Monday, September 19, 2005

Creek Running North

Morning. A ghost on the western horizon -- the mottled shell of the full moon, pale blue against a pale blue sky.

If you have a few extra bucks this morning, a great way to spend them would be to keep Creek Running North up. Chris Clarke is one of the best writers alive today. I'd read anything he wrote -- even his gardening column, though I've never gardened in my life. His politics are unreconstructedly radical; he's one of those environmental extremists that so puzzle our president, and he loves a fight. He's also humane and reasonable, and he writes hauntingly of the Mohave Desert. You never know what's going to turn up there -- a hard-fought contest for Best Dog or a meditation on having his life saved by a serial killer or a screed against Burning Man or the narrative of having his head in the jaws of a puma or a love-letter to joshua trees. All you know is that it's going to be the best of its kind.

I've been Mr Buddhist in my web existence, so those of you who don't follow me closely -- maybe even those who do -- might be startled to learn that Buddhism first appeared to me as a political agenda. I've paid a lot of attention to failed revolutions. There have been plenty to pay attention to, in the last century. And I've ended up far more pessimistic even than Chris, who is not exactly the Polyanna of the Mohave. Chris just feels that our political side is losing. I feel that even if our political side won, it would only turn into the enemy. "To make Socialism, one must have Socialists," William Morris once said, explaining why he went every Sunday to speak at Hyde Park (something he loathed doing.) The history of the failed revolutions of the last century -- as I've said elsewhere -- is to my mind the history of trying to make Socialism without Socialists. It can't be done.

William Morris was also, compared to me, a great optimist. He thought you could make people into Socialists by convincing them of Socialist opinions. I don't think so. If you convince a Capitalist of Socialist ideas, he's just a Capitalist with Socialist ideas. Making a real Socialist -- a person who doesn't actually cling to his self-conception and attempt to Leave His Mark at the expense of other sentient beings -- is a far more difficult task. Opinions are the least of it. I don't even care much about opinions, now; they can wait. What we need are Socialists. Socialists will make Socialism willy-nilly, even if they have Capitalist opinions. The opinions won't matter.

But in the meantime, political struggle doesn't stop, and it still matters, and what matters above all is keeping clear on what's wrong and exactly why we refuse to endorse the world of oppression and exploitation. No one's clearer-headed about that than Chris. So drop a few dollars in his hat. He's been working on our behalf all his life, and all he's asking for is the wherewithal to keep on doing it.

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