Dusk Somewhere

Everybody Knows, but should they?

Posted at — Sep 25, 2023 by Izzy Meckler

To start, two quotes:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied

– Leonard Cohen

and one more:

teachers’ capacity to struggle involves their capacity to challenge their students, from an early to a more adult age, through games, stories, and reading so that students understand the need to create coherence between dis- course and practice: a discourse about the defense of the weak, of the poor, of the homeless, and a practice that favors the haves against the have-nots; a discourse that denies the existence of social classes, their conflicts, and a political practice entirely in favor of the powerful. It does not seem right to me to defend or to simply accept as normal the profound difference that sometimes exists between a candidate’s preelection and postelection positions. It does not seem ethical to me to live this way or to defend this contradiction as acceptable behavior. It is not with these kinds of practices that we foster a vigilant citizenry, which is indispensable to the development of democracy

– Paolo Freire, “Teachers as Cultural Workers”

Leonard Cohen’s song, Everybody Knows, which perfectly captures the lie-filled discourse of our capitalist society. It is a discourse full of contradictions, delivered into our minds through news broadcasts and sitcoms, through school and through our conversations with each other.

We live with these contradictions daily. The idea of the American dream is embedded deep within our psyches, but our daily experience of American reality tells us it is a lie. Democrats proclaim that Trump is a unique evil who must be defeated at all costs, yet the Democrats both continue on with many of his evil policies (the genocidal sanctions against Cuba, continuing expulsions of new immigrants) and introduce evils of their own while doing little to address the crises of capitalism that are fueling the rise of the right.

Yes, everybody knows. But we should not accept this state of “everybody knowing”. As Freire suggests in the above quote, we must adopt it as an axiom that we need to create coherence between language and practice. Which means, divergences between language and practice should be fought, by rooting out the social causes of the divergence. It is simply a necessary principle for a society to hold in order for language to mean something.

The Democrats talk about the need to defend “democracy”, but there is no democracy in a capitalist world. Wealth means the ability to shape the world, and to command others to do things they don’t want to do. There can be no democracy if such a power is unevenly distributed. Furthermore there can be no democracy if we allow words to have so little meaning.

We are all living with a collective schizophrenia, in which our language and our reality are separated by a massive rift. It is a rift torn by the division of class society, and it can only be repaired by overcoming class as an organizing principle for human life. That is, by the creation of a classless social order. And it is only through the movement for such a society that we can actually enforce words to have meaning. Words will only have meaning again if someone forces them to, and that requires a coherent social subject with a directly felt and lived interest in pursuing that struggle.