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Saturday 26 March 2005

The failure of liberalism

There is a substantial [textbook] buying bloc--namely, school boards in southern states--that follows suit with whatever the state school board of Texas does. These states buy textbooks uniformly, statewide. Most "blue states" buy district to district, so there is no unified bloc per se to counterbalance the southern states where points of politics are concerned. So this bloc of southern school boards has an unrivaled power to influence the choices of the major textbook publishers in the country--of which there are only like four, anyhow. Basically, they don't publish anything the school board of Texas doesn't buy.

You can see where this headed, but it's already shockingly total. Right now, a sex ed textbook that isn't "abstinence only" cannot be bought in the United States. Not a current one, not from any major publisher. There are inroads against evolution as well, but sex ed has basically been exterminated.

Link (via Boing Boing)

98% of parents in Texas want their kids to get sex ed in school, according to something I read a few months ago, God knows where.

Authors like Joe Conason argue that Republicans have stolen from us the good old days of the Clinton administration. He applauds Clinton's every move, including the punitive as heck Welfare "Reform." Conason claims to speak for the left. This is how we got into this mess. Screwing the poor is not leftist. And this textbook mess didn't start four years ago. It's been growing under Clinton's watch. The appeasement pro-business politics of Democrats have failed. They've failed a generation of children who will now have to deal with higher rates of disease and unwanted pregnancy. They've failed parents. They're failing the very notion of a secular society.

We have no elected leadership on the left in the Senate. In the house, we've got the progressive caucus. Everywhere, we've got a bunch of spineless democrats, terrified of republican attack ads and too cowed to actually do something their district would vote them back in over. Instead of standing out, they try not to offend. So our single-party system steamrolls everyone in favor of a few small constituencies: the opium of the masses and business.

If leftist politics of the last 20 years have failed, then we need to find a new way. What happened in 1999 in Seattle was awesome, but it seems to have run out. Only the Daily Show covered the shadow convention in Boston. Everybody covered the anti-RNC protesters, but I understand that what was on TV played out a bit differently than what I saw on the street. In the 1960's it was street actions that defined the peace movement and were immensely successful, but this doesn't seem to be enough anymore. Or maybe they were never enough. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the second major boycott against a segregated transit line in the south. you don't hear about the first one. Protesters drove the bus line out of business. But they didn't end segregation. Because the Montgomery boycott was couples with legal action. All these attacks need to be multi-pronged. Street action, then, was necessary, but not enough by itself. Legal action with out street action was also insufficient. What does this mean for now?

The other side has learned lessons on how to neutralize our actions. Both sides need to constantly invent. Both sides need to constantly re-analyze the past looking for winning strategies and jettisoning losing strategies. This does not, as perhaps Conason would advocate, mean jettisoning core values.

There's been some talk lately about going door to door. That works. (These guys think they've invented the wheel though. The Lesbian Avengers put this in the organizing guidebook in like 1996 or before, anyway.) But what about artists? Has the leftist art of the last 20 years also failed, because it is part of a failed milieu? Of course, this depends on the role of political art, which is certainly not a settled question. Does it exist to serve art or to serve politics? I feel like anything that gets people to pay attention to non-corporate art (which does not glorify the dominant paradigm - i.e., not blond jesus paintings) is helping resist fascism. But it's not enough.

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