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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Thursday, January 05, 2006

a hope without illusions

What makes progressive values progressive?  I think these core things:
  • respect for the dignity and rights of every human person
  • an insistence on seeking local / global connections
  • an unflinching concern about poverty and injustice
  • an emphasis on community and small "d" democracy
  • a commitment to look at, long term, how we humans impact our environment, and a willingness to build economic and political structures that reflect insights learned from that analysis, on a macro and a micro scale

  • For me, the key words that define progressive commitments are:
  • equality
  • community
  • democracy
  • green economics
  • human connectedness

  • Progressives, unlike liberals or blanket Democrats, are ALWAYS willing to see how micro, or "personal" inputs affect the larger picture.  Vegetarianism, local cooperatives, defining home work as work, holistic health care, small scale loans are all micro issues with a macro impact.  Whether we buy into any of these ideas or not...we progressives seek to explore how they connect to macro issues like energy policy, militarism, and Big Box stores selling cheap goods from China.

    We can trace the roots of our movement deep into the past, whether it is the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the writings of the founding fathers and mothers of our nation, or the utopian idealists and socialists of the 19th Century.  We are, fundamentally, humanists who see interconnectedness and human equality as THE core values from which all else flows.

    One of the most popular essays I've written was titled "link it."  That, at its core, is what progressives do, it is how we see the world.  We link things. It is precisely the long haul battle of moving from the micro to the macro and linking the two that is the essence of the progressive political movement at the start of the 21st Century.

    None of us can be sure, ultimately, of the success or failure of the progressive project.  We seek not so much perfection as amelioration: we seek no less than the sustainability of the human community on this planet.  We are long term thinkers with muddy hands and boots from working in the real world; we work both sides of the equation, the long and the short term, electoral politics and idealistic projects which we will never see realized.

    No one who is truly convinced of the value of progressive ideals doubts, ultimately, that those ideals represent our best and most pragmatic hope for justice and peace.  Our aspirations are rooted in that conviction, that progressive politics are both idealistic and pragmatic.  We progressives are called starry-eyed idealists...when, of course, it is often our opponents who are living an illusion: polluting the earth in the name of development, making war in the name of peace, torturing in the name of the rule of law.

    The progressive task is to build a city we may never see or live in.  We know this city will be far from perfect but we hope that it will be a city more joyful and more sustainable and secure for every human person both because of the ideals we aspire to and the hard won pragmatic lessons we've learned about how to live as humans on this earth.

    We draw our strength and hope from the human dignity to be found in simple things.  We are inspired by those who've gone before us, and those who share our work in so many ways. Though none of us may ever see it, we've tasted in our daily lives what a city built on justice, equality and dignity might be like; we know its building blocks because we've helped shape them with our hands.

    At the end of the day, the progressive movement is based on an authentic hope forged where ideals meet praxis, a hope without illusions, a hope rooted in fundamental humanist values.

    On our darkest days, like so many who've come before us, that hope is enough to move us forward.

    3 Comments:

    • What I'm saying is that progressives are, in many ways...

      "post nation state" thinkers. We think globally and act locally.

      I am not above or beyond electoral political activism...but I do it because I believe in something bigger than that. Or, more properly put, my convictions, my principles tell me look to beyond the narrow confines of US electoral politics, and then to bring those insights gained from taking the global view to the local and national sphere.

      Progressive is "post-socialist" as well...since socialism was always tied, more or less, to the nation state.

      Green economics is something that socialism didn't really address.

      I think enunciating a green economics is a CORE TASK at hand.

      By Blogger kid oakland, at 1:13 PM  

    • Know what you mean about electoral activism -- if there isn't more, it gets to be a kind of sick playing with power. But we have to do it, and more.

      In addition to being "post nation state" are we also "post-industrial"? And if so, what do we produce that has any actual value? Clearly sustainable agriculture fits that, but what else? Is there a green economics that uses the power of the emerging technology/knowledge economy?

      Don't have any answers to those thoughts, just questions.

      Glad you are back.

      By Blogger janinsanfran, at 9:49 PM  

    • We are long term thinkers with muddy hands and boots from working in the real world; we work both sides of the equation, the long and the short term.

      I'd say, "we work the limits of the function--as x approaches discontinuities and infinity," but that's just because I deal with calculus more than the average person does. Please ignore this paragraph.

      I think about the sort of points you raise in this post whenever I'm forced to drive any great distance. This is partly because driving bores me silly and I need something to think about that doesn't require a pen and paper. But it's also because I see so many (probably bogus) political parallels in the detached social interactions we all share on the highway.

      Say there is an orange sign warning that my lane ends for construction in 2 miles. Traffic is already pretty tight in the other lane, burning gas has its costs, and I'd like to get where I'm going today--so I'd rather not pull over just yet. But I merge as soon as I can because it's in everybody's best interest if I do so. If I stay in my lane till the bitter end, sure, somebody will let me merge and I'll have passed all those chumps who merged early. I'll win. But everyone else will suffer--it will be my jackassery that's backing up traffic for miles behind me (and, of course, causing all those backed-up cars to belch out even more filth into the air than they would otherwise.)

      This really is my thought process. I don't merge because it's The Law. Or because I'm some kind of wimp. Or because I'm not in any big hurry. It's because I'm thinking about how my action affects everybody else--from the flow of traffic on that road we're all sharing to the quality of the air we're all breathing. Community. Human connectedness. Green economics (or, at least, not-entirely-un-green economics).

      Further, I know people. I know that my decision to merge early is not going to get me where I'm going any sooner or mitigate the pollution of a hundred creeping cars. There will always be people who zip past us suckers in the slow lane (then take advantage of our generosity to squeeze in at the last flashing arrow sign). So, yeah, I'm building a city I'll never live in.

      By Blogger &y, at 9:37 AM  

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