“How was school today?”
It was great. My friends and I talked about Zizek and Lacan. And Marx. And Baudrillard. And, um, Deleuze.
As a high schooler, I am not able to understand the complexity and nuance of this scholarship. But who cares? I felt radical and different by doing so. As I regurgitated these and other empty buzzwords with my friends, others reacted with bewilderment and confusion. I had a sense of enjoyment from introducing a solution to our world’s problems that “out-lefted” someone else’s. My reaction to ‘we need to increase welfare to decrease inequality’ ? ‘No, we need to let the proletariat rise up against the elites.’ My reaction to ‘we need to curtail emissions to prevent global warming’ ? ‘No, we need to understand our ontologies before succumbing to calculative thought.’
There. I’ve solved the world’s problems.
Capitalist forces want us to think like this. They want us to pretend like our discourse in isolated spaces like school is enough to create change. They want us to think that adding a French flag overlay to our Facebook profile picture and updating our statuses to “praying for Paris” really does anything. They want us to live our fantasies, and then go about our normal day. Because they know that nothing ever changes this way, and they stay in power. They make us think that we are being radical, because it gives us the satisfaction of doing so. That’s why they have skillfully engineered spaces into our daily lives where we get to release these ideas into the abyss where the elites want them to belong.
The rise of political polarity demonstrates this. It demonstrates why previous Hillary fans now feel the Bern. If you are going left, why not all the way? It makes for a good talking point: “Yeah, I’m a democratic socialist, you’re just another reformist.” Day in and day out we have been reminded that our significance in the world is minute and thus our radical moves come to pleasure ourselves instead of helping others. On the other hand, why are people moving further and further to the right? Trump baits in supporters by attacking political correctness and status quo diplomacy. Doesn’t it sound fun to attack political correctness and status quo diplomacy yourself? Surely it’s better than supporting another old Republican.
But there is one glimmer of hope I see in all of this: We are frustrated with the current system. We want change. People are affected by issues in this world, believe it or not. They aren’t just pixels on a screen that our eyes glance over during morning coffee. They aren’t just objects that we experiment with during our daily philosophical wanderings. They need a voice, and in the current system they don’t have one. But you do. So get out of the classroom. Get out of your cubical. Get out of the spaces where capitalism manages your challenges to the system. Go spread your message to the world, because others can’t help but listen in.
-Ritik Goyal is a Junior at Westwood High School