Babylon Ain’t Falling

Anyone else tense this week? Some random thoughts on the eve of an election:

  • I’m going to stick my neck out here and predict that there won’t be a civil war anytime soon here in the Heart of Babylon. We might have some isolated incidents over the next few days that the press will amplify. But most folks on all sides of the political spectrum are too busy just coping with the effects of a pandemic and the demands of family and work to storm the Bastille. I could be wrong. We’ll see how well this post ages.
  • Doomscrolling twitter and looking at the news too much isn’t healthy. It leads to paranoia and the feeling that a civil war in the Heart of Babylon is imminent.
  • Whatever happens in the next week it’s not time to make brunch reservations. In this election we face a choice between a kind of incompetent proto-fascism (real fascists would organize the buses better at their rallies) and neoliberalism. Proto-fascism is worse but neoliberalism sows the seeds of fascism by worsening conditions for working class and middle class people. In short, neoliberal austerity, international trade deals and anti-labor measures create an opportunity for right wing populists. To be clear I think we need to first evict the fascists and then take on the neoliberals. It’s a long game–they’ll be no brunch for the rest of my life.
  • My LA neighborhood is a liberal bubble. There are no Trump signs. But there are plenty of signs screaming “VOTE.” I find this message irritating and condescending, especially when directed at young people. My response is “VOTE for what?” Give me something to vote for not empty platitudes like “Decency.” What does that even mean? How about Medicare for All? Access to higher education? How about not sending poor kids off to wars?
  • Don’t forget local politics. Everyone is distracted by the soap opera in Washington. Meanwhile, here in Los Angeles, our local politicians, almost all Democrats, are engaged in old-school corruption: suitcases full of cash, partying with developers at casinos and cavorting with sex workers.
  • Speaking of LA I have a message to the folks in the rest of this country: you don’t want our mayor Eric Garcetti in a cabinet position even though I’d love to see him be someone else’s problem. He’s another neolib who wants Uber to run everything.
  • Politics should not be about personal expression. It’s about working with other people towards a common goal. This has been an especially hard lesson for me. I think we’re all raised in a culture of self expression and social media only exacerbates this.
  • Political discussions are difficult when you base your identity on them. I have an only child’s sense of being Always Right™. I’ve done a lot of phone and text banking and knocking on doors for campaigns in the last 11 months. The lessons learned are: spend most of your time listening to what other people are saying. Ask open ended questions. Never tell someone that they are WRONG™. Pivot gracefully to what your opinions are. Don’t argue with people. This is all easier said than done and harder when you have political conversations with friends and family.
  • When you make calls for a campaign you quickly learn that you are a political nerd who spends too much time looking at Twitter. Most people are busy taking care of a crying baby, working the night shift on a job they hate and/or just trying to cope with life.

I’m going to leave the last word to Bertolt Brecht:

It takes a lot things to change the world:
Anger and tenacity. Science and indignation,
The quick initiative, the long reflection,
The cold patience and the infinite perseverance,
The understanding of the particular case and the understanding of the ensemble:
Only the lessons of reality can teach us to transform reality.

Leave a comment


  1. Very good post. I think you are starting to see how too much government is a bad thing. Most people make good decisions for themselves. Which is why trump is so appealing to many.

  2. I’m 99% in agreement. But if we’re in this for the long haul, brunch now and then might not be a bad move.

  3. (((applause)))

    I disabled FB for the week.

    I moved from the city to one of the very few Trump bubbles in Western Washington. This has made it painfully obvious how dysfunctional it is to live in a bubble, especially if you think your bubble is the right bubble. It’s been good for me to have to mix it up a little bit. There are real problems when one bubble believes it should be able to control the other bubble. If you shook us all up and evenly distributed us across the nation, I think we’d find our communities getting along a lot better.

    • “If you shook us all up and evenly distributed us across the nation, I think we’d find our communities getting along a lot better.”

      I have a recurring fantasy that this happens somehow. I really do think it would help us so much. Interestingly, this is the experience many young people have when they join the military.

      This leads to another recurring fantasy that we had a universal period of mandatory national service (although not military).

      Then I remember that in theory I’m a small-government person and I feel weird. :/

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