Activism has weighed heavily on my mind since the earthquake in Haiti. I have watched the celebrities come forward to attempt to raise money for the survivors of the Haitian earthquake. GIVE GIVE GIVE is the message, but I wonder how many of them have sat down and really made the larger connections? This Friday my son’s school is having buy a hot chocolate for Haiti day; however, they have yet to inform the children about neocolonialsm, racism and spurious debt. Why educate them, when they can pass on Bono style activism to soothe any kind of privilege angst before it can occur?
A few years ago, Bono held a world concert to get signatures for a petition to give to a G8 summit, to eliminate the debt of third world countries and today not only is the debt still in existence, so is the predatory mode of exchange. The pattern I see repeated, is that we are encouraged to just throw money at a problem through “responsible purchases” or donations, or throw a happy happy joy joy rock concert to force the solution to magically appear. Westerners are encouraged to give up a latte for humanity. It is almost as though it is understood that if more were asked, that people would find an excuse to abdicate their responsibilities.
Where has our fearlessness gone? Each day rights are being eroded, education is declining and the standard of living is being reduced. We are treated to politicians offering us solutions that really don’t differ from each other because no matter which party you turn to, they are all fed by the big machine. Can you really make a change from within? What is the difference between the left and right in the mainstream, when the same signature is on both pay checks?
Blair first came on the scene, all shiny and new after so many years of Tory destruction and it was cool Britannia all the way to war. Obama had people in the streets chanting “yes we can” and while he has certainly proven to be better than his predecessor, it really is not hard to be a better commander and chief than Bush. In Canada we have the pit bull in a sweater vest, who is more interested in holding onto power, than actually governing. Isn’t he lucky that the Olympics showed up just in time forestall any real challenge, while he once again gets his ducks in a row?
I suppose the word for how I feel is disillusioned. Politicians cannot be trusted, cannot be trusted, cannot be trusted. We cannot even count on the media to correctly search for the truth, if it becomes more advantageous to parrot the party line. In left corners it has become quite popular to attack Fox News for its slanted position, but honestly there is no left media and if we believe otherwise, it is because we are in a state of denial. Can anyone trumpet the name of a mainstream news outlet that dedicated itself to talking openly and honestly about the Iraq war before it started? The media is not about informing us about world events; it’s about maintaining dominant discourse. It teaches submission and conformity.
The co-option of activism has made us all impotent in the face of tyranny. Even when we can admit the faults in the system, we do no act to make a change. There is no ground swell of disapproval because we have become complacent, content to softly whimper as yet another layer of flesh is peeled off of our backs. The introduction of Bono Style activism is perhaps one of the most inventive tools of the bourgeoisie to calm and control the proletariat. We are encouraged to believe that we are creating change and that we are revolutionaries, however; all action simply supports the system. We may wear a Che shirt as we hand over our latte money, but any real understanding of what it is to hold others accountable has long since been lost. Buy Green, sign a petition, donate a dollar and none of it involves self denial, sacrifice or challenge; it is sanitized safe, marketed, time tested and true.
Do we really want to give up western privilege and return to a subsistence lifestyle? We wag our finger at India as it begins its own industrial revolution, forgetting the ways in which the smokestacks of London were praised as progress. Environmentalism is for other nations and if our corporations happen to locate there so that they can pollute at will, well then we can still whine about losing our jobs. People are being OUTSOURCED! That is the real crime, not the flouting of environmental standards for a buck. Neo-Liberals posit that if we really wanted to protect the globe, we would support privatization, sure in the knowledge that ownership would cause better care for the earth. We will just ignore the fact that the ecosystem is GLOBAL and what happens thousands of miles away always effects us. Should one person or a corporation, really own something that effects millions in small ways daily, when the only oversight is profit?
From the so-called activist bracelets, to the rock concerts, we have been tamed and subdued. The co-option of activism by the ruling elite would almost be amusing, if it did not mean a lack of progress and further impoverishment for so many. The bourgeoisie love to inform us that we have power: yell “Yes we can”, turn your twitter icons green and pass that joint at the next rock activism concert, as long as we play by the rules like good automatons and never really do anything to change the status quo.
We want to see Anderson Cooper telling us of how revolutionary we are being. Nothing smells more of progressiveness than a Vanderbilt actually having enough clout to comment on the poor and disenfranchised. We will just pretend he knows what it is like to go hungry, or not have the money to see a doctor. Anderson is our man on the ground and when disaster strikes, the comforting face of liberal angst is exactly what we need to see.
In a few weeks Oprah will follow with a show and we can let out all the pent up emotion, with a few salty tears as we worry about whose night it is to do the dishes. Human suffering is entertainment in the twenty-four news world. There is just enough florid language for the perception of concern and everything is broken down nicely into soundbites for immediate consumption. Not to worry though, it is all fair and unbiased; nothing will appear that will cause you to get off your couch, write a letter to your representative, or boycott any business, because the anger is beautifully canned and we can’t really have people thinking that they can force a change.
Be passive in your aggression and remember real change comes from within, as you sign up for food stamps. Better days are going to come and though we never had the right in the first place, you too can own your own postage stamp size plot of land, throw on a flannel suit as you put in your forty hours and at the end of it all, if you have not remortgaged your home too many times, you might actually have something to give your descendents. If the dream seems just a bit opaque, remember idealism is for the young and you have 401ks and RRSP’s to think of.