POLITICS INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE MATRIX II: One Game, Two Game Boards by Steve Bhaerman March 3, 2008


March 3, 2008

by Steve Bhaerman

The feedback I got on last week's Ralph Nader piece has helped me clarify some distinctions. Hopefully, these will make some difference in tomorrow's March 4th primaries as we "March Forth" into a new era of awakening, awareness and functionality. I apologize in advance for the length of this piece, but because of the time urgency, this is a bit more stream of consciousness than I would have liked. As the old saying goes, "I would have written a shorter letter but I didn't have the time."

I want to begin with the distinction I call "politics inside and outside the matrix." If you remember the movie "The Matrix," most people lived inside a machine-made "dream" they assumed was reality. Those who took the "red pill" were able to see and operate outside the parameters of this dream. Life outside the matrix was more challenging, more dangerous and more real than life inside. The "blue pill" reality inside the matrix was more passive, more comfortable, more like reality TV than reality. We Americans more or less blissfully lived inside the matrix until 911.

Waking Up is Hard to Do

In the wake of the 911 attacks, there was a shocking and awful awakening. Not just an awakening to America's vulnerability, but an awakening to our vulnerability to forces inside our own power structure. More and more people have begun to break outside of their comfort zone, and the cherished belief that our government has the people's best interests at heart. According to a 2006 Scripps Howard public opinion poll, one third of Americans suspect our own government's complicity in the 911 attacks.

One might consider this extraordinary paranoia, or extraordinary awareness. I'm of the latter point of view, particularly when you consider what a psychological stretch it is to entertain that level of betrayal. Think pedophile priests, and how the unwillingness of the Catholic faithful to even imagine that possibility helped keep the wall of silence in place. The "secret" of understanding history in a transformative way (so we learn from it instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over) is to step outside the specific story of "who-did-what-to-whom" and notice the repeating patterns.

So ... as related to 911, let's begin with the Mexican war where President James K. Polk used an attack by Mexican troops on American soldiers as a pretext for declaring war on Mexico thus giving the U.S. "permission" to attack a much weaker country and grab the Texas territory. Fast forward half a century to "remember the Maine," an American battleship that exploded in Havana harbor in 1898, giving the United States permission to drive Spain out of Cuba.

The next "fractal iteration" of this pattern came with the sinking of the Lusitania that got us into World War I. While World War II has been cited as the war to defeat Nazism, American bankers (including George Bush's grandfather Prescott Bush) helped fund the Nazi regime. There is also a credible theory that President Franklin D. Roosevelt did everything he could to provoke the attack on Pearl Harbor because he knew it was the only way that a war-hating, isolationist country could get involved.

In 1964, we had the Gulf of Tonkin "attack" on one of our ships that gave President Lyndon Johnson war powers in Vietnam. We now know that that attack never happened either. Are we beginning to see a pattern here?

If the 911 attacks occurred without the knowledge and participation of forces inside our own government, this would be a notable exception to how we've gotten into wars in the past, particularly if we realize how the 911 attacks were used: to create a state of perpetual warfare necessary for a permanent police state. Rather than elaborate on all of the markers that indicate this is so, I refer you to Naomi Wolf's clear and sobering book, The End of America.

Even without a 911 conspiracy, there are enough crimes this Administration committed -- with the tacit or active approval of enabler Democrats -- for us to realize that criminality has been given the blessing of legality in 21st century America. So ... what do we do about it? What can we do about it? What is the significance of elections, if any? Do we support third party truth-tellers, or mealy-mouthed lesser evils? The answer is we support both by playing two games simultaneously: The "election game," and the "empower to the people" game. Each game has completely different rules. Once we understand these rules, it becomes much easier to focus our energies effectively, and maybe even win both games.

You Can't Win the Game Unless You Understand the Rules

The American electoral system, like it or not, is a binary process. In other words, it's this or that. While it would be great to have such reforms as instant runoff voting or a multi-party system like European nations have, we don't. Unless some very steep odds are overcome and we experience a miraculous "up-wising" where 50 million or so Americans get struck by enlightening at once, the individual elected President in November will be either a Democrat or a Republican. It won't be a Green or a Libertarian or a Ralph Nader.

We may not like this state of affairs, nor should we like it. But these are the rules we will be playing by in 2008. As anyone who has ever worked in a large organization can attest, it is rare if not completely impossible to change an organization from within. Organizations seem to re-create themselves, dysfunction and all. Put another way, politics inside the matrix can only be changed from outside the matrix. More about that later.

Meanwhile, back inside the matrix those of us who seek progressive change for the betterment of all (and to be fair to conservatives, making sure we "conserve" those things worth conserving as part of "progress"), have two and only two chances to choose this year. For those who live in Ohio and Texas, tomorrow is the day to choose between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In November, the next choice is to choose between one of those characters and the likely Republican nominee, John McCain.

Remember those irksome aptitude or psychological tests where you are given two choices and have to choose the one that comes "closest"? Didn't you hate those? Particularly for those of us who are far enough outside the matrix to understand how similar and inside the box these choices are, this is frustrating. So frustrating that we want to cast our vote of disapproval either by staying home, or voting for a truth-telling candidate that might possibly garner 5% of the vote.

But remember, regardless of that 5% and who it goes to, either a Democrat or Republican will win. By not choosing one or the other, we allow someone else to choose and we take ourselves out of the game. So ... what if 50% of the electorate just stayed home? Well then, the other 50% of the electorate would choose the President. That's what we have now.

So, given this inescapable binary choice of Democrat or Republican, which do we choose? Which choice best expresses the voice of we the people? Which one is more likely to provide a "field" conducive to growing a healthy and functional grassroots movement to change things from the outside? There is a long-standing and persistent belief in "progressive" circles that things need to get "really bad" before people awaken. While this is to some degree true, we seem to now be at the point where things are pretty friggin' bad. Thanks to seven years of Bush and Cheney, we have more Americans -- on the left and the right -- awakened to the dangers of empire. My question is, do we really need to add more suffering in order to have more awakening? And my answer is no.

So ... binary choice ... vote for a Democrat in the Presidential election. Here's why:

1. Since the electorate can only say "yes" or "no", a solid repudiation of the Republican Party should let all of America and all the world know that we are throwing the Bush Administration's closest enablers out on their collective ass. If we throw our weight around in this concerted way, it will be a message to the Democrats: You're next.

2. While our dysfunctional economic system can only be healed from outside the matrix, inside the matrix ordinary people are suffering. The Democrats are more likely to address this disparity through short-term measures. At this stage of the game, anything that relieves economic pressure relieves fear, the same fear that allows us to be politically manipulated. People in economic fear don't rock the boat, nor do they have the time to become involved as active citizens. People not in fear are more likely to make more freeing choices.

3. A Democratic Administration is far more likely to initiate programs for energy-independence and environmental health. This will kick start a new economy based on sustainability. We frankly can't wait another four years to bring this about. The world economic and environmental condition is too dire.

4. The George Bush Injustice Department is nothing more than a political tool for neocon gangsters. It must be dismantled, and the political hacks who mistake "just us" for justice must be removed and replaced.

5. The Bush Administration may not be held accountable for war crimes in a Democratic administration. Guaranteed it WON'T be held accountable under a Republican one.

Are we beginning to see another pattern here? A Democratic Administration offers new possibilities. A Republican one offers old certainties. If we believe we are helpless victims held hostage by an all-powerful ruling class, then it doesn't much matter which you vote for. However, if we understand that we are a species in the process of an evolutionary awakening, we see that we must choose the path of possibility that will leave us most free to grow a true grassroots movement.

You might ask, what about voting fraud and fixed elections? There is only one answer to that, the one that worked in the 2006 Congressional races where there were definitely some shenanigans in Ohio, New Mexico and Florida. In many cases, the vote was so overwhelming that the "fix" would have looked too obvious, or candidates won despite the cheating against them.

So ... regarding Nader and Matt Gonzales (whom I know personally, and admire and respect as thoughtful, intelligent and willing to work across party lines for practical change) and other third party candidates, they deserve our money and support but not our vote. We need to make sure the vote is overwhelming so fraud cannot be a factor.

Next we come to tomorrow's contests in Texas and Ohio (and the one next month in Pennsylvania) where Democrats -- and Republicans who choose to cross over -- get to pick either Hillary or Obama. I've already expressed myself on this issue, so I will be brief. The reason Obama just might win in November and Hillary just might lose is that he has transcended the Democrats's bugaboo, "identity politics" while she depends on it. Sure Obama has black folks voting for him, but his appeal is growing in every segment of the population, including Republicans.

Hillary is where she is precisely because she is a woman. In awkward irony, Obama is far better than she is in building relationships, in mediating and moderating. Hillary is busy trying to show the "big boys" that she is tough enough. How will that work in the Presidency? Obama seems to embody the Aquarian Age, a male "water-bearer" carrying feminine wisdom. This is precisely the new playing field of possibilities we need to be on.

Obama will bring people together, and this means inspiring folks locally to move beyond positions towards solutions (the key to successful politics outside the matrix). Neither the left nor the right alone has the answers, just as either masculine without feminine or feminine without masculine is operating with only "half a deck." This is a much longer conversation, but thanks to 5,000 years of distortion, we have devolved into dysfunctional parodies of "male" and "female," scared instead of sacred. The scared masculine becomes the abuser, the scared feminine the enabler. Sadly, the former looks a lot like the Republicans, the latter a lot like the Democrats. Obama provides a strong, spiritually courageous presence, in the service of love and life. That is where we need to go as a society.

Meanwhile, Outside the Matrix ...

If we were to only play the matrix politics game, however, we would be rubberstamping the death warrant for freedom. The really important work is happening outside the binary political system, and it involves bringing people together in coherence, community, conversation and mutually beneficial action. Doing these things are the only things that will create the pressure to form a new majority party or transform one or both of the parties we have now.

Presidential elections occur every four years. This cycle, there simply isn't a third party that has created the groundwork to be anything other than a "spoiler" -- and for the wrong side, I might add. It makes no more sense for a party that can hope to get 7% of the vote to put all its energy into getting that vote to show up in November than it makes sense for an army outnumbered 12 to one to launch an attack. Unless it's a suicide attack. My rhetorical question is, where has Ralph Nader been the past four years? Has he been building an organization, or better yet, has he been weaving together a new politic? Because that's what politics outside the matrix is about.

As my associate Jim Rough points out in his book, Society's Breakthrough, the "box" of rules we are governed by must be "encircled" by a collective moral authority of "we the people." There currently is no coherent collective moral authority that is a stand for the values 90% or more of us hold in common. Thanks to the work he has done via the Center for Wise Democracy, Citizens Wisdom Councils and "Creative Insight Councils," are popping up to bring diverse groups of people together in constructive conversation.

I already mentioned last week the work that Richard Flyer is doing in Reno through the Conscious Community Network. He has recently begun to work with people in Sacramento to help support a similar network there. The idea is to weave a "human web" to support local autonomy and sustainability, and in the process find organic and nongovernmental ways to act collectively.

There are two additional elements to this outside-the-matrix force to empower the healthy central voice of we the people. First is the Citizens Union, which I also mentioned last week. I have gotten some very favorable emails on that, and I'm in a couple of conversations that might bring that about. The other is the alternative mainstream media so that we can withdraw our attention from corporate mainstream media. Last month, Peter Phillips of Project Censored and others put together the Santa Cruz Media Strategy Summit, in the hopes of launching just such a project. An alternative media outlet along with a Citizens Union (a la Consumer Reports) would be most effective both in providing real news (negative and positive), and helping to do something about it.

As the year goes on, I will be providing more information about these and other ventures that help us weave together a genuine grassroots awareness that will bring enough of us together in concerted action to change the rules of the game. Let's create the best possible growing conditions through our efforts "inside the matrix," and then our "outside the matrix" efforts are more likely to bear fruit.

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