Nick Cooper, the sine qua non of the jazz-funk-reggae-klezmer/etc. collective Free Radicals, is a writer and activist here in H-Town. For 20 years or so, I have admired and respected him for his skill with words and ideas as well as with drumsticks. (The musical kind of drumsticks, not chicken legs or ice cream confections.)
Today, he posted something on Facebook in response to a nauseating and patronizing picture (folks call it a meme, but that's a misuse of the term) from Occupy Democrats. Sorry for the redundancy.
Admittedly, Cooper attributes something to Occupy Democrats and other liberals in his remarks (below) that the picture doesn't really say and only kind-of implies. But that does not make his observation less poignant. Click the Read More to view his words and my analysis of them.
This is exactly why we need to reject liberalism. Radicals want borders to be at least as open for human beings as they are already for products. Radicals want massive programs to naturalize immigrants and refugees. Just like in Israel, a liberal nationalist anti-wall stance is nowhere near enough to meet our obligations to uphold human rights. You oppose walls but still want to send refugees back to their home countries to be killed? You suck almost as much as Trump but try to pretend you're better.
An interlocutor asks in the Comments, "I support open borders. Does that make me a radical?" To which Cooper replies:
If you vehemently oppose every US bombing of other countries whether it is being done by Obama and the Clintons, or by Bush I and Bush II, you are probably a radical. Political "radicalism" means more than just "an extreme stance," it means getting to the root. Liberals want change to the extent it doesn't affect their comfort, radicals want change and know that means sacrifice.
When radicals are being arrested, liberals often side with police, denouncing radicals. Yet, they often take credit for victories won by radicals using direct action. This stealing credit is perfectly embodied in the Barbra Streisand quote: "I am also very proud to be a liberal. Why is that so terrible these days? The liberals were liberators. They fought slavery, fought for women to have the right to vote, fought against Hitler, Stalin, fought to end segregation, fought to end apartheid. Liberals put an end to child labor and they gave us the five-day workweek! What’s to be ashamed of?" Radicals, communists, anarchists, socialists, activists of color, and union members roll their eyes (and the dead ones roll over in their graves) when liberals try to take credit for winning rights for women, workers, or non-whites. With a few exceptions, such as RFK, liberals were not the ones being executed, imprisoned, blacklisted, and oppressed for their efforts. These movements are easier to pretend to join after they have already won their victories. There is apartheid today in Israel/Palestine and liberals like Streisand are not fighting it. Instead, she played a benefit concert for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
Perhaps the clearest and most universal radical rejection of liberalism comes from MLK: "I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."--Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail"
My Take: Borders Are Violence
In asking Cooper's permission to quote him at length, I mentioned that I had been writing similar analysis on this-here blog, but using (perhaps overusing) the term "progressive" rather than "radical."
This is certainly a mere semantic quibble. Apart from the right wing casting even Clintonite liberals as "radical," the adjective is used to describe ideas and movements of both left and right. "Progressive," on the other hand, is generally connoted as "radical left," as opposed to the reactionary/fascist radical right. Both want to rebuild society from the root upward, but with very different blueprints.
Several of my positions on issues are at home in the radical left camp; others, I admit, less so. Contrary to the whole paradigm that we, especially we white men, drift rightward as we age, if anything my outlook has moved to the left. Or perhaps that's just relative to the mainstream: Ten years ago, I viewed Rachel Maddow as a progressive kindred spirit, but she's the one who devolved into a highly paid tool of the establishment.
Enough navel-gazing though. I digress into the topic of the ideological spectrum and terminology as an appetizer for the radical viewpoint I have come to embrace:
Borders Themselves Are Violence.
People need to be able to move to where they can be sufficiently fed, where they are protected from both violent weather and violent humans. If they cannot, they die. They die by the thousands. This is especially true in this era of global climatic lurching, with extreme weather events of various kinds forcing millions to flee their flood- or drought-stricken home territories. If it means that vulnerable populations try to flee into your less vulnerable land, it is our moral duty as fellow humans to welcome them and make sure that there basic needs are met.
Before you say it, I am quite aware that the Caravan of Migrants trudging north from Central America are refugees not from climate change, but from drug gangs and the governments that enable them. I am also quite aware that the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and especially Honduras have reverted to neoliberal dictatorships with the assistance of the United States.
Like my old friend Nick, I have also noted recently that progressivism/radical leftism recognizes that there are no easy or comfortable solutions to our current complex of human-inflicted crises. We are taking the hard road, and are frequently ostracized for doing so, because we see that the easy road is insufficient.
Jimmy Carter was vilified and hounded out of the White House when he had the temerity to ask Americans to make sacrifices for the greater good. But dammit, he was right.
The hard road is much more than, e.g., swearing off single-use plastic straws—but that is a beginning. The endgame is pressuring The Market to eliminate single-use plastics, the sooner the better. If The Market does not respond quickly enough, government intervention may be required. Meanwhile, giving up straws means adopting the mindset that makes you add "No straw" to your drink orders when dining out or bar-crawling. That takes a little practice.
Similarly, it will not be easy to adopt a mindset that national borders must become obsolete tout de suite. As a fan of fútbol, I like the World Cup and other international competitions; in a post-border world, I might have to give up such entertainment, and I am willing to if it means a more peaceful world.
Expanding the Vision
Even without borders, México would still be México, France would still be France, etc. Just as there are some culturally defined regions that straddle national borders (e.g., the Basque Country), you would have a France with no sharp lines around it. There would be liminal places like Alsace-Lorraine that are culturally Franco-German without being divided into two countries with different sets of rules. Even the Rio Grande Valley here in Texas has that border-straddling quality, with people on both sides crossing the river daily to work, shop, and dine.
National governments can't really govern land areas if they don't know who's in the territory over which they have dominion, and who lives outside that area. So how would these areas be governed?
One might borrow from anarchists and envision devolving those national governments into local democracies, giving ordinary people more power in decision-making. I like that vision, but it is not enough. From my perspective, responding to challenges like climate change requires coordination of effort and resources at a global level.
A vision of "we're all in this together" is a necessary part of preventing these democratically run villages and townships and regions from falling into tribalism, which is nationalism on a smaller scale but can be just as vicious. As part of that vision, there should be a legislative body, perhaps even a global one, consisting of representatives from those villages and townships and regions. If we approach it correctly from the beginning, with all our knowledge of statecraft, we can have that dreaded One World Government that is not tyrannical by nature.
This vision isn't perfect or even complete, and it may not even be realistic. But, as with the straws, it is a start.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.