Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear"

My facebook newsfeed has been buzzing with youtube video posts from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's recent "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on the National Mall this past week. It was interesting to watch Stewart's speech - I had never really seen him that serious (scattered, naturally, with comedic relief) about rifts in American society, about the politics of fear, reasserting pluralistic and "liberal" values.

A few days after watching the video, it comes to mind again as I write my essay for Professor Pamela Radcliff on "Communism and Fascism 1919-1945." A few points I want to make regarding the emergence of extreme political movements in times of political/economic/social crisis.

Just for the sake of argument, you could claim that our contemporary world is seeing a lot of the same crises as inter-war Europe. "Endemic" small-scale warfare, economic depression/mind-blowing unemployment rates, violence (terrorism, drug warfare, warfare in general), politicians without solutions...obviously when you add a lot of nuance to these issues it's not the same as interwar europe. But just for the sake of argument, let's take our two anachronistic comparisons and play with the idea that we could learn something from the societies before us about how to deal with crises of meaning.

One thing Radcliff mentioned in lecture the other day really hit home with me: citizens in post-war Britain, despite all of the issues it was facing, the questioning of liberal capitalist values fundamental to their political and economic structure, believed in the system. Trief to effect change within the democratic, parliamentary process.

This type of "revolutionary" sentiment stands in stark contrast to the Bolsheviks, whose radicalist ideology was about challenging all the fundamental structures of liberalism and capitalism. The governance they put in place after the revolution is a new story, but anyways they were (mm...some were) about changing everything.

I think Americans today exist firmly in the former camp, completely and totally unwilling to undermine fundamental social and political structures, and I think this could be bad or good...I really don't know! I'm leaning towards good, but the radicalist strand in me says f it all and let's restart. At least in a long conversation with my best friends I might let me commie side emerge and talk about starting a real revolution.