Friday, June 19, 2009

Jason's List for New Paltz

100 Ideas for New Paltz

For the few dozen elected officials and appointed volunteers, I hope that this blog creates conversations whose high level of debate informs their work. For those of us not engaged in governance directly, I hope this blog creates a space where we as a community can write to each other about our vision for New Paltz beyond the next election cycle. I hope we can help each other clarify what steps we should take together in order to build the best community we can for those who come after us a generation from now. It’s the least we can do in gratitude to those who came before us and from whom we inherited the New Paltz we’ve come to love.

And thanks to New Paltz Gadfly, whose blog and the debates there gave me the idea to set this forum up.

Jason - thanks right back at you, great, great site!


Bill Mulcahy said...

I think it's a great idea to get input from the New Paltz community to guide our elected officials. It's just too bad Jason didn't do this before he dragged New Paltz into the gay marriage controversy. Nevertheless, that's the past and I think we should be looking toward the future.

My idea for a better New Paltz would be a movement away from cars to return us to a more bicycle/pedestrian town and village. I think it is irresponsible and dangerous to be building bicycle racks in the town/village when there are so many cars.

Martin McPhillips said...

I was saddened that "Establish a dictatorship of the proletariat" was not on the list.

Jason has clearly not yet arrived at the Finland Station.

Terence said...

He does, however, have a far thicker skin than I. I would rather a leader like Jason West who is willing to take risks and make mistakes than someone who will finds a way to avoid making any waves in order to stay in office.

I won't claim that I agree with every decision Jason made, and I haven't yet reviewed his ideas to see what I think of each of them, but I respect the fact that he continues to put himself out there.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what's controversal about gay marriage. Bill, maybe you could explain? I'm a little confused.

Martin McPhillips said...

"I haven't yet reviewed [Jason's] ideas to see what I think of each of them, but I respect the fact that he continues to put himself out there."

By coincidence, I was just saying the same thing about Fidel Castro earlier today.

Terence said...

Anonymous -

Man up and put your name on a comment like that if you don't want it deleted.

Anonymous said...

So much for an open discussion where everyone is welcome. After removing our comment that contained nothing inappropriate and only challenged your viewpoint, this is the last time we'll be reading the gadfly. Take the anonymous option off if you're going to remove anonymous comments. Very hypocritical considering what the website is about.

Jason West said...

Martin --

I find your constant comparisons of me to Castro both flattering and hilarious. Flattering for obvious reasons, and hilarious both because the comparison is so dated and I would never look good in fatigues. Also, my Spanish is terrible.

There are, of course, many other communists for you to choose some -- I've always liked Antonio Gramsci, Rosa Luxembourg, Pete Seeger and Pablo Picasso.

It's a bit more relevant to call me an anarchist -- some suggestion include Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Noam Chomsky and Marcos (though there we run into the fatigues problem again).

The current fashion is to label someone a terrorist if you want to shut down all consideration of the merits of their thought. Tricky waters, though.

In any case, I hope you can see past the sad, stale attempts at red baiting to consider whether any of the thoughts I've put down have merit. Rd baiting was used to trigger a hostile response so that people would write off the thoughts of the person being red-baited. The only one your Castro comments are keeping from hearing me out is you, and it's a shame.

You've a sharp mind and a fascination with local politics, both of which I respect. If you can see past the visions of '58, then please do check out the blog. If there's something there you find appealing, I'd appreciate your thoughts on how we might get it put into practice.

Martin McPhillips said...

Have I "red-baited" you, Jason?

If so, wouldn't I have done better to use your old friend, and Castro's protégé, Hugo Chavez? Sufficiently less dated and on the mark to suit you?

And wouldn't you have done better than to complain about "red-baiting" and then go listing your favorite commie influences?

Anyway, with the exception of Seeger, those on your first list are all dead, while Castro, though barely, is still alive and in power via brother Raoul.

And Seeger, bless his old Stalinist heart, seems even more dated than Castro. Perhaps old Pete can be squeezed into a Che t-shirt and updated.

With well over a decade (I'm embarrassed to say) of heavy-duty internet combat with various progressives behind me, the only types I ever heard use the term "red-baiting" to protest being called Marxists were of course Marxists but also of the variety of Marxists who still protest the innocence of the Rosenbergs or Alger Hiss. Even back in the old days in New Paltz, when I was on the Left, I only heard that "red-baiting" line from the most dismal, depressing socialists.

Perhaps you need to update the source of your workshopping.

As for your claim of being an "anarchist," well, that might hold some water if anarchist is in fact the new term for its opposite, statist, since you are in the habit of soliciting the state to enforce your ideas.

"Anarchism," in your dictionary, must be defined as "the state telling people how to live." But I appreciate the need for a sexy term that doesn't immediately suggest all the collectivist baggage you're loading on its back. All the better to avoid being "red-baited."

"Anarchists for state-mandated universal health care!"

I can smell the magic marker on the freshly hand-printed signs.

I don't have the time to deal with Gramsci here, but it makes perfect sense that you like him. Although I'm surprised, actually, that you've heard of him.

Chomsky is someone who is a dead giveaway, of course. I call him a rogue Marxist propagandist, specializing in decontextualizing history. Is he still a plague on college campuses? Those places are so closed off nowadays that it's hard to get a read on what's transpiring within.

Now, about your list of 100 ideas for New Paltz, I took a look at it before my earlier comments, which were based on that look. I have no doubt that I missed something I might agree with, but that's hardly the point.

I think my first comment summed it up nicely. The second one was a joke for Terence.

Viva la revolucion!

Anonymous said...

"Man up"??? Ick.

Jason West said...

The red-baiting thing was meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, and perhaps took it a bit far. My point was just that I genuinely do want to hear any particular advice you have.

If you're opposed to governments per se that's a different story and perhaps there is nothing I could suggest that you wold think of as good public policy if all action by government at all levels is morally wrong.

I'm of an age where I remember Reagan, Gorbachev, the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, but not well - I was in 8th grade when the Wall fell. So redbaiting doesn't really have the same meaning for people of my generation and younger. I remember hiding under my desk during a bomb drill, but being called a communist doesn't really seem relevent.

I've always loved Gramsci above the other old left figures, in part because, being a child of the Cold War, it's difficult to get past the familiar jargon with negative connotations (like 'dictatorship of the proletariat). Gramsci's writing have the benefit of discussing similar concepts without the emotion-triggering jargon ('theory of praxis' instead of 'marxism' for example). It lets you get at the ideas without having to wade through the veneer of party-line vocabulary. The bottom line is that much of the old socialist writings simply don't have as much relevance. Marx was undisputedly brilliant, and had an incisive grasp of what 19th century british industrial society might become, but things have changed. I distrust anyone who cites text as gospel, whether they think that the Bible is literally true in all cases and infallible, or Marx is literally true and infallible. The old categories just don't exist, and Marx, Lenin, even Castro were dealing with a different set of problems.

i get the feeling we could sit and have hours of debate about the larger role of the state. For instance, is there a moral difference between the state as nation vs. the state as municipality - there is some interesting writing out there from an anarchist perspective opposed to the state but seeing hope in federated municipalities, for example. The Institute for Social Ecology out of Vermont and those around Z Magainze in Boston have slightly differing theories pointing in the same general direction.

Jason West said...

Also, I'mnot sure we have a proletariat here in new paltz to be dictated by. "Dictatorship of the college-educated artist/restaurant worker" and "Dictatorship of the People Who Commute to the City" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Ideally, I've always wanted more democracy -- hence my speaking out for years that I think that conservties and Republicans should have a seat at the table. That's why I wrote on the 100 Ideas that we should have proportional representation. I want a local government that accurately represents the full breadth and depth of political opinion in the community -- including anti-government right wing libertarians like yourself, if any of that political stripe would find it ethically acceptable to serve. I would assume not, since there is a large chunk of the Republican and Conservative Parties who hold your position

Jason West said...

Oops, that last sentence should read " I assume so"