Long-time activist Judy Rebick has a piece up on Rabble called “Beyond resistance: Creating a better world here and now“.
I want to say that our problem is not in the Right, it is in ourselves. Most people in this country and indeed around the world recognize the problems of capitalist society and dislike its inequality, its greed, its unfairness on every level. Most of them are not fighting it because they don’t see an alternative that makes sense yet. In some places, like the Middle East today, things are so bad that they are willing to fight without knowing the outcome. In others like in Latin America and even in the U.S., there is inspiring leadership on the Left but it too often gets mired in the powerful structures of global capitalism because the power of social movements is not strong enough to counter the power of the corporate elite. And capitalism doesn’t seem to have the flexibility it once had to adapt to and co-opt movements for social justice.
We on the Left are relying too much on old ideas and old practices that worked in a time of expansion of global capitalism. In fact, change is happening in multiple ways that are different from the past whether on the Internet or in communities. For example, Wikipedia and Wikileaks, both non-profit ventures outside of traditional media circles have deeply challenged the monopoly of information held by the corporate media. Projects like Transition Towns that are creating alternative ways of living more at harmony with the earth are spreading at a local and global level. Not everyone engaged in building alternatives to savage capitalism consider themselves on the Left, for one thing. For another, the powers that be no longer have the flexibility they once had to co-opt various forms of social change. Their failure to come up with even the pretence of a solution to climate change not to mention their failure to solve the deepening economic crisis are signs of that.
To answer the question of how to or what change about ourselves, Rebick focuses on acknowledging wounds and emotion.
What does it mean to face the heartbreak and human suffering? We on the Left have been great at analyzing the problems, but that is not the same. Whenever I participate in a group that is dealing with people’s feelings about the state of the world or their lives, there seems to be a deep well of sadness in almost every person whatever their gender or race. Men and women like me often cover it up with anger but it is sadness, nevertheless, heartbreak as Velcrow says. In our patriarchal culture, including on the Left, expressing anger is acceptable but sadness is not.
In addition to the sadness about the state of society and of nature, almost all of us whatever oppression we might have experienced for social or economic reasons suffer from some kind of deep personal wounds. And if we don’t face that sadness, that pain, we will inflict it on ourselves and others in a way that is hurtful. Much of the dysfunction on the Left comes not from political differences which can be creative and productive but from people acting out this pain. We become part of the problem instead of the part of the solution.