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Re: <nettime> Iraq: The Way Forward
Felix Stalder on Wed, 10 Jan 2007 23:56:48 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Iraq: The Way Forward


On Friday, 5. January 2007 20:36, Michael H Goldhaber wrote:

> We have reached a crucial turning point in American history. The 
> November elections and current polls have made clear that Americans 
> have soured on the Iraq war, and want the troops to be withdrawn
> rapidly.

I'm not a close observer of American politics (how come that Lieberman was 
relected?), but what strikes me as the really remarkable outcome of this 
election is that it revealed the total bankrupcy of the ideologies that 
has been dominant since the end of the cold war: neo-liberalism (with its 
emphasis on freedom) and neo-conservativism (with its emphasis on 
security), which have produced not freedom and security but abandonnment 
and fear. Neoliberalism has had to declare bankrupcy a while ago, but 9/11 
provided the opportunity to swiftly replace it with its darker cousin, so 
the void was less obvious.

Now, we are in a situation where nobody has any good idea what to 
do. "Bringing the troops home now" is as unrealistic as "fighting for 
victory". What comes next? Nobody seems to know beyond short-term 
political tactical games. 

But while such desorientation might provide room for creative thinking, I'm 
not optimistic. The social conditions which have provided the mass basis 
for the acceptance of faith-based politics are still here. Just that the 
war in Iraq is too manifestly disasterous to whish away.

Salon Magazine recently featured an interesting interview with Chris 
Hedges, NYT reporter (Bosnia, Middle East), and author of a new book on 
the US Christian right, "American Fascists", that seems directly relevant 
here.

http://salon.com/books/feature/2007/01/08/fascism/

> Since the midterm election, many have suggested that the Christian
> right has peaked, and the movement has in fact suffered quite a few
> severe blows since both of our books came out

It's suffered severe blows in the past too. It depends on how you view
the engine of the movement. For me, the engine of the movement is deep
economic and personal despair. A terrible distortion and deformation of
American society, where tens of millions of people in this country feel
completely disenfranchised, where their physical communities have been
obliterated, whether that's in the Rust Belt in Ohio or these monstrous
exurbs like Orange County, where there is no community. There are no
community rituals, no community centers, often there are no sidewalks.
People live in empty soulless houses and drive big empty cars on
freeways to Los Angeles and sit in vast offices and then come home
again. You can't deform your society to that extent, and you can't shunt
people aside and rip away any kind of safety net, any kind of program
that gives them hope, and not expect political consequences.

Democracies function because the vast majority live relatively stable
lives with a degree of hope, and, if not economic prosperity, at least
enough of an income to free them from severe want or instability.
Whatever the Democrats say now about the war, they're not addressing the
fundamental issues that have given rise to this movement.

> But isn't there a change in the Democratic Party, now that it's
> talking about class issues and economic issues more so than in the
> past?

Yes, but how far are they willing to go? The corporations that fund the
Republican Party fund them. I don't hear anybody talking about repealing
the bankruptcy bill, just like I don't hear them talking about torture.
The Democrats recognize the problem, but I don't see anyone offering any
kind of solutions that will begin to re-enfranchise people into American
society. The fact that they can't get even get healthcare through is
pretty depressing.

> The argument you're now making sounds in some ways like Tom Frank's,
> which is basically that support for the religious right represents a
> kind of misdirected class warfare. But your book struck me differently
> -- it seemed to be much more about what this movement offers people
> psychologically.

Yeah, the economic is part of it, but you have large sections of the
middle class that are bulwarks within this movement, so obviously the
economic part isn't enough. The reason the catastrophic loss of
manufacturing jobs is important is not so much the economic deprivation
but the social consequences of that deprivation. The breakdown of
community is really at the core here. When people lose job stability,
when they work for $16 an hour and don't have health insurance, and
nobody funds their public schools and nobody fixes their infrastructure,
that has direct consequences into how the life of their community is
led.

I know firsthand because my family comes from a working-class town in
Maine that has suffered exactly this kind of deterioration. You pick up
the local paper and the weekly police blotter is just DWIs and domestic
violence. We've shattered these lives, and it isn't always economic.
That's where I guess I would differ with Frank. It's really the
destruction of the possibility of community, and of course economic
deprivation goes a long way to doing that. But corporate America has
done a pretty good job of destroying community too, which is why the
largest growth areas are the exurbs, where people have a higher standard
of living, but live fairly bleak and empty lives.


--- http://felix.openflows.com ----------------------------- out now:
*|Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society. Polity, 2006 
*|Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks. Ed. Futura/Revolver, 2005 


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