Thursday, December 09, 2004

Activists in America, Part the Second

So the truth is, I'm making a lot of this up because I wasn't so alive in the '60s as all that. What I know about it, I've deduced, some of it from parents, some of it from Bread & Puppet, some of it from reading and research (I did my eighth-grade term paper on the Merry Pranksters, thankyouverymuch), and some of it how the hell would I know. So my older readers (that'd be my parents, basically), please feel free to correct.

What I think is that in the '60s, the tidal wave of activism that swept America, or at least was perceived to have swept America--there were obviously numerous activist movements before then, cf. the union movements, the American Revolution, the Civil War, bla bla bla etcetera--was actually for the most part about what it said it was about. If you went to an anti-war rally, you wouldn't expect to find random legalize marijuana booths sprinkled around the way you do at any rally today, because the activist community today is about being just that, an activist community.

So what's wrong with that? To some degree it has probably always been this way, that espousing certain views on specific political and social issues made everyone think, sometimes reasonably, that you espoused certain other views on certain other sociopolitical issues. The greatest division we see on these today is "fiscally conservative" (or liberal) v. "socially conservative" (or liberal), which I think I kind of addressed in the emanating penumbrae post. But the trouble with having activism as a lifestyle is that if you're not always protesting something, you've lost your identity.

Is there always something to protest? (I'm going to talk about liberal activists here, because I know them way better, although I'm sure I'll throw a conservative bit in here and there.) Yes, there is. In global capitalism, and particularly living in the United States, somebody is always treating somebody else like shit and it would be great if everybody else knew about it. Something horrible is always going on. In that way, the notion of "I want to be an activist" (something a friend in high school once said to me; it being my senior year, post-Bread & Puppet, I accepted that notion without question until about a year later) doesn't seem nearly as offensive as I've often felt it is. I want to be someone who consistently warns people of what I consider to be the evil in the world and attempts to fight it. What's the matter with that?

Part of the matter with that is that The Evil In The World is way too massive for any one individual or collective. Ergo, anyone who approaches activism with the notion that what he/she is going to do is Fight The Evil In The World fails miserably and looks silly. And since there are far too many of those people, in most cases well-intentioned (though my distrust of kneejerk activists often runs deeper than it needs to), there's an entire collective, particularly of liberal activists, that often fail miserably and look silly and as a result in the intervening three decades 'twixt the '60s and now have become laughable. Enhancing said laughability (man, I write funny) is the fact that if you're fighting Evil In The World and are sensitive or pseudosensitive enough to see it everywhere, you'll have to protest it everywhere you see it, which a) leaves you little time to delve deeply into one issue and b) means somebody is always protesting something, so it's hard for the non-protesting people to think that one issue means more than another.

Next question: does one issue mean more than another? Is it fair to prioritize them? I don't know. Tune in next time for Part the Third. (These short posts work well when I'm tired.)


Post a Comment

<< Home