Thursday, July 22, 2010

Remembering why you are a revolutionary

Our task as revolutionaries is not to organize others but to organize ourselves.1 In fact, discovering yourself as a revolutionary is something that happens when you try to organize yourself independently of all the forces that conspire to organize you. That is when you will see the barriers -- when who you are and what the world demands won't align. If you want to remain who you are, you simply can't accept what the world demands: you have no choice but to work towards changing it. Otherwise the compromise is you.

Yesterday I posed an example of the kinds of everyday tendencies I face based on my own situation that work to organize my behavior around principles that I don't share. In a context that is not simple, I tried to organize myself in response, to prepare myself with a defense against what I don't condone. It may not seem like a particularly exciting example, but it provided me with a sense of liberation: I don't have to worry about being ambushed with some off-color remark in the midst of a conversation that is otherwise legitimate (which is usually how it happens). In turn, this lets me engage people more unreservedly on the topics I want, rather than resenting them on some level for always harboring this threat.

This is as much a political as it is a moral act, for several reasons. The first is that we will only achieve a better world for ourselves if we sort our own shit out first. This means tolerance for each other and intolerance for what we needlessly endure. The second reason owes to the nature of what it means to "only say about others what you would say to their face" -- namely, that our energy is reserved for constructing the kinds of ideas that we would say to their face -- the only thing that can resolve a problem between two people, anyway. The amount of time and energy that we devote to complaining about others is never less than the very resources we could be using to take responsibility for ourselves in that situation.

We might note that there's nothing particularly exceptional or selfless about this, based on how we framed the problem: It's a choice between who you want to be and who someone else thinks you should be. If anything, it's selfless to forfeit who you are for someone else's benefit! This is worth thinking about in relation to the whole idea of class struggle.


BroadSnark said...

Well said

JRB said...

Thanks, M.

Ethan said...

tolerance for each other and intolerance for what we needlessly endure

Very nice.

JRB said...

Thank you, sir. I like all your Jensen of late.