A Good Reminder from Ill Doctrine

Join the Conversation

  • brodyrocks


  • meeneecat

    Jay Smooth rocks! I love his videos.

  • Shulamit

    I will be so glad when the US election is over. The messianic hysteria about Obama and the consequent intensification of the collective delusion about electoral politics is getting really hard to take these days – even Chomsky and Zinn are at it. (Thank the gods someone took them on: http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2008/10/26/chomsky-zinn-and-obama-by-mickey-z/)
    Electoral politics changes nothing. As Emma Goldman said, “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” The issue is not who is in power but rather power itself.
    [Elected politicians]… “can only claim to ‘represent’ us in the absence of passionate, visible resistance outside of the electoral process. So long as we confine our participation to voting and accept a system that delegates our power and agency to representatives, we are accountable for whatever crises our government creates, because of our failure to resist them. But when we directly challenge the authority they claim to hold over us, we rupture the illusion that politicians, or anyone else, can speak on our behalf. If we’ve handed over responsibility for our society and our own lives to our rulers, then we can’t be surprised when they act in their own interests instead of ours, as they always have.” from http://www.unconventionalaction.org
    Another excellent illustration of the flaws of electoral politics:
    As far as I’m concerned, November 5th can’t come soon enough.

  • naters

    Sigh, I just adore him. So smart.

  • RedPersephone

    Speaking of our future kids, can I have his? ;) Smart, passionate, creative, liberal men (well, women too) make me so hot.
    And Shulamit, I get where you’re coming from, but I have three little words for you: Supreme Court Justices. You can’t argue that if Gore had been in the White House, we wouldn’t have different Justices that actually cared about, say, social progress and equality in the law. I can be as cynical as anyone else, but when it comes to this one issue, the difference is so clear.

  • Shulamit

    Hey RedPersephone,
    I’m not cynical. I am en eternal optimist. I believe in people’s fundamental goodness and innate power-within. I identify as an anarchist. I prefer local, direct and sustainable actions and organizing over electoral politics and laws.
    However, I’m open to being educated (despite my rant below :-): Would you be willing to name me a few Supreme Court decisions that have had a direct effect on people’s lives?
    I can’t think of one, other than Roe vs. Wade, and that was a direct result of the women’s movement. People in power don’t suddenly wake up one day and say “Oh! I think I’ll help out a few oppressed people today.” I’m inclined to think everything ever “won” in this manner was as a result of popular struggle.
    I just remembered. There’s Brown vs. Bd. of Education, but that was also as a result of popular struggle.
    Of course, there’s the enactment of the US civil rights law. Toothless as it was, it was a bone thrown to shut the people up – cuz that’s what laws do: co-opt. Instead of organizing for change, people become focused on negotiating the legal system and their notion of civil rights becomes limited to what the law says. Every case is fought on an individual basis, requiring a lawyer, time, energy and money (not to mention favourable judgments) to “win.” And even when you do “win,” you’re still caught in the box of thinking your rights are only as outlined in a law.
    We the people have the power in our hands already.

  • Jill

    Don’t underestimate the power of the supreme court and the potential action of those who want to oppress people within our nation. At the bottom is a website with many of the most important supreme court cases that have been decided. Roe v. Wade is just one of many court cases concerning abortion and with each decision women’s rights can be restructured and restricted. Not only that but think about Plessy v. Ferguson, Dred Scott v. Sanford, Gideon v. Wainwright, and Bowers v. Hardwick. Those are just a few cases that changed people’s lives forever. Also, the Supreme Court gave us our Miranda rights (Miranda v. Arizona), those are the rights read to you when you are arrested giving you the choice to speak or not. It is too easy for our rights to be taken away from the Supreme Court and that is why voting for the president and for your senators is so important. Especially when you consider that South Dakota may pass a law this year that bans abortion. How soon do you think it will take for that law to go to the supreme court and if the wrong justices have been chosen there goes a woman’s right to choose.
    However, I do agree with you, I can’t wait for the election to get done with, although it’s more like I’m waiting for Christmas then feeling fatigued.

  • http://www.illdoctrine.com jsmooth995

    Shulamit: I share much of your skepticism, but I do think there’s a difference between simply urging people to vote and succumbing to “messianic hysteria,” and certainly a middle ground between that extreme and the other one of assuming your vote has no meaning whatsoever.
    IMO assuming Obama will be anyone’s savior and insisting the choice is utterly meaningless are both equally misguided, for the reasons stated above and others. And when I think of Emma Goldman’s famous quote I associate it with the GOP’s voter suppression efforts, and draw the opposite conclusion. They are, in fact, trying to make it illegal and inaccessible for as many people as they can.

  • BooRadley

    Shulamit –
    Besides Brown vs. Board of Education and Roe vs. Wade, a few other extremely important cases include:
    Boumediene v. Bush – giving Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in the court of law (a very big deal if you’ve been in prison for 5 years, but maybe not for ordinary Americans)
    Griswold v. Connecticut – giving people the right to contraception that had a pretty big effect on the lives of millions of Americans!
    Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey – struck down a PA law requiring married women to get permission from their husbands prior to obtaining an abortion. Again, a big deal if you’re a married woman seeking an abortion.
    Regents of the University of California v. Bakke – affirmed constitutionality of affirmative action programs while striking down quota systems. Has an effect on the lives of underrepresented minorities.
    Miranda v. Arizona – made statements made in an interrogation admissible in court only if the defendant was informed of his/her right to an attorney. Important for anyone who’s been arrested and read his/her rights.
    Gideon v. Wainwright – required courts to provide counsel to defendants who cannot afford their own attorneys. HUGE deal for thousands of Americans who have had to defend themselves against charges.
    Korematsu v. United States – Affirmed the constitutionality of detaining thousands of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Made a direct effect on those detained Americans.
    And last but not least, Bush v. Gore – in which the SCOTUS upheld the ruling of Florida Courts in the 2000 election. This had a direct impact on every single American over the last 8 years.
    So, I don’t mean to sound assy by giving a Supreme Court history lesson, but the President has a HUGE effect on Americans when it comes to court appointments. I would also argue that the President is our face to the world, and in a time when America’s reputation has been so tarnished, the next President needs to effectively build alliances and restore our image. You’re right, it’s not like the President is directly responsible for the economy and doesn’t write laws, but the position clearly has immense power to shape history.
    Sorry for the long post. :) I, too, am ready for the election to be over, but am hopefully looking forward to a historic night on Tuesday!

  • bigfred

    I somewhat agree with Shulamit. I understand there are problems to solve in this country but why should I expect politicians to be able to solve them? Aren’t politicians set up to fail, since disagreements will be more common then agreements? As an example, if I hire two kinds of employees that I know will almost always be at odds with each other, that are constantly working to sabotage one another, why would I expect much to get done at work? Furthermore, whenever I ask one of the two kinds of employees why things didn’t get done their response is “well the other kind of employee prevented me from doing what I wanted,” that still doesn’t help the organization/business out does it? My response should be “well if you can’t work together, then you shouldn’t work here at all.” Since this describes to some degree our current system, why should I expect Obama or McCain to do much when they’ve been set up to fail? I think the Supreme Court examples that others have listed are good examples of the power of the SC, but what Andrew Jackson once said comes to mind “John Marshall ruled it now let him enforce it!”

  • Shulamit

    Hi Jill,
    As I said first and foremost, my problem with laws is that we get stuck thinking that what the law says is where our rights end. Second, laws individualize – IOW to benefit from them, the legal system has to be negotiated on an individual basis and that disempowers and co-opts.
    I concede that there are minor differences between governments and thus between the judges they appoint. However, the system is a box – it’s severely limited. I want a different system where I don’t have to hope that the people in power act in *my* interests and not theirs. An unlikely prospect.

  • Shulamit

    Hi BooRadley,
    You didn’t sound assy to me. I *asked* for a list and you gave me one! :-)
    Thanks for all the time and trouble you took to write all that out. I read it carefully. As I said to Jill, I concede there are relative differences between governments and thus justices.
    However, as I also said, it’s the system I take issue with, not so much the individuals within it.
    Here’s why (in a much better form than I have the time to write myself): Why are anarchists against the state? http://www.geocities.com/capitolHill/1931/secB2.html
    Yes, a president has power. My problem is that presidents always have, and always will, act in the interests of those who also have power – in the modern case, fostering capitalism, imperialism, militarism, etc., etc. Not my values and not my interests! Not even the interests of those who don’t share my values.
    Even my diameteric opposite in terms of labels (generationally poor, uneducated, right-wing, racist, White, evangelical-right-wing Christian male), even his interests are not served by the president he would elect.

  • Shulamit

    Hey jsmooth995,
    As I said above, I’m not a skeptic. I’m an optimist. I think we people can do it for ourselves.
    I take your point that overstatement is overstatement. I erred in that respect.
    I do, however, think the choice, within the electoral system, *is* meaningless because governments (and the actions of each and every person in them) serve the interests of power. Period.
    If I dare say so, the very fact that Obama is so close to power demonstrates just whose interests he does serve. (For the record, I said the same of Kerry.) We want so bad to believe change is possible, and we are so blinded by our thinking that electoral politics is the only framework for that change, that we will grasp at the straws thrown to us within it (of which Obama is one) rather than stepping outside it and building the new world of our dreams.

  • Femimax

    “Speaking of our future kids, can I have his? ;) Smart, passionate, creative, liberal men (well, women too) make me so hot.”
    Hell yeah!
    Thanks for sharing this video– I’d never heard of this guy, but, shit! He’s amazing.
    Peace is gonna take *over* the world.

  • HeatherMae

    I think I just had a fangirl moment right there. Big