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Despite feeling really lousy, I made my way to the Socialist Equality Party's meeting attacking (mainly) Obama's Afghani strategy. I was throughly disappointed. The speech was long, dull, and a mix of things that were:

  • Oft-neglected facts that people really should know about
  • Lies
  • Half-truths
  • Stupid arguments and trashing one policy by conflating it with another
  • Worthwhile commentary and analysis
I took a lot of notes the whole way through, mainly documenting what fit into which of the things said fit into what. The best facepalm moment was when he quoted wikipedia to say something, adding: 「This is from Wikipedia, it's not something we wrote!」 as testament to the validity of something. Oy.

The real takeaway lesson, which should be clear to anyone who has looked into history, is if you present oft-neglected facts about history in the right way, people will remember the framing you give to it. From America's involvement in creating Al Qaeda to our economically inspired overthrow of Mossadegh, when the less-acknowledged crud America has done is said by minor voices and verifiable, it gives those minor voices an amplification - larger voices would do well to admit them and talk about them (see Kevin Rudd's speech to Aborigines about the stolen generations).

Finally the talk ended, I gingerly prodded at one of the issues to start the questions, and after a quick back-and-forth, the guy in front of me (a black muslim, not socialist), talked a bit about national self-determination, initially throwing the speaker way off guard. With a bit more back and forth, I decided to finally talk about why I rejected the central premise of the speaker's idea. I basically gave the long version of my blog post the other day where I support the Afghan intervention, getting into how it fits into my socialism and how I wish the Soviets had controlled the area (talking about the Soviet Union is generally a touchy matter for orthodox Trotskyites). Additionally, I talked about the importance of cultural advancement to create socialism (in the long run, I believe we want socialism in Afghanistan, but getting them development in infrastructure, public integrated schooling, and the like is a prerequisite, and capitalist nation building is thus in the long-term a gateway to socialism - there is nothing so important to our goals as the establishment of high quality public education and basic social services). I .. did offend one person there enough that she left the meeting by mentioning, as part of that vein, the fact that when Islam made it into Africa, it contributed to societal progress in some areas, although there are probably arguments that could freak anyone out...

People got pretty angry, with both the speaker (who, also being a black man, had an interesting and also tense dialogue about race and class with the black muslim) and the organiser at Pitt rather flabbergasted that someone could disagree with them (Orthodox Marxists do tend to be like Objectivists in that they really believe there to be one right answer and a "science" that can lead one to it, as different as their conclusions and sciences tend to be - I find such viewpoints to be deeply delusional and self-serving - only in organisations that are not accustomed to honest discussion can ideas like that and speeches like this survive). I imagine they probably would prefer I not come back, and this felt like a huge waste of both my time and my emotional resources (moments where I can fight my reclusivity would be better reserved trying to reach out for friends, as impossible as that feels because of the everyone-really-hates-me-and-are-just-being-polite-when-they-tolerate-my-presence-for-a-bit line of thinking). It has been awhile since I've had a long political conversation (although a more intelligent one would've been nice).

Recently impressed at one of my cats' tendency to stand up on her hind feet when she's playing with something with her hands...