Friday, August 26, 2005

The Weather Underground

Revolution scares me to death. The thing is, I was sitting there watching this documentary and as they would go through the lists of what the Weathermen bombed and why, I wanted to cheer...and that scares me. I know violence is an evil we have to live with but how do I justify my own "stick it to the man" belief in what the revolutionaries were trying to do? Of course, they were trying to avoid casualties, certainly not something our government concerns itself with. I also have to say that I like America and I'm glad I live here...but I don't think an American's life is worth more than an Iraqi's (or Vietnamese'). I think the body counts should always include American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, after all, it's not them we're fighting, but it is them we are killing. I guess I am struggling to come to terms with my own violence and how we can safely justify violence. Seeing movies like Dogville and The Magdalene Sisters reinforces my fear that once we decide that violence is okay--that one (kind of) person is worth less than us (a frighteningly prevalent idea among Americans) we are capable of all sorts of atrocities.
I don't know where else to go from here but this post has been sitting in draft long enough!


  1. You guys watched Dogville? I really quite liked it, but was leery to admit as such -- for fear that Jedd would ridicule my choice of movies again.

  2. I watched it a while back when K posted her favorites. Jedd didn't watch it, he would never be able to sit all the way through it.

  3. A thought, thought without much reflection, so take it for what it is:

    I am often frustrated that (a) any sense of a true counter-culture has been either taken over by & commodified various representatives of self-indulgence (see MTV for primary example), or vilified to the point of mindless, demagogic hyperbole (see, for example, the rationale for many people rejecting Clinton even before the sex scandals; alternatively, the subsequent political rise of the Far Right; the militarisation of American culture, as seen in the idealizing of soldiers and military power; etc.). More apropos your post, though, the same thing can be said of (b) the idea & reality of revolution.

  4. Okay, but what does that mean? I'm not sure what difference it makes now. My point being, the revolution is/was what it is/was regardless of how mainstreamed it becomes. Like in the 90's when people refused to listen to any grunge because it had been repackaged and mainstreamed. But creating a Seven Mary Three does not then negate Nirvana. Am I making any sense here?

  5. Granted.

    However, I think there is a difference now -- not least because of the speed of the information age. Commercialization happens so quickly now; to the extent, in fact, that, to keep with your musical metaphor, a Nirvana would hardly even be possible today.

    Thinking more broadly than music ... for those of a purely political disposition, they would say a revolution's happening is seemingly inexplicable in its nature. The revolutionary radical strives for a change, but knows that his or her striving will undoubtedly meet with failure; until, inexplicably, one day it works. After that, the revolutionary course once thought impossible becomes regarded now as the inevitable course of history.

    Inevitability, I think, is the part of the process that has been most heightened in contemporary culture. The result is that even our talk and hope of a revolution is predicated on inevitability. We have all too easy replaced the necessary sense of revolutionary failure for an inert cynicism -- the former acts anyway, simultaneously believing and not-believing; the latter, even when it acts, holds its nose while doing so. The former, in my estimation, is perhaps the closest approximation to a religious sentiment that we currently have available, because it genuinely believes in miracles. (This is, I suppose, why I, too, remain interested in religion, long after losing interest in God -- an ass backward position, I realize.)

    Or something like that.

  6. "the same thing can be said of (b) the idea & reality of revolution. "

    But Nirvana still is what it always was and the revolution of the 60's still is what it was regardless of how they try to repackage it. You can't change the reality of a thing by calling it something else. The problem being that history is not being accurately portrayed to the youth?
    Beyond that, I was sort of lost in your last paragraph...what do you mean by inert cynicism? (dumb it down, if you will) Are you comparing the Vietnam-era revolutionaries with those of today? Are we just in a transitional phase where the true revolutionaries of today are learning how to mount a successful campaign? If the methods of the last generation failed, is everyone just sitting around bitch-blogging until someone figures out a better way?
    If I sound like an idiot, just remember, I was homeschooled...and then I went to CBC. ;)

  7. Nah, it's not a matter of you being an idiot ... it's a matter of me switching over to your blog while still in 'thesis-mode'. Always a killer to conversation.

    You're quite right, I think, about how a repackaged revolution doesn't necessarily mean there was no such revolution. Absolutely. All the same, I would argue, what comes after the revolution is in fact a good 9/10 of the revolution. It's like, for instance, the instance of conversion: which is more important, accepting a certain position or faith, or the living out of its principles? The latter requires the former; and ultimately even puts the acceptance into its 'proper' perspective (i.e., the perspective proper to that particular faith).

    So, I'm not denying what happened before, or even saying there is somehow a better way to conduct a revolution. Rather, if I'm suggesting anything 'better', it is simply an awareness of what's going on in a revolution. My point is simply that the repackaging of a successful revolutionary effort that might be possible or going on now would likely be spontaneous / simultaneous with their actual unfolding.

    This might seem very cynical; and, as such, cause one to say, 'well, screw it, what's the use.' (That's what I meant, btw, by 'inert cynicism'.) I, however, think it makes it all the more vital for people to find tangible ways to resist the repackaging of their revolutionary projects BEFORE it happens upon a revolution's success.

    Having said all that .... I think your original question is far more interesting than the direction I ended up taking it. Namely, that of the relationship of violence & revolution -- that is, whether there need be a necessary correlation between the two.

  8. Well, that made far more sense than the last two! I get what you are saying about revolution. It isn't like one goal, goal reached, mission is ongoing even when changes have been made. The "repackaging" threatens the furtherance of the cause.
    But, yes, my biggest concern is the use of violence, whether it's necessary and justified or will always become hate and violence for violence's sake.

  9. In a way, though, now that I think about it, what I was rambling on about DOES have pertinence to this issue of necessary / justified violence.

    The danger, as I see it, in the spontaneous repackaging of revolution is that even the methods of revolution -- before anything is even achieved! -- lose their significance & become simply a mirror image of what they're fighting against. (As was the case for the Weathermen, when they nearly committed mass murder.) The 'repackaging' I have in mind here is not the same as a commodified '60s, Che Guevera shirts, etc.; though I guess it is related. More specifically, I think the threat is that of embracing too readily the notion of 'inevitability'. On the one hand, a sense of inevitability of immediate loss, and thus of desperation, can lead one desperately to strap a bomb to oneself in a crowded mall; on the other hand, it can cause one to participate in a Crusade, regarding oneself and one's army as blessed by Almighty Purpose -- even if the victory is bound for the future. (Obviously, these two can work together on different levels.)

    The trick, I guess, in avoiding this is to actually think about the grounds of our revolutionary ambitions. Namely, what do we mean by justice? By freedom? etc. We should certainly come to a decision as to what either of those mean; but we should not fool ourselves into thinking they are some sort of other-worldly ideals. A certain fundamental openness, though not necessarily ambiguity, in what we believe & for what we strive, might keep us all from killing one another. :)