Hello, all. I got the same bug as Patrick, and haven’t been up to doing much more than dragging myself back and forth to work and falling over once I get home. I’m hoping I’ll be more myself soon. There are a bunch of half-finished posts sitting in my queue gathering dust.
The Ralph Nader one (provisionally titled “Fck ff nd D, Rlph”) is clearly not worth resurrecting. The tidal wave of eloquent and articulate disapproval that rose in response to his announcement of his candidacy has come and gone. I remain grateful to Candidate Nader for one thing only. He was the occasion of my finally sorting out what it is I dislike and distrust about the “things have to get worse before they can get better” meme, and its less commonly seen sibling, “we have to deprive ourselves of power in order to seek power.”
In the end, my answer to people who say “things have to get worse before they can get better” is, “How much worse? Can you specify, exactly?” Because what I always find, if I ask enough questions and they’re willing to answer them, is that the measure of how much worse things supposedly have to get is, “bad enough that people will be willing to adopt our viewpoint, policies, and platform.”
Have you noticed that? “How much worse?” never turns out to be “only about halfway to the point where our position looks good, so we’ll have to persuade the electorate to go the rest of the way,” or “we’re afraid that if things start moving in that direction, it’ll get so bad that the real hardline weirdos will look good, so we’ll have some repair work to do at first.” It’s always “things need to get bad enough for the electorate to wake up and see things the same way we do.”
(Testing, testing: “We have to let the other side overrun our front-line positions in order to convince our troops that those guys are firing at us and we ought to fire back.” Nope, doesn’t work.)
Does someone who makes this argument understand themself to be saying that hundreds of millions of people should sacrifice the good that might be had by things incrementally getting better, and accept the suffering implicit in things getting worse, in order to bring their own particular faction into an effortless preeminence, and spare them the long hard task of persuading their fellow beings to share their point of view? I doubt that they do; but that is what it means.
It’s my feeling that “we have to deprive ourselves of power in order to seek power” means “I perceive you as a potential follower once I attain power, so how’s about you stay out of power until I get there,” but it’s such an obviously stupid position—right up there with “don’t vote, it only encourages them”—that I don’t think I need to take it any further.