I keep trying to be a Responsible Employee (well, independent contractor, really) and avoid this blog till after my last deadline of January 7 in my again unsuccessful (my fault) efforts to retire from indexing (which I took up after retiring from psychiatric social work, a job both much more exhausting and mostly much more interesting...I thought I wanted quiet. Well, in a way I did. But I, as they say, digress.)
Anyway, here is my failure to avoid the blog, tied in a way to my current indexing job as well as to Mexfiles and my previous comments about Obama and his Mexico policy. In his Mexfiles post, Richard referred to me as "left-ier" than most gringos in Mexico. Where we live here in Veracruz, there aren't all that many gringos, and the political tendencies are rather varied, more so I surmise in the more gringofied lands of Mexico, though there are definitely who are considerably "right-ier" than I am and more than I would have imagined would live here. I'm always surprised at the un-graciousness of people making their homes here who would disparage their hosts. The "right-ierness" (of the few here who are that way) is often accompanied by outright racism.
Anyway, what I wanted to add here is that one reason I like (but don't love) Obama is that he seems to be subtle. He seems to understand that the US's proclivity to swing wildly from left to right and back, to frame stuff in Manichean terms, to breaathlessly await the next hyping of the news (read crotch bomber) isn't doing us any good.
Which brings up my indexing job. Since the book isn't published yet, I won't be specific, but I will say that one of the contentions of the author is that national leaders (not just US) are terribly swayed by perceptions rather than a close analysis of reality. Some of the perceptions are framed by short, pithy and practically meaningless statements that are dearly held. Leaders act on these statements, to our detriment.
So anyway, back to Obama. There is an excellent article in The New York Review of Books by Rory Stewart mostly supporting but also offering insightful criticism of Obama's Afghanistan policy. Stewart points out the cliche-driven consequences of our foreign policy and most of all praises Obama for seeing past the cliches. It is very definitely worth reading. For instance, he says we've been operating on the following assumptions-turned-truths:
Afghanistan is an existential threat. It is the epicenter of international terrorism and the epitome of a failed state. We must fight in Afghanistan for six reasons: (1) to protect the United States and the rest of NATO from terrorist attack; (2) to protect Pakistan and the region; (3) to protect the credibility of the United States and NATO; (4) to protect the Afghan people; (5) to defeat the Taliban; and (6)to create an effective, legitimate, stable state.
And now back to me: yes, I'm left-iesh, but really, not. I grew up in NYC. When I became aware of politics there, the Dems were in COMPLETE and UTTER and CORRUPT control. THEN a knight n shining armor named John Lindsay, a REPUBLICAN, came along. My crowd (whatever) voted for HIM...although I was too young, my friends and I worked for him. Later, I voted for Jacob Javitz. Nelson Rockefeller had crossover appeal. When we lived in Missouri, we got to know John Danforth. There is no man finer. If I disagree with some of his approaches, I can say I can't imagine they'd take him to a bad place. I voted for him.
Here are a few of my lefty ideas, only partly thought out (otherwise known as estherbabble):
- Human beings may be an evolutionary "mistake" that can't last because we find it so easy to lie to ourselves, so easy to destroy while we are thinking we are "only doing what's right" or "if we didn't do it, someone else would," or "I deserve this" or "if we don't cream them, they'll cream us" or "they're poor because they're not as good as we are" or "we're rational economic beings" or, on a different tack, "technology will take care of it" or "global warming isn't happening" or if it is "it's good because you can make more money in warmer climates." You get the idea. If we weren't so capable of [self-serving] denial
- We'd put our extraordinary knowledge, technical and theoretical, to use providing all people on the planet with at least a minimally decent material life: enough food, health care, shelter, employment while NOT destroying the planet. We would recognize the essential nature of social connections and of community and wouldn't set up systems that destroy these in the name of a minimally decent material life.
- We would recognize that some things should be done locally and that some stuff should be in the hands of ordinary people: for instance, perhaps agriculture, perhaps education, and a lot of government. AND that things we all depend on shouldn't be in the hands of multinational or even ruthless national corporations.
- We'd recognize that people in groups are capable of becoming quite hateful and not only stepping on the rights of minorities among them but killing them; of scapegoating individuals; of demanding excessive conformity; of demanding money, and so forth. This is when exterior watchdogs are important in small communities. But if things aren't at a criminal level, rather than a bunch of bureaucrats and bureaucratic rules imposed from outside, above, wherever, we need places for arbitration and appeal.
- We'd acknowledge that we are corruptible. Easily. This is another reason it's good to have exterior watchdogs.
- We'd recognize that some people among us are driven by a desire for power of one sort or another. Sometimes these people in fact make excellent leaders, but we need to exercise controls over them.
- I think the genius of the US Constitution and our Revolution's thinkers lies in their understanding of our corruptibility, our meanness in groups and our thirst for power.
I also think (for what it's worth)
- That we can do a whole lot of stuff that leads to comfortable, satisfying lives for a lot of us without destroying the planet and we need to realize this FAST:
- That we've kind of swallowed the notion that there have to be monetary rewards, that profits are the measure of success, etc. etc. without thinking about them. Kind of like propaganda. We should recognize that there are things people would be done for the honor of helping people and saving the planet, for the satisfaction of insatiable curiosity, and because we have obligations to each other. The creation of new and necessary drugs should NOT be at the mercy of making money, for instance.
- That services in a nation or a community shouldn't always have to make money by themselves. Some services make for healthier and better-educated and happier communities and citizens even if they themselves don't make money. Health care should be one of these things. It boggles my mind that insurance companies should make money gambling on people's health.Transportation is another area. Education is another. Police protection and military stuff fit in here. NOBODY should have a business that makes its owners rich through military adventurism. Not that people in these fields shouldn't make a decent living.
- There are some truly bad guys -- we need police and military.
- There shouldn't be an incredible gap between the highest and the lowest incomes.
- We need to learn that the world is mostly gray, not black and white. That there's not complete security in life. That we can't guarantee our well-being completely. There's no miracle cure for life and death.
- Now I have to get back to work