I’ll be the first to admit that direct confrontation with the State has an undeniable attraction. In the past, I myself have engaged in some direct actions that it might not be a good idea to talk too much about. But after seeing the same scenario about a hundred times, the game gets more than a little stale.
Now, I am emphatically not saying give up. A stateless society is a possibility, and one which I feel it is important to strive for. However, the model of protest borrowed from the Labor Movement of a century ago simply does not work. We are no closer to the goal than we were thirty or even a hundred years ago. The fleeting “temporary autonomous zones” that give upper middle class white kids such a hard on are basically “vacations” and the State shows no sign of even blinking at the thousands of protesters who confront it.
It amazes me that people can hold a view which rightly sees the State as all pervasive and ruthless, and yet still be shocked by the brutality displayed at the RNC. One might almost think folks still clung to the notion that they lived in a free society. I’ll be blunt: the State doesn’t give a shit about anything we do in the open. It can crush us, lie about it, and leave the most ardent opponent of the Bush Administration thinking it’s all okay.
The Left has, over the past thirty years or so, systematically marginalized itself. (I mean the actual Left, not the half-assed crypto-Capitalist Social Democrats that sometimes make it on television.) By insisting on absolute ideological purity, and fracturing along the hundreds of lines of interpretation of that phrase, we have done something the Religious Right realized was the way to lose. The Religious Right, and the far Right in general, was able to make deep inroads into American society by compromising with a system it saw as corrupt using media it traditionally had seen as the tool of Satan. It did this house by house and mind by mind, and today we debate torture and a total lunatic like Sarah Palin can run for Vice President.
At some point, one has to abandon certain adolescent fantasies. Transforming the world in a single night of Red and Black Armageddon is one of those fantasies. The rhetoric needs to change, and the tactics need to be less alienating to potential allies. Studies have shown that, even with the internet and television, people still trust the information exchanged face to face than any other source. This is how community is built, and walls between irreconcilable differences torn down.
Talking, sharing, cooperating. Building structures under the radar. Abandoning platforms and attitudes that see those who don’t understand the arcanum of Marxist analysis as dupes. These are the kinds of things that will actually accomplish something, rather than simply boost the egos of those participating in another affinity culture of spite and self destruction.
We can adopt an attitude and outlook that will make us far more powerful in the long run than the Far Right could ever be. The Left is open by nature, ready to embrace difference as valuable. We can learn to actually like the people who disagree with us and see their ideas and feelings for what they are: the result of a unique and undeniable set of life experiences. Listening and acknowledging rather than trying to win “converts” is psychologically a much more effective approach. People listen to people who listen to them and don’t try to shove their own ideas down other people’s throats. Who don’t consider the concerns of those who don’t immediately see the value in property damage as irrelevant and stupid.
We have the opportunity to choose between real connection and childish pranks and temper tantrums. Between love and hate. Ultimately, between life and death. This country is quite likely to be engaged in civil war before the next decade is over, so it would behoove us to look at the direction we’d like to go in before that happens.
Just a thought.