There’s a really good debate going on in the combox of my Khaki Markets Post on an issue that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while – to what extent is it possible for people who are seeking the same social ends to work together when they use different political means. In the comboxes the discussion is mostly over whether Progressives and Libertarians can work together on local food systems, but this strikes me as a larger – and deeply critical question.
It isn’t just the libertarians and the progressives who have common ground on food systems, after all. The socialists and the distributists, whose overarching philosophies are very different, often find themselves on surprisingly common ground. Round up the groups of breastfeeding, do it yourself, garden growing, organic Moms, and while plenty of them are likely to be second generation hippies, there are plenty of political moderates and conservative Christians.
I have more to say abuot this, but I’ve got a plumbing crisis to deal with first, but I’m curious about my reader’s thoughts – to what extent do you think different political belief systems can come together for the same objectives? My own take on this is that we simply have to figure this out – I’ve been watching left and right fight scorched earth battles for my entire lifetime, quite literally (my first political act was to campaign for George McGovern in a backpack on my father’s back at 2 months old in 1972, worked my own first political campaign and did my first activism in my early teens, etc…) and if there’s one thing we don’t need, it is more scorched earth – climate change has the covered.
That doesn’t make this easy – do you give in on issues you believe are fundamental, compromise in places to get other things done? This is critical question for the peak oil movement, especially – peak oil, unlike climate change or other environmental issues, doesn’t have a strong association with any political side in the US (unlike in Britain, where the BNP has made it a centerpiece). Peak oil is associated with hippies, in the joke that calls it “The liberal left-behind movement” but the Congressional peak oil caucus is truly bipartisan and its leader, Roscoe Bartlett is a rather conservative Republican. The loudest voices on this subject have often come from the US military, which is concerned with fuel supply issues, and from DOE reports commissioned under both Democratic and Republican presidents.
Sooner or later, peak oil and resource depletion will simply be issues too pressing to ignore, and they will gain strong political associations. To my mind, this temporary open-endedness is an opportunity – it represents the possibility of shaping a wider political support for peak oil responses. That doesn’t mean that’s easy, or even likely, but it is possible, and in a world where an increasing number of useful responses aren’t even available to us anymore, you’ve got to take what you can get.
So what do you think? Do you think left and right, in some or all variations can work together? To what extent are political ends enough, and to what extent are the means and underlying enlightenment philosophies critical?