Decades ago, the cartoon swamp possum Pogo famously recognized this predicament: "I have met the enemy and the enemy is us."
I have friends on the left who are offended at this use of the first-person-plural to describe the current state of affairs. What's this "we" talk? From a marginalized, virtually disenfranchised position, my friends take on an aloof posture and declare the politically right disaster that America has become is not their responsibility. "They" are complicit -- not us. Some talk of radical and extreme change and call for an immediate socialist state. Others want a more balanced, more just, mixed economy. Given the frustrations with the bullshit of electoral politics, there is no real map on how to get from here to there.
The veteran war correspondent Chris Hedges  eloquently articulates this view in his fiery columns on Truthdig:
"All conventional forms of dissent, from electoral politics to open debates, have been denied us. We cannot rely on the institutions that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. The only route left is to disconnect as thoroughly as possible from the consumer society and engage in acts of civil disobedience and obstruction. The more we sever ourselves from the addictions of fossil fuel and the consumer society, the more we begin to create a new paradigm for community."
Hedges' view that the corporate, imperial US system has turned its back on its own people is due to the fact it has become impervious to constructive, bottom-up change. It seems so absurdly top-heavy that a collapse like the Soviet Union is not unthinkable. It may not happen that dramatically and it may be seen as just "muddling through" into ever more desperate circumstances for those without wealth and power. The point Hedges makes loud and clear is that people who seek more socialism and less capitalism in the nation's mix need to band together and look out for themselves.
The Solution is to Go Local
Out of this top-heavy, imploding empire, Hedges' idea of the left creating "a new paradigm for community" seems a real solution, sort of a leftist alternative to the right-wing's beloved "state rights" -- or what the narrator in the opening of the film Blood Simple says about life in Rick Perry's Texas: "Down here, you're on your own."
If as the tea leaves suggest in the future we're going to be more "on our own," it behooves us on the left to rely less on the central government that has abandoned us and to toughen ourselves up in a local context. We need to stick together in our communities to protect our families, friends and resources. That may involve the decision to arm oneself. As a matter of principle, I recently went to my local sheriff's office and obtained a license to carry a firearm. It obviously involves much more than that.