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Apr 10, 2023·edited Apr 10, 2023Liked by Alex Olshonsky

I'm gonna need a few days to digest this, cause OMG THIS WAS SO GOOD.

I've been shouting this for years, and it rarely matters that I have a degree in Political Science with honors from Rutgers, or years of experience working in or adjacent to politics, no one wants to hear it because it takes the wind out of their sails. It's hot air filling up their sails, and not making any movement. Both sides are stacked with agendas, liars, and propaganda. And if you follow the money to the top both "sides" are literally owned by the same, small group of people. It's not a conspiracy theory, it's a fact that doesn't take long to verify now that the internet exists. People love their circus and peanuts.

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Apr 10, 2023·edited Apr 10, 2023Liked by Alex Olshonsky

I don't shout anymore, because I've learned how valuable peace truly is, and it starts with me. If folks wanna know, I share, and as soon as they stop actively listening I stop speaking. I fill my days with action and meaning far more often now than I had when I was running the streets with my signs and speakerphones.

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Merrick, this, I absolutely love this: I fill my days with action and meaning far more often now than I had when I was running the streets with my signs and speakerphones. Also: hot air filling up their sails and not making any movement. Thank you so much for these gems

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Great essay. A few disparate thoughts... There is one more aspect worth exploring and that’s loss of religion/ ritual/ myth and spiritual practice. There’s good reason conservatives are happier - they have religion, family, community and sometimes that’s all you need to have purpose and meaning. In liberalism there’s a desperate search for a new religion. Hence the insane and zealous rise of unquestioned faith based ideologies on the left. I’m an atheist and have come to appreciate that, while the boat has sailed on God, there needs to be a spiritual practice and purpose that takes its place.

Truth be told I came to politics from a libertarian angle. I am socially liberal and feminist (I thought) but I don’t even recognize feminists anymore! I heard recently that democrats are the evil party and the GOP is the stupid party. That’s good enough explanation for me. And like Chomsky said GOP is the party of business and Democratic Party is the party of big business. Partisan politics is the most foolish and cynical game out there. We’re useful idiots if we fall for it. Politicians have to be kept on a VERY short leash.

Personally, for the past two years I’ve been making a concerted effort to get away from politics and instead to create, love and live. The state of our kids is worrisome though so the only politics i talk is to thoroughly inoculate my kid and others I care about...

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You bring up an important point. I believe Blaise Pascal was the first to warn of the "god-shaped hole" - the void of meaninglessness that's left when a person abandons all notions of spirituality. Now that turn of phrase is often cited, and for good reason - It's more than safe to say much of the left suffers from this sense of directionless, spiritual vacuum. What's worse is that this hole is often filled with the bastardized strains of (extremely important) ideals that are supposed to lead us towards transcendence (e.g. "inclusivity") but in 3D practice, they tragically become misdirected vehicles for further division.

Feel you on libertarianism. When I stepped away from progressive politics for a few years, that's what I told myself I was. Now, no clue. Ha. Also feel you on the state of children. My partner was a psychotherapist in schools during the pandemic, and damn, did hearing about that experience humble me.

Thanks so much for this, Reena.

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Apr 7, 2023Liked by Alex Olshonsky

What a privilege to read. Another gift for the empowerment and inspiration for all of humanity. Always a pleasure Alex. 🙏

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Jodi, thank you for THIS

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Alex inspiring, informative piece of writing ✍️.

You capture the truth in your words. Well researched and presented. 🙏

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Enormous gratitude, Barbara

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Apr 7, 2023Liked by Alex Olshonsky

Any chance you've read What White People Can Do Next? Emma Dabiri has some very interesting commentary on the issues of what could be called "identity politics" and the breakdown of progressive movements cannibalizing themselves instead of building coalitions.

Especially the last two paragraphs of this connected a lot to what she talks about.

Appreciate your perspective here. As always, feels like you're writing my mind haha.

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I haven't read that, but yes that's the issue: the ouroboros of identity politics (but *without* the spiritual renewal). Thanks so much, Craig

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Agree with so much of this. I'm politically very left leaning and an activist myself on issues of criminal justice reform, but I can't stand the therapy speak that's overtaken some circles that ostensibly should feel like a political home. I think we've forgotten how healing thinking in terms of the other can be. Boundaries, sure. But also, it's you, hi, sometimes the problem is you.

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Ha, well said. And totally, one of the biggest challenges is that we are supposed to be pluralistic, but we're not there yet in terms of truly embracing multiple viewpoints

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I enjoyed this piece thoroughly. You approach your theme with both logic and intuition. You seamlessly share your personal voice and experience to add context to your subject, while it is obvious to the reader that you are well read and an arduous researcher in your citations to enlighten and enhance your themes. Reading this article, I have come away with some new and compelling theories, diction some new literature to explore. Many thanks.

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Thrilled to hear this, Ann, really appreciate you sharing it

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Wholly in accord.

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:)

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Apr 7, 2023·edited Apr 8, 2023Liked by Alex Olshonsky

Interesting post and, as always, thoughtful, well written and timely. Your take on the discordance on the left reminds me of the famous quote by Will Rogers. “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”.

I appreciate your comments about Pod Save America, but I strongly encourage you to listen to the interview this week with Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson. I’m ready to hand the keys to everything over to this guy who literally defines pragmatic progressivism.

I came of age during the last progressive political era led by a president whose name is rarely associated with progressive anything. One of the most notable progressive policies this president implemented was his environmental agenda. During his presidency, he established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and signed several pieces of legislation aimed at protecting the environment, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. These laws set standards for air and water quality and provided funding for research and enforcement. His efforts to protect the environment were not only progressive but also bipartisan.

He signed the National Cancer Act, which increased funding for cancer research and established the National Cancer Institute. He also signed into law the Comprehensive Health Manpower Training Act, which provided funding for the training of medical personnel, particularly in underserved areas. He proposed a plan for universal healthcare that would have required employers to provide health insurance for their employees or pay into a government-run system. While the plan did not pass, it laid the groundwork for future healthcare reform efforts.

He signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or gender in hiring and promotion. He established affirmative action programs in government hiring and contracting. He supported the desegregation of schools and universities and appointed several African Americans and women to high-level positions in his administration.

Finally, he opened the West to China and established détente with the Soviet Union, moves that many at the time viewed as progressive. His visit to China marked the first time an American president had visited the country since its Communist revolution in 1949. He also signed several arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, including the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), which limited the number of nuclear weapons each country could possess.

Oh, how things have changed in fifty years. He was flawed in many ways but, hey, who knew that Richard Nixon was a progressive? He would obviously never make it through a Republican primary in 2024.

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Haha, no way. I know Greenspan said that Nixon and Clinton were the two smartest presidents he ever worked with. Thanks so much for this powerful perspective. I've also been meaning to check out Brandon Johnson

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Well articulated and can't agree more with many of your points. But there is LOTS to unpack here. Some have argued that the 80's, known as the decade of "the self", represented the hippie boomer generation's shift inward after the disappointment of not being able to significantly change the "outside" world for the better. So this "inward/outward" dynamic has played out before. So it's perfectly understandable that millennials would feel politically homeless. I often feel the same way and I am a boomer. But I think it's important to realize how the binary black & white thinking that has contributed significantly to these intensely polarizing culture wars has been fueled in GREAT part by BOTH the sound bytes of the media establishment and the algorithms which drive social media. It seems like few people these days have any capacity for the kind of nuanced understanding which counters/challenges shallow stereotyping. I would also propose that while it may SEEM like the radical right are "happier" in the aggregate, scratch them a bit and you'll find they're extremely angry and resentful. Even if only a tiny fraction of them participated in the insurrection on Jan. 6, the majority of them still silently supported it. They also cocoon themselves in a complacent denial of a more complete view of history. As the saying goes "history" is largely written by the victors. Hence their outrage at CRT. The folks on the left, on the other hand, may be more prone to depression because the task of forging a better world, a happier future is far more daunting. Innately there's no reassurance it will be any more successful than previous attempts by progressives from other eras. It's a far more ambitious thing to face an unknown, unguaranteed future than to retreat to an idealized past. Hence the self doubt! If you wish to be part of a progressive social movement that makes you feel inspired instead of depressed then I would recommend you read Anand Giridharadas. He's an amazingly incisive thinker and writes with the kind of precision an experienced surgeon wields his scalpel. He also champions those progressives out there who are NOT valorizing depressive affect as a sign of political commitment, but actually doing the REAL work of bringing people together and forging new ways of thinking and being beyond the cartoonish reality depicted and promoted by corporate media.

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I didn't know the 80s were known as the decade of the self, that's fascinating. Because yes, the cultural pendulum always swings back and forth. It feels like today we've reached a peak in terms of individualistic worship x psychologization; it will inevitably swing in the other direction, though. As far as I understand the data, young conservatives are in fact happier across multiple measures, though I do agree that many older conservatives are likely raging beneath the mask. And yes, for sure the algos and media are major contributing factors here. I'll check out Anand, thanks for the rec. It's also true that there are many progressives like him just doing the damn work and embodying spiritual liberation vibes. I only had so many words, the essay was already getting long, and to your point, and this is an absolutely massive topic.

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Apr 7, 2023Liked by Alex Olshonsky

Thanks for this!! I feel ya brother!

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Thanks my dude

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Portlandia has a related bit:

https://youtu.be/wGU0wCGw79k?si=C6rIlLEoV80wDAdb

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Regarding left vs. right unity, I think one important distinction is that the right, unlike the left, values power as a good *in itself*, as something that needs no external justification. Underneath their surface moralities, most committed right-wingers really do believe might makes right, and thus they can put aside their differences to rally behind (whoever appears to be) the strongest. Refusing to valorize power as inherently good is the foundation stone of left politics, so the quickest and easiest shortcut to consensus is not available for leftists. In fascist regimes, a lot of supporters of the regime don't really agree with the fascists' ideology—but they do see the fascists as Winners, and that is good enough reason to support them, because they want to be Winners too. That is Trump's core appeal too, his actual ideology is a nothingburger, what he promises is that you, Loser, will Win so much you will become "sick of Winning".

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As someone who "helped to build" twitter you participated in that madness (you call yourself a madman). So, now you're trying to sell me your healing spiritual expensive program to "recover" from that madness? Do I miss anything? Why should I trust your words?

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Great post! I am also in recovery and have 25 days (before I went back out I had 12 years).

Certainly, the Yippies and Mailer are preferable to the current crop of resistance, but even they had a huge streak of narcissism and attention seeking that arguably led to our current moment (see Lasch, Culture of Narcissism). It seems like the therapy-speak warriors are a mix of 60s performance and 70s navel gazing. Anywayi subscribed and do not be surprise if I cite you in the future.

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Authoritarian liberalism and the cult of victimhood is not left-er. It's not left OR right, it's a radical offshoot of TikTok politics grown in the petri dish of the pandemic. Lefties think they should align with it because they think, maybe it's about civil rights? And civil rights are like, traditionally our thing?

If you think woke is liberal ot progressive, you're not paying attention..

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