[Marxism] Ronald Reagan's death again

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Thu Jun 10 18:59:53 MDT 2004

Hi Douglas,

I understand your point. All I can say is that I personally think the best
norm is to criticise a behaviour, what somebody actually does, rather than
the person, and if I am going to curse a person, I'd either do it to myself
in private, or I would do it directly in interpersonal contact with the
person concerned, to his/her face. And I cannot, for the life of me, see
myself fronting up to Mrs Reagan in order to vent some pithy epithets about
her deceased husband. I don't think that is either human or civil, I
couldn't do it.

The best critique I think starts by looking at what Reagan said and did
himself, which is more the line Chomsky was taking. In the press, the main
thing that strikes me is that what people liked Reagan for, was his capacity
to "inspire" people, and that raises several questions, such as "inspire to
what ?" and "How was he able to inspire people ?" and "why is inspiration
such an item just now ?". Ronald is dead, but is there something to be
learnt, that we can use now ?

I suspect this whole item of media discourse is in fact distorted, because
"inspiration" is easily conflated with "suggestion" and it might mean just
that a leader voiced, or articulated, the spirit of the times, or voiced
sentiments that others thought about, but would not or could not say. And of
course Ronald Reagan was a movie actor.

If political learning is to occur, we cannot just be satisfied with
identifying goodies and baddies as in a movie, we want to know why and how
they do what they do. Otherwise it's just spectator sport only, and we
forget that politicians take on very heavy responsibilities - what would you
and me do then, in their position ?

In a troubled, complicated world, where traditional shared moralities
corrode and fissure, through a renewed recognition of sectional interests,
where new vistas of competition emerge, and where new worries and fears
about the future arise, I think many people are looking for a positive
message, for hope, for something to cheer up about. And they don't want to
be reminded maybe of nasty things happening in the past. And you can
repackage Ronald Reagan as a sort of metaphor or archetype in this context.
For a socialist like me, however, a question of historical truth is bound to
arise, as well as a question about the movement of public opinion, of
ideology and so on.

If I may put it in an "extremed" way by way of illustration, many people
thought Hitler was a good guy, otherwise they wouldn't have voted for him.
My impression is that Americans tend to be pragmatic people, and that often
means that "what something means is only as important as the use to which it
can be put or is put", a sort of semantic functionalism. But that is not
really conducive to an historical consciousness, i.e. a consciousness which
enables us to learn from historical experience in a more profound way.



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