Monday, December 26, 2005

Transcendental Politics

Grabbed my cup of joe and the paper this morning, hoping to get myself back to normal activity. A lot of bad, bad and worse news, but what do you expect, even the day after Christmas.

I have left the kitchen table where my brother, who loves the free market and its power to line his pockets, is telling my mother, the union organizer, that unions are horrible. I have learned that to survive the holidays, it is best to remove myself from all political conversations with my brother. I love debating here with people who hold similar, if not the same, attitudes as him. However, with him, well, I know him too well. I know his true motivations, I know the stories he tells himself that fuels his politics, and, lastly, I know that he is smarter than to argue most of this stuff with my mother. He doesn't do it because he thinks she is wrong and he is right. Rather, he does it because he wants to make my mother complicit with the story he tells himself that justifies why he makes as much money as he does in an economy where so many others are struggling.

Very few people get the opportunity to live in the style of my brother. The system works well for him and he makes obscene amounts of money. What I don't get is why making so much money inspires you to start watching FOX News.

Honestly, what really makes my blood boil in these conversations is that my brother just mouths the very same talking points that I see show up here in my comments and that are broadcasted out there by the pro-free-market propaganda machine. He is way too smart to just take up these positions as his own. He is capable to think through these issues on his own, weigh good and bad policies, consider the concrete lives of those who have less money, etc. But, wealth is intoxicating. It has transformed my brother into someone I can barely speak with. I just cringe once he starts steering conversations to anything political.

Underlying my brother's politics is a worldview that I don't share. His frame of reference so dramatically differs from mine that our conversations are utterly futile. He sees the world as a competition where the best competitor wins. This is a country where all things are wide open to you if you have the guts to achieve it. We also need to protect this great country, particularly the operations of the free market, from nefarious communists, terrorists or other elusive enemies who threaten to rob our freedom (read: potential to make piles of cash) from us. He sees unions as wanting to strangle the creative power of private companies and give workers way to much money for unimportant jobs. He said to me last night, just before I refused to continue this conversation with him, "so you want to pay a janitor $35/hr to sweep the floor." My brother also thinks, like my student Soul Searcher, that feminists should shut up and just work hard if they want respect.

I could go on and on describing that worldview. I am so intimately familiar with it that I could easily pass myself off as one of the gang if I were to need to play devil's advocate. The problem with this world view is that it is wholly hypothetical. It is a transcendental vision of politics and therefore wholly unaccountable to the the texture, trauma and trials of real peoples lives.