Brian Holmes on Mon, 26 Jun 2017 05:37:45 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Hungary: new NGO law passed

On 06/18/2017 04:05 PM, Zenaan Harkness wrote:
We speak rather arrogantly in the West, treating Liberalism as
unassailably good, yet the superficiality of our MSM driven discourse
rarely acknowledges that the desire for a conservative community is
not only a natural and acceptable desire, and widespread across the
world, but does not mean that those who express such desires are
bigots, and most fundamentally, the hypocritical ignoring of the
facts that "global homogeneity" is the opposite of "preserving
diversity", that if you don't stand for something, you fall for

This is a complicated issue, among others because a lot of the people
on this list are Leftists of some kind, not liberals in any sense
of the word. Most people on the Left do not treat liberalism as an
unassailable good. Instead we decry the many negative effects of
free trade and free movement of capital (the two things which define
economic liberalism), while supporting the free movement of people
because we value solidarity and human rights. We think that free trade
and transnational finance tend to destroy the social and political
systems of smaller countries, and that is one of the reasons we feel
solidarity with those trying to find a safer and healthier home.

I think you are right to insist that the desire for a tightly
controlled border (if that is in fact what you mean by a "conservative
community") does not automatically make those who desire it into
bigots. There are quite serious conservative theories of democracy
holding that only those with a long-term stake in a given polity can
be counted on to assume the responsibilities of citizenship (the
French historians Francois Furet and Pierre Rosanvallon come to
mind). People on the Left would do well to debate these theories more
deeply, to see how *we* think democracy operates under conditions of
high-volume immigration from countries destablized by war, climate
change and the economic sabotage of so-called free trade. If we would
debate more among ourselves, then we could try to raise the level of
the debates with true conservatives, which are now at an all-time low

One conclusion from such a reflection is that it is urgent for rich
countries to manage their economies both for the support of all
their citizens (something which is not presently being done in the
US where I live) and in such a way as to strengthen neighboring
economies (something the US is not doing with regards to Mexico, nor
the rest of Latin America). Great inequalities both within and between
countries raise serious threats to democracy, because they create
powerful resentments, We are experiencing those threats at present,
all across the developed world. Not only the poorer countries and
their increasingly desperate populations are responsible for these
threats. Those classes of people who concentrate wealth are also
responsible. It's pretty important to see that those extremely wealthy
millionaire and billionaire classes are not conservatives. They are
liberals in that they favor free trade, free movement investment
across borders, and they're just plain capitalists in that they favor
cheap labor, whether because the labor is undocumented or because
it's the labor of citizens stripped of all their former rights and
collective bargaining agency. How can conservatives support these
oligarchs who rig the game in their favor, whatever side of the
political spectrum they claim to be on?

The end of your paragraph includes a bit of its own arrogance, and if
you're addressing me or my likes, then I would respectfully take issue
with that. I do stand for something and I do not fall for anything.
The world we live in is not one of global homogeneity, not from my
viewpoint. It is one of tremendous cultural richness, full of warm
humanity and the chance to get outside one's own skin. Life is good
when one can experience and at least partially share the desires
and even the fate of others who speak different languages and dream
different dreams. The homogenizing and standardizing forces come from
large-scale capitalist enterprises that only benefit a thin slice
of the population. You may not accept my view of the good life, but
if we can debate about the relation between democracy and corporate
capitalism, about the proper role of borders and of citizenship, and
about the questions of equality and inequality, then we can get a lot
further than if we trade rhetorical barbs and arrows while leaving our
own preconceived notions intact. Democratic societies around the world
are clearly at an impasse, and polarization is creating the conditions
for war, both civil and international. Will that bring the good life?
I don't see any reason to think so. We need some new ideas and that
means taking the risk of shedding some old ones.

best, Brian Holmes

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