Umair Haque Is Really Bright and Right About A Lot … But He Sells Americans Short
Full disclosure: I became a Medium member in — checking my profile for accuracy to overcome blond-hair/left-handed/ADHD hippie forgetfulness — June 2018 and there was one reason:
I wanted to read Umair Haque. Every day. Over breakfast preferably.
He’s that good. Seriously, if you haven’t read him, stop reading me and read some of his stuff. I’ll wait. I promise.
Why are you still here? Go read one of his articles. I like this one, but pick your poison. Oops, it ain’t poison. Umm, pour some sugar on me?
Never-freakin’-mind. Just click on this link (putting it in here twice for ya lazy bums, now go!) … and read an article of your choosing — dude is major prolific — and then come back and I’ll tell ya why I think he sells Americans short (and, at the end, admit why I may be wrong!).
Why I Think Haque Sells Us Yanks Short
So I was reading the article he wrote pictured below.
Why Beating Authoritarianism Takes the One Thing Americans Might Not Have Anymore
What’s the Opposite of a Hero? A Chain Reaction
And well, at first I just saw the headline and thought, “Man, I hate to do this, but I need to finally write a post expressing to Umair why I think he’s just too negative right now.”
Yeah, yeah, I was gonna respond to an article without actually reading it. Sue me. (That said, I was gonna admit that in the first paragraph).
But then my ADHD kicked in and I somehow found myself reading the piece I linked above titled, never mind, here is the link and pic:
What Bernie’s Big Breakthrough (Really) Means
Does America’s Transformation to Becoming a Functioning Modern Society Finally Begin Here?
And like I said, I really liked this one.
So I decided to go back and actually read the article I was going to respond to the headline only on and see where he was coming from. I was mostly on board with what he was saying and then I got to this line,
“Collective action is the only thing that can defeat authoritarianism, but Americans lack this capability now, almost entirely. How ironic, it all is.” — From Umair Haque, “Why Beating Authoritarianism Takes the One Thing Americans May Not Have Anymore”
And now, folks, I’ve got some good news. News that will suggest that yes, Umair is wrong. And quite honestly, I think he’ll be happy to admit that if I’m right. (I hope by the way I’ve linked enough of his articles and expressed enough of my admiration for him to show that I’m not writing this to knock the guy down, to win a game of egoic one-upsmanship. In fact, the perspective I want to write — and live — from is one of WE power which means I can both promote someone and also offer critique.)
But enough disclaimers, let’s get to something I heard that I think suggests he is wrong.
The Culinary Workers Union Members Believe in WE more than me
Here’s what I heard:
The top dogs of the Culinary Workers Union in Nevada were trying to tell their people that it was not a good idea to vote for Sanders because his Medicare for All plan was going to take away what apparently is better than-(U.S.)-average health care coverage that they have.
Basically, using the same old appeal to the ego with fear. What do I mean by that? What I call “small me consciousness.”
Please be clear: the ego is not a bad thing. It helps keep us alive. As a result, though, when it comes to the best way to appeal to the ego on an emotional level, little is better than fear. Using fear to motivate us is how human societies have been, by and large, operating since the dawn of civilization (I’m speaking in generalities, of course, and also want to be clear that this may not be true for all human societies and note I am also not talking about all of human existence — only the past 5–6,000 years).
Anyway, without going too deep down a prehistoric rabbit hole and getting our toes nibbled off by baby saber-toothed tiger, point is, especially in the U.S. political culture of the past 40-year, neoliberal era, nothing has been used more regularly than these sorts of appeals to self-preservation (“you gotta protect you and yours, and if that means not helping the other guy, that’s just reality, man!”).
Did it work on the Culinary Union members?
According to this article from an opinion columnist at The Washington Post who certainly isn’t a Sanders backer (“For people like me, who would prefer to see anybody but Sanders as nominee, there is no sugarcoating the results”) and who I think has an absolutely incorrect and terrible conclusion (read it if ya want, I ain’t posting it):
34 percent of union members voted for Sanders with Biden next at 21 percent.
This article from The Intercept, a media outlet which I trust after reading it for the past few years, lead with:
“Despite a high-profile battle with the leadership of Nevada’s powerful Culinary Workers Union leading into the caucuses on Saturday, Bernie Sanders emerged with a decisive victory — even dominating other candidates among culinary workers themselves, according to entrance surveys.”
Meanwhile, below is a screenshot from this report from another great media outlet, David Doel’s The Rational National YouTube channel, and the tweet on the screen reflects why I believe Umair Haque may be wrong about his concern that Americans may have forgotten how to work collectively.
Perhaps it’s hard to read, so I’ll post it here just in case because it’s that important: “But in interviews in recent days, many rank-and-file union members said they supported Mr. Sanders precisely because of his health care proposal, saying they wanted their friends and relatives to have the same kind of access to care that they have.”
That’s incredible, right!
I mean, it’s really, really great news. And in fact, referencing back to that Intercept article, which I admit had way too much math and fancy-schmancy health care lingo for this journo living in Japan to have a dog’s chance in Hell of understandin’, apparently they’ll get much better access which, of course, is rather obvious when you think about it.
After all, the way the crazy American system apparently works is you get coverage through your employer but that only gets you access to certain doctors and hospitals, not everyone.
Yes, I’m finishing by admitting my ignorance…
You see, folks, I wrote “the way the crazy American system apparently works” because I’ve been living in Japan since July 2004. And even though I lived in the United States for my first 31 years, I think I only had some super cheap-ass (50 bucks a month or something?) insurance for the final year or two there, but honestly can’t remember.
I’m just NOT a person driven by money and do my best to forget about bills I’ve paid! Seriously, besides falling in love with a lovely Japanese gal, the reason I wanted to move over here and live with her was, in large part, because of American society’s seeming obsession with making everything in life about money. Personally, I prefer to live for time, but I’ll save that for one of my more esoteric/crazy posts, which I promise are coming!
So you are never gonna see an article or hear a podcast from me where I break down issues with economic cost-benefit analysis, nor will I use a GDP measuring stick to tell you the circumference of my cranium.
That’s just not how I roll.
Why the Heck am I bringing this up and keeping you here?
Well, because I’ve only periodically visited the U.S. once every two years or so since July 2004 for usually two or three weeks at a time so my parents can hang with their son, my aforementioned lovely wife and their grandkids for a bit. Which means I’m not really sure what the American character is like these days. Has it totally forgotten the meaning of collective action? Can Americans still love one another in spite of their many differences?
This is a question I’m going to try to find the answer to with a five-month stay and cross-country trip of America starting in April and a book I’m planning to write about the experience.
But for now, I just have to admit it: Umair Haque may be right, after all. Maybe Americans have been brainwashed so much that they can only think about their own self, their own individuality and don’t know how to work together to create necessary changes anymore. I really hope that is not true, but maybe it is.
From following the news from this large island on the west end of the biggest lake on the planet, and from using my own sense of political intuition (which, to toot my own flugelhorn, has been pretty sound over the years), I’m sensing that the tides are really starting to change, that people are finally realizing that if we can evolve from a small ‘me’ ego-based perspective into a big WE collective perspective (which both supports the individual AND promotes the masses), well … who knows what kind of kick-ass place America can become? And how quickly the transformation can happen?
Because I’ll tell ya something folks and then I promise I’ll let ya go. My experiences with Americans, both on-line and in person, as well as Americans I follow in various media (from the arts to journalism), well, they’ve been pretty darn good ones and I think there’s a lot of heart and fighting Spirit left in those “damn Yankees.”
I think as I wrote a month or two ago to encourage my fellow Bernie supporters that it’s true: We Got This!!
Friends of Bernie, Relax: WE Got This!!!
What a week, huh? I’ve started 42 different blog posts trying to keep up with all the news on the American political…
And this past weekend in Nevada is, I think, only the first big wave in showing just how true that is. Because this isn’t a bunch of hippie nincompoops wearing tie-dye hoodies and staying up too late to write on Medium who are voting in the sense of WE and choosing Bernie Sanders, it’s working class folks in Nevada even after their “betters” told them it was unwise to do so.
So Umair Haque, I promise to keep reading your work. But I also hope that maybe you can find a bit more optimism as you look out onto the world. You may have to squint sometimes to find the reasons for it, but I assure you, those reasons exist.
Thanks for reading! I’m in the process of getting my independent media career up and running, so this will be updated as I go, but for now you can support me simply by sharing my stuff, by linking to me on Twitter, by checking out my old blog which has lots of good stuff, including a series on climate change (part 1, part 2 and part 3), or by checking out my new podcast, The B&P Realm Podcast. (It’s a super wide-ranging podcast, though has been politics heavy in its first 10 episodes, but I also cover music, philosophy, bike rides, park golf, crap, you don’t know what that is (listen to episode 4 or read this blog post), and yeah, just a lot of cool shit. Also, each of the first 40 episodes will contain two chapters from my 2015 novel, “The Teacher and the Tree Man.” You can also find that book in full here, or you can find it broken down into four shorter books (book 1, book 2, book 3 and book 4). And if all that doesn’t get enough BW into your life, well, all I can say is stick around! Plenty more coming in 2020 and beyond!