214. progressives and meaning
August 9, 2009 § Leave a comment
This is important. the description of progesive conversations is often too correct.
But organizers for social change face a critical problem. Trying to mobilize people strictly on a rational basis, and in particular with uncritical acceptance of the assumptions of a consumer driven economy, is proving increasingly difficult. On paper it should be working. Intensive values surveys of Canadians consistently reveal that they are progressive in their views about the role of government and the value of community. On the basis of such surveys, over 60 per cent of Canadians could be described politically as social democratic. And yet we see two neo-liberal federal leaders and their parties garnering two thirds of Canadians’ voting intentions. Something is very wrong here.
What makes people identify?
It raises the question of why people get engaged. Why is that tens of millions get into an emotional frenzy over the death of a pop star or identify their lives with a professional sports team but can’t be convinced to fight for social programs that would increase the quality of life of their communities? Why do further millions identify with right-wing evangelical religion rather than the call for secular social justice?
According to Lerner, they are in a search for meaning and in the context of the destruction of community of the past 30 years, they find in sports and Michael Jackson’s fandom pseudo-communities they can identify with. In their quest for community they pass by the door that says left-wing politics. Why? You need not search much further than the typical political meeting — overly earnest, boring, economistic, gloom and doom and, except on rare occasions, distinctly unwelcoming to the newcomers who have braved their first tentative outing.
And after the meeting? Nothing. No nurturing. No ongoing connection. No community.
While the U.S. example does not apply as clearly here, Lerner’s analysis of why the Christian right in the U.S. has been so successful has lessons for Canadian activists.