Apolitical Myth-Making

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129 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    There is a lot to unpack here so I won’t try to do that in a single comment. I appreciate the thoughtful approach to the piece, even if I disagree with many of the conclusions, especially surrounding the lack of agency granted to individuals in the main thesis.

    I will also say that with regards to homelessness, a close family member of mine is a social worker and spent a couple of years working with homeless populations. Having talked to them about how best to help, I am convinced the best thing we can do is to take them off the streets, forcibly if necessary, and aggressively plug them into as many social services as we can. I’m very liberal on the idea of safety nets for people that truly need them and this is one example.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

      I saw a piece recently claiming that it would cost about $10,000/year to give a person a bed, meals and a social worker to check on them, and that this cost is about half what a homeless person on the street ends up costing because of various extra costs.

      The big hurdle here is that is very much something we haven’t been doing.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        There are a LOT of social services currently available to homeless people if they can be convinced to participate. The biggest challenge is mental illness for obvious reasons and addiction to a lesser extent but even then, there is a lot available in most cities.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “if they can be convinced to participate” and that’s a pretty big “IF”.

          Because in order to participate, they often can’t be felons (present or past) or have active arrest warrants. They can’t be drunk or high when they apply, and they can’t drink or get high in the shelter. They can’t have more stuff with them than fits in a footlocker, and there’s no secure storage (offsite or on) for anything bigger. Men and women are separated, so no relationships. No pets. No…let’s say “different concept of what humans should find threatening than most people follow”.

          And, sure, all of these policies have good reasons behind them and probably lead to a situation that’s easier to keep safe for everyone, but they’re also reasons why someone might not want to take advantage of all the lot that’s available in most cities.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I agree with you on all those points. That’s why I like the idea of converted hotels or apartment buildings as homeless shelters. It’s the first step towards allowing them to reconnect with societal norms i.e. private space, a sense of security, etc. Basically, give them a clean bed, a locking door and a private shower and it might ease the transition a little. These people have probably felt fear every day on the street. You can’t make that go away overnight.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              Congratulations, you invented housing projects.

              Which aren’t bad in themselves, but you need to do more than just put up a building and stick a bunch of homeless people inside. And that last is the tough part, and expensive.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:


                Unfortunately, they knocked down the last building in 2011 instead of using it to provide affordable housing to people who wanted to live in the neighborhood.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I would also put a LOT of controls in place. The living conditions are the stick to get them in, acknowledging they have unique fears that need to be addressed. After a brief period of time, they need to start utilizing the services offered or we would need to push them towards a less pleasant Option B. That would be the point where I start to resemble the mean ol’ conservative some people imagine me as.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I think you underestimate the size of the stick you’re waving and overestimate people’s willingness to be prodded by it.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I actually, I realize my metaphor was backwards. The stick is taking them off the street. The living arrangements are the carrot. Obviously there have to be controls. If someone goes through the program and drops out, maybe next time they get left on the street. We probably have to accept a certain level of homelessness as their choice.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Well yeah but the real quandary is that a hell of a lot of homelessness is by choice.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                Sure, if the best option a person has is sleeping rough, trying to round them up and force them to accept an objectively worse option is just going to lead to a lot of suffering and awfulness.

                Making sure there are available options more attractive than sleeping rough would probably do a lot more good at a lot less cost to the souls of the people implementing the “solution”.

                A (seriously awesome) local journalist here did a piece a while ago where she talked to people who were sleeping rough, and listened to their reasoning for why they were there rather than in a shelter.

                Her conclusion: if she and her husband lost their home, sleeping rough would be her choice too.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                North, per the OP, is it? Or is it the system?Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq says:

            I’m not sure if this is true for the West. Most Weatern cultures stopped doing formally arranged marriages as most people thing of them around the Early Modern era for non-nobility. It occurred was usually in the form of heavy suggestions. Even with nobility, Westerners preferred the illusion of free choice and a love march even if reality was different. Finally, Western cultures tended to have a much higher percentage of never married compared to non-Western cultures even in Protestant countries.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              I think you’re replying to my other comment.

              But there’s more than one way to arrange a marriage. The explicit “You Shall Marry This One”, of course, but there’s also introducing a shy guy to a desperate girl, or making sure that your church has a youth group, or organizing Sock Hops and Sadie Hawkins Dances (and ensuring good attendance at them). More than just “okay, well, there’s like a bar down the street I guess? Go have fun, you’re a grownup now.”Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                There are clubs organized among different interests. There is still an active partner dance community. I’ve been a member of the partner dance community for the past nine years. There are lots of debates within the community on whether it should be used as a way to hook up with other people. Many women in the community do not like it when men use partner dancing as a way to get romance but many couples also meet via dance.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                There is a difference between a situation where “John and Sally happened to meet” and “Gary the sex-pest who keeps hitting on women.” Once you note the distinction, how do you make a rule that will allow for John and Sally but prevent Gary? — because it is legitimate to exclude Gary.

                I don’t have an easy answer.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                Dance makes it effectively hard because it gives a lot of dishonest people an opportunity to cup a feel. There was a rather creepy and unpleasant man in the first dance studio that did that. Another issue with dance, particularly the sexy ones, is that there isn’t an effective way to communicate to one partner that you can do the sexy stuff and to another person, stick to the basics.

                There have been lots of long and hard debates in the partner dance community about sexual harassment. Since a lot of the partner dance community leans liberal, there is a want to get rid of sexual harassment and create a safe community. At the same time, they don’t want to get into a situation where there is a lot of social posturing and many newbies, particularly males, feel unwelcome because that kills the community. Very few people are going to pay lots of money and spend many hours learning how to dance, only to be put off by nearly everybody on the floor.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I would also suggest that sites like Match.com and eHarmony play matchmakers in the sense of trying to add more variables than ‘swipe-right if she is hot’.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        There is that quote that there are no poor people in America, just temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

        I think a lot of times we liberals fall into that as well, imagining that homeless people are all just the victims of sudden misfortune, like a layoff or illness. And for some people this is absolutely true, but for many others, it isn’t.

        This is really just another version of moralizing, of waving away the very real problems of mental illness and addiction, turning people with severe life problems into plucky victims.

        I’m one of those people who will buy food for street homeless, but never under any circumstances give liquid cash. For an addict or person with severe mental illness, liquid cash is not a blessing but an enabling curse.

        There is an element of paternalism in compassion itself. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” almost demands a judgement of what we believe would benefit the other.

        Part of the desire for eradication, a “solution” to addiction and mental illness is our own desire to make it go away, to wish it away to the cornfield where we never have to confront it.
        I think part of a compassionate society is one where we accept and embrace that we will forever be dealing with the addicted and mentally ill, that human suffering is as much a part of our experience as human flourishing.

        Which is tremendously difficult. We have to embrace the Sisyphean struggle of constantly giving of our resources and energy knowing that the struggle is eternal and can’t really ever be won.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      forcibly if necessary

      And there’s the problem.

      If we could move the homeless, forcibly if necessary, we could put them in something like flophouses and fix at least half of the problems related to homelessness.

      There are a number of places with homelessness problems that couldn’t handle flophouses. San Francisco, for example. A flophouse in San Francisco could command… what? $1200/month for a room?

      So where’s the closest place that we could set up a flophouse without creating a bidding war?

      And now we’re talking about relocating homeless people.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      It does often seem like a social worker for everyone is the best way to help people.

      Which, y’know…this seems like it ties back to the Loneliness Epidemic that we’re hearing about. Whatever you think about the Entrenched Religious Patriarchy and the Stifling Cisheteronormative Conformity, it *did* make sure that people had partners.

      We’ve spent a great deal of effort destroying any process that someone might follow to find a partner or a social group, and the only thing left to trade on is being attractive enough for people to want you around. If you aren’t attractive and can’t figure out how to fake it then nobody’s going to give enough of a shit about you to, e.g., tell you to take your pills, tell you to pay your bills, tell you not to drink before five PM.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I haven’t thought about this theory for more than a couple of minutes but it would be interesting to contrast Scandinavian socialism with well-developed cultural habits of maintaining happiness, necessitated by the their winters (hygge.) Basically, they have achieved a balance between contentment and the dehumanizing effects of socialism.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        It is true depending on your point of view. Sure women were second class citizens entirely dependent on the beneficence of their fathers, brothers and husbands. Yes, homosexuals were miserable eccentric uncles and spinster aunts or trapped in nightmarish lives of deception both of themselves and their unfortunate spouses. Assuredly minorities were despised outsiders lavished with exclusion, poverty and violence while the various religious sects murdered each other in droves. But, on the up side, any white man who could button his shirt was pretty much assured they would have a spouse assigned to them and no one had to contend much with isolation since privacy was mostly foreign. And it wasn’t that stultifying, after all white men could just nip around to the bar or their mistresses when the rules started grinding on em. Boys would be boys and all that.Report

    • John-Pierre Maeli John-Pierre Maeli says:

      By lack of agency, you mean?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Lack of agency of the individual within a society. Basically, the illiberal notion that the system is more powerful than the person and therefore the only way someone can succeed is either through changing the system or through dumb luck.Report

        • Avatar veronica d says:

          That sounds like a false dichotomy.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I don’t think it is. Most of the progressive commenters on this site believe the system is stronger than most individuals. Jesse states in this thread than success is based strictly on dumb luck and that agency is an illusion.Report

            • Avatar veronica d says:

              Have you ever been raped by a police officer?

              I know people who have. They “get on with their lives,” as best they can. But it’s not something you can just “get over.” Especially when you literally know that nothing would ever be done, even if you did come forward to seek justice.

              Is the system “more powerful” than the individual? Well, it depends. For who? Which aspects of the system?

              You can’t fight city hall, right?

              Well, maybe if you’re rich you can. Being white helps too, I suppose. Power exists. It has effects in the world.

              For minorities, often we “empower” ourselves by building subcultures, acting within those. However, subcultures are in many ways invisible to outsiders. They have a kind of localized power, but it’s not a power that is meaningful outside of our constraints.

              It’s hard to get a job when you’re transgender, so we have higher rates of unemployment. Many of us turn to sex work, and other parts of the invisible economy. We survive. We have a certain kind of power.

              Of course, cops are allowed to rape us, but whatever. Middle class white women have their world, which will almost never involves being raped by a cop. We have ours.

              Except of course, I shouldn’t say “us” above. This applies to some trans women, not others. It doesn’t really apply to me. Why?

              I’ll never be raped by a cop. I have little trouble finding a job. I’m white. I had a great home life. I’m a math whiz. So yay me.

              Was that “random”?

              I don’t know. I have a friend raised in a series of abusive foster homes, until she freaked out and was institutionalized, then (at adulthood) she became homeless, turned to sex work, struggled with mental illness, etcetera, etcetera.

              Except now she has a decent job camming and playing “sugar baby.” She’s actually doing pretty okay. She hasn’t been raped in a while.

              Which was more powerful, her or “the system”? Do you think that has a simple answer?

              It should be easier for trans people to find normal jobs. Cops shouldn’t be able to rape poor, minority trans women with impunity.

              (And yes, cops can rape poor, minority trans sex workers with impunity. Would you even imagine otherwise?)Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    “The personal might be political” but the end goal of nearly every political movement across the spectrum seems to be an apolitical world where all right thinking people are in agreement and everybody else is hounded out of existence. In a completely political world, there could be no peace because the different ideologies will battle each other nonstop. It is the apolitical thought, be it a myth or not, that allows for some semblance of a non-conflict based society.

    Liberal Currents had an article on the importance of politics as play a few months ago. Most people on the liberal-left side of politics including myself where at best bewildered if not hostile to the argument because politics for many people on the margins is deadly serious. The article isn’t exactly clear on what politics as play is. However, I think one important point that is true is treating everything as a matter of apocalyptical importance is not healthy for society. It leads to a world of Schmittian conflict. There needs to be a sense that losing a political battle, even a very important one, isn’t necessarily the end of the world for democracy to function peacefully. Otherwise you get politics as practiced by say the Republicans currently where they do everything possible to tilt elections in their favor and try to undermine Democratic leaders that win elections, see Wisconsin and North Carolina, because these battles can’t be lost.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      “In a completely political world, there could be no peace because the different ideologies will battle each other nonstop.”

      I was listening to an interview with Coleman Hughes yesterday and he was talking about how the problem is that we see so many problems as similar to disease and therefore erradication is so often the end goal. He made the analogy of smallpox vs a cold. He argued that while colds cause discomfort and should be treated when they occur, we have learned to live with them for a variety of reasons. Smallpox was so harmful (and because it adapts less) that eradication was the best option. And obviously many issues start out as smallpox and become colds.

      Anytime someone takes up a cause we should ask them if they are approaching it as a cold or smallpox. If the latter, it will give us an idea of just how open to debate they are going to be.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I agree with this. I think it is why there is such a strong reaction against Howard Schultz and the professional Anywhere class. They seem to assume that they are meant to rule and be the sole determiners of what is and what is not important policy-wise.

      They aren’t even really socially liberal but more like they are socially indifferent. They probably want social politics to go away because it is divisive and distracts from the really important stuff. Namely, enacting policies which promote corporate growth and stock prices above all else.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David says:

      Otherwise you get politics as practiced by say the Republicans currently where they do everything possible to tilt elections in their favor and try to undermine Democratic leaders that win elections

      Aww, Adam Schmit and The RESISTANCE!!! have a sad (I hear they got a sweet house gig in DC…)Report

    • John-Pierre Maeli John-Pierre Maeli says:

      Do you think various movements are battling each other now? Being aware of the political reality of our lifestyles isn’t opting for a non-stop social battle. The battle already happens, it’s just disguised as the intrusions of “others,” or social change.

      Holding to apolitical myths merely allows you to disassociate with your responsibility as a participant in the system.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        There are different ways to manage the political conflicts inherent in life though. One can simply see the conflict is inevitable and relish in them. If every lost for every political faction represents being on the wrong side at Armageddon you are not going to have a healthy society. On the other hand, we can at least attempt to create a society where losing a temporary political battle is not seen as an epic lost. It might be a bit illusory and it requires everybody being dissatisfied to a certain extent. It can work though.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The TLDR version of the above is that apoliticalism might be an illusion but it is a necessary illusion.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      I see it in the exact opposite way, which is to say that this is largely a question of perspective.

      Apolitical life is real life, the everyday life of going about your day, managing your personal relationships, minding your own business. And politics is a series of very powerful illusions that pulls people from the day to day of minding their own business to go start messing with other people’s lives.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        What you see as apolitical real life is political to others. Take eating for example, while you might see a choice of diet as a matter of personal choice; others do not. Whether you eat meat or not can become a Matter of politics because of issues concerning animal rights or the environment. Or even how you slaughter animals. Are kosher and halal matters of religious liberty or can the be regulated because there are more humane ways to kill animals.Report

        • John-Pierre Maeli John-Pierre Maeli says:


        • Avatar Dave says:

          Whether you eat meat or not can become a Matter of politics because of issues concerning animal rights or the environment.

          There are people that would look at the way I lost weight, kept it off and continue to lift weights as political in that I’m perpetuating the kind of diet culture that oppresses fat people. That makes my individual decision political, at least according to them.

          They can think what they want. I’m under no obligation to agree to see the world as they do or even engage.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Lee is right here. It doesn’t even have to be his examples. Apparently Chris Pratt went back to his old Parks and Recreation bod and wants his Guardians of the Galaxy bod back. So he is going on the “Daniel Diet” which he learned from his evangelical pastor. I think this is silly as a concept but largely harmless. But his pastor and church are very anti-LBGT and I can’t blame Ellen Page for pointing this out.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      …And the piercing of that veil is accomplished with the realization that the “apolitical” is actually the dominance of one paradigm over the other. The NFL analogy is good here: a player kneeling during the national anthem is “political,” meaning “counter to the dominant powers,” whereas an F-35 flyover is “apolitical,” because we’re all supposed to love the military.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I recently stumbled upon a New Yorker article which made a comparison I had not seen, but it was a lightbulb moment for me. Redacting a couple words to make it work a better with this OP.:

        “Sociologists who study …America have a name for these camps: those who emphasize the role of institutiional [forces] and economic circumstances are known as structuralists, while those who emphasize the importance of self-perpetuating norms and behaviors are known as culturalists.”

        I think these might be more accurate terms than political and apolitical. I land in the culturalist camp on nearly every issue based mostly on my academic experience. I think it’s unfortunate how much the Far Left has diverged towards structuralism because I don’t think it will accomplish what they want it to.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Structuralism allows the cop-out of not having to accuse individuals of being bad persons; it isn’t *you* being racist, this isn’t your *choice*, it’s just this…societal force and economic circumstance that’s leading to a totally understandable action by you. You’re still wrong, of course, and you still have to make some reparation (sometimes a preemptive reparation, paying for the benefits that you’ll surely receive in some hypothetical future situation) but you can’t go around saying that I’m accusing you personally of anything, you can’t say that I’m attacking you. Attacking is bad and wrong and needs a lot of moral justification! But if I’m just railing against the evil forces in society and you happen to be swept up by them like flotsam in a flood, well, that’s not really about you at allReport

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Structuralism allows the cop-out of not having to accuse individuals of being bad persons;

            Not true, at least from liberal’s perspective. It places blame squarely on the people who benefit from and/or perpetuate those structures. The conclusion of a structural critique of say racism isn’t that individuals need to change their behavior directly, but rather that they should support structural change. (Eg, the very thing Mike D consistently criticizes Sam for advocating.)Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              The conclusion of a structural critique of say racism isn’t that individuals need to change their behavior directly, but rather that they should support structural change.

              Can’t see much difference from “not accusing an individual of being a bad person”.Report

              • John-Pierre Maeli John-Pierre Maeli says:

                From what I know, structuralism brings into the conversation how institutions and policies/systems affect our daily lives. For instance, our actions do not exist in a vacuum. Power relationships, social systems, etc play into how our life is structured compared to others.

                It doesn’t take away responsibility from the individual. If anything it elaborates on how an individual could come to believe/act a certain way.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “It doesn’t take away responsibility from the individual. If anything it elaborates on how an individual could come to believe/act a certain way.”

                Yes and No. What I would say is that we need to see structure within culture in order for your statement to be true. I totally agree that there is structure within culture (and I would also argue it is the most powerful force in our society) but in my opinion it is largely discounted by the Far Left as either a false construct or irrelevant to more formalized institutional structures.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                It’s not an attempt to avoid accusations of individual bad action, it’s an attempt to change the accusation from “you’re choosing bad actions because you’re a bad person” to “you’re choosing bad actions because of the structure of society“.

                In any critical judgement, the speaker is setting theirself as a moral authority; if the judgement is personal, that claim is subjective and questionable in ways that it’s not if the judgement is impersonal and objective.

                “You’re a bad person” is personal; who are you to call me bad? What’s so great about you? Here’s a bunch of bad things you’ve done, and besides, attacking another person is bad itself! Clearly your judgement is wrong!

                But “society is badly structured” can’t be attacked that way, because I’m not saying a bad thing about *you*. I mean, you’re great! You’re wonderful, you’re a good person, you do all the right things except this one time, and it’s really society that made you do it. So you can’t go claiming that I’m a bad person for attacking and therefore I shouldn’t be listened to, because I’m not attacking you, right?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              “Oh, yeah, baby. I totally support structural change. That’s why I supported Trump instead of Clinton. Wait, where are you going?”Report

            • Avatar InMD says:

              I think you’re basically right. The criticism I have of this is how it tends to be applied in much of our discourse. Structualism deprives favored people of all agency or responsibility for their lives and decisions. It also allows the weight of structural inequities to be laid as viciously as possible on the heads of people with no or de minimis power over those structures.

              Any insight on how to address structual issues (which are real) through public policy ends up lost in a totally unprincipled tribalism.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                That’s all fair, but the structures exist.

                This goes against the complaints that something is “politicized,” when that simply means “uncomfortable to white cis dudes” (or whoever the privileged dipshit in question might be).

                That said, yes I want to “empower” people, by which I mean something more than giving people the right to complain loudly and carry signs (although I do usually support the complaints). I do want people to be strong in themselves, whatever system they find themselves in.

                Yeah, sure. Obviously.

                Of course, I can take that to the absurd limit and give the example of happy, effective slaves. But never mind. The point is, as someone on the left, I very much want women, minorities, and LGBT folks to “find their strength” within the system.

                But the systems sucks for us, in a lot of ways, and when mediocre edgelords complain that we’re “politicizing” their nerd hobbies — well they’re very wrong, not to mention tedious.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                To me it’s a question of consistency between means and ends. Citizenship of the US comes with a lot of benefits and protections. Entire classes of people for a variety of historical and superstitious reasons have been disproportionately and at times wholesale denied full enjoyment of those things. Getting those people, as individuals, a seat at the table is a legitimate and pressing goal, and it’s required if we want to live up to our aspirations.

                What can’t be allowed to happen IMO is destruction of the entire table by Balkanization. Does that mean that marginalized people need to turn the other cheek at naked bigotry or accept lesser status? I would say no, and there are times where some militancy is the only way to be effective. My perception of modern democracies is that those times are very few and far between. Most of the time the only way to change a structure is through boring, piecemeal, and emotionally unsatisfying processes.

                Building a chair or removing an obstacle to one (or maybe even adding an extension to the table to make room) is a different skillset than destroying a chair or preventing someone else from getting a seat. Failure to consistently keep that in mind is why I think the way structuralism is handled in our discourse can be so clumsy, and lack perspective in critical ways.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                Sure, but cops still rape us. They won’t stop. They enjoy it. I suppose it makes them feel powerful or something.

                We can ask them nicely to stop.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                The city of Sunnyvale, California seems to be have found a solution to the asshole cop problem. They basically merged the police, fire, and emt departments into one. Instead of police officers, firemen, and paramedics, they have Public Safety Officers. People switch between policing, fire fighting, and emt work every few days. The theory is that the people who join the police force to exercise power are not going to like working as firemen or emt people. It seems to work as a solution.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                What is the rent there? How many poor, minority trans sex workers live in Sunnyvale? Do you know any of them? Do cops still rape them?

                Look, I’m sure Sunnyvale is lovely. But like, you get that I chose the “cops raping poor trans women” example simply because it is extreme and blunt (but very real). But that’s just one small thing. There are so many other things that come with being a hated minority. Some are large. Some are small. They add up.

                Consider this (and I’ve talked about this before): people here mostly understand compound interest, as a simple, measurable financial idea, but they seem blind to “compound social detriment,” little things that over the years will shape a life in profound ways. I try to explain, but what I’m really trying to explain is the dialectic between “hypervisiblity” (in the role of subject/victim) and “invisibility” (in the role of agent). It’s a real thing. It’s systematic.

                But more, if you don’t want to see it, you don’t have to. You can just pretend our lives are (in all the important ways) just like yours. Our failures then bookend your supposed success. It’s a nice symmetry.

                It’s bullshit. This is the work of invisibility.

                It’s so easy for Happy Joe the White Dude to say, “Gosh, why doesn’t she empower herself like me! It’s easy.”

                He has no clue.

                I have an ex-g/f. When she was about five she started showing cross-gender expression, so her daddy decided to show her what a woman was for. She lived with that for years. Later, as a teen, she got “hard,” got into fights, gangs, crime, and ended up in prison.

                What kind of power did that five year old have over her daddy? What kind of power did she have as a teen? What’s it like to be a closeted trans woman in prison on a weapons charge?

                I’m pretty sure she has Borderline Personality Disorder, although she’s never been diagnosed. I see all the signs. It’s the kinda thing that happens to childhood trauma survivors.

                She doesn’t have much access to mental health care.

                What does power look like? Is the answer, “Somehow magically be exactly like a wealthy-white-male-cis person who is taken seriously and knows how to negotiate the language of social power”?

                Yeah, fine. Myself — I can kinda-sorta almost do that. I have money. Moreover, I know how to talk like a powerful person. My friends — fuck no. Good grief. You may as well ask them to fly by flapping their arms. These ideas are literally blinkered.

                There is a kind of power my friends can achieve, in their personal lives. However, it’s subcultural. It’s invisible. It’s scoped.

                My ex-g/f didn’t need to end up in prison. She could have made better choices, but dammit, getting repeatedly raped as a kid can kinda mess you up.

                She isn’t doing well these days. Borderlines have a hard time. If they’re smart and rich, then sure, they can find a DBT program and kinda make their life work. It’s different for her.

                Was that random?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                No, just heart wrenching.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                Veronica, as a Jew I can tell you that there is no great understanding. The people who were at your throat trying to slaughter your entire people one day, will act as if nothing happened the next day. The solution to the rape of transpeople will be that society will get used to transpeople slowly and those that persecute them will be seen as criminals. It will be slow, boring, and not very cathartic.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                If the issue is holding police accountable for crimes against citizens you have potential allies and people to make common cause with. If sharing your exact priorities and life experience is a pre-requisite for discussion of any kind well… maybe discourse just isn’t possible then.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Well sure there’re common obvious solutions but vaster society cannot be turned into the same welcoming environment that any given subculture will form. Which is what’s heart wrenching about it because how do you look at people who are hurting and tell them there isn’t a public policy that’ll make people en masse not be giant douches?Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                I don’t judge anyone for doing what they need to for catharsis or saying things within a community that don’t make sense to outsiders. Hell I try to make a good faith effort to figure out where people are coming from when they say things in public that don’t make sense to me.

                But then there’s politics and policy crafting and coalition building and persuading. I don’t expect people to check themselves at the door but there is a difference.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Agreed but it’s difficult to express that to someone and especially not to someone who suffers in a way that one doesn’t suffer oneself.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                Of course we have allies, but they aren’t there when the cop kicks down the door. They have other concerns.

                On the “pre-requisite” thing, no, they don’t have to know every aspect of our lives to oppose police violence. That isn’t the point. The point is, they will tolerate bigotry against us, because standing up for us comes at a cost.


                But please don’t get caught up in the police abuse thing. It’s a real problem, but it’s not the only problem. My bigger point is the cost of “compound detriments,” and those are the results of hegomomic bigotry.

                Not just the “hate group” kinds of bigotry, all of it.

                Consider this: white-cis-male millennials are, evidently, struggling in the job market, and in turn getting crushed by student debt.

                Should poor trans women go to college?

                Well yeah, I guess. Education is important.

                Except they get the same student debt, and (for them) the same job market, except (for them) the job market is worse — cuz bigotry is very real.

                Pay the same, get less. Again and again and again and again, each bit multiplying with the bit before.

                Honestly, sex work is maybe a better path — but dammit consider what those words mean in concrete terms.


                You can get some understanding of their world. A little bit. You’ll never be part of their world. You’ll never understand “in your bones” (neither will I), but you can learn something.

                Maybe. It depends on your own capacity to empathize, and be humble, and listen, and so on.

                Watch Pose. Watch Tangerine.


                Allow me to swerve a bit. Lou Keep suggests two concepts of democracy:

                First definition: “democracy” is what allows different people to take a piece of the pie, i.e. the already-existing power structure decides to share its spoils.

                Second definition: “democracy” is only possible, is merely the expression of, equally powerful people.


                The first notion is what the Democrats keep pushing for. It’s important, inasmuch as our social power structures exist, and people gotta eat.

                What does the second look like?

                The example I like is the medieval Icelandic Althing.

                Of course, the Althing wasn’t really democracy. It was a gathering of chieftains, not “the people.”

                But whatever. The point is, it was small. Can we do something like that in a multiethnic, multicultural nation of 300 million?

                Good grief no. Actually, the whole idea seems absurd. What would even look like? Shall we gather all the poor meth-heads and invite them to Bilderburg?


                The first kind of democracy is important cuz we gotta eat, have a place to sleep, get healthcare, etc.

                We can’t go out into the woods and eat berries.

                No really we can’t. Someone owns the woods.

                (Although I have a friend who owns a big chunk of property in Oregon. She trying to start a trans gal collective farm. They grow marijuana.)

                The second kind of democracy is really important to our psychological health. It is “power among equals.”

                What does that look like for poor trans women?

                She actually cannot join the table with powerful white men. She really can’t. It’s forbidden. Do you understand?

                So, subculture.


                I hope that some of you will watch Pose. Honestly, it’s not a great show. The writing is uneven. But it is an important glimpse into a world you’ll otherwise not see.

                If you watch it, ask yourself, is Pray Tell an important man?

                Yes, obviously, very important, but to whom? Bankers? Cops? Judges?

                They cannot see that he is important. Even if someone explains this too them, they’ll never know it in their bones.

                He can’t help them get promotions or elected. He has no “pull.”

                He might provide a convenient token they can add to their mental ledger of “good deeds.”

                (Which please do so. People need help. But don’t front.)


                In the meanwhile, food and housing and healthcare. Quit it with liberal utopian bullshit — or it’s bastard cousin, modern libertarian-conservative “we can all be equal through the magic of the invisible hand.” It won’t work. We can’t get there from here.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Well I’m on board with that 100%, I am a liberal after all. Those things are measurable and can be addressed by public policy.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              The problem I think all conservatives (and most moderates) have with the structural argument is that it denies agency. It also completely subverts the notion of culture which as social scientist, I simply can’t accept.

              And to be clear, I’m not just talking about the agency of minorities. I’m also talking about the agency of whites. The idea of structural racism is that a good person can be plugged into it and there will still be racist outcomes. Again, that denies agency.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                The idea of structural racism is that a good person can be plugged into it and there will still be racist outcomes. Again, that denies agency.

                When I did criminal defense at the beginning of my career I’d see this exact thing with some regularity. And I too ascribe to the idea that agency and culture matter.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I think certainly there is the kind of dynamic that allows German boys to become concentration camp guards or an Army unit to slaughter a village in Vietnam. So I’m not 100% opposed to an idea that a good person joins a bad police force and becomes a bad cop, I just tend to discount a narrative that implies that is the biggest problem facing the black community. Or that (back to the OP) we don’t already have a fairly robust system of safety nets in place and yet agency keeps homeless people from accessing them.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                I think that’s way too micro of a level. I don’t think structural racism in the justice system turns cops who weren’t already that way into dyed in the wool racists. What I saw was more overcriminalization at the legislative level in response to some legit and some not so legit worries about violent crime. We could talk endlessly about what causes that but it happens.

                LEO agencies respond with saturation in areas where crime rates are highest which in practice tends to be the poorest communities which also in practice tend to be disproportionately racial minority. Again we could talk endlessly about all of the reasons that is.

                You also have PR and revenue incentives to engage in a very particular type of policing. The end result (at least in Maryland) is that race neutral laws, and IMO harsh but race neutral policies result in disproportionate numbers of black people getting the ride, getting the SWAT treatment, getting roughed up during a frisk, getting fined for idiotic things, etc. and all the ripple effects.

                Disproportionate numbers of these people then end up in an overburdened judicial system with its own precedents and statutes which themselves tend to favor harshness, or at least expediency over more rational goals and lack accountability for state actors.

                My opinion is that the term ‘disproportionate impact’ is the better way to understand whats going on given how loaded ‘structural racism’ has become. There are people other than racial minorities who are harmed by it and it doesn’t lend itself to resolution through wokeness. It also doesn’t mean that sometimes people don’t do terrible things of their own volition and severe (but lawful) consequences aren’t justified.

                Maybe what I’m talking about isn’t what you would consider structural racism but there is a structure there, it does incentivize individual actors to behave in certain ways, and there’s a tendency to behave in those ways in which they are incentivized.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        This is a big problem though especially as the demographics of the United States (or any other nation changes). I still think a lot of Trumpism is a freak-out over changing demographics and the fact that the United States is getting younger and more diverse. Bill Clinton was possibly the last Democratic President to be elected by winning the whites without a college degree vote. Recent elections show it is possible for Democrats to win the popular vote (and by huge margins) without courting whites with a college degree. Or possibly not courting whites at all specifically based on their skin-tone.

        This is leading to a freak out among the olds.

        And it leads to me having a push-back reaction. I’m honestly neutral on AOC. I like some of her policies and think others might need a little more hashing out. Or a lot more hashing out. But I am mystified about how her very name seems to get middle-aged men to have their underwear twist in a bunch. The extreme adverse reaction she seems to cause makes me want to support her more.

        I also get into debates about whether it is a bad thing that AOC is now using the word “socialist” to describe her policies with a former OTer. This OTer associates socialism with the worst of Mao, Stalin, and the Khemer Rogue. To me, it is obvious that AOC’s “socialism” is the kind that you see in Northern European countries and still has a private-ownership based society. I also think there is a cry wolf thing because people in her generation got a raw deal from the Great Recession and the erroding of the welfare state from Reagan to Bush II. Plus they have to listen to the freedumb caucus howl like werewolves and describe even the smallest welfare state measures as evil Communism. In my mind, I can see why they would say “Fine I’m a socialist” if they hear about how the ACA is the worst thing since the Batan Death March.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          AOC is a thing because of three factors:
          -She’s charismatic, young and quite left wing so of course the very left wing section of the political spectrum loves her and wants to see plenty of her.
          -She’s the perfect example of what the right tries to portray the entire left as being like so right wing organs and their media apparatus hold her up and harp on about her.
          -She’s interesting, charismatic and a bit rough around the edges and by pretending the left is entirely like her they can continue their BSDI and class of equal ideology bullshit so the mainstream media gives her extra bandwidth as well.

          I don’t have anything against AOC, admire her principles and passions and wish her well but I don’t think she has any clue on policy and I don’t want her anywhere near the steering wheel (and happily she isn’t).Report

          • Avatar Jesse says:

            Weird how AOC “has no idea on policy,” but is actually better on the policy than basically every Democratic Presidential candidate. The Green New Deal isn’t perfect, but it’s still far better than what neoliberals have been pushing for the past 20 years.

            But I get it – she isn’t pushing enough tax credits or savings accounts to create a road to prosperity.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              The Green New Deal is utterly deranged policy wise. It packs every unrelated idea the further left could brainstorm into one unwieldy package, slaps the environmental cause label on it and then calls it a day.
              As an aspirational shiny for people to rally about I suppose it serves a decent enough purpose though it probably will also serve an equal purpose as something for opponents to rally against.
              It’s a fine thing for AoC to use her bully pulpit to advocate for while she has it; but let’s not insult the left at large by trying to claim it has much merit policy wise. We’re not republicans here nor are we trying to become them.Report

            • Avatar George Turner says:

              Her plan doesn’t need to pass Congress for you to reap its rewards. Just bulldoze your house, give away your car, and put yourself on the no-fly list and you’ll be experiencing a major part of the green utopia.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          I also get into debates about whether it is a bad thing that AOC is now using the word “socialist” to describe her policies with a former OTer. This OTer associates socialism with the worst of Mao, Stalin, and the Khemer Rogue. To me, it is obvious that AOC’s “socialism” is the kind that you see in Northern European countries and still has a private-ownership based society.

          I suggest you go read AOC’s Democratic Socialists’ manifesto, it’s on line. DS is very much against a “private-ownership based society” so they match up nicely with the world of Mao/Stalin and NOT Northern Europe.

          Northern Europe believes in lots of economic freedom, private ownership, and high taxes with a very strong social safety net. AOC’s crew believes “the people” (meaning “the state”) should own capital and the means to create wealth, i.e. very little economic freedom. To be fair this is on the DS website and not AOC’s. I don’t see anything in AOC’s stated policies or ideas suggests “lots of economic freedom” has any place in her world.

          AOC is pretty, charismatic, smart, quick witted, and a good politician. That includes showing off policies which are supposed to help lots of people and be popular. However the underlying theory she’s working from is Marx’s ideas and she clearly thinks Utopia is their natural result.

          If she were older and had been on the national stage 10+ years ago she would have been proclaiming Venezuela the way of the future. If we asked her about it now I’m sure she’d say it wasn’t true Socialism (and/or that the US has undermined Venezuela’s government, see also Omar). However it’s probably fairer to say it’s Northern Europe’s policies which aren’t true Socialism and AOC is the real deal.

          Hugo Chávez was popular and re-elected in Venezuela. Socialism, real Socialism, tends to be popular and intuitively right no matter how many examples we have of it burning down economies and/or creating horrific crimes.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I think it’s easy to say that AOC isn’t a real socialist because she hasn’t failed yet.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

            From the DSA website:

            Democratic socialists have long rejected the belief that the whole economy should be centrally planned. While we believe that democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy, market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.

            Alas, nary a single mention of a gulag or FEMA camp.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter says:

              You skipped a bit:

              Resources are [Today] used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.

              Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries might be best run as cooperatives.

              Translation: Not only did you not build that, but you also don’t own it.

              Alas, nary a single mention of a gulag or FEMA camp.

              You get gulags when people refuse to obey, say when they insist on being paid or on making a profit.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                And while I’m at it, also from their FAQ:

                Hasn’t socialism been discredited by the collapse of Communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe?
                Socialists have been among the harshest critics of authoritarian Communist states. Just because their bureaucratic elites called them “socialist” did not make it so;

                Translation: “Real” socialism has never been tried.

                Private corporations seem to be a permanent fixture in the US, so why work towards socialism?

                Won’t socialism be impractical because people will lose their incentive to work?
                We don’t agree with the capitalist assumption that starvation or greed are the only reasons people work. People enjoy their work if it is meaningful and enhances their lives. They work out of a sense of responsibility to their community and society. Although a long-term goal of socialism is to eliminate all but the most enjoyable kinds of labor, we recognize that unappealing jobs will long remain. These tasks would be spread among as many people as possible rather than distributed on the basis of class, race, ethnicity, or gender, as they are under capitalism. And this undesirable work should be among the best, not the least, rewarded work within the economy.

                When Mao tried this it translated into doctors being sent to work on farms.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Regarding your first point, you have heard of George Orwell haven’t you. Yeah he was a while ago but he did nail the critique of communist authoritarian gov pretty darn well. So well conservatives have been name checking him for years.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                I liked Animal Farm but I was young enough that I didn’t fully get it.

                Children should be learning a LOT more about just how ugly socialism’s history is in school. The Socialists have murdered FAR more people than the Nazis and in more places.

                While the Nazis have such a bad rap that only the rare loser has any wish to join today, Socialists continue to win elections and attract people as competent as Omar and AOC.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                You should argue with the DSA folks who exist, not the ones you wish existed.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                You should argue with the DSA folks who exist, not the ones you wish existed.

                If they want to disavow their own charter then they should just disavow their charter.

                What I read and posted looks a lot like happy spin on the usual “burn the economy down” socialism… which the elected ones are happily claiming. I originally found that FAQ by following AOC’s wiki.

                Don’t worry though, no doubt this time it will be different and they’ll spend other people’s money into Utopia.Report

            • Avatar j r says:

              So what? Lenin promised free access to printing presses for all points of view as soon as a brief period of dictatorship ended. Republicans promised to be fiscally conservative.

              More seriously, the problem with the DSA isn’t that they’re secretly planning totalitarianism. It’s that most of their interventions won’t work or will create new distortions. And those new distortions will need more interventions to fix the problems caused by the first interventions. And so on and so forth until you end up with a Rube Goldberg like contraption of poorly planned social programs that make us all poorer.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                The dismal predictive power of socialists is matched only by the even more dismal predictive powers of their opponents.

                Time and again, the spectre of gulags and tyranny has been invoked, and time and again it fails to appear.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                See, for example, Venezuela.

                (puts hand up to earpiece)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I hate to keep beating this drum, but even in heavily socialized countries, it seems like culture always defies policy.Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                Time and again, the spectre of gulags and tyranny has been invoked, and time and again it fails to appear.

                OK… Let’s try this again:

                More seriously, the problem with the DSA isn’t that they’re secretly planning totalitarianism. It’s that most of their interventions won’t work or will create new distortions. And those new distortions will need more interventions to fix the problems caused by the first interventions. And so on and so forth until you end up with a Rube Goldberg like contraption of poorly planned social programs that make us all poorer.


              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                You are assuming some sort of inevitability, where something like a national health service begins a irreversible chain of causality leading to horrors.
                This is exactly the argument that was used against Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare.

                Are you open to the idea that actual horrific outcomes like Stalin, Mao, and currently Venezuela are not the inevitable outcome of some economic program, but the outcome of a failed political structure?Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                You are assuming some sort of inevitability, where something like a national health service begins a irreversible chain of causality leading to horrors.

                That’s exactly not what I said… twice.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Maybe if you used real life examples, it would clarify things.

                Like, what socialized programs have had the same trajectory that you describe, and left us poorer?Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                what socialized programs have had the same trajectory that you describe, and left us poorer?

                It’s hard to remember just how popular Venezuela’s various programs were when they first rolled out and good-for-the-country people claimed socialism was. Socialized programs’ popularity can last a very long time. Even when there are obvious problems, reform can be so politically painful that it doesn’t happen. Venezuela, right this minute, isn’t in enough pain to make reforms.

                If we’re going to talk about our programs, Social Security was created in 1935. In 1955 Social Security had 9 workers per beneficiary, ergo funding it was trivial, ergo 20 years after it was rolled out was too soon to evaluate it. In 1975 that ratio was 3:1 and that’s still too early. In 2035(ish) that ratio will be two, the trust fund will be gone, and the program will finally be old enough that it’s costs will be apparent and we’ll finally be able to get a good idea on whether it will remain popular and workable for it’s full cycle.

                Medicare/Medicaid were created in 1965. They already create serious problems for the budget, the math said the budget breaks long before 2065 if their growth isn’t brought into line.

                We have a 22 Trillion dollar debt. Entitlement spending is the bulk of that, it’s the bulk of federal spending, and it’s the bulk of future spending increases. We’re not in enough pain to fix things. This is the biggest economic problem facing the country and our experiments with socialized programs are at the heart of it. “Leaving us poorer” is absolutely a possibility.

                Whether we end up poorer will be determined by when/how/if we fix things. It may be that fixing our socialist entitlements is so politically hard that the economy needs to burn down before we do so. What that means is over the edge of the universe, we really have no idea just how bad it will/can get. The best case outcome is “after a nasty political fight, needed reforms are passed”. Worse case and we’re into things like hyperinflation followed by the country falling apart.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                While I think you are arguing that every country is socialist to a point (and I would agree with that)…I think it’s clear that AOC wants to go pretty far with it. The GND is straight out of central planning.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                There are probably some very good arguments against any or all of the ideas in the GND.

                “ERMAGERD, StalinMaoChavez!!1!” isn’t one of them.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Exactly what was the failure of the political structures under Stalin, Mao, or Chavez? It seems to me their political structures hummed along like a well-oiled machine, quickly and forcefully implementing socialist policies in the face of emerging challenges and external and internal threats that could create instabilities.

                The Khmer Rouge were highly successful in ripping out the bourgeois urban culture and returning people to the land, where about a quarter remain buried to this day, and were only driven into the hills by the Vietnamese communists due to a war over border issues. Their return to year zero produced a GDP that was also about zero, coming to $140 million US dollars (with an ‘m’).

                In Vietnam, after economic stagnation, abject poverty, and decline under socialist policies, they changed course and now, according to polls, have a more positive view of capitalism than Americans – because they grew up under socialism. Like the Chinese communists, they’ve realized that the part of Communism that doesn’t work is the socialism part. The one-party totalitarian police-state part works just fine, so they kept it. Vietnam’s per capita GDP went from $94 per person in 1990 to $2342 today.

                Cambodia also shucked socialism, dumping the command economy in the early 90’s in favor of an open market economy, recognizing private property rights and privatizing industry. Their per-capita GDP (PPP) rose from nearly nothing to $4,300, with their current GDP at $24 billion, which is 170 times bigger than their GDP under the Khmer Rouge.

                Yet they’re still operating under an authoritarian single-party kleptocrat monarchy that relies on torture and execution of political opponents, and forced land appropriations to benefit government cronies (displacing about three-quarter million people), in a government known for some of the world’s worst corruption. And yet their wildly corrupt market economy is still vastly superior to what they had under socialism, and indeed has been leading the world in achieving income equality and eliminating poverty, with low taxes, open markets, the world’s worst environment for labor unions, a very open banking system, and of course casinos.

                The problem with socialism and Marxism is that they’re trying to solve the wrong problem. They assumed wealth disparities are caused by capitalism, but actually wealth disparities are caused by human creativity. Socialism can only solve the wealth disparity problem by subjecting entire populations to grinding poverty where nobody has anything. As soon as a population rises above that, even a little, a few reap most of the benefits – especially under socialism, where party leaders and corrupt officials keep all the money.

                The real problem is that human creativity results in a Pareto distribution. It shows up everywhere, not just in access to capital. If you look at page views on a blog, or music downloads, or fashion trends, or ancient jewelry, or IMDb lists, it stares you in the face. Some people are very good at making things that are in demand, and the more early success they have the more that success grows, building on familiarity, networking, marketing, experience, and specialization.

                The beauty of free-market capitalism is that you don’t have to fill an assigned role. You can find a niche where you can take advantage of the Pareto distribution. So you’re not great at football. Try performance art. Try landscaping. Try matchmaking. Try creating a market that doesn’t exist yet. Or find something you enjoy and just do it. Quit worrying that someone else is more successful because there is always going to be someone more successful, and wildly successful, under any system mankind can create – because math.

                There’s not going to be a world where a relative handful of people aren’t responsible for most of the creative content in a particular field, such as music and movies, and it’s not because of capitalism, it’s because creativity, especially toward the long tail of the curve, is very unevenly distributed.

                Socialism makes the problem worse because it eliminates much of that creative freedom by eliminating things that aren’t seen as “socially good” or nationally important, such as feminine hygiene products in the Soviet Bloc. Outcomes (distributions) are decided by committees of ideologues and the number of available niches one can occupy dramatically shrinks because each niche requires permissions and approvals, while a biased official gets to decide what constitutes success and what rewards it should confer. One common result is government approved art that exhorts people to work harder and glorifies the national leaders, and jail for artists who don’t go along with that.

                And of course the brightest minds won’t filter to the top because the brightest minds realize the system is crazy, unworkable, and inefficient. What rises to the top are power-hungry ideologues who view any real success coming from outside their rigid commands as a threat, if not a rebellion, that threatens their position and possibly the entire system that they’ve devoted their lives to supporting, clawing their way into a position of absolute authority over others.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal says:

                The only reason we are even having these discussions, is the timelines of failure for socialism are lengthy, sometimes in the 80-100 year cycle.

                If the failure cycles for socialism were 5 years we wouldn’t be having these conversations, because we would have seen 20-30 failure cycles, and would have learned to avoid them.

                With seeing only a couple failure cycles and being able to point at other countries in the mid point of the cycle and say “hey see, they are doing it!”, the learning curve will probably be 500-1000 years more before people learn.

                In that 500-1000 years we will likely see billions of people perish from cognitive dissonance.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                Are you open to the idea that actual horrific outcomes like Stalin, Mao, and currently Venezuela are not the inevitable outcome of some economic program, but the outcome of a failed political structure?

                Chip, this is a list of socialist states, past and present: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_socialist_states

                Notice that Northern European aren’t in there. As far as I can tell all of them failed to provide for their people via socialism and all of them found that the more socialism they tried the more empty shelves they got.

                How many times do we have to have pictures of empty store shelves in socialist countries before we’re allowed to decide they have something to do with socialism? How many times do we need to see the store shelves fill a year after socialism is dropped?

                I’m fine with calling Venezuela an example of a “failed political structure”, however the way they’ve failed is they’ve tried socialism, it’s failed, when they ran out of other people’s money they turned to nationalizing various industries, that also failed and the money again ran out.

                They will kept repeating the cycle until…
                1) They have vast numbers of corpses
                2) They lose power, or
                3) They turn to the markets.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                Time and again, the spectre of gulags and tyranny has been invoked, and time and again it fails to appear.

                Not setting up gulags after you run out of other people’s money seems like a very low bar for success.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      When I was a kid, we had Christian Cartoons, Christian Rock Music, Christian Movies, so on and so forth.

      Sometimes I just wanted to enjoy an entertainment that wasn’t overtly Christian. Just a plain old vanilla entertainment.

      I was informed that Christianity was very, very important and that I shouldn’t want this sort of thing. I had to get rid of my AC/DC and Twisted Sister cassettes.

      The fact that I wanted non-Christian entertainments was troublesome to my Christian overseers.Report

  4. Avatar j r says:

    Very thoughtful easy and I appreciate it very much. My comment is going to be limited by the fact that I only have internet access on my phone.

    I think that your overall message is right. We absolutely live within a perspective of larger social forces and the regulation of those forces is, by their nature, political. However, my biggest disagreement lies in casting this as an either/or situation. To me, it is quite obviously a both. That is, for people in certain situations, political change is a necessary condition for self-actualization but it is not often a sufficient one.

    If I think about my own life, there were things that could only make sense to me after understanding the historical and sociological background to the present state of things. But at that point, I realized that I had a choice. I could wait for political and social salvation or I could take the responsibility on myself to make change happen for me. I did the latter and, so far, it has worked.

    At the end of the day, the personal is the only area over which we have anything approaching a meaningful level of efficacy. The extent to which you eschew that all together, is the extent to which you resign yourself to be like so much flotsam and jetsam being carried along by currents of larger social forces that lie outside of your control.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      “At the end of the day, the personal is the only area over which we have anything approaching a meaningful level of efficacy. The extent to which you eschew that all together, is the extent to which you resign yourself to be like so much flotsam and jetsam being carried along by currents of larger social forces that lie outside of your control.”


    • Avatar Jesse says:

      “I did the latter and, so far, it has worked.”

      Except of course, you’re ignoring the political and social factors that allowed it to work for you, for the myth that you made change happen for you. You could’ve worked just as hard as you have for the past X number of years and ended up in a far worse situation than you currently are, despite making no different choices in your life if the dice had rolled slightly different.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        Why pull one sentence out of context if they entire comment? What’s the purpose of that?Report

        • Avatar Jesse says:

          I could quote the whole comment and have the same response to you.Report

          • Avatar j r says:

            Then you have poor reading comprehension. Nowhere did I say that we should ignore political and social factors. In fact, I wrote, “for people in certain situations, political change is a necessary condition for self-actualization,” and later wrote, “there were things that could only make sense to me after understanding the historical and sociological background to the present state of things.”Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        “Except of course, you’re ignoring the political and social factors that allowed it to work for you, for the myth that you made change happen for you. You could’ve worked just as hard as you have for the past X number of years and ended up in a far worse situation than you currently are, despite making no different choices in your life if the dice had rolled slightly different.”

        This entire thing just makes me sad. This (and so many other) comments over the years makes me wish I had the time for My Fair Jesse. Someone needs to give you a big hug.Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think of apolitical in terms of Howard Schultz’s vanity campaign for President. He thinks that there is a great untapped demand for a “socially liberal but economically moderate/conservative” voice. All polling shows that the demand for this kind of candidate is very small in the United States.* If anything, the real untapped demand was for the hypothetical Trump of 2016: a whites without college degrees populist. This politician would be racist as hell, anti-LBGT, anti-abortion, but also would soak the rich and create a Herrenvolk welfare state.** Of course, Trump like all right-wing populists ended up just ruling as a typical plutocrats and getting captured by big business interests and the super-wealthy.

    The issue with someone like Schultz is that they are not really socially liberal but more like they are socially indifferent. They don’t care about social issues as much as they see social issues as distractions from the ultimate goals of business, corporate growth, maximizing shareholder value, and just turning everyone into homo economicus. This is the problem I have with the kind of “neo-liberalism” you see advocated by Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, etc. They aren’t socially liberals as in “there is nothing morally wrong about abortion or LBGT rights or free speech.” They are more “Come on, do we really need to talk about this? Do we really need to talk about free day care? We are never going to have consensus on these hot button issues. Can we please just talk about corporate growth like we are gray careerists at Davos and Aspen?”

    *There might not be many Schultz voters numbers wise but they punch above their weight because of wealth and geographic distribution.

    **The paradox here is that this might be an untapped market but as someone on LGM noted, this market will have a hard time getting donations. The supporters themselves are quite poor. The plutocrats will be turned off by the soak the rich policies and the upper-middle class professionals turned off by the social conservatism.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      I think Schultz was a good test case to expose the Far Left and demonstrate the appetite for a Centrist candidate. Progressives are very quickly going the way of the Tea Party and this further pushes a big group of classical liberals and moderate conservatives to jump in bed together. Schultz might not be the guy to capture that part of the electorate but I have hope that someone will.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      I think this is a good observation:
      They don’t care about social issues as much as they see social issues as distractions from the ultimate goals of business, corporate growth, maximizing shareholder value, and just turning everyone into homo economicus.

      Its also the line that the left is approaching… you can ignore Howard Schultz if you want… but if you lose the Howard Schultzes, you’re done.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Cuts both ways. If all you have left is the Howard Schultzes you’re even more done.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine says:

          I don’t quite it thinks it cuts both ways… the Howard Schultzes can (eventually) buy new constituencies… but I certainly take your point that there isn’t a natural constituency for the Howard Schultzes… that’s why we are when where we are.

          The warning sign for y’all, to my eyes anyway, is that the Howard Schultzes are shopping around.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            The indicators on that are giving conflicting info. Howard Schultze is shopping around whereas Michael Bloomberg, the previous Howard Schultze incarnation, has moved into the party. Personally I suspect Howard Schultze considering jumping into the race is primarily a factor of some especially persuasive aide worming his way into Howard Schultzes circle and trying to get Schultze to run so said aide can sell Howard Schultze campaign services.Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine says:

              Sure… the canary is still alive.

              But as far as canaries go, I’m not sure I’d use Bloomberg… he’s more likely to slip the cage when you aren’t looking; I wouldn’t attribute to conviction what is more plausibly convenience.

              There will be a time after Trump.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Sure, but there’s plenty up in the air yet. There’re like a billion candidates for the nomination and they’re not all left wingers. Despite the right and the GOP constantly saying it the Dems haven’t nominated a loon from their fringes since, what, Dukakis? And Dukakis wasn’t very left wing either.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                I wouldn’t disagree, but I’m wondering if where the left places the “loon” marker and where the Howard Schultzes place the “loon” marker are calibrated.

                But I’m not moving into predictions/outcomes… I’m observing that Saul’s somewhat dismissive statement of the deficiencies of the Howard Schultzes is both accurate and potentially a risk for Team Blue… its not clear to me exactly which loon the Howard Schultzes would abandon to the “Never-Loon” fringes.Report

  6. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Isn’t the call to protect bodily (reproductive) autonomy a call to protect what is rightly strictly personal from the political? Even though in the current state of things that requires a political fight… *that* is because malign actors have intruded on the personal space and made a political fight there – wrongly.

    Because in a fight that you maintain is rightly political through and trough, conception through execution, are we not democrats? That is, if you say something is rightly political, are you not agreeing to take your losses when they come (maybe up to a point)? If not aren’t you really saying that everything is political but I also need to be sole dictator where I say I need to be? And is that really the position that the group that tends to say that the personal is political has on reproductive rights? That it’s an ideal part of their vision for that realm of human (female) life that it be political, politicized, and a place where they’ll pre-commit happily to take their losses where they come?

    Again, I grant that in the current state of play, reproductive rights and a number of other areas are under attack politically, so they are necessarily politicized in the status quo. But it seems to me that as an ideal matter, much (or at least that part) of the political program of feminism is very much theoretically based in a belief in defining the personal (private) and ideally protecting it from the political. Meanwhile, and quite rightly, very much declaring certain other areas heretofore (that is, up to the 70s) not recognized as political (particularly the social, including the workplace) to be political.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      “Isn’t the call to protect bodily (reproductive) autonomy a call to protect what is rightly strictly personal from the political? “

      This is an interesting point. Jordan Peterson has made the point to Republicans that going after abortion is the wrong approach because by the time you get to abortion a bunch of other things have gone wrong first. For example, studies show that black kids have sex earlier than white kids, especially when they live in heavily segregated areas. There are a multitude of factors that lead to segregation from familial ties to an area, cultural push/pull dynamics and government policies than incentivize ghettos. The problem with all of this is that addressing the root causes usually means one or more parties having to admit they have failed in some way and no one likes to do that. So…I think when we see ugly political fights it’s because we’re treating the symptoms of these issues but that fight is really a proxy for the root cause conversation.Report

  7. Avatar JoeSal says:

    People will prosper or perish in accordance to their individual constructs of subjective values. There is little to nothing society can do to change that, as much as it would like too.Report