4:16 am CT, 5/13/15. When you get a certain age, the bathroom comes calling in the middle of the night, and it is “a great blessing” that you have the strength to answer it. You think of your father, for months not able to take care of himself, and the discomfort and indignity he somehow endured. But “thank goodness” he is better now.
You are not supposed to look at the computer in the middle of the night because that triggers a daytime response in the brain. You do anyway, and you type out a little diary. And then your computer crashes before you can finish the diary because of some kind of Windows update that has taken over, but you have convinced yourself by serendipitous experience to try not to get upset because you have “faith” that the computer crashing means something is wrong with the approach you were taking for some reason that will become clear. For some reason that “precious” content you lost was meant to be lost. You don’t know why, but it will become clear (or maybe it’s just that redrafting helps). So you switch to the kids’ old computer that barely works anymore and then proceed to “finish” the diary in a somewhat different way.
Then just before you publish for some reason you look at the headlines and see that another tragedy has occurred, this time on the passenger train system you love. Your thoughts go with the families and friends of those who have died and with those who are suffering, and for a while you can’t bear to publish that now rewritten diary. It seems so frivolous. You think of the good times you have had on that train system going to see family. The universal connections are present, even when we sleep, type, or think we are alone in the bubble of our own isolation.
Others are suffering in an acute way, right now, you now know. So many tragedies. For others the suffering is “merely” chronic, with life filled with unnecessary cruelty and insults to injury. That serendipity theory is often contradicted as bad things happen to good people. Prosperity gospel is a false god. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
We somehow must hallow the ground and each other despite the suffering of human existence. The earth is amazing. Life is beautiful. We can only try through our mundane lives to give as much love as possible in the time we have. We cannot prevent every tragedy, much less every indignity, but let us resolve ourselves not to accept the preventable tragedies and indignities of our brothers and sisters as fate from which we can go to the bathroom and wash our hands.
Here is the diary I wrote, which states “my” political philosophy in a nutshell. Nothing is original (“Love your neighbor as yourself.”), but still it seems so egotistical to raise an audacious voice of challenging hope, particularly on a day like today. Please forgive me if the timing is wrong. Too much tragedy and too much indignity, and the challenges of prevention seem so insurmountable because of greed and fear.
But is there ever a just time to ignore suffering and the preventable conditions that cause it? It seems embarassing and hopeless on a day like today to be wildly ambitious about protecting fragile humanity on a fragile planet, and may I not be acting imprudently, insensitively, or out of ego. But when will we stop listening to the liars and skeptics who say it is foolhardy to implement anything other than the cruel budget-cutting, climate-destroying, suffering-ignoring prescription of neoliberalism? Their profit-grabbing lies and skepticism are anything but new. We can do this.
A lot of people have some idea about what democratic socialism is or should be, especially these days. Please don’t think that my views are necessarily the views of any other democratic socialists much less are intended to be imposed upon others. However, I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of years honestly assessing what I believe politically, and it comes down to what I call “garden variety” democratic socialism. That led me to start a little hobby “save the world” website with an international focus as my effort to testify.
Although I live in Nowheresville, Deep South, U.S., about as far away from the excitement as you can get, I believe that I am connected to you and you are connected to me wherever we live. And with the intertubes, a half-Hispanic hick from Nowheresville is capable of contributing to the conversation. So here is my distilled contribution to the conversation. Everything else I write comes back to this.
It is written in the third person of my other pseudonym, Francisco Nejdanov Solomin. So this is kind of a Bob Dole moment, except for the tobacco industry part and other world family matters.
[From the “Garden Variety” page at gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com]
“Francisco Nejdanov Solomin,” the founder of gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com, supports a radicalized and loving “garden variety” democratic socialism in which the people of the planet are the active and responsible subjects democratically and lovingly nurturing each other and our world rather than the passive objects of amoral and unsustainable capitalist control. If we are to do our best as species-beings, together we must recognize and democratically assert our right and obligation to steward the earth’s soil and other resources as a public trust on behalf of all people, present and future, and we must treat the weak as friends.
While Brother Francisco greatly appreciates much from Marx (including Marx’s critique of capitalism, concern about material needs and alienation, emphasis on the species-being potential we all have, insights into the need to keep soil chemistry in balance, and holistic method for approaching issues), Marx is not the primary focus of his forward-looking socialism. He seeks a peaceful revolution to global democratic socialism, with justice in practice and as goal being in the service of love.
This can only come about through personally challenging but compassionate direct and indirect action and with a broadly shared idea of where we are and where we need to go. The direct action will include small rewarding things like workers’ gardens and large risky things like general strikes and other forms of peaceful mass protest. The indirect action will include electioneering and the use of democratic means to constitutional change, when available.
We should be dialectally focused on “a global social contract to ameliorate and ultimately to supersede neoliberal globalism” (see Pamphlet No. 1: A Winding Path to Workers’ Gardens/Un camino de bobina a jardines de trabajadores, beginning at page 74):
[M]y democratic socialism is values-based not dogma-based. It is democratically rooted in ethics and science, but it is not “utopian” or “scientific” socialism. It is derived as much from the general concept of stewardship as it is from any political or economic philosopher. I do not claim that Marx cracked the code of a scientific approach to resolving humanity’s problems, but I do claim that science should be used in the interest of helping humanity rather than in the interest of making profits for capitalists. I know of no magic bean that can be planted under the mattresses of humans or in the soil that will solve all of our difficult problems. I wish I did. I wish an invisible hand would save us from ourselves. What we have is a failure to cooperate, but cooperation is not easily imposed.
My democratic socialism is gradual, kind but responsibly tough, flexible, and willing to tolerate some socialized forms of state, managed, or even market capitalism where this works best for the people. It is more or less of the garden variety of democratic socialism that is culturally-acceptable across most of the world, with added emphasis on a positive variation of the term “garden variety.” “Garden variety” to me is a proxy for many things, including the obligation to reliably meet the basic human needs of all people, the value of cooperatives and mutual aid rooted in love, the literal need for workers’ gardens in close proximity to dwelling spaces, the importance of sustainability, and the potential lessening of alienation that can come from working with the soil. Democratic socialism is quite commonly endorsed by a large percentage of everyday persons where my grandfather came from in the late 1920s (Spain, specifically, the Canary Islands, which suffered horrible repression under the so-called kings and queens and later Franco). It was an important part of the credo of my brave Cuban-American cigar roller ancestors in Florida, where they were continually harassed by hooded anti-union vigilantes. Cornel West sometimes calls it “deep democracy,” perhaps partly to avoid offending sensibilities in the U.S., but I think mostly because that ultimately is what it is.
Democracy should affect and control human society deeply, not only in the political sphere but also in the economic sphere, which is a human construct and should be used for humanity, not the profiteering of the few. No one should be left behind to fend for her or himself. Ultimately, my most important citizenship is of the earth, as I work to make it more like heaven. Humanity needs a global social contract to ameliorate and ultimately to supersede neoliberal globalism.
To read more about his views of garden variety democratic socialism, and how his journey led him to it, please see Pamphlet No. 1.
Note also that Brother Francisco would never support an agenda of, or acquiescence in, “austerity,” i.e., neoliberal budget-balancing on the backs of the workers and the needy. Sadly, some so-called democratic socialist parties and governments in Spain, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere have under the duress caused by capitalist crises done so. He does not reject the beautiful term “democratic socialism” but believes it must be reclaimed in all its radical fullness and never associated with an austerity agenda. He stands in solidarity with other radical pro-democracy leftists around the world who oppose neoliberalism in all its forms, including austerity.