Tag Archives: Justice

A WORD OF CAUTION TO THE ACTIVISTS

debs

Eugene Debs did not have convictions. He had beliefs and was convicted for them.

Leftist groups in the United States have traditionally descended into cannibalism. At first, they start off well enough, find a unified vision and make some progress. Socialists did pretty well as third party candidates at the start of the 20th century, for example, by getting the votes of unions and other, ideologically less rigid, groups.

But making progress requires compromise; and compromise requires pragmatism. At a certain point, the most convinced ideologues (the Marxists, communists, anarchists, rigid socialists, extreme feminists, culture talkers, racial thinkers, etc.) draw their own lines in the sand and say “enough! No more compromise! After all, aren’t we fighting against a system of so-called ‘compromise’ as it is?” They then turn on each other, each accusing the other of being too soft, too ideologically impure, too (God forbid) conservative. Then the  flesh-eating begins.

There is a reason why ideologues like Lenin were able to take control of Russia at the start of the 20th century. They brought rigid, autocratic ideology to a country accustomed to autocracy. When the Bolsheviks started their purges of the bourgeois class, they were building on a tradition of autocratic purges Russians knew well, not the least of which were the frequent pogroms against Jews. Strict loyalty to the Romanov family and the Orthodox Church that served as its handmaiden was replaced by strict loyalty to the party. Dialectical materialism became the church. Pogroms against Jews were replaced by pogroms against monarchists and capitalists.

Do not be too enthralled with your own convictions. A conviction is merely a belief that has been allowed to fossilize. It is like going fishing, catching one fish and holding on to that one fish forever without ever bothering to fish again. In order to strengthen, broaden and deepen one’s beliefs, one must constantly cast their net into the pond to ensure a steady stream of fresh fish. If not, you starve and those who have done the messy work of fishing will grow fat and prosperous.

Convictions are dead fish, dead beliefs.

The real world, especially the world we call the United States (and double triple especially the world of New York City), is messy. It requires a messy mind, one teeming with all types of fresh fish, to keep up. Quite frankly, people so steeped in their convictions scare me. They are of the same ilk as religious fundamentalists, no matter what the religion is.

Now, this does not mean that all beliefs should be malleable so that one becomes a jellyfish with no core. What it means is that we must be open to having ALL of our beliefs, even our most cherished beliefs, reexamined and challenged from within. You might reexamine your beliefs and find that you believe them now stronger than you ever did before.

Who ever reexamines their convictions? Wouldn’t they cease to be convictions the moment one reexamines them?

Convictions are not open to reexamination. That is what makes them dangerous. Convictions, at their core, are enemies of freedom.

A word of caution to the activists.

Start your Morning with a Lil’ Intellectual Debate

*Awesome 7os haircuts and outfits alert*

Sometimes I watch stuff like this when I wake up just to give the old brain a jumpstart. This is a discussion between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault (my avatar image) filmed in 1971. They are essentially talking about what constitutes a just society. My favorite part is how Chomsky is speaking English and Foucault is speaking French and they are still able to perfectly understand each other.

Chomsky posits that it is within human nature to want justice. He believes his now trademark  “anarcho-syndicalism” model of decentralized social structures that foster freedom and human creativity would be the basis of a just society. For Chomsky, justice and human nature are knowable concepts. We have a general, baseline sense of what these things entail. Anarcho-syndicalism claims to be in accord with the requirements of true justice and the fulfillment of human potential.                                                

Foucault believes that our ideas of human nature and justice are functions of the power structure of society. This means that the way we define these terms depends upon our position within a society. Essentially, if human nature and justice do exist, we can never know what they are because our views of them are determined by society and our place within it. For this same reason, any attempt to create a utopia runs the risk of replicating the injustices we are trying to avoid. In short, we cannot access the ideas of justice and human nature without tools borrowed from our culture.