Why the Progressive Movement Should Think Longer Term

Lambert here: Amen. Or, for the irreligious, “Hear hear!”

By Valerie Vande Panne, an independent journalist whose work has appeared in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, The Guardian, Politico, and many other publications. Originally published at Alternet.

Whenever the conversation turns to our country’s current situation and immediate future, people say we’re screwed. I hear that over and over again.

It’s like we’re on a mad train to Crazy Town, our government is the conductor and there’s not much we can do about it except vote Democrat. Or restrict freedom of speech. Or resist Trump. Or bully others into thinking the way we do.


Except prominent Democrats don’t seem to be doing much resisting. And the rest of us? As political cartoonist Ted Rall writes:

“Actual resistance requires actual organization. It requires actual people getting off their actual butts into the actual streets every actual day… Revolution isn’t a dinner party and Resistance doesn’t spring up spontaneously like a weed in the crack between two slabs of sidewalk. We don’t have actual organizations ready, willing, or able to organize actual resistance; without those there can only be sporadic, unfocused political tantrums, like the Occupy and anti-WTO protests and the Women’s March, that fizzle out in the face of police brutality or the passage of time. We haven’t even begun to think about what a real resistance movement would look like, much less build one.”

Rall is right.

It seems oppression is moving faster than strategic organizers, and at this moment, few seem ready, willing or able to lead, or to follow, a tangible, real-world movement that makes the force of the people’s needs felt.

Friends, if all you’ve got is “Not Trump” or “Not a sexual predator,” you’re lacking the substance of meaning and vision. Social media can create a false sense of actually doing something. But tweeting isn’t resisting. Neither is posting to Facebook or Instagram.

I’ve spoken with people in the real world who can talk for hours about what they are against, but when I ask them what they are for, they are unable to answer the question. Then they continue their list of things they are against, and what they are resisting.

So let’s start there: Off Facebook, in the real world, with all the stuff we are, together, against. Write it down. Do it now, please, before you finish reading this article. Seriously. Write down every single thing in the world that you are against.

Got it? You’ve made your list of everything you’re against, from Apple corrupting your iPhone, to nuclear war, racism, Trump, Harvey Weinstein, white supremacy, and xenophobia?

Cool. Now throw the list away. Burn it.

Yes. Burn it. Flush it. Whatever. Just get rid of it. All that resistance—that anger, that hate, that focus on what you are against, what you don’t want, gives all your energy away to what you don’t want.

So get rid of it. We don’t need any more of that garbage. You flushed it? Awesome.

Now, let’s envision the world we do want, and put our energy into that.

Think for a moment about the future—the future you want for your community, your country and the world. Not Trump’s future, not the dystopian future of Hollywood, not the Fox News future, and not a Sharia law or fundamentalist Christian future.

Imagine, for a moment, the future you want. What does it look like? What’s good about it? What are your grandchildren enjoying? What are they delighting in? What are you delighting in? What does your community look like? What does your environment look like? What are you eating? What are you creating? What are you contributing to your community? To your family? To your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and their children? What does it feel like?

We’ve become so programmed to accept a dystopian, diseased, disconnected, dehumanized future that envisioning a free, healthy, vibrant, peaceful, soulfully connected and verdant future is a challenge. But it is possible. And if it’s possible, we can choose each day to take steps and actions that move us closer to a peaceful, healthy vision.

It starts with right now: Have a clear vision of what you want for the future, and let that vision guide your actions today.

That might mean less time on social media and more time connecting in the real world with others. It might mean learning more about your community, your environment, your neighbors, and taking actions to help them. It might mean learning new skills. It might mean a myriad of new things for you and your family. What should you do today to help achieve your vision for the future?

Having a constructive vision for the future that you move toward every day can empower you, giving you a sense of control over your present. It might just change the course of future events, bending the arc of the moral universe into a just and peaceful world you can have a hand in creating.

That’s where a better future starts. Not on Facebook, not at a protest, not in the comments section. It starts with your vision for the future, and the actions you take to make it happen.

What can you do, today, to help create a better future for yourself, your family, your community and the world?

It’s so simple, and yet it is so much harder than being angry, than tweeting or retweeting or liking or posting or commenting. Envisioning a different world is supremely difficult—and taking the steps to create it is even more difficult. Yet that is the only way forward, for each of us. As Eugene Debs said, “I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.”

So take the time. Imagine a better world. Practice that vision. Invest your energy daily in what you want for the future. After all, you are already changing the world every day. Try purposefully changing it for the better, with your vision and your actions, and let’s see what happens.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Jim A.

    The thing is, it is far EASIER to unite a bunch of people with the things that they are against. On a single issue, where people are evenly divided between believing in A, B, or C; you can unite a majority that hate A, even if they can’t agree on B or C. Multiply this time several different issues where peoples opinions only roughly correlate, and you can see why politicians find it much easier to motivate people against something instead of for anything.

    1. Nell

      I don’t believe that is true. For example, post war Britain was predicated on a vision of society where people were freed from the oppression of ill health (NHS), poor housing (council housing), poor wages (trade unions), poor education, and life’s vicissitudes (Welfare state). More recently the grass roots movement behind the Labour Party is all about a vision for a better society – a society based on justice, decency, kindness, generosity and peace. That is what is discussed, shared, and cheered at Corbyn rallies.

    2. Karen

      Jim A., you are right that to START a successful political effort towards real change it is usually necessary to harness public anger about something that is widely unpopular – as widely unpopular as possible, in fact.

      But if that’s all you have, then you might succeed at changing the one unpopular thing (or not), and then your effort will fizzle into nothing again – and the powers-that-be might even reinstate the unpopular thing once they think the public is no longer paying attention and/or is too tired to fight again.

      Consider reading Srdja Popovic’s book, “Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World,” or other similar how-to books (Gene Sharp’s 3-part series written in 1973 was an inspiration to Mr. Popovic and many others, apparently, though I haven’t read them myself).

      Mr. Popovic says that to make real, lasting change you have to decide on your group’s shared vision of the society you want to create, and communicate that vision consistently and compellingly, so that your movement has a chance of building momentum instead of splintering and losing focus.

      Basically, you need to think both strategically AND tactically.

    3. Barry

      Or People Against A can be lured into being AGAINST People Against B because clearly A is more important than B and those stupid B people should stop going on and on about B and get realistic about the importance of ending A.

  2. Eureka Springs

    The general strikers are already in the super plurality on election day and the super majority on primary day… and every single day in between. We are everywhere from riding the streets in a Mercedes, to living in a tent or box under a bridge. We refuse to participate in an anti-representative, rigged, bought system.

    I don’t know what the majority caucus in the U.S. House is today but for many of the past sessions it has been the Progressive caucus. The most two-faced, determined to be feckless, thus effective for the oligarchs and lawless faction in the country. No one perpetuates the long con of the D party more than Prog voters. No one votes against their own declared interests more successfully than Prog voters. And they have been for what, at least 70 years running? Now why should anyone consider being a Prog? Much more, a D or R? It’s like cheering for the arsonist hoping for a more efficient fire to burn the country. As long as it’s your NPR toned arsonist.

    I agree with the critique of social media in this post but the rot goes much further. Especially with the loss of privacy and furtherance of governments willingness and ability to infiltrate and manipulate people powered organization/representation.

    That kettling model was well established before the medium. Look no further than the last 70 years of Progressives kettling people in the D party. Operation Mockingbird and so on.

    Specific issues are key. Yes, what you/we want is key. Positive framing is a must as well. But without establishing a democratic-representative process based on specific platform issues it is all moot. There can be no accountability.

    You want to honor democratic process, honor by far the largest block of people who consistently say none of the above the best way they can, by not participating in a rigged detrimental system.

    Is it really that important that you vote into an electronic either machine rather than admit it’s all a con? The general strike is happening and it’s the closest thing we have to a peaceful tipping point. Acknowledge it, join it, and say so while presenting the vision of what you want.

      1. Eureka Springs

        That’s a choice on your part… there is much I am for in that comment. Beginning with the majority of eligible voters in this country. Sorry you don’t get it… I’ll try to do better next time.

      2. Al

        Mel you just dismissed what Eureka Springs wrote. they offered something up and u shut it down. why not add your two cents better.
        most of us can do local work, there is injustice everywhere. combine what we already do/can begin doing with no longer wasting time with democrats and its a start.

    1. MichaelC

      From Eureka, springs dissent
      Chained thinking, “now” unpent
      No trodded paths, worn, well-spent
      Damn them all, make Hell-bent
      Remove the yoke, actions misspent
      Remove the tears, the sterile lament
      Shut it down, endless torment
      The naked system, circumvent
      Shut it down, the vision “ascent”
      Eureka’s word, spoke eloquent

  3. Nell

    My husband and I were discussing what our vision of a new society would be yesterday on a road trip. It was fun and invigorating. I highly recommend it. Our theme was ‘What can I do?’ rather than the current theme ‘You have to do’. We discussed the following: civic engagement, respect and status based on contribution to public purpose, lifelong education, jobs guarantee, land value tax, single waged households (ie 40 hours of work should be sufficient to support a small family and the 40 hours can be distributed as needed/wanted by the family unit). As a starting point basic needs would be prioritized – similar to the Five Giants that characterized post war Britain (Want, Ignorance, Squalor, Disease and Idleness).

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        If we were truly able to see the impact of testosterone + fossil fuels + advanced weaponry, I think socially-supported male idleness would likely be THE MOST positive social change we could envision.

      2. jrs

        More leisure is pretty high on the list of things I want for a good society. That and more worker empowerment (worker power period whether it’s unionization or direct worker ownership). And less hierarchy and less hierarchical organizations and more equality in power and incomes. And yes with environmental consciousness (our socialism must be an eco-socialism).

  4. diptherio

    What do I want? Why, a cooperative revolution, of course!

    The Cooperative Manifesto ~by Tim Huet, Arizmendi Assoc.

    Democracy demonstration projects: As stated above, it is critical to build working examples of economic democracy that people can see and experience. From that point of view, every worker cooperative is a democracy demonstration project beyond simply being a business. In addition to producing bread, bicycles, etc., we produce hope and inspiration.

    As importantly, we can provide an example and experience of community, which people hunger for in our disconnected society. I see the proof and power of this on a regular basis through the cooperative bakeries with which I’m mostly directly associated. Customers come in not simply for the great bread, but also for the sustenance of community. They sense the community at our cooperatives and want to be part of that.

    It follows from this that every interaction with the general public is imbued with social change importance and opportunity. Conversely, it is a wasted opportunity (or worse) if we fail to show care or concern, if we fail to serve our communities any better than “wage slaves” under the watch of a boss.

    Worker cooperatives have to work for everyone, not just idealists or activists: Earlier I referenced the promise of worker cooperatives to provide activists with “right livelihood,” the opportunity to live out and further their values; however, I feel strongly that worker cooperatives have to be attractive workplaces for people other than avowed activists. If we only build businesses-communities that work for idealists (“Aren’t you dedicated enough to work for minimum wage?!), we’ve hardly proven anything regarding the viability of economic democracy. Personally, I find it most satisfying when we hire people who’ve never heard of cooperatives and have never been active in their communities. It is one of the greatest pleasures of my work to see such people blossom, to grow in confidence and skills —and then perhaps lend their newly-developed skills to broader community endeavors.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      I love all sorts of cooperatives. But, without diminishing anyone’s commitment or activity, I wonder how the vision of cooperative-led social change can explain the last 40 years, in which cooperative-led social change has come to seem less likely rather than more likely, or how we could make the next 40 years more successful than the past 40 years.

      1. dipterio

        You need to get out more. Seriously, there are more cooperative projects going on now than at any time in my 4 decades on the planet. Do a search for “Resident-Owned Communities”. Co-op trailer parks are a big thing all over the country. Or take a look at the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives website (usworker.coop), or listen to a talk by Kali Akuno or Brendan Martin. Co-op stuff is going on all over the place. I just helped start a worker co-op in Missoula MT, and have designs on starting another in my new digs up on the Rez. People are hungry for change, and co-ops provide a non-ideological way for people to practically meet needs that it’s becoming obvious TPTB have no interest in meeting.

    2. Rod

      I am liking the way you think, and thinking these ideas will gain traction the more you plug them into forums like this. Cooperativism has identifiable history in this country and many physical remains among this country’s heartland.
      People working with people trying to solve common needs.
      And thanks again for another link.

      1. diptherio

        That quote is from one Tim Huet, a worker-owner with the Arizmendi Bakeries in San Fran. Everything I think I picked up from somewhere else :-)

  5. David

    As usual, Tom Lehrer said it all more than fifty years ago. Introducing his song ‘The Folksong Army” he quipped that “the thing about a protest song is that it makes you feel good.”.
    This is just the latest example of the perennial temptation of the Left to avoid real change and to develop symbiotic (and even parasitic) relationship with what it claims to oppose. So long as you confine yourself to protesting against things you can’t really change (and often can’t precisely define) you get the feeling of virtue without risking anything. But protesting against things you can change not only risks the opposition of powerful forces, but also change coming in a way you might not like.

  6. John Zelnicker

    The local DSA chapter (Mobile) is having a meeting Wednesday evening to discuss Medicare-for-All, the possibility of a brake light clinic, and Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign.

    I’ll post an update on Thursday, most likely in Lambert’s Water Cooler.

  7. Louis Fyne

    this may be a depressing thought—political action/involvement has become just another hobby. Big chunks of the electorate has just dropped out and taken to channeling their energy to Star Wars conventions and other bread and circuses /half-sarc.

    —-arguably because the Democrats offer nothing but Republican economic policies with a sprinkling of Establishment-approved social liberalism.

    Focus on economic policy. Focus on 40 years of stagnant/declining wages for the bottom 85%.

    And—this is the hard part—ask difficult questions like: whether the left hand of Progressivism (large-scale legal and undocumented immigration for unskilled labor) is good for the right hand (bringing the chronic poor in America out of poverty)

    1. jrs

      eh so the powers that be don’t enforce immigration including in employment, not sure why this should be central when they also aren’t enforcing labor law in overtime etc. and so wage theft is rampant. They look the other way for business, immigration reform alone if it was even possible, wouldn’t change that.

  8. Bill H

    All of the great movements which caused massive change have been focused not on what needed to stop happening but on what needed to start happening. Martin Luther King Jr. made sure that his campaign was not about the wrongs which had been done to his people, but about the things that needed to be done to be sure that his people were assured of justice and equality. The whole “I have a dream” thing was about what he was trying to bring about.

  9. Henry Moon Pie

    Thanks to Ms. Panne for a blunt and brilliant essay. I’ll happily give it an “Amen” (the Hebrew version of “Right on!”).

    Knowing what we’re against can help focus our conception of what we are for. As an example, a few weeks ago, I read this heartbreaking St. Clair post on Counterpunch about Thelonious Monk and the Bebop community of musicians in the 50s. It was horrifying to read how these powerfully creative, but often fragile people were mistreated, sometimes tortured by so many individuals in authority from psychiatrists to cops to agents. The musicians did what they could to help one another, and a few people in the broader jazz and academic worlds, even a couple of rich folks, tried to shelter them, but in general, society abused and rejected them when it should have been providing their needs and celebrating them.

    I want to live in a community that nurtures the living and treasures each being’s talents and contributions. Now I’ve started not with people but with flying bugs, and my effort has consisted of turning a crabgrass and bare dirt inner city “yard” into a garden populated mostly with perennial or self-seeding herbs with a couple of nut trees and grape vines added in. Last summer, our gardens were swarming with honeybees and bumble bees, little waspy things of various sizes, butterflies and moths.

    Seeing our bounty and reading about the terrifying observed drop in flying insects this past summer encouraged me to set a goal of expanding this buggy habitat beyond our property to the recently abandoned community garden around the corner and even the tree lawns of our neighborhood. That’s what I’m working on this winter along with our never-ending rehab project on our lot’s two houses.

    The next target is the growing group of children in our neighborhood who have no real place to play other than a tiny park across the street from us with very little open space, but even those limitations don’t keep it from being preferable to the street or the several abandoned houses on our block. There are plenty of vacant lots that could be a fun and safe place to play, but we adults will need to do some cleanup and raise some money to provide a better place for the kids who live here.

    Nurturing and treasuring are really not things that can be done at a distance, and that can be a challenge. I have a lot yet to learn from reading and careful observation about those little waspy things that like the coriander blossoms so much, and I need to get to know as neighbors those children and their parents along with more of my other neighbors and potential comrades. None of this really has overt political overtones right now, but I’m sure that things might get political pretty fast if we can actually begin to accomplish some positive things around here. People helping each other is a fundamentally threatening thing to our society as it’s structured, and we’ll need to be prepared for that.

  10. JEHR

    How far did I get in my goal to stop using plastic in its many iterations? Not far. I have come up with some good substitutes for plastic: glass containers with lids, waxed (white) paper, waxed heavy brown paper (for freezing meats). That’s all I have come up with and although it sounds easy, it is hard to change. When I was in grade school we did not use plastic so I have to think back to how we preserved and packaged food so it would last in those days. I may have to stop buying more than we use in a week so that there is no need for freezing.

    See here http://www.sustainablebabysteps.com/alternatives-to-plastic.html

    1. John R.

      After a lifetime of very minor gestures toward big changes, I have come to focus on primarily the smallest and most personal; my relationships to whomever I am in contact with, and how I conduct them respectfully and energetically.
      What I need is a larger venue directed towards worthwhile larger change that does not lay itself open to exploitation by ambitious individuals seeking to use my commitment to the good of humankind as a vehicle for personal achievement.
      I know it is unrealistic to expect such a venue to exist, but is it unrealistic to seek something like a “respectfulness caucus” of individuals seeking those goals in the various venue’s of their lives? Those venues could include both political parties (plus DSA) and non-political groups as well. Such a caucus would exist to support members in their efforts to insist on respectful, i.e. fully democratic, processes in the particular groups they are in.
      My model is twelve-step groups, particularly Codependents Anonymous, which exemplify the respectfulness I have in mind and which can effect the self-change usually required for us as a starting point.
      But those groups don’t go far enough. I am thinking of “Citizens Anonymous” perhaps, or even more ambitiously, “Leaders Anonymous” because championing full democracy requires the courage to lead.
      Any takers?

    2. Amfortas the Hippie

      it’s hard to go cold turkey on plastic.
      leftovers are a problem.
      if you cook, consider arranging the week’s menu to where one day’s leftovers go into the next days(or midweek) soup/stew/gumbo/slumgullion/meatloaf/dirty rice.
      That’s how my grandfolks did it.
      also, the Amish/Mennonite and the Mormons are way ahead(behind?lol) on food storage and such.

      1. Chris

        Try storing leftovers in a bowl, with a plate (upside down) on top, or on a plate with a bowl on top. Also, using aluminium (aluminum) foil as a cover isn’t quite as bad as plastic, especially if you save it for re-use.

        You can also look for ceramic or glass casserole dishes (with lids) in thrift shops, and use those in the frig.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Thank you. Made me cry, especially the introduction. That happens more as I get older.

      At least we still have the vision.

  11. Altandmain

    To be fair to the left, they do have ideas:

    – Many want a more left wing version of the current Nordic economy
    – Visions from left wing economists like Michael Hudson, Dean Baker, etc

    These are just silenced by the mainstream media. Look at how they attack universal healthcare for example.

    The bigger issue is that not only is the Democratic Party failing to offer any resistance beyond “not Trump”, they are the very cause of the problems. Trump came about because Obama didn’t deliver the kind of change that folks were expecting after the 2008 Financial Crisis. Obama picked Wall Street over Main Street after all and real living standards declined for many. The recovery was often job less or wages that the recovery had were low wage.

    Unless the Democrats end their neoliberalism and subservience to wealthy donors, I’m afraid that any alternatives from the left are going to find themselves in a 2 front war, against the Establishment of both parties and the Trump faction, which may say populist things during election campaigns, but largely serves the rich.

    The reason why the Establishment is not able to offer any alternatives to Trump is because their hearts are not set on offering real material benefits to the citizens that they are supposed to be serving. They are more concerned with their own careers and get rich after leaving office.

  12. Laraine Flemming

    Maybe I’m being naive but I think there are real organizations out there like the Democratic Socialists of America and Our Revolution that are organizing long term and building support for the progressive candidates they believe in. I also think they’ve had some successes like Woodfin in Alabama and, I’m hoping, Jealous in Maryland. They/We are not just complaining on Twitter, but actively trying to implement the policies we believe in. Politics is not a hobby but a way of life, from abandoning plastic in daily life to making donations and working phone banks for candidates who represent policies that progressives believe, among them universal health care, 15.00 an hour, support for Palestinian rights, and an end to global U.S. intervention.

    While I agree with the author’s point of view–stop complaining and organize– I think she is woefully uninformed about the effect the Sanders campaign has had on people young an old. It has completely revitalized existing progressive organizations like the DSA and spawned new ones like “Our Revolution.”

  13. Left in Wisconsin

    Well, here is one dissenting voice. Yes, we need positive visions, not just negative ones. But I have two big problems with this post:

    1. It springs from a completely individualist perspective:
    It starts with right now: Have a clear vision of what you want for the future, and let that vision guide your actions today. Etc. Etc.

    This may certainly improve one’s mental health. (Or not, if one only comes to belated recognize how rare and difficult major social change is, particular anti-capitalist social change.) But I don’t think the Kochs and Mercers will be too threatened by it. Or even the Dems.

    2. Developing the collective vision and capacity to enact social change will require many of us to make compromises to our own favorite visions and even agree to work together with people we don’t like or whose visions we find (in part) problematic.

    As one example, I find it impossible to imagine serious positive social change without powerful unions. IMO we have yet to invent any other social institution with the capacity to truly confront corporate power. Yet empowered, democratic unions guarantees lots of bad (but democratically elected) union leaders and most likely a certain amount of union corruption. And most every liberal I know who is anti-union (yes, there are lots of them) is opposed to unions because of (perceived) bad leadership and/or corruption. And this is peanuts compared to seriously addressing climate change.

    This post completely downplays the fundamental differences that currently exist between liberal-centrists and the left and “hard” environmentalists. Three (almost) completely different world-views required fundamental but opposing social changes.

    Another sad fact is that many, many liberal middle-class people who are completely mortified about our current politics really don’t like (the culture or values of many) working-class people or poor people. Similarly, I live in a neighborhood loaded with Black Lives Matter yard signs but no actual black people. There is classic polling that shows where white flight comes from: both black and white people prefer to live in integrated neighborhoods, by which white people people mean 10-20% minority and black people mean closer to 50% minority. When each individual “lets that vision guide their actions,” the result is white flight and rapid neighborhood degradation.

    To give this poster the benefit of the doubt, perhaps really they are talking about the very first baby steps to social change. But that is it. Here in Wisconsin, we have had a six-year head start on what the rest of Blue nation is just now seeing. Most liberals I know here are completely played out and if they were to truly act on their vision for a better world, they would be moving out of Wisconsin to places where they would be more completely surrounded by people like themselves so that they could more comfortably live their individualist lives – more Big Sort.

    I wonder if this sort of “act on your personal vision of a better life” ultimately makes the world better or simply drives more social sorting and leaves those unable to act on the sorting impulse (i.e. most people) simply screwed.

    1. Paul Boisvert

      Always think “both and”, not “either or”.

      Yes, we need action. Yes, it needs to be collective. Individual actions can however be consonant with, not dissonant with, collective action–and the former, even in baby steps, then facilitate eventual growth and merger into collective action. So encourage those individual actions in proportion to the degree they agree with and support collective action.

      As for being for or against, again, both/and. We’re for democracy, fairness, equality, and love. Love means wanting what’s best for us–ourselves, and others, remembering that every self is an other to every other self. That’s where equality comes in–everyone must have an equal right to, and opportunity to obtain, what’s best for all of us. Most people of my persuasion call the above “socialism”, but call it what you want.

      But we’re in a war–a war against what we’re for (democracy, fairness, equality, and love.) The powerful enemy is capitalism. And you do have to say, but more importantly explain very carefully–to those who don’t see it as the enemy–why we’re against that enemy. For example, we’re against capitalism because we’re for democracy, and privately owned workplaces are not democratic. Period. People spend half their waking hours in the workplace, so there will be no effective democracy in our lives until the workplace is democratic.

      Finally, we must act both economically, AND politically–remembering that capitalists are well, well aware that the two spheres are fundamentally inter-related. Neither sphere of action has any hope of succeeding against capitalism without the other. Economic democracy indeed requires cooperatives and unions–undergirded, however, by political action within that organizing sphere to combat and minimize selfish (we got ours) and corrupt (I got mine) behavior.

      And we also need larger-scale political action, to support and be supported by the unions. Had Obama and the Dems felt enough political pressure to pass “card-check” organizing in his first year, things would be better today, perhaps impressively so. Sanders’ election, which came quite close to happening, would have among other good things facilitated union organizing. Both a strong political presence, effectively a “socialist” one, explicitly “for” the values above, AND an invigorated union movement, integral to and reinforcing that politics, are our only real hope.

  14. Peter Dorman

    I like the first half of the proposal, shift your energy from what you’re against to what you’re for. Yes. The second half, where she turns it into an individual visualization/behavior modification exercise, is where I part company. Political change is *not* the simple adding up of individual thoughts and adjustments; that’s not how collective action works. What we desperately need is political organizing for positive programs for change, not just more resistance. That includes the Democrats, of course, but extends well beyond them.

    Maybe the worst thing about Trump is that he’s so atrocious we have difficulty taking our eyes off him and looking ahead to what we stand for.

    1. Eric

      Bingo! ND followers may be the exception. I believe vision is a basic talent found almost exclusively in potential leaders, well under 5% of the population. The general population get their vision from watching. Nowadays sadly from FB, twitter and tv. So many of our so called leaders are merely powerful.

  15. John R.

    My post addresses many of the concerns of other posters and was meant to be a reply to the article, not to the last post as it has been placed.
    How do I reply to the initial article and not to the last post in the thread?
    I did not see any link to the management to direct this question more appropriately so I am placing this in the general thread. Please redirect me as appropriate.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Hit the reply button right below the last comment if you mean to respond to that comment.

      Go to the reply box at the very end of the thread if you mean your comment as a general one.

      You cannot insert a general comment except BELOW all the existing comments.

      Hope that helps! And btw too many good comments on this thread to single one out. The tension between staying empowered but not focusing only on tending your own garden is as old as our individualistic and multicultural society.

      1. ChiGal in Carolina

        I should add, you CAN at any time add a comment as a reply to an individual comment but it will appear after any other replies specific to that comment that already appeared.

        And obviously, you can reply to your own comments if you wish to clarify

  16. Jeremy Grimm

    “Think for a moment about the future—the future you want for your community, your country and the world.” — We just need to think positive and come up with a vision and a plan.

    I want single payer health care for all. I want to stop fighting endless foreign wars. I want jobs and industry to return to America. I want a stop to outsourcing and ‘free-trade’. I want to see a progressive income tax like we had in the days of Eisenhower… I want Glass-Steagall++ and enforcement of our existing anti-trust laws ,,, I want police like Mayberry, NC. I want a more Just ‘legal’ system enforcing laws that I can read and that make sense to my notions of Justice. I want a representative government that actually represents the people and rules of, by and for the people. I want my Bill of Rights back and a Court System that protects the interests of the people. I want nuclear weapons controlled and I want to stop production of chemical and biological weapons. I want our ‘Defense’ budgets cut back. I want our government to help the rest of the world prepare for and mitigate the impacts of Climate Disruption. I want everyone to have enough water, food, clean air, shelter, clothing, health, knowledge, and wisdom that they might enjoy “the good life”.

    Gosh! I want a world where everyone gets a sparkle pony in the color of their choice. I want a Jetsons house, job, car with a robot maid. I want everyone to join arms and sing kambaya together. I can imagine a society like a frontier settlement of little houses on the prairie where we all get together for Church box lunches and every gal gets the beaus of her choice and vice versa.

    I’m not sure how that’s more effective or strategic than bemoaning a dystopian future. I don’t even feel any better. In the present milieu of dystopian atomization of society and trivialized life built on a great ziggurat of corruption sustained by organized brutal mindless killers I am more than a little skeptical about the prospects for the success of any effectual progressive movement. The organizers will be rendered to hidden holes before they can get a movement started. Take to the streets … only if you want to decorate them with your blood and flesh. Maybe wooden shoes might work some wonders but open defiance will be carefully and ‘legally’ fitted to some obscure wording of the latest “Patriot” Act.

    As for myself and my family — I’m trying to figure out a set of skills and basic knowledge I can apply to a future without unlimited petroleum as a source of energy. I’m planning to move to higher ground and try to get enough land to grow more of my food. I’m trying to figure out ways to collect and preserve as much of the knowledge and technology we’ve built as I can and pass it forward into the future. Our societies have reached size, scope, and heights humankind may not see again for an age. I want to save what I can to keep a light shining through to the times to come.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      William Jennings Bryant was impaled on his cross of gold and whatever happened to Eugene Debs and where have all the Wobblies gone? The buck may have stopped at dark horse Harry Truman’s desk — but might we all have been better off with Henry A. Wallace? Any ‘left’-overs of a progressive or effective left were lead to sacrifice on Joseph McCarthy’s altar or investigated by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

      … And this all happened in the good old days before we had a Patriot Act and volunteer Army. Now we know only an iceberg’s tip of what happened to and happens to those who think wrong thoughts. [Remember the cornfield in the old Twilight Zone episode with Billy Mummy?]

      1. Norb

        I don’t know much about Henry Wallace, but from my limited exposure I think its safe to say his being sidelined was one of those turning points in American history. The what might have been moments. When I relate to Obama loyalists that his first term is another turning point in American history for the worse in human equality and justice terms, they gaze back at me like I am crazy. In a way, Wallace’s situation is worse because he was genuine in intentions, while Obama was always a con.

        Sounds like you have a good plan. The slow motion destruction faced by most citizens is difficult to address though in that families tend to become divided. When you really feel strongly about these matters, fundamental choices have to be made and that means leaving some behind.

        Civil war might be somewhat strong characterization, but in the long term, that is really what it is, a fundamental break in how society should be structured.

    2. Amfortas the Hippie

      that evil Machine ain’t gonna just go away on it’s own.
      it will hafta be starved, first.
      and that’s gonna be hard as heck.
      get rid of your credit cards, and other debt.
      don’t buy the latest gadget.
      decide on your priorities and remain laser focussed on accomplishing them…like running off to the woods.(i did)
      i avoid walmart like the plague that it is.
      and would rather cracker-rig my 16 year old washer than spend a fortune on one made in Bangladesh that can’t be fixed when it breaks.
      i’ll drive my cheap 12 year old truck into the ground.
      it can be done, and that sort of thing is what it’s gonna take. unplug and remove yourself from the Machine as much as you are able.Stop feeding it!
      (hard part is getting the wife on board,lol)
      the answer to an uppity Violent Parasitical Elite is the same as it’s always been.
      either abandon them, or eat them.

      the light at the end of the tunnel(that the media will never mention) is that so many folks are finally waking up to the BS that’s all around us.
      the Narratives that served the various cohorts for so long are no longer functioning.
      I know so many teabilly types who were so sure of themselves just a couple of years ago…but not any more.
      they’re at the hard part of the Fool’s Journey, and are about ripe for a new narrative framework….if only someone would provide it/point to it.
      It’s obvious that the Parties will not do this…and that leaves you and me.
      I hold regular symposia in my local feedstore on everything from foreign policy and empire to universal healthcare and subsidiarity.
      if I can do this in deep red Texas without getting shot,lol…

  17. JIm

    ” Have a clear vision of what you want for the future and let that vision guide your actions.”

    But of equal importance is to also have as clear an understanding of how the system you want to change actually works.

    With both a clear vision and a clear understanding of how the present structure of power operates it might then become possible to initiate the first steps in different visions of insurgent experimentation which might eventually result (through luck and persistence) in enough strategic sophistication and organization to actually begin to change things.

    At such a point small mobilizations and recruitment might increase suddenly and dramatically because people begin to sense that inherited power relationships may have a real chance of shifting.in their favor.

  18. none

    I don’t get this, it looks like a rainbow-poopoo platitude. If I rage against the (hypothetical) cancer that killed my dad, decide I don’t want to let it happen to anyone again, go to medical school, pursue molecular biology, become a famous oncologist, and start and run the lab that finds the cure, it wasn’t because of rainbows or a vision of the world singing in harmony. I did it because I HATE CANCER and I want to BRING THE MOTHERFUCKER DOWN. My first idea was to shoot the actual cancer cells with actual machine guns, but that tends to kill the patient too, so I pursued those subtler but just-as-violent approaches. I’m more destructive than Hitler and Stalin and Obama put together! They only killed millions of people, but I killed BILLIONS of cancer cells, yay me!! Ogden Nash wrote about that:

    Love is a word that is constantly heard,
    Hate is a word that is not.
    Love, I am told, is more precious than gold.
    Love, I have read, is hot.

    But Hate is the verb that to me is superb,
    And Love but a drug on the mart.
    Any kiddie in school can Love like a fool,
    But Hating, my boy, is an Art.

    Anyway, we do what we can and what works for us. The platitudes don’t help.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Actually, the best feature of MMT is that it points us back to the real limiting factor, which is limits on real resources: human skills, steel, concrete, farmland, space to dispose of wastes.

      You can pump all the money you want into the economy, but if you’re up against real limits all you get is inflation.

      Money is an abstraction, especially fiat money. It can increase without limit, which is why so many economists deny thermodynamics. The real world, and the real economy cannot.

      Sorry to dwell on the negative side of the theory, but it isn’t all moonbeams.

  19. Mary

    Why not develop, prioritize and manage a list of specific positive changes that can meet several tests, like realistic strategic goals, popular appeal, etc. and then share them and monitor them on this website.

    I am sympathetic to support of cooperatives but my own personal favorite would be a successful movement to shift large numbers of individual deposits from the large corporate banks to local banks that lend aggressively to local businesses. See posting from last week by Amar Bhide. Check out www. Mightydeposits.com which has invested several years in figuring out how to do this and is now in a proof of concept phase.

    But it could be supporting more low income high schoolers to go to college, or…,

  20. Norb

    There seems to be a few fundamental principles that need to be adopted and acted upon in an uncompromising way. Not in any order of importance.
    1. A functioning government concerned with ensuring the common good. The common good defined by protecting a minimum level of guaranteed economic and political rights. (No more 11th level chess strategies or lesser evil voting. Tell me what you stand for and what you want to accomplish to get my vote- sound like how Republicans work)

    2. Realizing that Capitalism is a dead end economic system that needs replacing. Worker/Municipal coops the first step in changing the hearts and minds of the citizenry to embrace a vision that harnesses the technological potential of the human species which is currently being wasted on excessive focus on “profit” as the sole means of determining value.
    3. Rejecting the one size fits all mentality when considering how to deploy human labor. Capitalist demand for profit dictates either slave labor conditions as the ideal, desperate workers competing for few jobs or automation. The relentless pressure in this direction will never end, resulting in class strife and resentment. Inequality is a given condition. Debt slavery is the second half of the one-two punch of neoliberalism. As policy and choice, some sectors can be structured to remain labor intensive out of quality issues, not monetary profit motives, like farm work (more hands on the land is the best way to keep it healthy), healthcare, education, and any industry concerned with recycling and refurbishing equipment and machinery to improve product life for starters.

    4. Reject the notion of planned obsolescence. (See reject Capitalism above)
    5. Stop worshiping the wealthy. When this gets out of hand, democracy and striving for social equality becomes impossible. ( See current America for numerous examples)
    6. Government needs to stop promoting monopoly interests. (See functioning government above)
    7. Reject privatization. Promote the common good and public spaces. (See functioning government above)
    8. Demand an expanding list of Natural monopolies. List of goods and services provided as a social necessity removed from the profit motive. Healthcare/wellness, education, public transportation, energy, communications, defense/military, local and federal funded government. (See functioning government above)
    9. Consume/Use less
    10. Build community/personal self-reliance in the form of actually making and doing instead of buying.
    11. Build community by not exploiting.
    12. Reject war as the primary means of diplomacy.

    Heretical notions all in America.
    Long term goals indeed.

  21. The Rev Kev

    This article by Valerie Vande Panne is quite right you know. If you want to disunite a people, make them concentrate on things that they are against which will dissipate them down different blind alleys like a river spreading itself across a delta. By presenting a vision of things to be (“I have a dream”), that will serve to unite a people and bring them together like a solid river in flood.

  22. Tedwa

    The filthy rich are getting richer and farmers are going hungry for water, for seed, for money. We all are. That’s where we need to take it from – the rich. There’s more than enough money to go around but these neo-fuedal neo-liberals will not share it, creating shortages when none really exist.

    “When through process of the law, the common people have lost their homes, they will be more tractable and easily governed through influence of the strong arm of government applied to a central power of imperial wealth under the control of the leading financiers­­. People without homes will not quarrel with their leaders.”
    By thus dividing voters, we can get them to expand their energies in fighting over questions of no importance to us, Thus, by discrete action, we can secure all that has been so generously planned and successful­­ly accomplish­­ed.”

  23. nilavar

    Who really represent the PROGRESSIVE GROUPS(s) in this country?

    Corporate democrats? Moderate Democrats? Berny followers? Rainbow coalition? Frustrated Millennials? Green party alive only during elections?

    What is their agenda or collective agenda if any? Is their a lobby at the K-street representing the Public interest?

    The bottom 90% are divided in million ways with their own NARROW agenda(s)! The top 5% have the power, wealth and pulling the strings with their rent extraction Economy!

    Until then, it is all about ADO about NOTHING?

    Good Luck!

  24. Scott

    It’s class warfare. Summer is season of war. All war is about territory.
    UN Cedes the TV Land territory.
    Would be better if they used that power,
    Soft power.
    Against a greater power Flank.
    Move in from the flanks.
    Yah know Ben Franklin had that monthly meeting the Juno.
    I’m trying to get that up with my main people.
    The war is class war. Personal contact counts.
    Shared vision counts.

  25. Sivalenka

    I stand for
    a. “make everything in USA” again by giving a tax cut to those that open factories again …pencils to high tech.
    Tax cuts to be linked to production in USA.
    b. Expand national parks and protect coast lines permanently. Make this part of the constitution .
    c. Presidential candidates need to be trained: have top 5 University chancellors meet and develop a list of qualifications needed for Presidential candidates, have them pass a history, constitutional and ethics class at the least. Develop a body of knowledge for Presidential candidates to gain. When Engineers and Doctors and Lawyers are required to gain professional training, a position that has a bigger impact on the Nation and the World needs this at the least.
    d. Militiary budgets to be curtailed to meaningful levels.
    These to me have a broader impact on the economy than anything else and also balance both ends of the political spectrum.

  26. citizendave

    Near the end of the new Star Wars movie Rose says to Finn “…That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.”

    Envisioning or imagining new ways of living and working is difficult, especially if it entails significant changes to our familiar patterns. Reacting to the imperfections we can see in the world around us is relatively easy, especially now, and especially if you are re-reading George Orwell, among others. The task of one faction is comparatively easy: preserve the status quo. The work of the other faction is daunting: invent a new world.

    In our local paper this morning I read yet another propaganda piece from Heritage Foundation, ostensibly on “energy security”. They rail against public policy prescriptions for change, preferring instead to allow the putative “free market” to work its magic to deliver us from poverty, at the expense of a finite planet. They would say we must avoid any semblance of Soviet central planning, at all cost. If there is a grain of truth in their position, I think it would work best for progressive leaders to try to reach consensus on goals, and leave the rest of us to work in our individual ways, by our own lights, toward the common goal. I think that is the important contribution of this article by Valerie Vande Panne, that we should work to describe the world in which we wish to live. Even when we work alone, we will have common cause and purpose with everyone who shares that vision. That world will be, in a word, sustainable.

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