The Enlightenment 2.0
by Philip Kosdan, Citizen
I am as confident a social planner and political philosopher as can be.
When I was a young teenager I remember a family dinner at a local diner at the far end of Brooklyn off Linden Boulevard where my parents thought that the owner of the diner should do this and that — I cannot remember what exactly — to improve the place. I thought that arrogant on my parent's part; what did they really know about organizing and running a diner after all? They were not in the food service industry although my mother did shop and prepare us meals very regularly except when we went out to eat at an imperfect diner for dinner. So ever after when I have given advice to friends I know or even diner owners I do not, I do so with a bit of nostalgic hesitation.
Yet, here I am decades and a lifetime later giving advice about how to reorganize the whole shebang of American society. It has been a little difficult for me to get over my own arrogance, even if I have gotten over it for the most part. I know the ideas contained within are really good and extremely helpful; and, that makes it easier. Reluctant, yet confident, I am — even if I would never try, heaven help me, to organize a restaurant.
"Something," as Shakespeare had his character Marcellus opine to Horatio, "is rotten in the state of Denmark." Well, actually, Denmark is doing pretty fine right now and its people among the happiest in the world, but in the nation of the United States, something is wrong and the Danes know it; as does most of Europe and Scandinavia.
It is not too difficult to see that American politics is going through some hard times, to say the least. Right, Left, Democrat, Republican, Centrists, Extremists, nouveau Socialists or born again Fascists, Trumpsters, anti-Trumpsters, everyone is pointing a finger or raising the middle one at the other. A media circus it is with the media itself in the center ring pooped on by elephantine Republicans.
The cause though is not only Donald the Duck tweeting and quacking his way to fame and certain infamy, but more importantly and causally the vacuum of really good ideas at the heart of politics and society. Since it is more difficult to shout across a vacuum, as any vacuum will tell you, everyone is shouting hysterically louder and louder and nothing is getting across. And then it gets louder and more hysterical still. while; nothing gets done or what gets done we all do not like at all. And any plans and ideas out there — Elizabeth Warren having a plan for everything under the sun and moon, most of which I like along with Bernie's Green New Deal — get buried in a media avalanche of gotcha quotes and suggested and real corruption.
That said, I am under no illusion either that what I am about to show you should ever be considered the last word in social revolution. I want many and more of us to speak and write and think and bang our heads against the wall until ideas come along. I know you are like me and shy about your great new thoughts but the times really do practically demand, practically scream, practically flip out that we get off my and your mental asses and make things right before the catastrophes that await human beings overtake us even more than they already have. Dystopia is here already and playing itself out bit by global warming and pandemic bit. What are we going to do about it? Think any of the current crop of think tank mavens and their politicians know what to do? Same old ideas; same old, same old.
Donald Trump thinks he is a "stable genius" and has great ideas to make America great. What exactly are those? To my mind he is an unhinged malevolent moron who one way or another is going to sink Titanic America. And the ideas coming from the Republican Party appear to me more and more nasty and irrational and exist only to oppose to what they believe are the evil plans of the Liberal Democrats plotting to take away your guns and liberty and coddle the poor and unworthy on your increasing tax dollar.
Democrats at their best on the other hand appear to be trying to resurrect FDR — plans I appreciate even if I think them now inadequate. The Democratic Party, I think, is at its worst when they play the game of we must be moderates to win and defeat the evil Trump and Republicans. And, then they do precious little when in office: trickle down politics, although maybe not Warren and Sanders, but the corporate elite rest of them.
As you will see, I think it is necessary to push the political and social game right along and resurrect not just The New Deal as good a deal as it was, albeit a bit long ago now; but, we need to get more in the spirit of the Enlightenment itself and push the ideals of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Thence we can inform and reform a society rotten as Shakespeare's olden Denmark. What would Hamlet do today? To do or not to do? Now, that is a question!
Will the people ever agree to what I will here and now propose? How can you get it accepted? Look at all the forces that would be arrayed against, especially big money interests of billionaires that own our politics? And wouldn't it cause massive disruption and be self-defeating? Totally impractical, you may think once you have gone through all the essays. Yet here is the ultimate irony: if you think anything like this is impractical it will be. If you think anything like this can be done, it can be done.
Yet, too, there are those who are invested, literally invested and big time and big money, in keeping The System the way it is. This is neither a democratic country nor a democratic world in which the citizenry is well informed, thinks about what might work better and can vote for a better world order. For the most part, this is a Corporatocracy (see Jeffrey Sachs and Robert Reich) and a rich man’s world. (“The rich men make the rules for the wise men and the fools.” Bob Dylan) Want to just give up and let them rule over the sinking ship with you in the lower deck? Where do we go and on what life raft? They are all out in the New York Hamptons while the pandemic passes over them. Police knees will not be on their necks; they will be on yours.
In other words, the thrust of these essays, the purpose of these ideas, is to radically and properly and democratically and with kindness and compassion, change the whole system: of politics, of economics, of society. And save us from what looks like the destruction of civilization and all its people. Phew! Really? And my parents only wanted to help a small diner in the far reaches of Brooklyn be better. I just want to save the human world from itself. My parents, political and compassionate as they were, would appreciate it, I am sure.
We need to begin to think how we can change course and how and now. It is only a matter of getting beyond the old rhetoric and especially the old assumptions that are making asses out of you and me and everyone else. So, have no illusions. Creating a social structure that works is not impossible nor is it at all easy. Yet, if any world is on the cusp of disaster, it is ours. We had better move our collective butts and fast though or it will be certain curtains for us as a species. Would Greta agree? I think so. Would Mr. Floyd agree? I would hope so.
In terms of conventional mainstream politics, I am a nobody — if not for long if you like these ideas. I vote every two or four years and that is about it, except I do pay attention to the news and what is going on. Yet, I am not in a political office, nor in government. I hardly make financial contributions to candidates as I am not wealthy.
There was that one time a neighbor invited me to a local Democratic Party gathering in town because that neighbor knew I was very interested in politics and had some ideas and proposals to share. You see, I had just written and self-published a book called: SOLUTIONS, A Wiseacre's Guide For Cleaning Up The New World Odor and thought I might be able to contribute some new and worthy ideas. (You can still find it at Amazon, although I think it a bit outdated by now; although the basic ideas are not. They are going to be in these essays.)
Yet, since this was a general gathering and not oriented to discuss policy issues, the head of the local Democratic Party chapter recommend that I attend a Policy Committee meeting. Little did I know that the Policy Committee did not debate policies at all either and only gathered and shuffled old already agree upon policies and approved other ones that were the usual old boilerplate kind of thing anyway, testimonials to this office holder and that party helper. A couple of members were actually quite perturbed that I was wasting the committee's time with new real proposals. My proposals could not even be gathered and sorted because the members did not take then at all seriously and I would have to present them independently at a more general session of the Party. So much for new ideas!
Instead of being encouraged to bring proposals to that general session, especially after these two meetings in which I was basically cast aside — I think they thought I was a bit daft — I saw that the Democratic Party of North Carolina was not for me. I am very sure my ideas would have gone nowhere at a Convention meeting. You will see why if you read these essays with some of those ideas in them.
I was not at all surprised really, given what I knew of the agenda of the Democratic Party in North Carolina, wimpy at best and empty at worst: mainstream nothingness. There simply is not much there, there, other than not being the retrograde N.C. Republican Party whose only interest seems to be to gerrymander the state so they could retain power and then deny what human rights they could to whomever they could who was not them, all the while sucking up to the rich and shameless in the state by reducing income taxes and underfunding education.
There is still shock and awe nationally, by the way, in the Democratic Party when Democratic Party candidates, usually those labeled "Progressives," actually make substantive proposals. There are candidates, like Biden, but others as well, who are just anti-Trump and that seems to be sufficient to get you elected perhaps. I do understand that Trump needs to go and the sooner the better and 8 years would be an unmitigated disaster for the country and the world. Yet, as in North Carolina, why should anyone really care nationally, if all you are is against the other party's foolishness and cannot think of anything much at all. The vast majority of citizens are fed up with both parties, by the way. Check the poll numbers sometime. Ask your friends.
I really am in an awkward position and outside the mainstream of what passes for the American political system. As you might notice if you read on, the proposals presented could seem sometimes conventionally Right and sometimes conventionally Left, but I think in the end not really easily classifiable in that outdated system. Perhaps these proposals are: above or, if you do not like them: below the horizontal of Left-Right. That is, up or down, not side to side. Whether one way or the other does not really matter to me. It is the ideas that count not some political litmus test categorization of their acidity or baseness. Libertarian? Closer, but not completely. Capitalist apologist? Socialist apologist? Sometimes yes, sometimes no for each. Huh? Bigger government? No. Smaller government? Maybe. More freedom: most markedly yes. More regulation: actually yes, too. Huh? And more huh huhs along the way. It is all outside the mainstream, but still flows with the current, if a bit eccentrically. But there is a far better float on this boat than zipping along with the present hole in the side of the big boat.
Try this for an opening idea: end all taxes and yet free cradle to grave education and medical care for all. The extreme Right might like no taxes, eh? The extreme Left likes free cradle to grave education and health care, eh? But, here is the real kicker,: it is really easy to do and you are not required to do all kind of mental and economic flips and gyrations and contortions and freaky budget analyses to get there. IT IS ALL TOO EASY!!! Trust me? No, maybe not, but read on! You may see the light that I see.
Well, to be perfectly honest, it does surprise me a bit too. Why is it so easy? Why is it so simple to solve the world's problems? I have been thinking about these issues for a good deal of my life and now that I am getting older, that adds up to decades of thinking. But really, I am not alone in spending many hours thinking about political, social and economic issues. Why me, why these? And why so easy? I think in part it has something to do with being away from the center of politics in the U.S. as such and not being swayed by the momentary issues and elections this way and that. I could just think about it and not have to worry about winning the next election for myself or a politician I favored and how to appeal to the snarky media and wealthy corporate interest.
Is all this the very last word in solutions to current dilemmas? Well, it might be, but I doubt it. Still and all, I think it is a very good start and far better than what passes along as wonk think tank politics, voodoo economics and anti-social Trump policy. And maybe, just maybe, with your help and your ideas and my help and my ideas, we can change the disastrous direction that human beings are headed in their politics, their economics, their societies and their relationship to plants and animals, oceans and volcanoes.
I have three values that inform these proposals: democracy, human rights and non-violence. Power to all the people, everyone! Right on! A really real new Enlightenment world vision! Sound pretentious or inspirational? Read on reader, read on!
Copyright © 2020 Rebooting America - All Rights Reserved