Shifting my gaze back down to the dancing eyes of my oldest child, I explained that we were here for Trayvon, to uplift him, to be his hedge of protection, even in death. As we stood for Trayvon, I came to understand that we also stood for my children.
A global movement that’s strong enough to force a meaningful response to the climate crisis will need to enlist (and keep) a lot of new activists, more than any other mobilization in history. In the face of that necessity, one first step might seem obvious: stop expecting “togetherness” to feel transcendent.
We assumed that millions of young people would join us in this revolutionary movement, as they had done previously with the anti-war movement. Throughout 1969 our revolutionary faction, “Weatherman,” tried to push SDS to be more aggressive and confrontational toward university administrators and police. The main result was that students turned away from SDS; many chapters were subsequently smashed by police and university administrations, or simply atrophied and died.
When LGBT leaders cited Gandhi and King, I offered my own counterexample—the National Rifle Association’s great success in dominating policy debates about gun control, despite being in a minority on the issue in every national poll I have ever seen. As I enjoyed pointing out, especially to those LGBT activists who decried my lack of “militancy,” I have never seen an NRA public demonstration. They do not have marches.
Žižek called on the protesters at Occupy to reckon with the inevitable transition from the excitement of public demonstrations to the more sober light of the days to come—the return to a life defined more by constraint, routine and finitude. Where the carnival seems timeless, normal life is all too time-bound. Havel’s living in truth can serve as a hopeful account of living well the day after.
Desperation with regard to the possibility of effecting significant political change has led many around the world to adopt an expressive approach to politics. We proceed as if the true goal of political acts in general, and of protests in particular, is not to change political conditions but to adequately express our experience of these conditions. The relevant illusion in this case is not religious, but it is an illusion nonetheless—an illusion about political significance, whereby the fundamental political question—“What to do?”—is wrongly perceived as subordinate to the question of public appraisal: “How to appear?”