The Millennial Left and the “Lesser Evil” of Joe Biden

A thing I saw after the the end of the Bernie campaign was this call online for the socialist left to throw down our ideological weapons and surrender to the inevitable Biden candidacy. “You have to vote for him! Otherwise, you are enabling fascism,” some said.

Asad Haider in Salon:

The scale of social change required to manage the impending age of catastrophe lies beyond the myopia of those who, since the election of George W. Bush (if not before that, in historical terms), have endlessly repeated that we have no option but to reduce our politics to the embrace of the “lesser evil.” To reprimand young people for failing to muster enthusiasm for voting for the lesser evil ultimately amounts to a refusal to recognize the necessity for a greater idea, for a mobilization for structural transformation. In our age of catastrophe, “lesser-evil-ism” is the most unethical position. The slogan of May ‘68, “Be realistic; demand the impossible!” remains a rational and ethical principle for the present. We should be inspired by the youth who are reviving it.

Haider rightly points out the absurdity of demanding allegiance from a few thousand socialists and preemptively blaming them for a possible loss, rather than building a political program that inspires millions of Americans who do not see the point in voting at all.

If Biden loses, it will not be because the Democratic Socialist of America didn’t endorse him, a request unbelievably laughable. It will be because, like in 2016, the Democratic Party decided to tack to the center, offer platitudes, and bank on white educated suburbanites and older loyalty voters of color. They will once again ignore the working class, the precarious millennials with Uber jobs and no chance of ever becoming homeowners ourselves.

To be transparent, I am still undecided about what I will do in November. California is solidly blue and we all know the popular vote is meaningless in our supposed democratic republic. I can hold my nose and vote for Biden, stay home, or vote third party.

The troika of crises that I squawk about; coronavirus, capitalism and the looming financial crisis, and climate change demand much more than going to the polls every four years for a false choice between evils. A re-configuration of society based on ecological, internationalist, and anticapitalist lines is the only way forward.

You say “it’s unnecessary”? Look around.
You say “it’s impossible”? Not with that attitude.

Unified Veranda Theory

It’s my Saturday today. I’ve been out on the terrace, watching the fig tree away with the breeze. There are more insects buzzing, snails crawling up the stone walls, and birds darting between the electrical and phone lines that surround our house. I’m also playing around with the vintage camera app Vooravo for some retro-looking photos around the house. I’m bored of photographing the same trees from the well-worn paths of the monte.

This is one of those weekend mornings that reminds me of my years in Sierra Leone; the unhurried day, the privilege of watching time and life of the village pass by from a veranda, the warm sun on my body, the ability to read as much as I want to.

Grateful and guilty, which has been a recurring tension during the lockdown. Grateful to have had the privileges and opportunities to organize my life in this manner, and guilty knowing that not everyone is so lucky. But I know I’m in my head a lot, and that guilt will lead to paralysis or unnecessary suffering.

I misread a quote from some article a few weeks ago. In my head in went something like;

The best safeguard to life under late capitalism is withdrawing from it.

But it actually wasn’t that, at all. It was a critique, that the privileged ones, the ones with an inessential, work-from-home job are the ones who can safeguard themselves from coronavirus.

I recently talked to a friend, a madrileño musician from West Africa with a similar practical philosophy. He mentioned the protests in barrio de Salamanca and the incessant material desires that nag certain classes of people in the capital. It feels foreign, otherworldly. That wasn’t always the case, but a product of half of my life, maybe started after they extubated me. Who’s to say. But I think it’s possible that most can come to the conclusion that infinite growth on a finite planet is illogical.

We can thread the needle, withdraw from the capitalist mentality without completely withdrawing from society like Christopher McCandless; plant a garden, reduce costs and discourage consumption habits, prioritize immaterial experiences, read books, go for walks, re-valorize the countryside, or enjoy voluntary frugality in the city. Flatten the curve of coronavirus and of climate change by socially distancing and driving less, flying less, removing animal products from my diet, eating seasonally and locally. Prefigure a better world by thinking, talking, and planning other ways of organizing life and social relations. Want less, need less, and perhaps work less because of those priorities and that organized withdrawal.

For now, I’ll “do praxis” by non-participation, as much as I can, and theorize by writing into the void, ruining conversations with family and friends by talking climate, and reading Bookchin in my hammock. And I’ll never forget to enjoy the conference of the birds on the phone lines.

Día das Letras Galegas

Source: A MESA pola Normalización Lingüística

“A land with trees in the hills is worth more than a state with gold in the banks” — Castelao

Yesterday was Galician Literature Day, a public holiday here in the northwestern Spanish community/nation. It started in 1963 marking the centennial Rosalía de Castro’s book of poetry Cantares Gallegos. Every year since, the Royal Galician Academy picks one Galician writer to celebrate. This year, under quarantine, it was Ricardo Carballo Calero.

Calero was a lifelong republican and Galician nationalist and fought for the Second Republic against the fascist rebels. He was captured, spent some time in prison in Andalusia, and was released some years later. But Calero is most known for his scholarly work on Galician literature and language. He was a member of the Royal Galician Academy, an expert in the work of Rosalía De Castro, and the first university professor in the field of Galician linguistics and literature, which was suppressed during the Franco regime.

He is also known for his theory on reintegracionismo. Galician is actually closer to Portuguese than Castilian Spanish. In fact, Galician is the mother language of Portuguese. Calero was the first to systematically study the origins and etymology of the Galician-Portuguese proto-language and its progeny. He believed that the two languages are actually just variants of the same language rather than two distinct languages.

When the fascist regime ended with Franco’s death, Galicia became an autonomous community, with both Galician and Castilian Spanish its official languages. Calero was designated to lead a group to develop an orthographic norm. Using Portuguese as a guide, the group postulated a gradual return, a reintegration with Portuguese. But this was seen as anti-Spanish, so the norms were scrapped, Calero resigned, and formed the Galician Language Association with reintegracionismo as its goal.

The subject of the Galician language is super important in the community. While the cities are thoroughly castilianized, especially Calero’s birthplace of Ferrol due to the Spanish navy’s port the, Galician reigns supreme in the rural areas. There are many dialects. With the imposition (and some say mismanagement) of the Galician language in schools, a new generation of neofalantes, speakers who did not learn Galician at home, are beginning to use the language as a vehicle for a second cultural, political, and social renaissance.

2019 Recap Video, Weekday Weekends

Patricia put together a great video of video clips from our Latin America trip and a couple days ago did the same with everything we’ve filmed from 2019. It features building the inside of our van with a family friend, a three-week trip through Andalusia, moving to Germany, moving to Galicia, a tuktuk ride in Porto, and the last few months of the year here. iMovie crashed a repeatedly while trying to export on her small MacBook Air. We were finally able to get it into a movie format by importing it into iTunes first. It was nice to reminisce, even though we felt like the whole year we were a bit lost as to what we needed or wanted to do. The photo is one of our first mornings on the way to Andalusia.

This year, a global pandemic and approaching financial crisis aside, I feel much more steady about our family’s priorities. We’re ensconced in Galicia and while we still want to hop in the van for a road trip soon, we both want to return and make a home here.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are our weekends now. I took off both days for classes the last few weeks and it’s been super relaxing to have two days without thinking of teaching instead of my usual one. Patricia is also stepping away from her business those days to enjoy the early spring with me. We were able to get a few bureaucratic errands and house cleaning done one day, and had a nice walk halfway to Penamá.

Warmer and Freer

I can once finally go outside in the morning with shorts and sandals. The weather is still a little cool, but it’s a pleasant change from always being bundled up for most of the winter, even inside our house.

A few weeks ago, I woke up to a smoke-filled house and a malfunctioning pellet heater. That scared us enough to not turn it on again until someone came to look at it the other day. We think there was a small gap in the pipe leading out of the ceiling and the ashes. Unclear if he solved the problem, but luckily we’re getting to the season where we don’t need it.

On Monday, all four of Galicia’s provinces will be promoted to phase 1 of the deescalation plan. Notably, Madrid will stay in phase 0. But here, we’ll be able to:

  • gather in groups of up to ten people while maintaining social distancing. Luckily we have about four friends here plus their kids!
  • drive in the van together. For the whole quarantine, we have separately driven down to town to buy groceries or to the post office and back up. We’ve saved quite a bit on gas.
  • sit at a terrace restaurant of 50% of its normal occupancy. We’re both not desperate to do this, as we rarely ate out before the pandemic.
  • visit the countryside and beaches in limited groups within the same province. The last few weeks with the warming weather, I’ve daydreamed of taking the van out and camping in the middle of nowhere once again. It’s been so long.
  • use the gym, but not the changing rooms and by appointment. I finally developed a good routine of going to the gym before the virus came and I hope to be back soon, but I’ll be waiting much longer until things are calmer.

I expected to be in quarantine for much longer, but it seems we’ll make it out of this first wave and finish our different phases by late June. Other than possibly seeing a few friends from a distance here and my in-laws at the coast in July, I’ll be maintaining my social distant vigilance for quite awhile.