Tuesday, July 19, 2016

All You Don't Need Is ...

Love or the Alternative

In politics, the slogan of "love" is an overly-used cliché that demands an inordinate amount of emotional attachment to a very large group of strangers. Because of its utopian unreachability, it is a 'religious' or pop idea, not a real one. We do not need to 'love' every American or every human being. At best we need to be able to cooperate.  We do need to tolerate differences among working people, but we don't need to take everyone out for a beer or a coffee. Really!  As to 'loving' the rich, or tolerating the rich, that is where American nationalism (and every other…) tries to weld the rich and working classes of each nation together. No one will 'love' the rich or even tolerate them until they stop being what they are - rich.

Group Hugs are Insufficient
But I digress.  You hear the tactic of ‘love’ from The Beatles – “All You Need is Love” … and now every millionaire musician or athlete.  You hear it from Black Lives Matter.  You hear it from the Peace Corps – a cultural arm of the State Department.  Private equity businessman Mitt Romney believed in love.  Martha Nussbaum, a feminist professor at the U of Chicago, wrote a whole book on it as an essential political tactic, confusing love with empathy.  Even ‘The Atlantic’ and Paul Ryan believe in ‘love’ – as if it is the same as a commitment to community.  Hillary Clinton, a war-maker of the first order, believes in it.  Subarus are even made by 'love.'  Many preachers – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu - espouse this fantasy from their pulpits while never actually creating a force to ‘institute’ this slippery emotion.  Their churches are certainly not it, as they’ve had plenty of time to prove it. And you thought it was only tender-hearted hippies?  The term has been appropriated, folks.

In a word, it is easy American cant.  It is hard enough to actually love those closest to you, let alone a bunch of co-workers or a crowd in a bar.   The people in your union local are unlikely targets.  Even “love’ of the family or romantic or friend kind demands more than that simple emotion.  Anyone who thinks that ‘love’ will solve all problems, let alone class differences or ethnic problems, is a salesman of fake happiness and is undoubtedly unserious. 

But I digress, or perhaps not.  It’s unpopular to come out against love of this kind – self-congratulatory, abstract, sterile, rhetorical love.  We cannot admit the obvious.  Like actors who thank God for winning an Oscar or Grammy or hack song writers who have no other topic, we have to look away.  Like God, apple pie and the military, it supposedly unites us all.   It is the swarmy cat-video of political jargon.  It is the bastard child of pop psychology and the happiness industry.  Flag it when you hear it.  Someone is lying.

What will replace such an august, ostensibly ‘political’ emotion?  What will put love back in its rightful place?  I think a real political movement settles for cooperation.  Ultimately cooperation is based on the organization of the workplace or ties in a geographic area like a neighborhood, not the organization of the family.  The ideology of the family is what is behind the inert propaganda of 'love' pushed by social reactionaries - something not really suited to bind millions of workers across the world.  In fact 'families' can be quite limited.  Disparate people who have little to unite them in their personal lives can agree on certain basics in action.  Marxists don’t believe that every worker has to love every other worker – it is not doable.  Not even in the same organization!   

But uniting together in practice, in cooperation, as a class, will one day result in something much closer to ‘love’ than the fake imitation we are told to engage in.  After all, the sticky issue of those fascists and capitalists we are supposed to embrace to our bosoms gives the love slogan the odor of a contradictory lie.  Instead, make a boss unhappy. Unite against high rents.  Go on strike.  Form a union.  Oppose a pipeline.  Join a revolutionary or labor organization.  Act together for some progressive purpose.  Eventually that turns into going out for beer or coffee, and perhaps more. 

Red Frog
July 19, 2016

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