Adbusters

What Is Holding Us Back?

A young revolutionary explains.

A troubling apathy grips most of my peers. The fabric of global society is straining at the seams, and no one feels inclined to even comment. The time for global revolution is now. But we are cynics at an early age. Change feels impossible.

Who can blame us for how we feel? We live in a society inimical to all but the most benign criticism. Even as our “progressive” liberal schools invite discussion about topics like US foreign wars and global inequality, the terms of the debate are limited to ridiculous particularities. We argue about the tactics of the war in Afghanistan without even judging its goals. We read whole chapters in economics textbooks justifying sweatshop labor in Vietnam, and ask only if the data collection was rigorous.

Bad grades and reproving looks teach us not to deviate from neoliberal ideology. Those of us with the moxie to shout over the vast herd of fervent believers are chided lightly in terms usually reserved for a naughty child who will soon learn the error of her ways. The institutions of educational power counter the revolutionary spirit with phrases like “distrust of authority is a phase in adolescence” or “every young person is a communist.” We live in a culture of permanent counterrevolution.

The same end achieved by a police state is much more easily and peaceably enforced by simply denigrating the radical with sneers and accusations of immaturity or intoxication. And any room for deviation is promptly hijacked by advertising and media-based mass psychology. “Environmentalism” is morphing into a lucrative business venture; my generation has been taught that global capitalism will ensure the Earth’s survival by manufacturing pretty trinkets. The Klean Kanteen and the Prius are pitched as realistic answers to the increasing fears of those of us who recognize a world on the brink of collapse.

Our culture has learned to shame the bold excursions of revolutionary behavior, while channeling any remaining positive force into an old liberal consensus. In short, radical dissent is considered “childish” and “unrealistic.”

I propose a new plan.

The style of protest adopted in 1960 will not work today because the full coercive force of our government and society has been marshaled to ridicule and dissolve it. My generation views Woodstock as the punch line to a joke about hippies. Yet the problem is not revolution itself: the world has never been more primed for radical change. The problem is that revolution is considered laughable, a non-option. This mentality silences all productive discourse about the catastrophe ahead. Fundamental change will never be a choice on the ballot. Our communists and ecologists have been tricked into thinking that representative democracy coupled with capitalism is the only option on the table. That is unacceptable.

Only by reinventing revolt as responsible adult behavior can we hope to break the chains of business-as-usual politics. As Adbusters and free thinkers, we must remove the stigma from revolution. As Westerners, let us learn from the spirit of Tahrir Square. Let us remember the power of the collective will. But change for us has to begin with a simple acknowledgment: revolution is not immature.

The truth is that revolution is a mature response to an intolerable situation. Until this truth is acknowledged, you can expect nothing but lethargy and cynicism from Western youth.

Cole Helsell, Albuquerque, NM

What do you think? Is there hope in the political left or is there nothing but lethargy and cynicism?

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66 comments on the article “What Is Holding Us Back?”

Displaying 1 - 10 of 66

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Anonymous

Here's a meme that I like. If you like it, please pass it on:

We should have silent marches on government and corporate offices. The point is that there are lots of different issues in the world, and each person has their own agenda. We can't speak concisely for them all, and so The Combine (I just loved OFotCN :-) can use that to keep groups split up. Rather than letting it sap us, how about we agree to disagree and agree to not get het up about it, but keep quiet and just march so that we can get sheer numbers. The rule would be silence, no placards, nothing. Only, "we demand change." Yes it might end up with fundamentalist religious folks marching with techno anarchists. So be it. At least we'll all start to feel like "oh wow, there are actually other people who give shit!"

Sincerely.

Anonymous

Here's a meme that I like. If you like it, please pass it on:

We should have silent marches on government and corporate offices. The point is that there are lots of different issues in the world, and each person has their own agenda. We can't speak concisely for them all, and so The Combine (I just loved OFotCN :-) can use that to keep groups split up. Rather than letting it sap us, how about we agree to disagree and agree to not get het up about it, but keep quiet and just march so that we can get sheer numbers. The rule would be silence, no placards, nothing. Only, "we demand change." Yes it might end up with fundamentalist religious folks marching with techno anarchists. So be it. At least we'll all start to feel like "oh wow, there are actually other people who give shit!"

Sincerely.

Rise Against

I agree with this article wholeheartedly, but there's somehting ironic about seeing adbusters post twitter and facebook links...yes, we're all doing this for a good cause but honestly, does anyone else think that's a little ironic? And that taco bell commercial with the consummer demanding a 'revolution' against the burger? makes me sick and is EXACTLY the ridicule of revolution that this article is talking about!!

Anyway, that gripe aside, there's a few points I should emphasise: It's not that most people don't give a shit, though my generation (I'm 17) really doesn't care, its that those of us who DO are spread too thinly. Revolutionary thinking is repressed in schools;it's labelled as "terrorism;" socialism and communism and all alternatives to "democracy" are frowned down upon as dictatorial-perhaps because we've had too few positive role models. On paper, even anarchy could work but that's the point-just on paper. I believe we don't need the government to rule us, and that's what revolition should be about!

But I'm more worried about what happens AFTER the revolution, which adbusters doesn't seem to adress too much (so if you're reading this adbusters, could you at least make mention in the next issue?!). I don't think Libya was a revolution, mostly becasue in my eyes, they became exactly what they tried to remove. And I've heard stories that the education system and living system was actually better THEN then it was since the "rebels" overthrough the regime. Libya is the perfect example of anarchy gone wrong, because anarchy is the ability to be independant and orginize your life the way YOU want to live it; other animals do it, why can't we?

Take care, fellow culturejammers, that we don't become the horror that we're fighting against!

PS. My screen name refers to an amazing band everyone should check out! ;)

Rise Against

I agree with this article wholeheartedly, but there's somehting ironic about seeing adbusters post twitter and facebook links...yes, we're all doing this for a good cause but honestly, does anyone else think that's a little ironic? And that taco bell commercial with the consummer demanding a 'revolution' against the burger? makes me sick and is EXACTLY the ridicule of revolution that this article is talking about!!

Anyway, that gripe aside, there's a few points I should emphasise: It's not that most people don't give a shit, though my generation (I'm 17) really doesn't care, its that those of us who DO are spread too thinly. Revolutionary thinking is repressed in schools;it's labelled as "terrorism;" socialism and communism and all alternatives to "democracy" are frowned down upon as dictatorial-perhaps because we've had too few positive role models. On paper, even anarchy could work but that's the point-just on paper. I believe we don't need the government to rule us, and that's what revolition should be about!

But I'm more worried about what happens AFTER the revolution, which adbusters doesn't seem to adress too much (so if you're reading this adbusters, could you at least make mention in the next issue?!). I don't think Libya was a revolution, mostly becasue in my eyes, they became exactly what they tried to remove. And I've heard stories that the education system and living system was actually better THEN then it was since the "rebels" overthrough the regime. Libya is the perfect example of anarchy gone wrong, because anarchy is the ability to be independant and orginize your life the way YOU want to live it; other animals do it, why can't we?

Take care, fellow culturejammers, that we don't become the horror that we're fighting against!

PS. My screen name refers to an amazing band everyone should check out! ;)

Dominic

under no circumstances was anarchism the prime agenda of the libyan rebels — all the while theirs has been a movement for a new democratic state. libya is not a "perfect example of anarchy gone wrong," it is an example of hierarchy being replaced with hierarchy.

as for the education system being "better under gaddafi," he's been out of power for mere months; what on earth do you expect to have been achieved by now when the rebels don't even have full control of the land yet? a paradigm shift such as revolution or civil war — even if it results in just another dictatorship — is always violent, people always starve and institutions always collapse. to build anew to a level of confident stability takes many years, no one can expect a better life the day after a war is declared over (which libya's hasn't been).

Dominic

under no circumstances was anarchism the prime agenda of the libyan rebels — all the while theirs has been a movement for a new democratic state. libya is not a "perfect example of anarchy gone wrong," it is an example of hierarchy being replaced with hierarchy.

as for the education system being "better under gaddafi," he's been out of power for mere months; what on earth do you expect to have been achieved by now when the rebels don't even have full control of the land yet? a paradigm shift such as revolution or civil war — even if it results in just another dictatorship — is always violent, people always starve and institutions always collapse. to build anew to a level of confident stability takes many years, no one can expect a better life the day after a war is declared over (which libya's hasn't been).

Anon

If 9/17 fails, I give up on the human race. Earth will reclaim herself eventually and people won't be around cause any more problems.

Anon

If 9/17 fails, I give up on the human race. Earth will reclaim herself eventually and people won't be around cause any more problems.

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