Friday, June 14, 2024

#166 / Join A Club


"What’s the first thing you think about when you hear the word club?" Eric Anderson asks this question in an online posting with the title, "On The Use of Clubs." Here is how he follows up his opening sentence:

Does [the word "club"] bring to mind a night out dancing with your friends? A day behind a fancy gate wining and dining between rounds of golf? Perhaps getting together with friends to play chess, or cards, watching birds, or exploring nature? Or, does it bring to mind something entirely different — such as bashing your enemy over the head?

Anderson is suggesting that we ought to be paying attention to the "bashing your enemy over the head" alternative, as he then says this:

The comedian George Carlin wryly observed that the elite are “… one big club, and you’re not in it.” Were Carlin to better understand the nature of clubs he might have more accurately stated “it’s one big club, and you’re not swinging it.” Carlin’s predecessor Groucho Marx understood, once stating “I got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it.” What the elite have always known, and the left tragically fails to understand, is that “club” means power (emphasis added).

I invite you to read Anderson's little essay in its entirety - and I guess the column from which I am quoting is only "Part #1." At the very end, Anderson tells us this: 

My next installment will discuss a model to begin rebuilding the grassroots clubs necessary to take power.

When I read "On The Use of Clubs," I was immediately reminded of my April 20th blog posting about Hannah Arendt. Arendt is in agreement with Anderson that the purpose of association, in the political context, is to create and utilize power. Let me quote Arendt again. She doesn't use the word, "club," but when she writes about the "action of citizens in concert," that is really what she is talking about: 

There is no legitimate government without power, [and that kind of legitimate] power emerges from the action of citizens in concert. Power involves citizen participation in public affairs, and power is the root of all self-government (emphasis added).

One of the themes of my blog postings is that most of us tend, most of the time, to "observe" what is going on all around us. When we want to "take action," though, and to change what's going on, we need to get together. We need, in other words, to "join a club."  Another viable alternative, by the way, is to "find some friends" and start a new club ourselves. 

Abraham Lincoln, in what I think was probably the most important political speech ever made in the history of the United States of America, said that the sacrifices of the Civil War were undertaken to make certain that a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" will not perish from the earth. 

As we think about government, most of us, most of the time, fixate on the idea that our government should be "for the people." We focus, in other words, on what the government is doing for us. Our criticisms (or, more infrequently, our praise) are an evaluation of how well the government is doing. What we mainly expect is that the government will be acting "for us." Our judgments about the government are essentially our "observation" of what's happening, and reflect our evaluation of whether the government is doing a good job "for us," or whether it is failing in that task. Anyone paying attention to our current presidential contest will know, immediately, what I am talking about.

The most important part of Lincoln's statement about government, however, is the part that reminds us that we are dedicated to a government "of the people," and "by the people," not just "for the people." Democratic self-government depends on us, and our personal involvement in governing. If we think things need to change, if we think there are things that the government needs to do that it isn't doing, or if we think that the government is doing things it shouldn't be doing, we need to get personally involved. That is what "self-government" requires, and in order to generate the power that can sustain democratic self-government, we must "get together." 

Join a club. Start a club. Start swinging that club!

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