In Los Angeles, a city by the people without power for the people, what we are seeing is genuine political communication, especially discourse, not turn into policy and genuine political representation. In a city where most elected officials are not in office because of a popular mandate, Los Angeles seems to prefer to sit out of elections, making for the city that we live today.
“Habermas argued that human interaction in one of its fundamental forms is “communicative” rather than “strategic” in nature, insofar as it is aimed at mutual understanding and agreement rather than at the achievement of the self-interested goals of individuals.”
The above quote was pulled from Britannica.com’s definition of deliberative democracy, a concept that sociologist and philosopher Jurgen Habermas has theorized much. According to Habermas, a deliberative democracy, one where citizens deliberate on issues and is led by discourse, matches human nature. We don’t have one in Los Angeles, which may explain our low voter turnouts.
The nature of human interaction being communicative that Habermas speaks of above is very interesting to apply to Los Angeles. Of the many observations that one may pull from its application, one stands out: Los Angeles is an American capital of discourse, one in which humans deliberate in a unique way, with unique perspectives, on unique subjects. Such a claim should be followed with some ethnography of discourse in Los Angeles, but the fact that Los Angeles is the only city of its kind with a non-white majority bearing the burden of being incarcerated the most, to add to other historical oppressions, makes it clear that most political discourse in Los Angeles is rooted in mass discourse on “ethnicity”, “migration”, “commerce”, “values”, “education”, as per what mass multicultural interaction in our metropolis would lead to. Such discourse leads to new definitions for “citizen”, “government”, “race”, “federalism”, and other concepts that are the unique products of our mostly non-white mass interaction / mass discourse.
Mass interaction / mass discourse fuels psychologies, attitudes, and a wide range of other aspects of our metropolitan life, including political “apathy”. The issue is that mass interaction / mass discourse is not included in the governing of Los Angeles. Instead mobilization of “representatives” of the “latino/a/x population or community” or the “black population or community” is practiced by 503c organizations who include these few people in coalitions that are guided by foundations and elected officials, and presented at times when the masses are at work or busy. Dialogue, such as in town halls, are few and far between except to address a “crisis” as per how government identifies crisis, when an unusual occurrence needs to happen for business to come back to normal. Absurdist representation, tokenism, as seen in many ads, replaces mass discourse born out of mass interaction, and at this point is even perceived to be a threat by those in power when it is uplifted the media.
Resistance. Thus, instead of communication being at the heart of how we move forward, it is at the heart of how hummingbirds resist forward neoliberal motion in Los Angeles: through talk. “Have you heard?” “How have you been?” It offers some catharsis to those who are in pain because how could you not be as part of an economic and social system rooted in brutality, cruelty, and exclusion. Genuine political communication is encrypted in today’s Los Angeles, far from sight, for the police only allow such a thing in the shadows of this city, until the great bird strike and the new city that will come with it.