Ennui is gripping the left. It sits paralyzed, holding its breath, as it waits for its Messiah, Barack Obama, to step into a phone booth, shed his suit and leap out as Super Progressive who flies the country into the elysian fields of progressive glory.
It’s not going to happen for two reasons: Obama’s a centrist and phone booths have gone the way of the dinosaur.
But, the left still waits, hoping, discussing, analyzing, lamenting, and grousing while the shadow of economic misery spreads across the land.
It is time Karl Marx went evangelical. That’s where the action is. In other words, the Left has to climb down from its ivory tower and not only join the sweating throngs in their basement and storefront churches; it’s got to lead the goddamn revivals.
Murray Dobbin did piece on America’s radical rabbi, Michael Lerner, who believes the left is cursed by the dead albatross of secular fundamentalism, and advocates a more spiritual approach. However, as Dobbin points out, “Spiritualism seems to fly in the face of the kind of rationalism that has been at the core of socialist and social democratic theory for nearly two centuries.”
Yet, for all his talk of spiritualism, Dobbin and Learner still seems mired in a rationalist tar pit. Dobbin speaks of “engaging” people when the talk should be of inspiring and inflaming them. Lerner advocates a “politics of meaning” that “fosters ethically, spiritually, ecologically, and psychologically sensitive and caring human beings who can maintain long-term, living personal and social relationships.”
It’s a nice thought, but it lacks passion and poetry. Why not speak of the Workers Paradise as the Kingdom of God on Earth where they beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and where:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of The Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9 RSV)
Dobbin asks, “Why do further millions identify with right-wing evangelical religion rather than the call for secular social justice?”
The “Religious Right” is a media invention, and Progressives, me included, have fallen into to this trap by heaping scorn on the very group that could well be the vanguard of a revolutionary movement. This has allowed a cynical rightwing media machine to redirect fundamentalism’s away from the Kingdom of God on Earth into meaningless culture wars over gay marriage and evolution.
These are people looking for meaning and community in their lives. They have rejected our fantasyland of go-go consumerism and are looking for more. All they need be shown is that their meaning lies not in the Book of Revelation but in Marx. Latin America is light years ahead of us with their Liberation Theology that blends Christ and Marx.
There is another reason to send Karl to the nearest bible college. A long-standing ruse of our oligarchs has been to split the dispossessed classes along racial and ethnic lines. They well understand that the poor will suffer in silence as long as there is another group they can look down on. This is why southern oligarchs maintained a rift between poor blacks and poor whites with their Jim Crow laws.
In spite of this, there is one common thread that unites poor Euromericans, Afromericans and Hispanomericans, and that is their fundamentalist faith. If the left could tap into that, we would be a power to be reckoned with. Sure, we’d have to lose our ideological prissiness, but that could be a plus.
Dobbin nails it when he reams Canada’s socialist party for failing to develop a radical vision for the future. Instead of addressing people’s need for a broader meaning, it “reduces that vision to a package of disconnected, minor reforms that doesn’t offend the media power brokers. Of course, it doesn’t’ inspire anyone either….”
Who remembers Martin Luther King’s “I have a plan” speech?