"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Coffee Party - A Caffeinated Fantasy

We need the courage to make a break with the current U.S. political system. However, I have sympathy with Dennis Kucinich, who seems trapped, as many of us are, by choices made at an earlier time when conditions were less barbaric than now. When Dennis started his political career, unions were still strong and a liberal could take on powerful corporations and actually win, as Dennis did long ago. But few followed his example and we have gradually drifted into the current situation which borders on classical fascism.

Should Dennis have the courage and vision to step out of the graveyard of progressivism which is the Democratic Party today? I think so, but I also sympathize with his belief that he would be a less powerful force for change outside the party - in effect he is one of the last voices for sanity in the current Congress. Without him, one of the last strong progressive voices would be silenced in the seat of American power.

I turned to the Coffee Party web site with hope, but what I find there looks like the typical American "feel good" political event. The underlying theme in the videos is the one so insistently promoted by the news media - that partisan bickering is the real problem in Washington, that government is broken because of it, and that we need to just get along with each other and everything will fix itself. Behind this notion is the unquestioned assumption that the American form of representative government and capitalist economics is fundamentally sound, but that corporations have gained too much power and the people need to take that power back.

This narrative is so ingrained in today's culture that it is considered simply "common sense." Any "movement" based on these sentiments cannot possibly have a real impact on political power relations. The typical American allergic reaction to "ideology" dominates these gatherings, reflecting the unquestioned ideology that no fundamental change is needed. One hears the phrase "make government work" over and over without any attempt to define what "works" actually means.

In fact, most of the people at these gatherings remind me of Kucinich who remains committed to the current form of government because the alternatives appear to be wildly impractical and, in effect, a surrender of power to the dominant elites. Unfortunately, no political progress is possible without a rigorous analysis of the realities of power. Democracy in the form imagined by the founding fathers has never ruled America. The people can't "take back" the power from the corporations because they never had it in the first place. Whenever I hear criticism of "corporate power" I long to ask the denouncers what company they work for. Obviously, many of the Coffee Party members are in the very corporations whose profits send the lobbyists to Washington.

Once again, we are treated to an edifying spectacle, similar to the Obama campaign, that says in effect, "We can make the American system work. All we need is a dose of common sense and decency that the politicians have lost and everything can be right again." This, I'm afraid, is as delusional as the fantasies of Sarah Palin.