Filed under: chronotopes, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: demonstrations, John Berger, revolution, spectacle
What good is it to speak out, much less demonstrate: things won’t change, the world is too big and the issues too complicated. Underlying this common argument is rank conservatism masquerading as enlightened rationalism and common sense. You have to plan and speak if you want change.
Demonstrations are rehearsals for eventual revolution; if the element of rehearsal is missing, it’s probably not a real revolution but merely a spectacle. Think, act, speak, live.
The truth is that mass demonstrations are rehearsals for revolution: not strategic or even tactical ones, but rehearsals of revolutionary awareness. The delay between the rehearsals and the real performance may be very long: their quality – the intensity of rehearsed awareness – may, on different occasions, vary considerably: but any demonstration which lacks this element of rehearsal is better described as an officially encouraged public spectacle.
A demonstration, however much spontaneity it may contain, is a created event which arbitrarily separates itself from ordinary life. Its value is the result of its artificiality, for therein lies its prophetic, rehearsing possibilities.
A mass demonstration distinguishes itself from other mass crowds because it congregates in public to create its function, instead of forming in response to one: in this, it differs from any assembly of workers within their place of work – even when strike action is involved – or from any crowd of spectators. It is an assembly which challenges what is given by the mere fact of its coming together.
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations, John Berger
Filed under: brave new world, unseen world | Tags: fools, Fyodor Dostoevsky, intelligent men, Notes from the Underground
Why do most people lead ‘lives of quiet desperation?’ Perhaps because: the extent of our despair is a measure of our degree of unused potential (School of Life). We must have an inbuilt sense of our potentials and that they’re being cheated, which for most people is most of the time. Mr D’s embittered narrator in Notes – below – says only fools become something and intelligent men conform themselves into characterlessness. Intelligent men somehow (do they allow it?) are subsumed; and fools somehow flourish. Desperate indeed.
I never even managed to become anything: neither wicked nor good, neither a scoundrel nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. And now I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and utterly futile consolation that it is even impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something. Yes, sir, an intelligent man of the nineteenth century must be and is morally obliged to be primarily a characterless being; and a man of character, an active figure—primarily a limited being.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground, previewing the early 21st century.