My Unilateral Country: Right AND Left

Here in the City, there’s a big brouhaha going down because of a Biotech conference happening at the Moscone. In one corner, there’s Mayor Gavin Newsom and the business sector heaping dinero on glitzy gilded booths, using every technique at their disposal (including well-practiced sycophantism) to woo industrialists. Because unless you’re living off a trust fund, it’s still a perrenial juggling act if you want to live in this town and do your own thing. So what better way to upgrade the overall standard of living and spark up the sulfur of plentiful jobs and affordable apartments then to pivot your head like an aspiring socialite at any ol’ big boy looking to get inside your pants? (And in this case, the fact that the big boy’s all “biotech” pounds the crude and distasteful metaphor in further, along with all subsequent explanation of same.)

In the other corner, we have protestors! From what I’ve been able to conclude from my morning commutes, most of the protestors are pockmarked teenagers whose working definition of instilling change involves dumping rotten fruit into intersections, rather than having civil discussions with the right people or the citizens about the issues. (You know, those trivial bystanders who might be responsible for exercising conscious consumer choices? Well, like many protestors in this cartoonish town, the protests in question are about aggravating these bystanders, rather than informing them. And what better way to vex than to block intersections at rush hour, thus causing regular working Joes and Janes to explain to bosses why they are late for work, and subsequently throwing a small monkey wrench into their job security during one of the worst economic periods in the last twenty years? Way to go, team!)

The protestors have declared the Biotech conference to be a bad thing because the biotech sector is responsible for genetically modified food. Never mind that the Frankenfood industry can be put out of commission if enough people were to consciously reject it (i.e., read labels before sliding credit cards). Never mind that, well, economic circumstances being what they are, the pickens are slim on the job front.

Do I come across as cynical? On the contrary. I actually sympathize with both camps here. But where I have the problem is that neither the Newsom camp nor the protestors are mature enough to address or understand each other’s points. What we have here is the potential for a fantastic debate over a major issue. Where do we draw the line in the sand? How do we balance shaky economics with moral principles? It’s an important question that deserves serious consideration as our unemployed road warriors put the pedal to the metal to pick over the small morsels dropping from the wilderbeast’s maw, at least until the economy picks up. But like all political skirmishes, neither side wishes to compromise. Unilateralism, that wonderful political principle still in vogue thanks to the cowboy on Pennsylvania Avenue, has become so indoctrinated through almost every sliver of the political spectrum that it is now virtually de rigueur for politicans and protestors to do likewise.

Is this democracy at work? We all remember how effective those Five Year Plans and Great Leaps Forward were, right? What makes the current political atmosphere in this country any less different from that of the Soviet Union? Rather than world leaders deciding for us the policies and dicta we should believe in, perhaps in response to the current frustrating atmosphere, we’ve now deferred this duty to ham-handed small-time politicos and the barker-like protesters who follow them. The overall contentment by anyone to believe so fundamentally in their own points without listening or considering the other side is perhaps the worst aspect of political discourse that this nation has seen in the past twenty-five years. Sure, I could blame television or the Limbaughs and Moores. But consider the following statistic:

In a global study comparing voter turnout in a parliamentary election over the past several years, the United States scored 93rd out of 100.

You could blame the people for this appalling placement. Me? I blame the early advent of unilateralism, which has transformed politicans and protestors alike into living cartoons. The folks at the top of the food chain are rolling in their oversized sties, but my guess is they’d be scared shitless if we actually started listening to each other.

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  1. I find it a bit of a stretch that somehow GW is responsible for unilateralism in domestic politics (he isn’t even responsible for unilateralism in foreign policy but that is another story). As if he has something to do with the protestors ignorance and lack of civility? What about Ted Kennedy, Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, Al Gore? When was the last time you saw them argue for reasoned debate and calm discussion? Did you see Gore’s latest effort? That guy is unhinged!

    Besides, please explain to me that glorious time when everyone sat down and discussed issues calmly and intelligently. I could really care less about voter turnout as a sign of political health. If voter turnout was 100% and the result the election of a totalitarian dictator would that be ok? Does participation equal informed decisions? Democracy is messy, intentionally so. Those protestors don’t want informed decisions and voter choice because the vast majority of Americans couldn’t give a rip if their corn is modified.

    Sorry about the traffic but it is San Francisco . . .

  2. Ed – Great piece. Forgive me for not noticing your GW attack. I am glad to hear from the front line, though, that protestors don’t want informed decisions. However, I am not sure if this means they want decisions that are blatantly UN-informed, or do they they want NO decisions (regardless of their informative attributes)?

    I for one, prefer informed decisions, as a person who both eats corn and has to commute in SF.

    Thank God it wasn’t critical mass day (another protest/party/event that I’ve never fully understood), to boot.

    I appears you may be living the lonely life of a Doughut. (

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