“If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal.” [Emma Goldman]
My instinctive response is wishing to disappear from it all. I mean the current instability, madness, idiotic leadership and the lack of almost everything that can contribute to the common good. My own denomination boasts at being non-conformist with a heart for social justice. I am not sure that this is still the case (for the denomination), though there are colleagues who are not afraid to ‘stamp on the hornet’s nest’
But where will I run to hide from it all – especially when I am also part of the systemic problem, having bought into much of what chains us. I fully sympathize with the many cries of those early biblical psalmists. There is no place to hide from the evil we have created. Despairing as it is, I might as well stick around and see what difference I am able to make – starting with myself.
I wish to rediscover my radical self: yes that part of me which used to engage in concrete acts of protest. Facebook and internet may be good places to rant but there is something missing doing that from my desk. I am getting more and more nostalgic about the days when I took to the streets and confronted injustice in very blunt ways. Yes, I can draw on the wisdom of the years to know how to be more tactful but I am not sure those faceless ones hiding behind the system care a hoot. So I might as well be just pissing blunt….
One cannot underestimate the reach of Babylon and all the efforts to kill protests. My brothers are warning me to be careful what I write or say in my blogs or online presence if I wish to travel to certain places. They are concerned it would come back to haunt me. They are concerned that activism in support of freedom of expression and association – any form of solidarity or any inkling of membership to a group that is committed to such would mean I am marked person. I told them I am ready for it. I want the status quo to know what I think, to listen in to my conversation. I want them to know that I cannot be bought out, nor will I sell out. And I have nothing to hide. Who wishes to hide what is just? What will it profit justice or the common good to stay quiet while injustice thrives around you? Only the system and its agents benefit from such.
But I am not daft: any form of dissent, peaceful political action against injustice, wars, arms trade etc can land one out as ‘marked person’. Yes, there is a narrowing of the limits of free expression in our so-called democracies with the invoking of national security/interests and patriotism. Well, I think I am patriotic and it is most often for the underdog and for what is just. I may not always get it right in my struggle to get there.
And, here we are in our society (UK) – a diverse landscape with soundbites about belonging and all should integrate. What I learnt from grassroots activism over the years is that intentional work on belonging and integration must mean listening to all those who are ‘the minorities’ rather than to be people viewed with suspicion or to keep a watchful eye on. You do not need a degree in the social sciences to know this. It is common sense. The latter though, is lacking, as fear and insecurity force us to operate as ‘functional idiots’. So to speak truth these days will necessarily mean exile (both real and metaphorical). The Status Quo will do anything to keep its interest, power-base and privilege secure under the pretext of national interest, security, economic well-being and unity – while on their altars much is and many are sacrificed.
For as Emma Goldman rightly noted: “The history of progress is written in the blood of men and women who have dared to espouse an unpopular cause, as, for instance, the black man’s right to his body, or woman’s right to her soul.” Who can dispute that? We cannot and must not give up on the struggle for marginalised voices to be heard, the freedom to learn to think and for inconvenient truths to be aired.
jagessar© December 2017