Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Obama is a Socialist Idiocy Continues...

Recently David Crary of the Associated Press noted that the claim that Obama is a socialist persists despite the scoffing and empirical contradiction it has endured. The claim that Obama is a socialist persists, I suspect, because so many Americans have no grasp of real history and, I suspect sadly, likely never will. Unfortunately for many humans and many Americans it is ideology rather than reality or real history which constructs the myths that many people live blissfully if sometimes red in the face by. I give you the Westboro Baptist Church, Scientology, and the Southern Baptist Convention, to name only a few.

Many Americans simply have no sense of the real history of the -isms, liberalism, socialism, anarchism, libertarianism, and others, that originated out of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment and which continue to dominate the political landscape of the modern Western world today. Historically liberalism, of the social and laissez fair varieties, are different and distinct from socialism in that socialism has generally called for an end to capitalism while liberalism, in most of it forms, has been among capitalism's staunchest defenders. Just because social liberalism, the liberalism of unemployment insurance, social security insurance, governmental medical insurance, borrowed form and was influenced by socialism, particularly democratic and reformist socialism, doesn't mean that it can be equated with socialism.

Borrowings between the various -isms that arose out of the Renaissance and Enlightenment have been going on for some time. Social liberalism, for instance, borrowed heavily from laissez faire liberalism, for example, classical liberalism's concept of spreading risk. Laissez faire liberalism borrowed from "real" conservatism, the conservatism that wanted to return Western Europe to the days before capitalism came and the Catholic Church, at least in the minds of classical conservatives, ruled the European firmament. But it also transformed anti-capitalist conservatism remaking it, in the process, into a defence of laissez fair capitalist dogma just as social insurance liberalism remade and reworked the calls for reform it borrowed from socialism.

This political borrowing, by the way,is no different from how religious groups have borrowed from one another across time and over space. Mormonism, for instance, borrowed its emphasis on Jesus Christ and its temple ideology from Christianity and Judaism. Just because Mormonism borrowed from Christianity and Judaism doesn't make it either Christian or Jewish anymore than social liberalism's borrowing from socialism or laissez faire liberalism's borrowing from conservatism makes social liberalism socialist or laissez-faire liberalism conservative.

I think one of the problems here is the tendency among many Americans to confuse and conflate socialism with redistribution. Historically, redistribution has been going on since, at the very least, humans formed themselves into hierarchical communities and city-states. By the logic of the redistribution is socialism argument King David and King Solomon and their caste of priests were socialists before their time (the terms did not come into use until the nineteenth century) because they expropriated capital in its many forms and labour to build Jerusalem and to build the temple in Jerusalem. By their logic the massive redistribution of wealth from the masses to big corporations like Boeing and GE and to the American military is socialist though they are generally loath to admit it. By their logic the early Christians, if the New Testament book of Acts is a guide, are socialist because they were were communal, having, as they did, all things in common (as do their contemporary heirs the Hutterites).

I know some people would like to believe that education is a cure for this ahistorical ignorance is bliss way of seeing. But I am a cynic. I think that mass society almost invariably always leads to demagoguery and the manipulation of the masses. This notion that Obama is a socialist is just another example of how, in the land of oligarchic America, the land of mass demagoguery, the land of mass propaganda, and the land of the massive manipulation of the masses, reality, real history, is no cure for ideologically constructed "reality". The social construction of reality almost always trumps real reality.

Bibliography:
David Crary, Obama a Socialist? Many Scoff but the Claim Persists, http://www.salon.com/2012/06/04/obama_a_socialist_many_scoff_but_claim_persists/singleton/

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