Strictly speaking, the term “counterculture” refers to any cultural undercurrent that holds to a set of values different from those of the mainstream society. Of course, most Americans think of “counterculturalists” in terms of the various subcultures that emerged from the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s or whose existence emanates from that time period. Perhaps a better term might be “bohemians," a label that has traditionally been given to those, usually artists, writers, or intellectuals, who exist outside of cultural conventions or who possess a value system that is opposed to “establishment” values. An even wider term might be the Marxist designation “lumpenproletariat," originally used as a means of classification of the urban unemployed but now more broadly utilized as a description of a wide assortment of persons who exist on the margins or among the bottom layer of society.
Such groupings include a substantial amount of variation among themselves. Among the ranks of counterculturalists, bohemians and lumpenproletarians are members of the many youth subcultures (hippies, ravers, punk rockers, “goths”), adherents of spiritualities outside the mainstream religions (New Age, pagans, Wiccans, Buddhists), so-called “sexual minorities” (gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, transsexuals and transgendereds), a wide spectrum of subcultures devoted to particular forms of art, music or fashion (such the enthusiasts for massive tattooing and “body piercing”), the various drug cultures, those whose livelihood in on the margins of society or even the law (from bookies to midwives to “sex workers”), and those with unconventional political views (anarchists, primitivists, tax resisters) or social practices (polygamists, vegans or nudists). These groups then overlap considerably with others, such as students and other young people, low-income or unskilled workers, residents of urban tenant housing, proponents of “alternative media," the casually self-employed “petite bourgeoise” (to use another Marxist term), transients, the unemployed, the homeless and, unfortunately, prisoners.
Though there are obvious exceptions (like bikers and skinheads), counterculturalists generally favor the political Left. I know of no intrinsic reason for this, except the frequently false stereotype that “left” is synonymous with enlightenment, anti-authoritarianism or anti-establishment attitudes with “right” being identified with obscurantism or apologetics in defense of the status quo. It also true that the majority of counterculturalists, bohemians and (arguably) the wider lumpenproletarian sector generally think of themselves as socially “progressive” and side with environmentalists, animal rights activists, feminists, proponent of “gay rights," racial/ethnic minorities, the handicapped, and the poor and downtrodden, no doubt because many of them belong to these groups themselves. At first glance, it might appear that these people would not have much in common with a multiple-term Republican congressman, pro-life obstetrician, devout Baptist, “gold bug” who epitomizes “family values” like Ron Paul. So why then would it be in the self-interests of the “masses of the marginalized” to rally behind Dr. Paul’s candidacy?
Reasons aplenty exist as to why those on the margins or bottom of society should support Ron Paul, some of them quite serious and pressing. One of these is economic. At present, the American ruling class is pursuing a path of economic suicide. Current economic policy is an extravagant combination of currency devaluation, extreme fiscal recklessness, public indebtedness and trade debt that is unprecedented and unparalleled by any other state in the world, massive importation of cheap immigrant labor, corporate-mercantilist so-called “free trade” arrangements like NAFTA and the proposed North American Union and much else whose eventual effects will be full-on economic collapse of the kind not seen since the Great Depression, perhaps worse. For the Great American Middle Class, economic collapse will bring lower living standards and perhaps even relative poverty. For the “underclass," lumpenproletariat and marginal sectors, the result will be devastation, destitution or even death. Ron Paul understands this perilous economic situation to a degree that his rivals, Democratic or Republican, do not even begin to comprehend.
Ron Paul supports a non-interventionist foreign policy. This is also a matter of life and death for the young, the poor, the marginal, minorities and the working class. Each of Dr. Paul’s Republican rivals and most of the Democratic candidates (save a few flaky fringe figures like Kucinich or Gravel) either display a militaristic belligerence that is, well, more than a little frightening or, at best, a non-committal attitude tempered with subservience to those sectors who exhibit the greatest enthusiasm for further martial adventures abroad. Extending the present neoconservative program of military conquest of Muslim lands to Iran, Pakistan, Syria or elsewhere (or, alternately do-gooder excursions to places such as Darfur) will not only generate massive casualties among the present regular armed forces (to say nothing of innocent civilians), but will necessitate the implementation of conscription for the sake of generating further chattel for the carnage. And it won’t be the rich white boys who suffer the most.
No member of Congress or national politician has been more outspoken in opposition to the ever-expanding police state that has taken root in the United States over the past few decades than Ron Paul. The progressively escalating wars on drugs, crime, guns, gangs and terrorism have had the effect of establishing repression and incarceration as major growth industries, with these sectors being larger in the United States than in any other nation, including such supposed arch-tyrannies as Iran, China or Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. Recently, I came across an article in a business journal that casually and plausibly stated that one in four Americans are now employed in security work, rivaling the percentage of East Germans employed by the Stasi. It is surely a sign of the utterly degenerate and depraved nature of the present political class that such matters as the legalization of torture of suspects, coerced confessions, indefinite suspension of habeas corpus, whether or not “waterboarding” actually constitutes torture, detention without trial, secret tribunals and development of the legal framework for martial law are all considered just another matter of public policy debate in the same manner as traffic safety, tax policy, education or Social Security reform.
For many middle class Americans, the expansion of the police state to such grotesque levels many never mean more than occasional nuisances like having to take your shoes off to board a plane. For the poor, the homeless, drug users, the socially marginal and those most likely to encounter the wrath of the state directly, such tactics are potentially lethal. Rest assured the legitimation of such police state methodology will result in such tactics being used to fight not only the “war on terrorism” but the “war on drugs” as well. The handling of inmates in Guantanamo Bay in such a manner will eventually bring about the use of such tactics in domestic American prisons. The suspension of habeas corpus and other basic procedural rights will eventually result in the curtailment of such rights for drug suspects, those who run afoul of gun laws, petty criminals, proponents of “alternative medicine," those caught up in the state’s multitude of entrapment and scam racketeering prosecutions, and political dissidents such as anti-globalization or antiwar protestors, race militants among the minority groups, environmental, animal rights and other activists. It is the nature of such things to grow and expand with time, and only Ron Paul displays the motivation to “nip it in the bud," though the bud of the police state is already blooming.
Indeed, many other reasons exist why counterculturalists, bohemians and lumpenproles should assist Ron Paul in his efforts. Dr. Paul’s program of authentically constitutional, limited and decentralized government with respect for private property offers outcasts and outlaws the means of achieving personal and collective sovereignty. Who cares if your Christian fundamentalist neighbors don’t like your sexual practices or drug habits so long as you can do what you want on your own property? So what if upper-middle-class civic, real estate or business associations don’t like punk rock clubs or tattoo parlors so long as your proprietary rights and freedom of association are respected? So the folks in rural Georgia want to have school prayer and refuse to recognize gay marriage? Fine. Have Wiccan prayers and polysexual polygamy in San Francisco or Boston if you want. Don’t like capitalism? That’s cool. In Ron Paul’s America, you could organize all the anarchist communes, socialist collectives, communist kibbutzes, mutualist cooperatives or anarcho-syndicalist labor associations you wanted. You just couldn’t force others to join you, nor could they force you to join them in their tight-assed, restrictive suburbs. Indeed, if the experience of her husband’s reign is any indication, such efforts in the America of Evita Clinton might well result in a fiery death (remember the Branch Davidians?). Benito Giuliani’s reign of terror against those on the margins of society during his time on the balcony in New York is widely known. In fact, one aspect of Giuliani’s dictatorship that is frequently overlooked (even by libertarians) is his notorious campaign against the property and associational liberties of “sex workers."
A head of state with a demonstrable, decades-long track record of consistent support for civil liberties, constitutional rights, a sound economy and a non-imperialist foreign policy will have an enormous opportunity to lead by example and through the bully pulpit. If a President Paul were to tell the motley crew of criminals and sociopaths otherwise known as the federal government to mind their own business and start making efforts to reign them in, and appealing to the sovereignty and support of the American people when they inevitably resisted, how long would it be before such a revolution in political values began to trickle down to the average man on the street and to all levels of government?
Another reason to support Ron Paul is that used by the aristocratic liberal H.L. Mencken to justify his own support for the left-wing “progressive” Robert La Follette, described by Mencken as “the best man running as a man.” Agree with all of his political views or not, Ron Paul is head and shoulders above his rivals in personal integrity, honesty and consistency when compared with the charlatanry of the others, who often change positions as quickly as they change underwear. Left or right, culturally conservative or countercultural, Ron Paul is as good as it gets on the issues that matter most.
December 22, 2007