26 November 2013

First Impressions

Always consider the impressions that you are making upon the mind of the reader, and always consider that the first impression with which you present him will be so strong that it will be all that you can ever do to efface it, to alter it or even quite slightly to modify it. Maupassant's gentleman with red whiskers, who always pushed in front of people when it was a matter of going through a doorway, will remain, for the mind of the reader, that man and no other. The impression is as hard and as definite as a tin-tack. And I rather doubt whether, supposing Maupassant represented him afterwards as kneeling on the ground to wipe the tears away from a small child who had lost a penny down a drain I doubt whether such a definite statement of fact would ever efface the first impression from the reader's mind. They would think that the gentleman with the red whiskers was perpetrating that act of benevolence with ulterior motives to impress the bystanders, perhaps.
“On Impressionism,” Ford Madox Hueffer, Poetry and Drama (1913)

...by this point it’s going to be pretty hard to organize the working class on the grounds that should really concern them: common solidarity, common welfare. 
In some ways, it shouldn’t be too hard, because these attitudes are really prized by most of the population. If you look at Tea Party members, the kind that say, “Get the government off my back, I want a small government” and so on, when their attitudes are studied, it turns out that they’re mostly social democratic. You know, people are human after all. So yes, you want more money for health, for help, for people who need it and so on and so forth, but “I don’t want the government, get that off my back” and related attitudes are tricky to overcome. 
Some polls are pretty amazing. There was one conducted in the South right before the presidential elections. Just Southern whites, I think, were asked about the economic plans of the two candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Southern whites said they preferred Romney’s plan, but when asked about its particular components, they opposed every one. Well, that’s the effect of good propaganda: getting people not to think in terms of their own interests, let alone the interest of communities and the class they’re part of. Overcoming that takes a lot of work. I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’s not going to happen easily.
An excerpt from the just released 2nd edition of Noam Chomsky’s OCCUPY: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity, edited by Greg Ruggiero and published by Zuccotti Park Press.

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