My friend Anabel wanted to meet for friendly libations at her country club. She wanted to talk about what politics is doing to her way of life.
Anabel is a wealthy, elderly former businesswoman, now investor, and donor to Republican presidential campaigns. Some of her friends, she tells me, have defected from the etiquette about not going too deeply into their political beliefs outside of letting others know their affiliations. She says some of her friends in the last couple of years have started circulating viral e-mails about conspiracies and fifth columnists that make today seem like a light version of the '50s witch hunts.
Anabel had once asked me to fact-check an e-mail that referred to Lloyd Marcus as a Tea Party leader. Anabel was impressed if the Tea Party was becoming more broad-based and moving away from narrow ethnic phobias. I looked into the matter and found that, indeed, Marcus, an artist, blogger and songwriter who calls himself "an unhyphenated American," wrote and performed the American Tea Party anthem.
Other black activists have stood out from the crowd: Republican Angela McGlowan ran for Congress from Mississippi; Kevin Jackson, a former ACORN and union organizer, is an activist; Ron Miller, an information technology consultant, ran for the Maryland State Senate; and North Carolina commentator Lenny McAllister, with a political base in Charlotte, has spoken at Tea Party events and contends the linkage with the black community lies in the Tea Party focus on smaller government.
Still, marrying the two communities is a sociological and intellectual stretch. But that's the point, says Anabel. In upside-down politics and economics, it doesn't matter who the followers are.
Her point is that the framework no longer makes sense. She said it's like concluding that the sun circles the Earth because the morning sun rises in the east and sets in the west. A better framework explains, instead of asking you to believe.
She pulled from her purse a copy of Wealth, the magazine of the Financial Times, to illustrate what she meant. James Mackintosh's column says that biological evolution is a more helpful way to look at finances when it comes to politics and economics in our times. Instead of relying on 18th century political philosophy and 20th century economics like acts of faith, the political economy is like an organism that evolves, adapts and changes in order to sustain and enhance life. This is evolution, and more like biology.
During the last financial meltdown, she said, the old mathematical probability models served only to rationalize what it took to sustain the dysfunctional system. A dynamic, let's say organic, way of understanding the complex banking and financial structures would have led to stop-gaps to end the bleeding but an evolutionary transformation because the old way only goes to sustain itself first and not the society first.
She says we now have to reform the reforms that saved the system. The temporary fixes should be seen as a self-serving system, like feeding a hugely inefficient dinosaur.
The problem with self-serving, dead-end perspectives, she said, sooner or later overstay their usefulness, like the opinion leaders who promote them, singling out Glenn Beck as the most recent best example of that. To sustain itself, the old system has to make up a story, like that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were really conservatives, Martin Luther King Jr. was not a progressive, and performing becomes more important than public policy.
"That's what dysfunctional thinking has become, a quest for a time that never existed that some people are told they should return to." It goes against life, evolution and humane, purposeful economics and politics.
During a pause, she asked for another one of those colorless drinks with an olive at the end of a toothpick. Sometimes it takes a libation to clear up messy issues.
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.