Much of this blog is satirical, tongue in cheek and whimsical in nature, and yet I like to imbue all of my posts with some inner and somewhat serious philosophical truth. Sometimes however, as silly as I am, I like to make a serious and fundamental point about something that is occurring in the world, in a straightforward and hopefully succinct manner.
This is one of those times. I recently watched The Baader Meinhof Complex, an award winning film by Uli Edel about the Red Army Faction, a left-wing terrorist group that carved a bloody swathe across Germany in a series of brutal politcally motivated attacks from 1970 to 1998. Watching that movie has made me think a lot. Whilst it made dead certain to me the absolute moral repugnancy of much of their actions, which included bombings, assassinations and sieges, the movement that this extreme and in many cases misguided group sprang out of inspired me.
From the early sixties up until quite recently, perhaps the fall of the Soviet Union in the 90s, there seemed to be a strong, consistent anti-capitalist, anti-materialist protest movement that existed and was active across the world. It was primarily motivated by, but not excluded to, students, trade unionists and the broader left. In my opinion this was a great and noble thing. Here was a movement that went against the values of a burgeoning, and rapidly sprawling superficial society obsessed the material. That resisted the urges to merely consume, work and die, that despised the dead end 9-til-5 job, and bemoaned the yawning gap left by the waning religions, replaced in futility and desperation with material wealth and superficial greed. They called for community rather than individualism. They resisted.
A key example, perhaps the strongest, most pure illustration of the ideals expressed above was May 1968. In mid-1968 France was shut down. The students occupied the universities, citizens put up barricades in the streets and two thirds of French workers went on an independent and general wildcat strike. Here was a movement inspired by the counterculture, against conservative values, with whiffs of the surreal Situationists and hostile to the bureacratic establishment. They were neither pro-West nor pro-East, they opposed not only the church and the conservative parties, but also the main leftist organisations, including the communists, and prominent trade unions. There were independent, idealistic and proud, but went out, perhaps mercifully with a whimper rather than a bang.
But this was not only restricted to France. All across the world people protested against imperialism, inequality and consumerism, trends which seemed to spread from the West across the so-called Iron Curtain and other un-alligned states. From 1960 to 1980 the world, especially the West, was dominated by social unrest which stemmed primarily from these grievances. But now that movement seems to have faded. People seem contented with their latest gadgets, their gourmet foods, alcohol and designer clothes. Neoliberalism and the free market, fused to a varying degree with leftist tainted ideals to appease and quieten the masses, seem to have taken the fore. The resistance looks dead or castrated compared to the days of our parents and their parents, and I occasionally look back upon the world in that time, and ask myself if I was indeed born in the right decade.
But then something like the Arab Spring happens. Something like the current protests in Wall Street and before that, the union protests in Wisconsin, the anti-cut movements in London and Greece and Spain and across Western Europe. When I see my fellow youth, indeed, when I see the people of the world from all walks of life coming together in an effort to change this ridiculous society and broken immoral system I am heartened. I’m sure I don’t identify with every protester out there, from the Egyptian Islamist to the Anarchist from Greece, but the fact that people aren’t simply going to sit around in slothful apathy and take this shit is definitely heartening. The people if united, organised and motivated can achieve great things. Be inspired and fight for your freedom.