Live 105 was doing a countdown of their favorite artists today, and David Bowie clocked in with Under Pressure
. The lyrics brought to mind the activist thread we've got going:
It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming let me out!
. . .
Turned away from it all
Like a blind man
Sat on a fence but it don’t work
Keep coming up with love
But it’s so slashed and torn
Why why why?
Love love love love
Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love give love give love?
Give love give love give love give love give love?
Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care
For people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way
Of caring about ourselves
This is our last dance . .
Classic song, of course, and more soothing to my sense of Holiday than any of the carols and oldies on the other stations. It reminded me of a conclusion we reached in my high school Russian History class. We were wondering if people would eventually give up on trying to fix poverty, and we decided the answer was no--just as some people would always exploit the weak and steal and be greedy, other people would always be moved to jump down off the fence, so to speak, and share and comfort. They might try to close their eyes but love would eventually pull them into the fray--even when confronted with a world so frequently terrible that people scream to be let out.
I guess my rough, working philosophy of activism is that you gotta do what you gotta do for the world--and do it well, do it diligently, do it earnestly--but at the end of the day you have to be a little neutral about both success and failure, and grounded in your own beliefs. That way the ends doesn't justify the means too much, you don't beat yourself up about circumstances out of your control, you don't believe the bad press with the good press, and you don't waste your whole lifetime on something that's not, after all, you. The problem, of course, is figuring out what it is
that you gotta do.
I appreciate the way the thread on activism is going
because it has provided me with a lot of ideas and thoughts about activism to sift through--but I always want more.
Acknowledging that activism can range from legal to illegal, and from as indirect as persuading voters to as direct as breaking things, we pondered notions of connotation and framing, as well as of efficacy. Some of the negative connotations I was originally riffing on seem to be planted by the establishment--demonizing by the powers that be, as Jym said, or an usurpment by the current administration, as Echan said. Other negative connotations seem to be blowback from a a range of negatively perceived associations---nobody wants to accidentally endorse a view one doesn't have--- and pereceived actions: PETA throwing paint on furs, AIDS activists vomitting in a fancy restaurant, or simply preaching to the converted too much. That seems to boil down to efficacy. How do we judge it? This is the analytical heart of the matter. If we can judge efficacy, we can empirically measure various kinds of possible political action, and calculate which to political actions to perform for optimum results.
It sounds kinda dry that way, doesn't it? An engineering problem. I once told TK I'd like there to be a field called Political Action Engineering or somesuch. Like good engineering though, it can't be done all in one's head and on paper. It requires a little bit of trying, even when there's no gain in sight. I suppose that kind of unwarranted leap of faith is made much easier by love. Pressure alone won't get us going. Even in darkest winter, we have to give hope and love one more chance.