25 April, 2005

The Malaise

For a long time, I've been struggling to understand something, which is this:

Since sometime in late 1999, the "left" in this country has been in high gear. When I say "left", I mean people who are unambiguously left of center - that is, not Democrats, but Marxists, anarchists, Maoists, "progressive" liberals of the Green Party brand, Christian pacifists, and so on. Traditional rabble-rousers. After Seattle, these people (myself included) were suddenly brimming with power and energy, ready to go charging pell-mell at whatever demons they saw. And when they invariably bounced off, as if they had run into a stone wall, they were non-plussed. They picked themselves up and charged off again in another direction. And they had their small victories, as well, no doubt.

This didn't really change after September 11. There was a brief hiccup, a pause while everyone sighed in shock and confusion. But then all the freaks gathered themselves again, and they were off. Economic globalization took a backseat, but a vigorous anti-war movement took its place. The bombing of Afghanistan was vigorously opposed, along with the Patriot Act, arbitrary detentions and the general air of jingoism. This energy continued - even escalated - through the period when the Bush administration was pushing to invade Iraq. Here it had the added energy of traditional liberals, who for the first time seemed to be willing to come out and do things that only the leftist freaks had been willing to do before (i.e. dress up funny and dance in the street with puppets).

Then the U.S. actually invaded Iraq, and everything stopped.

And it's still pretty much stopped.

And I still haven't figured out why. No one seems to have lost their conviction. No one seems to have lost their goals. But nothing happens. Is it futility? Do we (I) feel that whatever efforts we put in are doomed to fail, just like the gargantuan forces mobilized to pre-empt the invasion of Iraq failed? I think I'm suffering from ideological fatigue. Not that I have changed in any great measure. But my disclarity, my lack of vision for the long and difficult journey required to fulfill my goals, has come into focus. It's been clarified by the events of the past few years. I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. None of us do. We've been running on steam, hoping our relentless energy would be enough to propel us where we wanted to go.

I know I'm a relentless cynic, but I think I'm actually a false kind of cynic. I'm a fake, because really, way down deep inside, I have hope. I have tremendous hope and optimism for what we're capable of doing with ourselves. And I think a lot of leftist freaks have that same hope. That's the bit of fire that provides the engine for all of that steam. I don't think that's going to go away.

But that's all I'm left with: we're collectively sitting here, smoking a cigarette, saying to ourselves, "Well, shit. What should we do now?" I've got nothing else.

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