The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner visually articulates class struggle in fascist spaces. The plot is concerned with Colin Smith, a working class everyman from Nottingham,
whose mistake is failing to run fast enough. As he puts it,
Running’s always been a big thing in our family, especially running away from the police.
Not running fast enough gets you in these spaces:
where you might encounter these types:
That last is the governor, who notes Smith’s athletic ability and desires that Smith win the long-distance cup when the school for delinquents meets up with a public school for a field day.
This occasions Smith’s freedom to run about the grounds, and a lot of picturesque shots:
Smith clearly wins the race, but stops short of the finish line, letting the public school boy beat him. At this moment the viewer gets a beautiful but fleeting glance at a working class victory:
By withholding his labor at a crucial moment, Smith beats the governor. But the machinations of the fascist state, its plans for boys of Smith’s class, continue unimpeded.
What then is the loneliness of the long distance runner? The answer is compulsion, running to escape slaving my guts out so the bosses get all of the profit and finding no place to rest.
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Libertarians come in two flavors: Sociopath and Confused. With the latter, it is possible to argue; the former should best seek professional help.
What is a Libertarian? A person who believes that a so-called free market will cure all of the world’s woes. Government, and in particular, taxation, is wasteful and prevents the fruition of individual merit and recompense.
If our Libertarian is clear thinking about his or her position, and thus a sociopath, she will be ready to admit that because she is economically comfortable, or would be without those pesky taxes, everyone else can go to hell. She’ll say things like it’s the victims of hurricane Katrina’s own fault that they chose not to leave. Certainly she would have left… And will be quite clear in asserting that she matters more than other people because she is more competent than other people in some way that is particularly valuable to her. While it may be diverting to question her moral culpability, the argument doesn’t have legs to move forward. You’re starting from too divergent a base premise: that people do owe something to each other and should use the government toward that end, or, everyone can go to hell.
The Confused class are more salvageable. They’re uncomfortable (on a sliding scale) with writing other people off. This tortures their argument. For example, this afternoon I was arguing with an acquaintance from undergrad who has since gone IT Libertarian. J. is well intentioned but believes, amongst other things, that without taxes we’d have no FEMA, and without FEMA there would be no one to bungle New Orleans. All you have to do to beat a well intentioned Libertarian is follow their logic.
Okay, I’ll admit, obviously, that FEMA was a disaster in New Orleans, but, would the absence of any government help be preferable? Here our soft libertarian will dodge, and offer something like “well the people in New Orleans knew in advance and should have gotten out. It’s their own fault if they didn’t.” And for the poor without cars? “Well…we still don’t need FEMA, it was the other states that really helped.” This is where you pin him: And where did the other states get the money to do that? The answer: taxes.
It’s likely your libertarian will have begun by complaining about taxes, and may even have said something with which you generally agree, like: your taxes are being spent to fund genocide in Gaza. Here too suggest that they’re right about Gaza/Iraq/Afghanistan/whatever, but it doesn’t logically follow to abolish all taxes because taxes also fund education, medicare, social security. All of those services, however inefficient and in need of repair, are preferable to their absence. If our well intentioned Lib is to be honest with himself, he’ll see that his argument is either sociopathic because he has to write off caring for others, or leads back to the need for taxes and a government.
If, on the topic of Katrina, he mentions Blackwater taking away peoples guns (another Libertarian no-no) you can point him to this article on vigilante lynching in New Orleans. And anyway, isn’t Blackwater the free market in force? They don’t get to complain about that one.
- The people’s flag is deepest red,
- It shrouded oft our martyr’d dead
- And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
- Their hearts’ blood dyed its ev’ry fold.
- Then raise the scarlet standard high,
- Within its shade we’ll live and die,
- Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
- We’ll keep the red flag flying here
What is more beautiful than revolution? Revolution. It’s a word we don’t use enough, an idea whose time is always now. With embarrassment some on the left shy from bold pronouncements of faith. “To the streets? An anachronism! A new world? Already bygone!” Folly is the fear of past failures. Revolution is the world made new.
Is it an individual? No. Is it a leader? No. Where does it live, what its visiting hours? I tell you it lives here, now, in the soil, the air, a word born upon it, on a picket, in taking what is rightfully public and demanding peace. It is the romance of justice in practice. And it can be ours if we name it, talk about it, nerve ourselves for the fight.
We write about it, sing about it, by all means show up and make it. This is our calling, but we don’t own it. And our earnest, joyful endeavor for it, for revolution, is all that will stand. Revolution is love shorn of the very possibility of cliché.
From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Saying that “our ideals give us the strength and moral high ground” to combat terrorism, President Obama signed executive orders Thursday effectively ending the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret interrogation program, directing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp within a year and setting up a sweeping, high-level review of the best way to hold and question terrorist suspects in the future.
Finally, the end is in sight. Now for turning Bush and his cabinet over to the Hague! This justice thing is infectious.