Friday, November 27, 2009

Rebel without a cause? An analysis of the "revolution"

I haven't posted in my blog in a very long time. I've been busy. Senior year has thoroughly consumed my time. With 13 units, (almost) completed job interviews, a 21st birthday, 5 new TV shows to follow, and Mondays and Fridays off, it's very hard to navigate from HuffPo and Facebook to my blog.....that sounded horrible. So, really, I have no reason to not frequent my blog more often.

Let me preface this post by saying this article is NOT about the budget cuts. I'm sick of them, frankly. But I still need to start with them to get to my point.

Last week, forty protesters occupied Wheeler Hall on campus in an act of demonstration against the 32 percent fee hike that will take effect throughout next year. These fee hikes were approved in order to help offset the

$813 million budget deficit the University currently faces. Because of the occupation, 118 classes were cancelled, 3,800 students missed class, the library was closed, and hundreds and thousands of dollars were spent on police protection, barricades, and responses to false fire alarms.

Claims of police brutality were later flung around, and more protests are currently being planned. What did these forty activists immediately demand? Well, it was the rehiring of 38 custodians who were let off, the good-faith lease negotiations for the Bear's Lair Food court vendors, and the renewal of the Rochdale co-op lease. Who were these demands aimed at? The University. Did any of them talk about the budget cuts? No. (I mean, to their credit, it raised awareness ABOUT the budget cuts - but the demands didn't include this immediately).

In reality. the culprits of the budget cuts SHOULD be held accountable - but the fact of the matter is, that this battle should be fought with the state, not the university. Trashing California Hall (the Chancellor's offices), hurting fellow peers, injuring the very academia that was
supposedly being fought for - I think that sent a wrong and unproffessional message.

Okay, but as I mentioned earlier, this post isn't about the budget cut protests. It's about
false outrage. False outrage that I believe is flirtatious with and seductive to the young person but is, in actuality, nothing more than a painful tradeoff with reality. Reality that is usually harsh,
unforgiving, and notoriously boring.

Don't get me wrong. In my sheltered, private high school, I, along with other students (who were mostly on the debate swore by Marx and idolized Zizek. We dug into critical
race theory overanalyzed gendered language. I spelled woman with a y and never capitalized my first and last name (this habit remains...). I hung pictures of Che Guevara over my bed and loved when people broke the rules.

I understand the attraction of the revolution. I have felt the rush of rabble-rousing speeches and the excitement of pseudo-intellectual masturbation. I felt the weight of oppression when I was under these influences, but I eventually woke up to an ideological hangover, regretting "last night's" naiveté about social justice. "Fighting the power" was neither smart nor useful. Radicals without a strategy don't get tangible results in a non-anarchist framework.

Philosophically deconstructing the system and questioning
authority is the foundation of a functioning democracy. For that reason, I deeply respect the protesters from Friday for moving forward the democratic process. I mean, it's Berkeley. This is why I'm here, instead of an east-coast private school I might have landed up at.

Anger is fun and exciting. But anger without a plan, without a strategy, is stupidity.

The most valuable lesson I learned last year as an ASUC senator was to pick your battles. There was a lot to be upset about when you're in a room of 20 hot-headed, individualistic, ideological, intelligent, popularly-elected leaders of a political campus. Being outspoken and strong-willed, I myself very often fell into the trap of speaking without thinking (politically) and doing without knowing. But I learned soon that the senators that controlled their anger, chanelled it towards strategy, and worked not to make enemies - it was those people whose bills passed and it was those people who could sleep at night, not consumed by party politics or pure, unharnessed outrage. Yea. It was outrage. I was outraged almost all of last year.

Maybe I'm jaded, or maybe I'm wiser. But I know this much. Being loud and obnoxious, antagonizing your rivals, and being a rebel without a cause (or a plan) won't get you far in the long run.

Fighting the system is good for the health of the system. But fighting for the sake of fighting; fighting when there's hypocrisy involved in your core argumentation; fighting just to get an inconsequential, and often illogical voice out - that's a very heavy weight in your chaingang of "revolution".

A true revolutionary today isn't someone who is yelling in a megaphone and instigating the police. My idea of a true revolutionary is the 20-year-old William Kamkwamba, who created a windmill in his Malawian village using blue gum trees, bycicle parts, and local scraps, transforming its social landscape and giving birth to an independent local economy. I interviewed at a consulting firm 2 weeks ago with a senior VP who grew up in the Bronx without a full family, worked her way through college, and became the first female colored vice president in the company. That's a revolution. Revolution is thrown at the deaf ears when you're throwing trash at California Hall and shouting verbal taunts to well-intentioned police officers. You lose real-world credibility, and your claims mean that much less because you've politically marginalized yourself. The real revolution is in all of us - getting a higher education, committing ourselves to social reform, giving back to our communities, and succeeding for future generations.

You don't have to buy that last sentence. Chances are, if you're a Berkeley student, you probably won't. But yes, I'm sick of what I see as a fraudulent face superimposed on philosophical revolution. If you're really angered by my post and outraged by my ignorance, think about the best way to overturn my claims. Play my game back at me and see if you can win. Get smart. Then rebel. And I'll respect you for it.



Adam Edwards said...

You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow

Tara Raffi said...

i love it. eloquently put, as always.