Armed With Naïvete



This post originally appeared at TomDispatch. 


My resolution for 2012 is to be naïve—dangerously naïve.

I’m aware that the usual recipe for political effectiveness is just the opposite: to be cynical, calculating, an insider. But if you think, as I do, that we need deep change in this country, then cynicism is a sucker’s bet. Try as hard as you can, you’re never going to be as cynical as the corporations and the harem of politicians they pay for.  It’s like trying to outchant a Buddhist monastery.

Here’s my case in point, one of a thousand stories people working for social change could tell: All last fall, most of the environmental movement, including, the group I helped found, waged a fight against the planned Keystone XL pipeline that would bring some of the dirtiest energy on the planet from Canada through the U.S. to the Gulf Coast. We waged our struggle against building it out in the open, presenting scientific argument, holding demonstrations, and attending hearings. We sent 1,253 people to jail in the largest civil disobedience action in a generation. Meanwhile, more than half a million Americans offered public comments against the pipeline, the most on any energy project in the nation’s history.

1/13/2012 7:40:35 PM

“that corporations aren’t people, that money isn’t speech, and that it doesn’t abridge the First Amendment to tell people they can’t spend whatever they want getting elected.” Immortal people at that. No need to dis the Supremes by saying money’s not speech—simply say, if money IS speech, large contributions are outshouting other speakers, preventing them from being heard. This contradicts the proverb, believed by some, that “you get what you pay for.” Let’s do a thought experiment: consider mid-income people, said to be $40k, and ask what they could spare to support pols. I get about $500; your results may well vary. There are some dozen offices that affect most Americans, from President to mayor and council member, with some judges. Allow equal amounts to each and you get some $40; be generous, allow $50. THAT should be an absolute limit, for even the appearance of fairness. And what did we have before those activist Supremes spake? Thousands per person as a ‘limit.’ Their recent change of heartlessness dismissed all pretense of fairness. So, Bill, as CO2 rises ever faster, much like melting ice and extinguished animals, some naïve person is going to notice that it’s indeed Game Over. Revolution will then be an extremely sedate response.

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