Conversations and Change #1
April 1, 2022
Let's Get Started-Apocalyptic Cynicism
(Back a few months ago, I read Amid Apocalyptic Cynicism, Lets Embrace Radical Hope in the New Year, the name of an article in Truthout, authored by Henry Giroux, published January 5th, 2022. I liked the idea of a new language though focusing on Hope to develop that new language seemed worthy of critique, or the need for further discussion. I shared that article with a couple of friends, and we got together on Zoom and talked about the article, hope, change, movements, leadership, and have continued to meet trying to look at what we, as progressives, radicals, revolutionaries have done in the past that’s been successful and what might work in the present to realize a new civil, social system that is both realistic and actual. A new language such as what’s come out of Black Lives Matter resistance. A new language that is defining of our continuing resolve as well as what we need to DO. Language without action is not enough. Action without cause is futile.)
#1-So, with all that in mind, we’ve set out some challenges. We’ve written some of our thoughts to share and would like to continue a dialogue regarding all the issues and challenges the world is currently facing- war, economic inequality, capitalism, fascism, all currently on the rise.
Since reading Giroux’s article, I’ve read others who are all thinking along the same lines- we cannot rely completely on old social theories, the world has not remained that static. Technology, though not the answer by itself either, has changed the scope and depth of both our dilemma and resistance.)
Let me say right off, I agree in principle, with what intellectual reasonings are mentioned in this article. It is a proper discourse to have of what, in essence needs to happen, in order to develop an action vision of CHANGE. Not simple nor easy.
Basically, I could be one of those apocalyptic cynics. That’s a new label for those of us who feel we’ve interpreted history as it was and not as we were taught it was and what we, the people, continue to resist and reject further attempts to reiterate American exceptionalism as real history. The acceptance of American exceptionalism as fact does seem an obvious long march into a dystopian future, apocalyptic, no, but dystopian, si.
This article by Henry Giroux is about radical hope vs cynicism and pessimism.
It’s true, some people are weary of their dreams and hopes being continually diminished and dismembered through what others might call a stark, dreary political, social and economic reality. But for leftists who always seem to fall back on hope and illusions and want to call up those two ethereal memes as way stations to actual progress, there always seems to be a never-ending, relentless onslaught against that real change we desperately need. Yes, that could be cynical, I suppose, believing that what many call progress has always meant incremental, evolutionary political change, which on its face flies in the face of facts supporting a thesis there is no permanent change in human behavior regardless of how high and mighty puritan humans do get.
Every settler, every colonizer of every conquered country in world history has had the very same dream of, if not peace, at least, the dream of pursuing it. And nearly every one of those dream pursuits results in war, oppression, terrorism, genocidal practices in its pursuit of land, resources, revenge, democracy. Much of our dreams and wants come out of an already developed, socialized belief of “getting what you deserve.” Whether working for it or being denied it, most people in the western world, whether rich or poorer believe in some sort of “exceptionalism. The medieval religious belief that wherever we are, we are the center of the universe. Even in the modern scientific concept of the universe, we look out at the night sky and it’s hard to understand how very small and insignificant we are.
So it isn’t the apocalyptic cynic who continues to manifest a mundane and inane concept of a future destined to be no better than the present , nor no better than the past from which it arose, but the continued denial of progressives who arrogantly feel, much like their settler predecessors, that dreams come true because we wish them to be rather than built with our hands, minds, hearts and a lot of sacrifice.
Hell, what ripped the dreams from even our own time? The women’s movement is torn because leaders can’t agree or accept that one or two could accept the teachings of Muhammed over Zionism.
How many early attempts on communes or alternative communities have been upset because one individual disagrees with another individual, or someone commits a crime against one of their own and how do we judge or enforce? Then there is the money, fairness, socialism, diversity, all those things that make our reality and commonality. How about the food? Meat vs PETA. Our own “community” is at war with each other.
We can argue or discuss civilly how to build a dream but a dream will not be built and sustained without common people doing all the jobs that really sustain us while every progressive wants to be an autocrat, bureaucrat, or holograph and not a carpenter or truck driver, maid or grocery clerk.
Let’s face it, people don’t want their basic beliefs, which in most cases came from religious, textbook learned remnants of our upbringing, yet our ,solutions rather than being inclusive, are always so atomized. Why?
Because we live in a society that is consumer choice based, a media crazed, authoritative state where for most progressives relegated to being able to discern between values of homes, cars, children’s education, and political issues, have been so entrenched in American settler values, are unable to dig their way out of the real intellectual and moral cages of their own making. Acknowledgement of one’s inability to escape the circumstances of one’s oppression is only the first step in realizing what needs to be done, and then, of course, you have to do it.
Calling other revolutionaries ‘apocalyptic cynics’ then calling up an old, new vision based on hope and dream or even a belief in revolution, because revolution is what it is when anyone is attempting to thwart long-standing institutional oppression. It is a complete denial of so many intelligent people who have expressed similarly cynical views.
Cynics or lovers of false realities shouldn’t really impede a revolution without a gun. After all, talk is cheap, intelligence is a dime per dozen, but it does take a revolution to make sure that the lowest on the economic scale, the ones with the least power, are content to continue to make the beds, cook the food, take care of their families, stand in factory lines, butcher or grow the food, transport and all the other millions of little jobs necessary to run a society. Very few work for theirs and their families survival and security with the revised axioms of economic and political theory in their heads.
If anyone thinks continually going left, however it is currently defined, gets you anywhere other than a square or circle, depending on the geometry of your trends, only gets mired in old, tired constructs.
The use of words such as create, vision, compassion, equality, democrazy, hope, motivations to embrace, resistance, to ponder, long for, fire in the hole, empathy, don’t produce new language. They only make us believe there is an inevitability to what we want, need, or desire.
The truth is we can fail and will fail if we don’t go on a different path, a path that is both simple and social, practical and powerful, active andthoughtful. Aren’t we already overburdened with the stuff of academic thinking?
Reclaim history? Let history be what it is, a resource, a sinkhole for all the bad ideas that have become our reality, cage, and refuge for the knowledge that people used to overcome and physically resist as well as die for something better.
Mass movements? Oh, what failure has that been. A more benevolent imperialism, a better social media campaign, the wanting of middle-class values for everyone? Impossible.
What happened to “build locally, think globally?” Real cynics will say what good does it do to grow your own food if you can, support those near you who do, organize neighborhoods around basic and essential needs of communities- health, food, water, education, safety (law enforcement as well as improvised social networking), and love, because real cynics remind us, there’s the big bad wolf of capitalism, the violence of racism, corporate personhood (ownership), worldwide catastrophe (war, disease, climate change) always at the door.
We need to go from rationalizing to actualizing. It’s the real cynics who can’t believe organizing communities are enough because their ideas are always bigger than what’s possible, aiming high, shoot to the pie in the sky.
Believe me, as my apocalyptic cynical vision creeps along, it’s going to be hard to even get too far from your community in the future as resources and fear will keep us chained. Living under global capitalism, fascism is pure survival. We need to organize real alternatives to that survival. Farm co-operatives and the support system to go along with it. Urban co-operatives based in providing food, water, healthcare, childcare.
The only apocalypse is the one caused by capitalism, deterioration of institutions its based in, nations divided, assaults on the reality of climate, infrastructure deterioration, travel restrictions, inflation or recession, all these are like putting a herd of zebras into a cage of lions.
"The new year should be rooted in dreams that reject a vision of the future as simply a continuation of the present."
Yes and No! This is a quote that is especially disturbing, simply hoping for all these changes is a vision of the future a continuation of the present. That’s all Hope is about, a sucker fish attached to the shark. It’s part of the present package.
There’s nothing about actual change in Hope.
I believe in community because that’s the place, home, where anyone can look around and find answers to their concerns. Sure, getting involved in the school isn’t as good as establishing your own school, or getting the city to build a community project isn’t as good as having the ability or means to build it yourself.
There are many people working toward the same end. The good end, in thousands of communities across this land. Let actions be our guide and drive rather than what politics seem to be. Think outside the box. Act, resist, and build the revolution you want to see.