful and self-interested individuality. The leftists are not so well-equipped, and in a land of uninformed, passive voters, we lose more momentum each day that we do not have someone on the hill, shouting at the top of their lungs that there are way too many problems to list on a bumper sticker but, if they’ll only listen for a moment, we can help them see a better way forward.
Who will stand up? Who will hold the next megaphone on the next public square? Who will join them? Who will educate their friends instead of avoiding touchy subjects when they hear ignorance, misinformation, or greed? Who will be the revolutionaries we need?
We’ve been drifting ever further from the needs of the public for over three decades now.
If we don’t stand up now, then when?