Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Human Nature, Socialism, and The Neocons

hooded Bizango lwa

“Change” has been one of the premier issues of this election. Both Obama and McCain promised that they would lead our country in changing the failures of the past eight years. Obama is up. And we are all waiting to see how he will lead in bringing about this change. But before we run-off into the future, let’s take a brief look at ourselves, starting with our fear of the world “socialism.”

Many of Obama’s detractors accused him of being socialist. This caused quite a stir, and it bears noting that our very conception of who we are lies at the heart of the brouhaha over socialism. [BTW, as Rekonstruct stated in his post on socialism, Obama is not a socialist.] Take George Will’s appearance on the Colbert Report in June, 2008. When Colbert asked him what the difference was between conservatives and liberals he replied, “Conservatives say, ‘We will protect you from idealism; we will protect you from the liberal faith that you can make something straight from the crooked timber of humanity.'”

So according to Will, liberalism, and by extension socialism, is too idealistic. It thinks too highly of humanity. Socialism requires a certain amount of trust in the system (and the people running the system) that it will actually achieve equality of outcome. Will also points out that liberalism requires that we give up more of our freedom. Under a more socialist government, those Wasilla Hillbillies might not be able to shop at Neiman Marcus. They might have to give that money to big brother, and trust that he ensures that even Joe the Plumber has cloth enough to cover his crack.

So what do we think of ourselves? Do we trust us enough to “spread the wealth?” When we consider the issues of trust in humanity and personal freedom, we are confronted with the specter of the Neocons. For the past eight years, they have taken away quite a few of our freedoms (see patriot act), and they have not guaranteed equality of outcome (see Hurricane Katrina). For the past eight years, we have had the worst of both worlds: a government that thinks we are all crap and who, nevertheless, keeps increasing the size of the government, not to help us, but to help itself (cf Halliburton). That is, of course the point of this discussion, we want to change all of that.

So which side of the seesaw do we push on now? What is this “change” we keep yelling about? True conservatism? True socialism? Do we say that people are crooked? Straight? Mixed? Do we have bigger government? Smaller?

These are great questions and I think they need serious consideration. However, I do know one thing: we let the last eight years happen. We stood back and let the Neocons take away our freedoms, take us to war, and take up the weapon of torture. We let the crooked side of humanity win. So before we run off into the next eight years, yelling “,turn right!,” or, “take a left!,” we have to take a long look at the fact that we were complicit with and victimized by the Neo-conservatives. What does that really say about us? Can we really change?


  1. You titillate me sir. Those are great questions.

    Not sure I can take a direct stab at them, but I can wander around them a bit.

    On human nature: If you act in the world as an overt oppressive force, you have to be either sick (lack the human capacity for empathy), or have your view of human nature severely reprogrammed. Let’s start with the latter. In order to hold slaves, the masters have to believe, or convince themselves, that their slaves are beneath them. You can reprogram this with any number of facades: race, religion, nationality, the list goes on. It is also more subtle than that. It can take the form of “you are less deserving than me because I work harder.” George Will is buying in to the conservative lie that those who can better themselves will.

    Thank you for pointing out that we have been complicit with the neo-cons in this. That Americans came out and voted the way they did gave me faith that we can stand up.

    As for what kind of change is possible… I like Obama’s reasoning so far that a strong America starts with a strong infrastructure: not just military and energy independence, but schools and jobs. Should it surprise us that he suggests that America will be a stronger nation if its citizens are healthy and educated?

    Having repaired (actually in the repairing of) our infrastructure, I think that some of those questions will work themselves out. As I said in an earlier post, I don’t think we can make the world a better place. But we can change our posture toward the world. Who knows, that might start with a little idealism…

  2. I think we have to start with idealism (superstructure). Until we think through the ideological structures that bind us, we can not utter the “no” of freedom (Zizek) or even the “Yes, Yes” of justice (Derrida). We cannot reconstruct until we deconstruct.