Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Privileged "Revolution" is Not Revolutionary

In Emma Goldman's biography, she describes her first time going on a public speaking tour. She's young, inexperienced, and clearly has a public speaking phobia, but she gets through it thanks to her passion and the inspiration she gets from her anarchist idol, Johann Most. Most has instructed her to speak on the topic of the eight-hour work day (this is late 1800s). His argument is that fighting for an eight-hour workday is a waste of time and a distraction. He says that people should just dedicate their time and energy to fighting for the straight up abolition of capitalism.

Goldman follows his instructions, arguing his point, but on her last stop in her tour, an elderly man stands up and makes the point that he'll likely be dead before capitalism is abolished. Why shouldn't he be allowed to fight for some level of pleasure and relief in his life before he passes on? How can she ask him to continue toiling away for 10, 12, 14 hours a day, passing on the chance for a little happiness, for the sake of her and other young people?

This man's words changes Goldman's mind. She sees his point and decides that Most is wrong on this issue. Most, predictably, responds like a completely privileged asshole, yelling at her for being a [insert misogynistic language here] and betraying him.

This is what I think of when privileged anarchists and other would-be revolutionaries talk about tearing down the government completely in any way possible. I've seen multiple people (white, male, able-bodied, cishet) advocate for not only voting for Donald Trump if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination (or even if she doesn't), but campaigning for him anonymously. Basically doing everything they can to get Trump elected on the hope that his presidency will spark "the revolution."

I can understand the sentiment. But I'm also a little skeptical. I've seen people put up with a lot, and I mean a loooooooooot of shit from their government. I'm not convinced that people will even be moving to Canada if Trump becomes president, let alone start "the revolution." Could it happen? Maybe. But what in the fuck are we left with if it doesn't?

But the larger point is this: Who the fuck am I, as a white, able-bodied, generally healthy, not mired in poverty, not Muslim and not Latinx woman, to tell those without those privileges that they need to accept suffering and possible death for a maybe revolution that might not even work out? People forget so easily that there are people who rely on government programs to live. Literally. Am I supposed to ask someone whose suffering I have never known and will never know to suffer more and die because I think it's best for everyone else?

That is not revolutionary. Privileged people telling those they have privilege over what's best for them is the opposite of revolutionary. hat is some status quo shit right there. I won't be a part of a revolution that steps on the oppressed. And in my community, the poor, the sick, the disabled, and Muslim and Latinx persons are begging people to vote for whatever Democratic candidate gets the nomination to stop Trump from winning. I can't tell them "sorry, Trump has to win and you have to suffer for the greater good" when I won't be the one to be attacked, deported, denied necessary medication (though I might have to pay up the ass for my anxiety meds!), and possibly die.

I will march behind those who have the most to lose from a revolution. I will not march over the bodies of those I have privilege over. I don't care if the whole human race dies because of global warming. I will not become the kind of oppressor I've spent so much energy fighting against.

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