Progressives Lead Where it Matters

Roger Waters, Photo by Jethro (CC BY-SA 2.5) Photo by Jethro (CC BY-SA 2.5)

After January 20th Republicans will control the federal government and progressives will write the music that they’ll steal for their campaign rallies 30 years from now. They’ll teach their children creationism and deny climate change, and we’ll develop the technologies that will shape how they live, work and interact. They’ll fear monger and saber rattle and stockpile their food and ammo, and we’ll create the movies that will shape their children’s dreams and aspirations, the subcultures that will lure away their rebellious teens.

Even as Donald Trump is poised to take office, he and his supporters are already receding in the cultural rear view mirror, much like Richard Nixon in 1969. As science, technology and the arts are reinventing our world, government drags behind like a cast iron boat anchor, snagged somewhere in the last century. With the current laser focus on politics, it is easy to forget that government is but one of many forces that shape our daily lives, and relative to science, technology and the arts, it is hardly the most important.

In government, conservatives, whose object it is to weaken regulation and social safety nets, enjoy an inherent advantage. It will always be easier for Republicans to monkey wrench and destroy than it is for Democrats to create and maintain, but when Donald Trump needs famous musicians to play at his inauguration, his difficulty in rounding them up is more than little conspicuous. Artistic creation, scientific reasoning and technological innovation come naturally to those who are able to think outside of themselves, assimilate new ideas and envision ways in which the world can be changed for the better, so it is no coincidence that professionals in these fields skew progressive.

If we’d like government to catch up sooner rather than later, the solution is not to activate the other side’s lizard brain with fiery arguments and ridicule; the solution is to play to our strengths by moving the ship forward. If you’ve been asking yourself what you can actually do right now, the answer is to create. Simply, that.

During the 1960s the most compelling arguments for progressive values were sex, drugs and rock and roll. We had a thriving counterculture that invited participation. It afforded opportunities for people to experience an alternative to the racist, militarist society that the mainstream had on offer. In so doing, it reshaped American values for generations. Today’s counterculture must look forward into the 21st century, not back to the 20th, but what matters is that we build it.

Anything you create will contribute to this purpose. It does not have to be political, nor conceived with any political purpose in mind. Whatever comes from you will automatically reflect your values and aspirations; your vision of the world as it could be. Nor does it have to be a cultural or technological touchstone. Every object, no matter how ordinary, makes a statement. A mere refrigerator magnet sold on Etsy contains within it an invitation to maker culture and a rejection of wage slavery.

On a more fundamental level, the creative process itself will contribute to your own personal growth and satisfaction. Getting into flame wars over supply side economics is great if you want to end the night drunk and angry, but long-term commitment to a skill, community, or trade will actually make you happy. That will brush off on the people nearest to you — the ones who matter most.

There is no question that there are hard times ahead, but we are equipped to deal with them. Those who are least prepared for Donald Trump are his supporters.

Good luck to them.