The Pyramid Must Fall


On Politics, Micro-Politics, and Internal Politics
January 17, 2011, 8:06 pm
Filed under: revolution | Tags: , ,

This is in response to a post called “On Changing Our World: Affective Activism Means Understanding the Nature of Our Many Problems” by Jeremy Weiland. I suggest you go over there and read that and then coming back, so that this makes some modicum of sense to you.

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I started this off as a comment response on your blog, but your blog hates me, for one, and it obviously quickly grew too long to post there anyway. So, I’m posting it here, independently, so others can read it and so that you can read it more easily. So, here goes…

You’re casting non-violent sanctions as something aggressive and, in a certain sense, violent. A truly non-violent sanction one has against the beliefs of another is education. When you educate someone as to the flaws of a certain belief, they are more prone to no longer believing it. That, more than anything, is the left’s non-violent sanction. More than non-violent, it is good-natured. Education is an altruistic thing to do for somebody. It makes them more knowledgeable, their quality of life better, and the same for those around them.

I also disagree with your description of politics. Some left political activism may orient itself toward institutions, but mainly for the purpose of ending institutional discrimination. Notice, I didn’t say ending discrimination. I said ending institutional discrimination; making institutions more universal, as opposed to favoring and disfavoring certain groups. The same cannot be said for right-wing political activism, which most often has the goal of increasing institutional discrimination.

It’s important to be able to see what role discrimination plays in economics. For example, you’re a lowly employee; therefore you’re not an owner. That’s discrimination as it provides special privileges to entrepreneur-labor/capital and investor-capital that it doesn’t provide to worker labor/capital. In other words, worker-labor doesn’t go toward buying anything; it just goes toward the “owner’s” pockets. Ending these special privileges in government is tantamount to ending special privileges once bestowed to whites, or men, or property owners. So, one must ask why certain activists orient themselves toward institutions. It’s not always about harnessing power; sometimes it’s about dismantling power.

Also, remember, I started that last paragraph off with a correction. I said some left political activism is oriented toward institutions; not all. Some is actually directed toward individuals. That may seem counter-intuitive to some, but it’s true. What discrimination exists not on the institutional level must be combated somehow, right? This is called micro-politics. It was established long ago in the essay “The Personal is Political” by Carol Hanisch.

The culture is a kind of informal institution itself, is it not? It’s a kind of exo-institution that exists only in our collective minds and behaviors. That can be changed, too, through non-violence. Carol defines politics as “having to do with power relationships” in that essay, and that is what politics is to me.

I think our main disagreement is our differing definitions of politics. I don’t see it as being so narrow and specific as you do. I see it in the broad context of power relationships. Nazis represent a certain threat to society. They seek to use force on the general population to establish and maintain their preferred society. So is this not a political issue? Certain people want to seize power and change society in ways the populace wouldn’t of its own free accord. They feel powerless to make the populace adopt their values and opinions, but that can be seen as their values and opinions having flaws that only they cannot see. I think this is the situation Marxists are in. Maybe even anarchists. Although, sometimes it’s just a situation of having no exposure. And I think this is even something the worst fascists tell themselves; it’s just a lack of exposure, not repudiation. With hierarchy comes exposure but with exposure doesn’t always come hierarchy, if you get what I mean.

That’s not to say that minorities are never right and majorities are never wrong. It’s not about that. It’s about values and, like you said, there is more informing their values than rationality. There is subconscious conceptions of freedom, self-interest, abstract or philosophical ideas about the direction civilization, history, culture, humankind is supposed to go in, etc.

It may sound weird, but even individuals can be seen as institutions. They’re institutions on the micro-level. Their whole philosophy is an institution in their mind. But removing the discrimination from the institution of a person’s mind is not the same as removing it from the institution of an IRL government. You have to rally the left political forces in their minds to go up into their moral-legal “system” and change the rules that govern them. This is starting to sound a bit like the movie Inception, but it should be less deceptive than what they did in that movie, and of course less literal. You don’t have to go into their subconscious with a machine. You just have to appeal socially to the left political forces inside of them. Some people are right-wing dictatorships in their minds, brutalizing every internal occurrence of anti-discriminatory politics/values. That is, admittedly, a problem, but it is in the nature of hierarchy that the minority is ruling. So one can assume there is a leftist revolutionary class in their minds, waiting to overthrow the totalitarian governing them. For some, internal violent conflict is the only option and we have to spark that unrest/strife.

I agree with you that it’s a slow, hard process. But when you reject assuming hierarchy as an option, you take on this reality. You choose to affect people only so far as they choose to be affected. That is not to say that your endeavor will not be popular, though. It may indeed go viral and change the culture and individuals that way. But hierarchy is when violence is used to establish and/or maintain relevance in a culture. More than being open and honest and using a light touch, we must have the skills for it; which is why we must learn how our language sabotages us at every turn.