People Power post #3 – I am a kook

I have heard both conservatives and liberals alike discuss how the protests are made up of “regular people” and “kooks.” “Good people” who want to change the system and “socialists” who want to change the capitalist system. There are good moderates and then there are the radicals.

I am one of the radicals, although I find it difficult to call myself radical. Is it really so radical to look around at America and think that there is something fundamental that needs changed? Is it really so kooky to think that we need more than a routine tune-up?

I think that these Wall Street occupations and protests scare a lot of people. That’s fair. I understand that. I think that in fear, people look to moderate things, reach some sort of consensus, and move past it. This has been the case historically. Take the civil rights marches as an example. The white power structure worked hard to give protesters just enough to make them get off the streets. Then, they often did not follow through on the negotiated agreements. But they were always willing to bargain to get people off the streets because protests make the public nervous. From my understanding of the history, the problems was that in many cases, the civil rights groups would only win symbolic victories. These were important, of course, symbols are meaningful.

At one point in our nation’s history, it was radical to believe in the total abolition of slavery. It was radical to believe that black people and white people were equal. There was a time when it was radical to believe that a woman was intelligent and responsible enough to be counted as a voting citizen. This was an extreme position. There were periods of time when questioning the forced removal of Indian tribes was way out of the mainstream. As recent as fifty years ago, you might have been called a “kook” if you believed that the civil rights protesters were doing the right thing.

I count myself a contemporary kook. I have no chip on my shoulder, although I understand if you do. I’m not angry, although I sympathize with you if you are. I simply believe that the status quo is not okay, and I don’t think we should look for quick fixes to get people off the streets so that we can go on with business as usual. Let’s ask ourself if there is something fundamentally wrong with the status quo.

I am a kook. I am a socialist. I believe in equality for all. I believe in a responsible society that equally distributes its resources while at the same time promoting freedom and individual responsibility. I believe it is possible if we make it so.

Power to the people.

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

8 thoughts on “People Power post #3 – I am a kook”

  1. Erdman, you kill me. Oh, the contortions I do to be open minded and try to get inside your head when I read your stuff! Ok, so I pondered your radical socialist approach……..and it hurts me. Is it also fair that if you are not a kook, but merely……….hmmm…….let’s say advanced in your understanding of things – what would your feeling be about say, rolling back Roe v. Wade – something that is considered just about as kooky as anything in today’s society – because as radical as that sounds, its hard to argue that its not downright barbaric….I heard a speech just today about the cliche, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – and I pondered it – and how it would have been brilliant wordcraftsmen preparing those founding type documents…….and my husband is an attorney, and the difference between a good attorney and the one who is a crappy attorney is the careful choice of words – and their placement in a statement, and in a paragraph – each word counts….and where it is in the sentence is important – and…….the order of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness could be interesting……..for example, we’re allowed to do whatever we want in america that makes us happy – until it infringes on the liberty of others…… know the saying, “Your rights end at the tip of your nose” – and then there is the right to liberty – our self determination – and that extends to the point of where your liberty (right to choose) infringes on the LIFE of another. What say you? Would you support that if i support expunging all debts and minumum wage being jacked up to $20/hr and free college education for all like the morons are demanding on Wall Street these days?


  2. Hi Kristi,

    I do appreciate it when you stop by every once and a while so that we can chat politics, government, and civics.

    I do stand in solidarity with the morons. I think that raising the minimum wage to $20/hr, expunging certain debts (esp. college loans), and providing free education would be better for the U.S. as a whole and for the average person. That is, I think that it work to level what has become a highly unequal society, where the wealthy, collectively, form a ruling aristocracy. You have Tea Party sympathies, if I remember right, or at the very least you support smaller government. Well, who the hell do you think runs the government? Who’s paying the bills for the politicians who spin through the revolving doors on capital hill? Who do you think they play favors to, at the end of the day? (Hint: it isn’t Kristi, because she doesn’t have the fat cash to pay them!)

    Back on track….while I think that expunging debt, upping the minimum wage, and free education would improve our nation by balancing things out, I am not only a socialist but a libertarian socialist. That is, I am suspicious of any centralization of power. In short, I am not a fan of big government. Ultimately, I think the best fix is to decentralize power, to create a society where we do not rely either on government or on the wealthy. Any and all centralization of power leads to screwing the little guy.

    How about you? Do you think we need millionaires and billionaires in our society? Do they “deserve” to be rich? Do you think the banks get a bad rap? Do you think Warren Buffet should have such a low tax rate? And what is your opinion about the right wing populist movement – the Tea Party?


  3. I’ve been debating what to say, dear brother. 🙂

    Since our “end game” is not that dissimilar, the route is the big issue. Is Buffet (not Jimmy) evil because of his extraordinary insight? I recall an incident in my past of asking a neighbor if he had some sandpaper. His response was, “We don’t work that hard around here.” Is it really that hard to maintain grasp of a course piece of paper whilst moving it back and forth? There is an enormous “inequality” in the mindset of humans in our country. How much “equality” can be expected in monetary assets? Someone who has keen sense of what has value in the future and is constantly monitoring it vs someone who straight up doesn’t give a shit about tomorrow. I applaud Buffet not only in his personal achievements, but in his willingness to acknowledge that The Gov is giving them BS loopholes. I agree that taxation should have a form of equality, but…

    Would all the petroleum engineers be pissed if Exxon had given them a job? Would all the marketing majors be marching if Samsung or Apple had hired them? Would the people who passed the Barr be stirring things up if Buffet had accepted them? You can blame Big *fill in the blank* for using an appeasement strategy, but who is buying it? How many people would walk away from Wall Street if a $60k/yr contract was slipped to them? Is it really the principle, or just personal satisfaction? Would they be there if the system was the same, except they were being paid (like 10 years ago)? Are they really pissed about the state of affairs, or are they just pissed about the ROI?

    I don’t agree with Cain that people should blame themselves for not having a job, but they do need to consider their own part in their own state of existence. Every generation of every culture has made mistakes; including ours. The saddest part of our generation is a form of training that constantly says, It’s not your fault. It worked in “Good Will Hunting”, but it doesn’t work everywhere else. Was it really rational to think that you could get tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and that it wouldn’t be a problem?

    As you can see, it isn’t the message I question, but the motive. If the motive isn’t true, then the whole thing will crumble at the sight of a few dollars.


  4. Kristi,

    There’s not much there I would disagree with. I believe strongly in personal responsibility. Without it, society will crumble. However, without a sense of social responsibility, society will also crumble. That’s one reason I’ve dusted off my Old Testament. In the Hebrew law code, there was a complex set of interrelated laws that forced people of means to think socially: charge no interest on debts; forgive debts every seven years; release slaves on a periodic basis; leave the edges and gleanings of your crops for the poor; give 10% of your firstfruits to “God” (i.e., to the priests and to the maintenance of the worship facilities). By modern standards, this is socialism. It’s an extreme focus on leveling the playing field. But the reason I mention it is not that I want to say “the Bible is a socialistic book.” (I don’t use the Bible like that.) I mention it because the rules of the Hebrews were meant to instill a sense of corporate responsibility and togetherness. Whenever the rich strayed from this, then the prophets came around to remind them of what their just and righteous response should be.

    The reason I emphasize the element of community responsibility is because this is the sense that is most lost on American culture. We’ve been running for hundreds of years on the idea of personal responsibility, but there has been very little by way of social responsibility. It’s just not in our DNA.

    So, yes. It’s fair to criticize protesters whose motives are not 100% pure…then again, which of us can stand up and say that our motivations in life are 100% pure?…and I agree with you that we should not be a society who simply gives handouts to malcontents. The greater issue, though, as I see it, is that we have very little sense of communal responsibility, and the system is breaking down because of it. And now the middle class is shrinking. Inequality continues to grow. The rich oppose any and all infringements on their pursuit of wealth. Many who invested in the system have been burned. We still have extreme poverty. Health insurance is broken and seems to be beyond repair by the current system. And our political system is ineffective to bring about substantive change. All of these, I think, are the results of our inability to take responsibility of our society as a whole.


  5. Libertarian socialist……hmmm. I’m going to have to give your comments the time to ponder they deserve and respond later. The only comment I want to leave now is this: I can see the benefit of providing higher education – and forgiving student loans – and how a we need better educated people in America to compete in the global economy – but why not just say “forgive student loans” rather than expunge all debt? Also, I’d have rather attended Notre Dame when I was accepted as a sophomore – but cost prevented me – how then will it be fair if it’s free for anyone to go there – and, perhaps more interesting to me, isn’t competing in the global economy a capitalist idea – and what are the odds these kids, once they get their education are going to want to KEEP the fruit of their hard work in college and long hours of overtime – once the work to hit their goals – thus attaining something they say they opposed in the beginning – BEING fat cats they now protest?


  6. Kristi,

    That’s fair. I can also see the benefit of not forgiving debts, across the board. School loans might be a separate issue for consideration, due to the fact that a person more or less *must* get attain higher education to compete for decent-paying jobs.

    Interesting example about how you were priced out of going to Notre Dame. As I see it, education is one way the deck gets stacked in favor of the rich kids. Obviously, if a child is born into wealth, she will be able to go to her school of choice. Money is no option. Consider the other end of the spectrum, like some of the students I worked with at the Kosc. County Jail. When they were kids, many of their families were so poor that the kids had to deal with drugs, crime, alcohol, and neglect. They didn’t fair well in high school. They often dropped out of even high school, let alone going on to college, let alone having a shot at Notre Dame. So, now they sit in jails and prisons, and rather than being a productive person in our economy, society has to pay $30,000 to 50,000 to incarcerate them. Usually they come out in worse shape than before, and in the meantime, their kids are growing up much the same as their parents.

    I mention the example of poverty because society, I think, has an economic incentive to educate all people, but it has an even greater economic incentive, I think, to eliminate the conditions of poverty that perpetuate a cycle that drains our coffers. The idea here is that leveling the playing field has economic benefits for society. Poverty costs us. We all, collectively, have an incentive to get everyone the absolute highest level of education that they are willing and able to achieve. I’m guessing, though, that we agree on this???


  7. I have no college degree and I make decent money. Steve Jobs was a college dropout with no degrees last I read. The idea that someone MUST get a college degree to do well is now acknowledged as false since many of these recent graduates are unemployed and unable to find a job opening that works for them.

    I get a real kick out of people who support the government school system and then say things like “their families were so poor that the kids had to deal with drugs, crime, alcohol, and neglect”. Most of their time each week was spent in the public school system! The government was raising them! So, even if their home life wasn’t that great they still had those wonderful amazing public school teachers to teach and raise them, right? People we should be paying $100,000+ a year for their teaching positions according to many of these kooks on the left.

    Its almost as bad as the rampant hypocrisy of the left who claims that its wrong and evil to attack minorities, yet when it comes to the wealthiest 1% who made their fortunes through hard work, education and innovation (legal means) those so-called 99% think its fine to attack and oppress the 1% with protests at Wall Street or executives homes. That’s as bad as attacking a racial minority cause of their race. And its amazing that these people don’t realize that if they attack the 1% that they (the 99%) may end up suffering some negative consequences from the future. What if the 1% retaliates by moving more of their money and business overseas? That would make those 99% people really sorry!

    College is a huge rip-off. Don’t pay their ridiculous prices. The top 1% have money and power and can retaliate. No one person, not even you John, has any moral right or standing to tell the top 1% what to do with their own money that they have earned.


  8. Hi Quinn,

    I’ve just started a fascinating biography of Andrew Carnegie, one of the wealthiest Americans of all time. What I find particularly intriguing is that Carnegie tried to give away all of his money. His point was that it belonged to the public. He was a capitalist and believed in the capitalistic system, but even Carnegie recognized, wisely, that no man is an island. No one’s wealth belongs to that person, alone, but also to the society that made it possible to earn that wealth.

    Another point that I would beg you to consider is that there are good rich people and there are bad rich people. Not all of the rich earn their wealth by honest and virtuous means. To make a blanket statement that all of the rich have earned their money seems to me unconvincing as well as historically naive.

    Lastly, Quinn, you are clearly a student of the Bible. I’m curious as to how you read the passages in the Old Testament that regulate the wealth of the rich. For example, the law prohibits charging interest, regulates that debts be forgiven every seven years, mandates that the first fruits be donated to God’s work (i.e. given to the priests for the maintenance of the community’s religious rituals), commands that the edges of the fields be left for the poor to glean, as well as other laws that equalize the society and prevent the kind of inequality we have in America today.

    As you know, I am both a Christian and a leftist. As a Christian, I see in our scriptures a concern that power not be used for self-centered purposes. As a leftist, I think that the kind of inequality we have in our country is counterproductive to a healthy economy, and I think this position has been statistically vindicated over the last thirty years or so. Just one example: the post-WWII tax rates were enormous, like 90% on the wealthiest Americans. This was also one of our most economically productive time period. We’ve become too top heavy, I think.


Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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