I have been feeling the Bern for some time now. It has fuelled an idealism that has been nourishing. There has been this rush every morning to reach out to my Flipboard tile labelled Bernie Sanders. To catch up on the latest news and analysis – then to reread articles for the second or third time invoking my Tamil past when I memorised lines and texts.
I also realise that I am not a great Bernie watcher. I was an Obama watcher – he was poetically articulate and it was treat to watch him. I cried during his Inauguration speech. But hey I was only shedding a tear that the ‘yes we can’ ring tone that I made – and posted to my blog – wasn’t exactly a mega success. Well I was its only known user. I made a youtube mashup of “yes we can” within a course pitch on World Changing. I was gushing silently and internally, not that anyone wanted to discuss Obama where I live. Bernie is different. I took his authenticity and then left him alone. The Bern I was feeling meant that I had to watch a lot of youtube discussions and analysis.
Then a few weeks ago after the New York results came in, which I was dreading, I deleted the Sanders tile in my Flipboard. From this point if I wanted to check up on Sanders I would have to type in his name. The Bern was becoming tinged with a sense of loss. A loss that the pragmatists, and the elite, had begun to triumph. It was not meant to be this way.
Looking back on this journey I began to understand my journey, my experience, of/through the Sanders phenomenon. I was getting a sense of what the feeling was – what an individual journey of “berning away” could be.
The berning drove me to hear-watch some of his speeches. He said a few things that resonated. But I was watching a lot of other people talking about him: Cenk Uygur, Sarah Silverman and Rosario Dawn are three that stayed and I would keep going back to. I was listening to NPR Politics podcasts (brilliant to sustain the bern) and keeping up to date with the latest news about the primaries. I found I was switching off the podcats when the other candidates were starting to be discussed. I realise now that I was indulging in my own long dormant political idealism of occupying a space on the left. The labelling of the system as ‘rigged’, the calling out of the elite as a closed-entitled-self-serving-minority (my words), and the labelling of business-as-usual-politicians as ‘establishment’ was sweet to hear. Uygur, Silverman and Dawn were great to listen to – they stoked the bern gorgeously – for they articulated the need for a new fresh and honest redefinition of the purpose of government. Something we could see in the sum total of the ecosystem of thoughts, words and ideas that Bernie was pointing at.
I have probably been feeling my way around the notion of a just society. I had posted a note about a particular territory – Projects as Campaigns – and that systems in society are broken (see the text here) so something needs to be done. I would use my teaching practice to address this territory of the ‘broken’. What Bernie did was provide a channel, a place to stop and read, a direction in which to feel free to imagine a future society. This particular berning sensation was tremendously uplifting. I could begin my mental conversations with – ‘imagine if …’.
Obama had begun something in 2007. But his reasonableness was too comfortable. It didn’t have the spirit of the ‘revolution’ – Bernie was serving better as the lightening rod for a great provocation. The Bern was the tension, the tautness of the far left and of the ‘establishment’ centrists being pulled leftwards. So enjoyable to see the squirming.
And VOX too fuels the Bern:
Whether the first Sanders-style nominee is Sanders himself or Elizabeth Warren or someone like a Tammy Baldwin or a Keith Ellison doesn’t matter. What’s clear is that there’s robust demand among Democrats — especially the next generation of Democrats — to remake the party along more ideological, more social democratic lines, and party leaders are going to have to answer that demand or get steamrolled.
To fuel the Bern I was reading. I would have Picketty, Warren and Comrade Corbyn “open in my kindle” (to use a metaphor of simultaneity) as I dipped in and out of these books. I did read Warren through. That was powerful stuff. Indeed the kernel of a pure rational and humane society is revealed by Warren. She is brutal and plaintive in the way she describes the two polar opposites she deals with in her bankruptcy reform campaign. At one end are the organised-gangs-of-robber-capitalists joining forces and at the other end are the isolated bankrupt individuals living in the homes of their parents – still being pursued by the gangs. An acutely tribal and very violent society. How did we let it get this way? she ask plaintively. We have lost out moral compass. And the bern is the feeling of anger at this state of affairs.
A fighting chance by Elizabeth Warren
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved the goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory…. Now look, you built the factory and it turned into something terrific, or great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid that comes along. (from this review)
Capital by Thomas Piketty
Three-quarters of Australians tell survey researchers that “differences in income are too large”. About the same proportion believe that government has a role in redistributing income “towards ordinary working people”. (from this review)
Comrade Corbyn by Rosa Prince
Jeremy Corbyn’s emergence is a strange phenomenon. A man well into his sixties, his political appeal to the under-25s more than any other age group, who has taken on the worst job in politics after 32 years contentedly avoiding responsibility of any kind. In theory, he is due to go to the country a few days before his 71st birthday to ask them to choose him as their Prime Minister. (from this review)
Then last night I encountered a young university student around a campfire – wearing a Bernie TShirt. The fireside chat was where we felt a kinship for we were both feeling the bern. Where I promised to post some readings.
Of course tax cuts for corporations and high income earners, in the new Australian budget, is not okay. Here is what Warren has to say about that.
This is in the Atlantic – an article from 1985: “…and he grins. It’s the mischievous grin of a deliberate non-conformist, a kid who refuses to join cliques.”