Sack Up Liberals- Bill Maher on the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

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Here's a recent clip of Bill Maher talking about The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. He criticizes the rally for not "being about something", and for not being robust enough in expressing its values. I think he makes some important points that will push the liberal/progressive conversation further. Do I think his critique nullifies my recent claim on Bits & Piecesthat the rally was a success? Not really. Maher also says that, "Getting over 200,000 people to a liberal rally is a great achievement, it gave me hope". This was exactly the sort of thing I was referring to when I viewed the rally as a cultural success. Maher was at some level taken aback and inspired by what he saw. He also wants to see something further and stronger from the progressive movement. Great, that'll be for the next rally then, and hopefully Bill will be there taking part in such a push.

I think it's important to be sensitive to the ecology of social movements, the myriad ways in which they grow, multiply, amplify and unfold. Any mass social-political flowering- whether it be the civil rights actions of the 1960s or the WTO demonstrations in Seattle, Genoa and beyond- has behind it countless previous encounters and collaborations between humans at multiple levels of intensity and number. I'm suspicious of the progressive tendency to always see the cup as half empty ("this rally didn't do anything"). This perfectionist tendency can be debilitating, and it can also be a subtle if unconscious way for us to excuse ourselves from the responsibility of actively shaping the world around us. Better to just get out there and smash bodies together, create sparks, form new creations of human assembly and action. And to remember, as Jack Kerouac once put it, that walking on water isn't built in a day.


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  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Wednesday, 10 November 2010 19:39 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    Here's a good recent article talking about the very real power of protest, as well as how they grow and amplify over time:

    There's also some good ties here with Scott's excellent Beams article on Wikileaks and the Devolution of Power:

  • Comment Link Andrew Thursday, 11 November 2010 20:01 posted by Andrew

    Your enthusiasm is well placed, and the fact that hundreds of thousands of people would show up in the name of moderation is a wonderful thing, and yet, as Maher accurately described, it wasn't about anything. That is a problem

    I certainly take your point (or rather Kerouac's point)that these things need time to build, but I think there might be a larger point that John Stewart, like it or not, needs to step up to the plate and recognise that he is perhaps more than a simple comedian. He is a voice that needs to speak more clearly and forcefully about what he seems to believe.

    Leadership is needed.

  • Comment Link Christopher Porto Saturday, 13 November 2010 04:57 posted by Christopher Porto

    As one of those 200,000 people in attendance at the rally, I'd have to agree with Bill Maher's critique that there wasn't much meaning behind the gathering. Stewart and Colbert really should have taken the opportunity to outline a more sane vision for our collective future as opposed to making a few general comments about the role the media plays in promoting fear-based consciousness within the public sphere. They could have done with a lot fewer so-so music performances and more hard hitting political rhetoric about the true issues at hand like climate change that Maher so passionately spoke about in his monologue. All that aside though, it was truly awesome to see that twice as many people came out to show their support for a more progressive agenda compared to the all out Christian sermon that Glenn Beck gave on The Mall a few months back!

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Saturday, 13 November 2010 21:39 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    Christopher, cool, nice to hear from the perspective of someone who was there! Ultimately I agree with you, Andrew and Bill Maher on this one. I can feel a certain moral strength building on the liberal/progressive side of the street that I think is important and should be fed and grown in to. Jon Stewart has stepped up in this way over the years too, and it's really had an impact on people when he has. I just wanted to mitigate against the Eeyoresque perfectionism that sometimes hobbles the progressive mind. Rather than a bust, I see it as a breakout rally that can be built upon in many ways. If the call is to be more robust, vigorous and vital the next time out (or in general)- great, put me in coach, I'm ready to play.

    The French theorist Felix Guattari once said something that really stuck with me- "All great results produced by human endeavor depend upon taking advantage of singular points when they occur". I feel an opening here, and hope it's only an opening salvo of a longer series of amplifying struggles.

    On another note, it looks like you're doing some great work over at your website. Our long term hopes for this site is that it be a place for multiple perspectives and intelligences to share their knowledge and understanding. We'd love to hear from you on the issue of climate change and carbon and the work you are doing. Drop us a line if you're interested, I'd love to gain a better understanding of those issues.

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