Progressives in Silos

Progressives fritter away their energy in many different Specialized Issue Liberal Organizations (SILOs). Here in Nashville, for instance, some of the organizations are

  • Tennessee Activist Coalition
  • League of Women Voters
  • Interfaith Power and Light
  • Standing Up for Racial Justicer
  • Open Table Nashville
  • Workers’ Dignity
  • Nashville Organized for Action & Hope
  • National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
  • Veterans For Peace
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby
  • Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition

etc., and many more. (You can find their events in

Some activists belong to more than one of the organizations. And some organizations work on more than one issue. But all the activists and organizations work as though the issues were unrelated. That approach isn’t very successful. Sometimes a little progress is made on one issue, but none of the problems is ever completely resolved, and new problems keep getting added to the list.

Why do progressive activists see the different issues as unrelated? Well, they believe in the bourgeois myths of our present socioeconomic system. They believe that the system can be reformed, and that it contains a happily-ever-after for everyone if we can just get it functioning properly. They believe that the corruption is superficial, and can be fixed within the current system. They’re mistaken.

Elizabeth Warren, for instance, has said that she is in favor of capitalism but without the corruption. In other words, she’s in favor of greed, but without the greed. Capitalism can’t be made to “function properly.” The benevolence of the Invisible Hand is a lie. The wars, poverty, and ecocide caused by our culture of individualism are getting worse. The problems are not superficial; rather, they are inherent in the system’s fundamental principles. We need a completely different system.

And so we really must work on all the “many issues” together. We must understand how they are symptoms of one underlying disease, so we can treat that disease. We must change our culture and institutions, replacing them with a more progressive way of thinking and living.

Some activists believe that the solution to all our problems lies in local organic vegetable gardening. I don’t think so. If the hegemons see your gardens gaining any influence, they will drive their tanks right through your gardens.

Some activists preach that “love is all we need,” but that seems a bit naive to me. Love is not enough, though it may help. To see why it’s not enough, think about the reasons why we aren’t already all loving each other. It’s because our current culture and institutions are pushing us very hard in a non-loving direction. Some people are full of love, but that’s in spite of capitalism, not because of it.

But we’re facing a chicken-and-egg situation: We want loving people, a loving culture, loving institutions. It seems that to get one of those, we must already have the other two. Where can we begin?

Well, awareness may be the lever or key. If people see the contradictions in our present way of life, and the awareness spreads, then change becomes possible. To free ourselves from our present way of life, we must first see it more clearly.

Now, what is “progressive”? The definition I’ve liked best is the one Paul Waldman gave in 2006: progressives believe that we’re all in this together. That’s in contrast with conservatives, who believe in every man for himself. I would add this further comment: Our species might survive continued war and poverty, but ecocide is driving us toward extinction. We must start working together.

How can we spread the progressive worldview? I’m not sure, and neither is anyone else. But it depends partly on how we see human nature. Some people claim that humans are basically selfish, but I’d amend that: Humans in our current culture are basically selfish. That’s just a cultural overlay. Our more basic nature, our genetic makeup, is still that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who shared everything and cooperated all the time. We can relearn sharing and caring, and that doesn’t require a return to hunter-gathering.

And what about our institutions? We must end property and hierarchy. We must see the whole world as the commons, and share everything with our seven billion brothers and sisters. That vision is unfamiliar to progressives, who have kind intentions but are asleep in the Matrix. Different people must be awakened in different ways — for instance, Waldman’s definition of “progressive” led me to socialism, but it apparently did not lead Waldman himself to socialism. Wake people however you can.


2019 July 8, version 2.10.