cargo cult revolutions

some sac de gemecs and other català instruments

yesterday we went to the camping ground on one of lisbon’s squares, rossio. it’s meant to be in sync with the spanish camp outs and to be some sort of beginning of the spread of the “arab spring” to europe. now what exactly is going on? we were at the assembly for 1h30 and the whole length of it until we left was devoted exclusively to how to organize the assembly, the tents and the activities. in fact, all that was discussed was mainly how things should be discussed, voted on, and so on. over 1h of complete absence of political content!

it was amazing to see how well everything was organized, with committees and subgroups responsible for everything from food to toilets to taking care of children, all of this to take care of less than 50 people sleeping on the street that would hardly need any of this with so many shops around. it was almost like they were creating more problems for them to solve than they existed in the first place. i was extremely confused. one particularly passionate speech was one of my favorites: a very politically toned lady shouting about the fact that people were only discussing minor logistic things instead of discussing important political ideas, only to end the speech without a single political idea put forward! at some point, i had to leave because i was getting too brainwashed by all the technical political jargon without any content. the activists are mimicking what they saw on tv, read on facebook and twitter, without any political background to sustain it: it is cargo cult politics! all the signs, the jargon, the attitudes, the hairstyles (and beard styles) are perfect copies of the originals. but, just like the wooden radios and junk airports, these politicians don’t work either: it is not sufficient to copy something considering only the shape of it and expect a revolution (or even, basic audience).

these politically illiterate attempts by activists around europe are dangerous in the sense that they are easily manipulable. for example, the “à rasca” protest we had in lisbon, which was organized via facebook (and considered an inspiration for the gatherings in spain), though declared “apolitical” was quickly exploited by the extreme right wing (i was at this protest and marched along side neo nazi people). this facebook generation kind of protest has all the warning signs of a cargo cult, or even worse, of capitalism sucking out the blood out of a movement so it becomes completely sterile and useless.

first, it is impossible for a political attitude to be apolitical. if citizens occupy a square of their own city, that is politics in an almost literal form. so anyone part of any movement claiming they are apolitical is basically fooling themselves, either by ignorance or fear of commitment to an ideology, which only makes it weaker.

second, there is no parallel in europe vis-à-vis the arab states. the first has had its time with military dictatorships in the past, during the 20th century, and had their tahrir squares all over, like our own “largo do carmo”. europe lives under a cultural dictatorship, not a political one. there are no mubaraks or kadhafis to topple since the rulers of europe are not the political class. these square incidents can, at best, weaken an already defunct government in any of the countries, which, you guessed it, guarantees that the economic powers will take control of the state with even much greater ease. exactly what happened in spain, weakening zapatero’s majority government.

by following along mindlessly just so people can have pictures of themselves during a pseudo revolution to post on their facebook wall, activism and politics is watered down to empty slogans and signs that are full of form but no content. there is no united political movement in modern capitalist countries like spain or portugal. unity is only in the sense that individuality has won and that everyone believes they have the chance to be ruling class, and with it, don’t mind stepping on everyone else.

if we compare this to the arab world, it is fundamentally different. in many cases, it’s their first democracy, with basic rights like freedom of speech being granted for the first time. and let’s also keep in mind that these countries have had strong activist underground movements for decades that provided the “arab spring” with real political content for their tweets. this “new media” was only the vehicle for something that existed already. these revolutions were real like the first cargo dropped by planes in the pacific. but in europe, the war has long past, there are no planes flying over and no matter how many signs and guy fawkes masks people wear, there will be no cargo dropped because the war is over.

the consequence of cargo cult revolutions is that revolutions themselves become a thing of fiction, of personal promotion via social networks, invalidating their power permanently. why is the government still considered the target of these actions, when the government itself has nothing to do with it? why is the economical oligarchy just being referred to instead of heads being demanded to be cut off? this is the great challenge for the future of activism. there are no pictures of dictators in our houses anymore. the enemy is more like a hydra, a being with multiple heads and that solves the problem of individual fragility by having many independent heads. though the heads of banks and corporations can roll, the banks and corporations themselves keep moving. and while we keep trying to dial wooden phones to call planes that don’t fly anymore, our precious cargo is being gorged down by the elites.

the heart of the hydra is capitalism, and unless activism openly states its motives as the total extinction of capitalism to kill this hydra, it will continue to wait pointlessly for their cargo to drop.

the real question for me is which political ideology heracles is capable of this task?

1 thought on “cargo cult revolutions”

  1. People need to learn to live together again. After decades of battering individualism, it’s irritating to see them try clumsily to become a community of humans again. I have hope that when the mindless logistics can be handled smoothly, there will be more space for action and reflexion.

    We have all the time in the world.

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