From back in April, but here’s a brilliant interview with economist and former (however briefly) Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on some of the overarching trends affecting Europe today, what Brexit means (good foresight on Boris Johnson here), why anyone on the left who supported or is celebrating Brexit is missing the forest for the trees, insight into the destructive austerity measures imposed by Brussels and the IMF on Greece through the bailout packages, and hope for the left in both Europe and America.
European problems are American problems are global problems. If you don’t care about these issues you don’t care about your neighbor, your family, or yourself. We on the left always have to be more informed than those on the right because our currency is in measured deliberation, aspirational pragmatism, and incremental realism rather than the fearful, hateful, and delusional solutions of the forces we oppose.
Humanity is on the edge of a cliff with the environment, inequality in the global economy and how it relates to our democracies, and international and domestic relations between the West and Islam. This is not said to instill fear, but rather to stress the importance of educating ourselves, mobilizing, organizing, and working to change our world. There are practical, common sense solutions to these problems we can work to implement, but only if we work together, both online and offline, as a movement. For Americans on the left, Bernie Sanders is not the end, but rather a potential beginning to our mass movement to change the way our country works. Right now, however, it is only potential. We cannot let this chance pass us by after we’ve seen how many of us believe the future should not be based in the fear-mongering of the Donald Trumps of the world, but rather on a vision of equality and human dignity we tirelessly strive towards.
I don’t want to get too wonky, but I’ve always been a big fan of John Rawls’s “veil of ignorance” (in a nutshell it’s a thought experiment where you have to create a society where you don’t know your place and therefore could end up as anyone anywhere. The theory is the society’s creator is more likely to base the structure of their society on equality rather than class-interest as they are motivated to create a world where no matter who they end up as (they are randomly placed or “born” after they create the society), their lot isn’t too bad) and I like to think these ideas still have relevance in a world where the political discussion has been reduced to trading insulting tweets back and forth. It’s easy to lose sight of these core principles and how complicated it is to decide what is right when our rhetoric is based on how clever a barb we can craft in 160 characters or less. It is our job to not only demand a higher level of discourse, but to engage and create that discourse ourselves with people we both agree and disagree with.
In one of my very, very favorite political treatise, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, about one of my very, very favorite political ideas, the breaking of the oppressor/oppressed cycle of violence through education (among other things), Paulo Freire discusses the importance of this constant learning and dialogue, “For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” By teaching one another, sharing ideas and thoughts through a synthesis of thesis and antithesis, we are filling-in our inherently incomplete natures; helping one another realize the fullness of our humanity. Meet fear and hate with a bulwark of knowledge, always. This sounds idealistic, but to patiently and resolutely inform is one of the best ways to impact the world around you. It can be dangerous for the educator, it can be deadly, but it can also be effective. Find an audience who disagrees with you then learn from them, learn what you can teach them, learn how you can teach them, and help them paint the edges of their self.
It’s true that the burden to educate falls inordinately on certain races, genders, or classes, and it’s unfair, deeply, deeply unfair. Recognizing this unfairness, it’s understandable that exhaustion can set in when one must survive daily assaults on the mind and body other demographics can barely (or can’t possibly) fathom, and the idea of educating those involved in direct or tacit assaults seems beyond the pale. This is why those who consider themselves allies from less-oppressed demographics must first help influence and structure a society that empowers more-oppressed demographics and frees them to teach us and others the essential lessons and knowledge they have to share. If we do not speak out loud and often as a conduit and vessel to amplify the voice of our exhausted and assaulted brothers and sisters, we are failing in our role as allies. We should be working ourselves out of business by shaping a world where our more-oppressed compatriots no longer need our help to amplify their demands because they are fully represented in our collective politics, culture, and society by members of their own group; an equal place at the table where we can equally share ideas and thoughts to help ourselves and our civilization grow and prosper. It is through cultural uniformity that we create fear and weakness in a society, and it is through diversity that we nurture knowledge and strength, but only if we, the left, those who believe in creating a better world, commit to true integration and dialogue.
We do have power, we can change things, and there is still hope. Let’s get to work in the best way you know how. If you’re curious on how you can be most effective, please ask and open a dialogue. I will help in the best way I can.