Thursday, March 27, 2008

No Surrender, No Retreat

I've been thinking this morning about my friends and colleagues who (correctly) point out that politics is all about compromise (this is usually when they're telling me I can't reasonably expect a President to not, apparently, compromise and at least partly support American empire, meaning partly supporting thousands of deaths of foreign nationals from US interventionism, subverting foreign democracies, abetting persecution of their own people, and to compromise, apparently, on the environment and, instead of putting us on a path to sustainability, put us on a path to a compromise on sustainability, which of course means support of unsustainability, since half a failure is still a failure when dramatic ecosocial collapse is concerned.

This is why, incidentally, I think a break with the two-party system is absolutely necessary as a prerequisite to a sustainable future, but something else occurred to me (that really could act independently of my "two party" assertion). I was thinking: what's the one thing people accept with little or no political compromise?

It is, of course, war. We're spending scads on Iraq, despite relatively equivocal support by the US public, because the Democrats, among others, are afraid of being responsible for "the next terrorist attack," or the "smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud." For reasons I can't quite consciously enunciate, somehow that overblown rhetoric gets by (with much criticism from certain sectors, to be sure) but overblown environmental rhetoric is sort of universally agreed to be dangerous (i.e. it's one of those things even environmentalists are supposed to say "Well, I agree in spirit but s/he went too far", sort of like everyone has to say, "Israel has a right to defend itself," before they can even make reasonable criticisms of Israel's treatment of Palestine). I guess it's a case of "whose ox is being gored," since there are criticisms from both sides in either case -- but because of the immediacy of war and villainous characters like Saddam Hussein, the charge of being unpatriotic or risking Americans' lives sticks much more easily when you have a practically real-life mustache-twirling villain.

But my point is, how do we make the environment and issue like the defeat of a foreign aggressor? People are very susceptible to the argument "We must stay until the job is done" (though it's also true that they get anxious for the job to GET done); can we use that same rhetoric for the environment?

Thinking about all this, I suppose probably not. That is to say, the reason the military-industrial complex gets pretty much all the money it wants is NOT because of popular support, but rather support from... the military-industrial complex. It's a back-scratching circle of government toadyism and industrial profit, while the actual public relatively consistently ranks military spending pretty far down on the spending-preference food chain (my reading of the data from a very established social polling group, having taken data since 1976, is that defense spending has never been higher than the #8 overall priority by their methodology -- which ranks priorities by subtracting the %age of people who think we're spending "too much" on a given item from the %age of people who think we spend "too little" in an area). So I guess it's not as if the problem is the public concerns per se but is indeed what Eisenhower was originally going to call the military-industrial-congressional complex in his Farewell Address to the Nation in 1961.

So that brings us back to a government that doesn't actually serve the priorities of the majority of the population (which, for example, ranks health as #1 priority in the GSS data mentioned above quite often, and consistently ranks the environment and education in the top five priorities, much above defense spending -- yet defense spending is said to be over half the annual US federal budget). And that brings me back to my theory that we simply cannot break out of this without breaking out of two parties... so I guess I still think I'm right, after all.

Ok, never mind...

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