I wrote recently on freedom. A very politically motivated acquaintance of mine posted this link on facebook a week or so ago: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/they_cant_outlaw_the_revolution_20140518.
Cecily McMillan, an Occupy activist, one of the thousands unjustly persecuted by the judicial system of the United States of America. I will leave it to you to read the article linked above. It is well written to the point where my summing it up would be redundant. However, Cecily makes some very poignant remarks which have me thinking about what I said.
Those who know me are well aware of my suspicions of radical ideology – or should I say radicalized ideology. The Left and the Right are never so close as they are at their most extreme. But that fear does not extend to radical action, soundly conceived and executed. To be wholly radical, one way or another, in the partisan model is to choose a selective blindness; to enact a conscious hemispherical necrosis. I propose that the partisan model is insufficient. It does not allow sufficiently for the type of free responsibility and constructive action needed to bolster the enigma of first-world revolutionary politics.
Primarily it is bogged down by the limitations Karl Marx found within the genesis debate over the human species. The same man who reduced religion to the “opium of the masses” was also convinced that the atheist stance was an equally unfounded argument as that of the fundamentalist religion. To be a-theist, is to define oneself as not a theist, as in one that does not believe in god. But the issue he raised is that definition still accepts god as an opposition and only defines itself as a negative. In fact, atheism is bound to a context of theism just as is the marriage of light and shade. They are two sides of the same coin, recently equally ignorant and evangelical I might add. But that is another discussion.
But politically, and this is part of what McMillan describes in her court and prison experience, it must be about a baseline unity. Traditional white privilege does her nothing in prison, the only privilege is that of power. Power knows no race, only the hands of its master. The key to a successful “revolution,” if such a word is appropriate, will require transcendent mass movement – transcendent, that is, of the partisan dialectic, of militancy and conflict in that limited sense. An aggressive evolution from within seems the best to me – that we should, with Classical grace, slay the beast from within – but this is a long war, an attrition, the battering of the inexorable tide against medieval dikes creaking. It is one thing to bring the walls down, but a Samsonian feat of strength is not only a long-shot bet but fool-hardy. The world is a precious balance and for all that is destroyed there is creation. To preserve freedom, we must undertake these responsibilities simultaneously lest we become victims to the same caprice that tainted the utopic visions of the 20th century.
In an unpublished article of a few years ago on the implementation gap between online and real-world discourse, what at the time I saw as a lack of translation there between, and its possible implications as a sort of cultural libido siphon, I tried a new concept of mass: the mass of ideas – as in the physical presence of an idea, its thinking, or the supporters of the idea and/or its thinker(s). More or less, an idea is a metaphysical construct with no premise of empirical existence farther than its capacity to be embodied in the physical world through various forms of action or its influence upon active decision making. The mass of an idea roughly measures its theoretical veracity by weight of observable evidence. If an idea can be seamlessly superimposed over top of existing structures (physical or social) or interactions, that idea takes on mass almost parasitically in accordance to its congruency (or the level to which the appearance of congruency with the real world can be manipulated). The other measure of mass is more human; how many people hold a given idea and to what extent does the idea influence real-world action? When the mass of an idea held by the masses, say the 99% to use an example relevant to the article, becomes greater than the mass of the existing political/economic/social superstructure, it gains the capacity to overcome the latter’s inertia. McMillan mentions Foucault, Bourdieu, and mass theory as intellectualizations which we must be wary in doing, lest it become completely abstract, “a game.”
I admit to perhaps playing the game myself (after all, I did venture to talk about the interplay of metaphysics and the physical world), however, we are the children of the age of science; let us not forget our most basic physics. A generation of conflicting parts apathy and indignation is coming through. So far the agreement I’ve seen between camps has been that the way things are must go. Sadly, it is so much harder to envision a practical new reality than is the fall of the present. But this must be accomplished for the eventual weight of the masses to not collapse in on itself.
The problem is that not all mass is created equal and idealisms become unstable once translated into real-world terms when they remain stubbornly intransigent. An evolutionary revolution must take place. Any proposed change must be holonic: part of a larger whole, but itself stably constructed to the point it can exist on its own. Progress must still grapple within and even thrive in the real word as it presently exists, potentially hostile. Political reform is a game of behemoth tipping, not dominoes (and where much of what is worth saving may be found in the shadow of the toppling giant). The roots of history too are pervasive and deep, in infrastructure and in people. Persistence and organicism will be required, not steadfast idealism. “I believe….” is the slogan of a bygone era. Optimism yes; determinism, no. A self-consciousness and sensitivity to context will be required of the mass political movement. “The masses” themselves not being a single body either but a collective of interests and visions, it will take, above all, perhaps a willingness to change, not simply the demand for it; a vigilance to not accept the means as the ends; and a constructive will, tragic yet necessary, to build with permanence what must be set down in a few years’ time. Mass politics must aspire beyond Ortega’s revolt of the masses. It must itself acquire genuine mass and not suffice for empty carbs. Freedom and equality are not the same. It is high time we choose liberty as a civilization – but for the sake of ourselves, not that of civilization; the liberty of the individual, in place of the liberty of the institution. We must choose responsibility to self, and the only way to guarantee that is to recognize our responsibilities through our relationships and those we interact with, as extensions of our self, to treat them with equal respect and care for their mortality.