My fellow blogger on RPPE (Mr Travis Fast) says that the question is not “if another world is possible for in the abstract it always is. The real question is how and under what conditions it could be possible.”
I have also been thinking about the conditions for making another world during the run up to the federal elections here in Canada. But as we face the possibility of a Harper majority, one of the things I have been struck by is the inability of those who want something other than a Harper majority to really think through and thus act to address the question of political lassitude.
The only piece I have seen on the issue is one by Murray Dorbin, who tried to answer the question on Rabble.com by rightly claiming that “we have a population that is disengaged from its own community and its history. That means [it is] disconnected from a key source their moral core. Politics makes a difference if you are connected to each other. Otherwise, not so much.”
But Murray Dorbin’s article then waxes on about “traditional democracy” and the fact that the elite classes no longer respect the institutions of a post WWII social contract.
But all this got me thinking about the relationship between aggregate experience (the form of a society) and individual experience. That is to say, I am also bewildered by why there are no courageous attempts at reform in Canada? Well, one thing that I have found is that it seems really hard for people to have both a sense of reality and a sense of justice at the same time. People can think about how we “ought” to live but they cannot connect those “oughts” to reality. By this I mean they cannot connect those “oughts” to how they organize their daily existence. The good life is thus an abstraction of fine platitudes but has no real bearing on reality—sort of like heaven. But for me this raises the issue of the relationship between the discipline required to think about reality and reality itself– that is, how can we recognize the limits inherit to reality and also establish processes to help overcome those limits. And then it hit me that a “liberal” society systematically deprives people of the practical memory as well as the conceptual tools to deal with discipline as fairness and justice. This is because experience in market society is organized so that it appears that there is no relationship between desire and deprivation of desire except as a market principle (see my posts on romantic love for further clarification on this point). In any case, under such conditions any sense of a shared world or collective struggle thus seems old fashioned, authoritarian, primitive, or whingey.
I went to school in the 3rd world, and later I attended UBC where I completed my undergrad education. Everything about the way I was raised, from the primary and secondary school I attended, to the streets I walked on, taught me that people who work together can change the world(decolonization was still fresh on our minds). UBC was a total shock for me, because, what I took for a global conversation was totally absent from the school curriculum in the Department of History (no less). In any case the streets of my childhood did not teach me about a shared world in some didactic way, what I knew was that some folks grabbed some space and reorganized power at the institutional level so that I had a thoroughly post-colonial education. Thus, my high-school ‘A’ level curriculum included the readings of one Dr Walter Rodney.
Today, in my scholarly work I am still having a conversation with the way that power was reorganized in the 3rd world in the post WWII era, but clearly I know the conditions for having the conversation. But what seems apparent to me is that the concomitant experience of power grabbing and reorganization that happened in Canada is absent from the way we imagine the WWII social compromise in Canada. Instead, as Dorbin would have it, elites were just nice guys who all of a sudden wanted to respect democracy.
What was the saying: “A country gets the fascism it deserves”?
So, unless we start organizing so as to return experience back to critical thought, this above statement will be more true than ever. What this means for me is that we need to build spaces of solidarity that can address the form society takes at the aggregate level and at the same time address everyday experience. Unions used to do this, but then we all became concerned with being respectable, polite, and rational. But, such a discussion cannot provide us with the power base through which to connect thought to experience.
And this is a question of power, I think.
Otherwise, who cares about a blog or textbooks or romantic love? Only the solitary you, my friends.