Activism in Symbols

From a Hakim Bey interview:

HB: People with wonderful attitudes and desires that are good desires; but since there is no comprehensive movement, there's nothing other than these "positive attitudes" and there's no way to focus them.

I went to a Peace March yesterday... it was the anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. I swear it was like being back in the 60's again: same clothes, same slogans:

"What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!"

We've been saying this for 40 years and we still haven't realized that symbolic action and symbolic discourse is NOT Action!

And this is even better: there was a counter-demonstration, and the anti-demonstrators were yelling at us that we were communists! This is like a civil war reenactment; it's like people in medieval costumes pretending to be knights and ladies. Totally bizarre. I haven't been going to demonstrations lately, so I thought maybe a few things have changed. But no! It's just a blast from the past - for everybody, including the fascists who thought that they were still living in 1979. Very strange.

And this is it! You go, you have a march, you say: "Not in my name!" And then you go home and watch TV. You don't then go out and start an alternative institution: a church, a farm, a commune.

AM: A pleasure club.

HB: Or even a pleasure club! Instead, they just go home and watch TV.

AM: And then they go to work and get their salaries from the same people who are waging the war. And the taxes go to war, of course.

HB: Exactly! And of course, you NEED your SUV; you NEED your cellular phone. These are real needs. So all these so-called "green people" around here are sucking up gasoline and cement... Just "not in my backyard"... that's what they say. They are not going to swear off using cement. They will say: "Move the cement plant to Mexico". I can't participate in this pseudo-politics; there is no entry-point for me here.

Sounds suspiciously like my protest experience. Bey's right: we need to actually do something, and not just come home and watch TV. The entire interview is very much on the same page of life that I am right now - especially when the internet is factored into this phenomenon of "fake activism".

Read this article
Written on Thursday, December 13, 2007