[OPE-L] The role of irrational beliefs

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Fri Apr 21 2006 - 17:01:27 EDT

Hi Rakesh

why do you say that, Jurriaan?

Because I think a sensible politics has to be based on a rational,
articulate insight into motivations and circumstances, and, well, a politics
of nerves and feelings just comes and goes, that is that. I do not think
feelings are unimportant, indeed James O'Connor used to talk about the
importance of "merging real thought with real feeling", but I don't think
emotional wallowing or sowing moral panics is good politics.

so though moods can be a reasonable response, very little results from them?

Paradox or dialectical contradiction? Well, as you probably know, Lev
Trotsky had this famous metaphor of the piston and the steam. The masses
could work up a lot of steam, but unless the steam was channeled through to
the piston, it dissipated rather than drive the wheel (of course, the piston
was supposed to be the political party of the workers). Emotional impulses
are one thing, organising them to real effect is another. A lot of modern
politics is flavour-of-the-month PR-driven populism appealing to moods, but
lacking any profundity, in the sense of cogent thought-through argument
about where society is at, where it is going, and what it ought to be like -
and educating people in this sense.

E.g. the Bush presidency in the USA rails on about the ""war against terror"
with the "-ism" dropped off, which is an emotionalist politics with a moral
veneer, but this presidency fails to come to grips with the real concerns of
American people at home in a cogent way. And of course in the end you cannot
fool people anymore with stories about a few nasty terrorists and
Islamofascist bogeys in some faraway countries. Karl Rove is a shrewd
political pundit with insight into what can "move the masses", but as far as
real policy is concerned, he failed. Which is why they moved him from policy
into campaigning.

Here in Holland, we had this aspiring maverick politican Pim Fortuyn, a
clever, academically schooled PR-stunter who was able to use his charisma to
utilise popular discontents and moods. But while he had a lot of ideas and
feelings, some more radical than others, he had no serious party-political
experience or experience of wielding political responsibility, nor any
profound analysis beyond bickering about "bureaucracy", "immigrant pests",
"reactionary muslims" etc. His "liveable Netherlands" movement was
shortlived, it fragmented amidst constant internal strife and internecine
quarrels, it raised more problems than solved them. On the crest of a
popular mood, he could initially rope in quite a few seats in parliament,
but this support-base was also gone just as quickly. It wasn't simply that
Fortuyn himself was assassinated, but that playing on sentiments and a few
"good ideas" were insufficient for a real political commitment that could
effect real change. The Fortuynists were easily defeated by people who were
maybe less creative, and less in tune with public moods, but vastly more
experienced in political responsibilities.

When Karl Marx left the Communist League, he told them "it takes years, nay
even decades, to make yourself fit for political power", and I still really
believe that is true (most of the hard work that has to be done, is the work
on yourself). Feelings are fine, wonderful even (glad I still have them),
but for politics you also need mental discipline and a cool-headed, sober
analysis (which can show what the best place for those feelings is, what to
do with them). I wouldn't rate myself as a politician, in fact I've had a
lengthy anti-political phase, but I have attentively observed politicians,
both "live" and through reading, and then you get a different understanding
of the role of feelings etc., the need for emotional economy, etc.

Or, think of the French students that demonstrated recently, what would they
have achieved - with an "unfavourable relationship of forces" - without
organised union backing?


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