The Revolution of Love
A critical look at ways that anger towards the system is internalized in the movement through bickering and art, and a battle cry for love and unity as the only means for reconstructing our society around the values of peace, liberty, and equality.
They Don't Have to Fight Us (We Fight Each Other Enough)
What happened to free love? "Coom-biah" and Jimi Hendrix? In a movement whose backbone is unquestioned validity in every single human being's humanity and right to govern their own lives, why do we check each other so viciously? And I don't mean diligently or extensively, I mean viciously. What's the problem here? Don't tell me you people have never taken LSD! (Kids, don't do drugs.) Could it be that instead of trying to diffuse unjust power structures we are merely internalizing them within the liberal movement? (And forgive me, throughout this article, for using a term as crude as liberal.) Could it be that we've gotten so serious being progressive that we've forgotten that the whole point of progressivism is to end strife—to feel good? Not only within ourselves, but about ourselves, and about one another, and about the world we're shaping and leaving behind? I went to a downtown protest in April. It was headed by a man on stilts and a brightly-colored band who lead the march with rambunctious (even funky, or was it just me?) music. Then, a barrage of hail suddenly dumped from the sky and sent a huge roar through the whole protest. The march ended back in the Park Blocks with the band playing furiously, surrounded by a circle of arms-held-high, people ululating, hips gyrating, feet pumping. That's the kind of dissent I like to see. Two reasons why I think we don't seem more of it are the forms of bickering and art inside the liberal movement.
Progress, Not Perfection (Yet)
All liberals are working towards the same vision to some degree—individual liberation, equality, and communal ownership—but different political factions are focusing on different stages or versions of the struggle. Democrats are the most immediate. Those supporting direct democracy are looking a little further down the line (so to speak). Those supporting socialism are looking past that, those envisioning anarchy are advocating the extreme principle of liberation. Anarchy is the epitome of liberal society—no matter what intermediary step you advocate. As I'm sure we all know, it is the ultimate realization of human potential—not the chaos and violence that common misconception casts it in. I consider myself primarily an advocate for socialism, but if we get down to bare bones of it, hell yes I'm an anarchist. And, if it comes down to it, hell yes I'm for direct democracy. And if all other liberal parties disappeared from the ballot, I guess I would vote Democrat, too. If there were a revolution for any of these, would I be on the front lines? Damn right. Anything in the direction of liberty and equality is better than the direction we're heading in now. Squabbles aside (which I think the immediacy of the internet makes too light of, makes to impersonal, makes too easy), we're more or less all on the same team. I think we would benefit by embracing that.
Reexamining the Aesthetic of Suffering
Our art reflects our lives. Why are so many liberal art forms (which are most art forms) dominated by darkness these days? Experiencing serious art often resembles a kind of masochism. In the fields of literature, painting, and music, our cynicism has gotten the best of us. Have our imaginations seized up in the tribulations of our struggle? Punk rock, for example, is one of the most important and perhaps currently the largest subculture of resistance in America. It has rallied countless youths to the cause of liberation, and everyone for a progressive society is in debt to the people who support and contribute to it.
However, certain bands in the genre often employ anger and angst rather than sister- and brotherhood (Anti-Flag sets a good example for unifying, politically virtuous punk music). I'm not saying that anger isn't a valid reaction to the injustice of our society—I am thoroughly pissed off—but we cannot let it take over our hearts. We should not let it dominate our art. We should not separate our subcultures between valids and invalids (poseurs), creating arbitrary internal hierarchies in communities opposed to elitism. We should let off the anger and bring on the strength.
If we use art as an outlet to redirect the anger we feel back towards our companions, how long will it be until we just self-destruct? We must, all of us, find a voice other than the voice of rage. Otherwise, our art will only give us a vision of the revolution, instead of a vision the peace that follows. It will only display the angst we feel in an oppressed society, instead of the alternative of joyous equality. And when we hear music, we will only hear the voice of violence inside of us, instead of the voice of what we all really want: Freedom.
(The last thing I want is to convey that I'm advocating censorship, or worse that I'm just passing critical judgment on musical tastes, and I wish that could go without saying. People can make whatever they want, and read/watch/listen to whatever they want, and even if it's raging and painful it can still be good. The questions I'm asking are these: Might it be hindering progress by promoting a negative attitude? Could it hurt to express some hope for the future rather than some angst for the present?)
Against Aganst / For For
In order to take the power away from the system at work today, we have to diffuse its power over us. Being against them won't do it—if we act that way, they'll be against us right back, and they will win. We have to admit, they have the big guns. The only solution is, instead of being against them, we must be for us. We have to endow ourselves with the power of unity, a unity that recognizes all the ideas which we are working towards: liberty, equality, peace, justice, responsibility. On top of that, we have to remember that no matter how bad things are, we are alive, and we should celebrate our lives and our resistance. Many have died in order for us to get this far. Let's celebrate how far we've come and how far we're going! Let's stop fighting against—especially against each other—and start fighting for!
I would like to point out that while I am judging certain practices within the movement, it is for the sake of reevaluating what criticism inside the movement means and hoping to dismantle its negative action. Like in a revolution when the oppressed cannot just turn around and oppress the oppressors, I am not trying to criticize the critical. I only want to point out the faults of internalized anger so that we may move forward, together, more forcefully, more unified. It is always important to question the values and decisions made around you though, and this relentless critical evaluation is one of the virtues of liberal thought. I do not aim to silence dissent—just the opposite—my aim here is to make dissent even more beautiful and worthy of relentless energy and wisdom.
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