Sunday, January 18, 2009

Partisan or Critic?

Barack Obama's presidency will undoubtedly change the way current events feel to me -- perhaps to all of us --introducing to my analyses the perennial problem of objectivity. Obama is a bright, appealing man who has yet to disappoint, whereas I mistakenly took Bush for a wrongheaded fool before I realized that, for reasons unknown, he is a skilled and malevolent dissembler.

This blog is not an exercise in journalism, as I have said. I already do that at work.

Yet even as a philo sophos 1-- Greek for "lover of truth" -- who is epistemologically agnostic, I am perfectly able to see a difference between partisanship and criticism.

Political parties being what they are in the United States -- largely capitalist cheerleaders who are either centrist to mildly reformist (Democratic) or center-rightist to economically darwinian (Republican) -- partisanship takes the form of dogmatic sycophancy. Everything the party leaders, especially if it includes a president, say or do is defended; everything the other side says or does, especially their president, is attacked.

That, at least, is what the political attack dogs and spinners do. Inside the no longer smoke-filled rooms where real decisions are made, there is a great deal of winking and nodding among accomplices in the conspiracy to keep things as they are for the benefit of those who profit most. They call it the art of "compromise."

A true critic (from the Greek kritikos, or "one who is able to make judgments") renders a truer, or at least less partial, version of events and policies. The origin of kritikos, after all, is the verb krinein, "to separate" or decide.

Besides, I have never been able to be a lockstep member of any political or religious organization. My partisanship, if any, runs further to the left than most of the Democratic Party, toward a peaceable and mild anarchism that questions the very foundations of human association -- much as we humans need social links to survive.

This is a long way to warn everyone that the gloves are off insofar as Obama and the incoming administration and the Democratic blowhards in Congress. Yes, potentially Obama represents change; but the present social and economic status quo has swallowed changers whole before.


1 I'd like to call attention to the fact that in categorizing posts, I draw on a pseudo-Aristotelian typology of ideas. Thus "philosophy" is the search for ultimate truths, "ethics" the moral branch of philosophy (with "decalogue" a particular subset of my own). This is why I have separated "politics" meaning political theory or political philosophy, from "current events" meaning comments on the headlines and "political economy" meaning, with what I deem charming anachronism, analyses of the social and economic relations within nation-states. And, yes, if you have read this far, you spend way too much time on the 'net.
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