By Jason Michael
Demonstrations and protests in reaction to social and political injustice are of limited value because they seldom challenge the paradigm responsible for the injustice. If we want real change then we must first think clearly about causes rather than effects.
Slavoj Žižek’s insistence that we act less and think more repeats on me like opinions. Whether it is the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States or anarchistic anti-fascist organisations across Europe, the pattern almost everywhere is the same; an endless cycle of crisis and response. Another young black man is gunned down by police on the streets and the viral spread of the video documentation over social media provokes and instantaneous reaction. A far-right march is scheduled in England or France or Germany only to be met with an equally hasty counter demonstration. In each case we see the same drama of social polarisation played out again, leading to unrest and sometimes violence. Frustrations are vented and everyone goes home without achieving change.
It may even be the case that this endless repetition of action and reaction might only serve to fuel the spread of the polarisation, and so while support for both sides grows no real solution to the underlying problems are found. Every social crisis is the result of the conditions that govern society remaining as they are and functioning as they were intended. This is true in the case of racially motivated police brutality because the structures of law and order – as the hard edge of the hegemon – are inherently racist. When right wing political groups rally it is because they are catalysed by mainstream social and political currents; xenophobia instigated by the discourses on immigration, integration, and security. When society operates according to the rules set by those in power then the enemies of the powerful become victims of injustice, and this is what leads to each new crisis and response.
Therefore each response to every new crisis is in itself and extension of the crisis, a continuation of the game in accord with the rules set by the powerful. Polarisation, especially when the fracture runs through rather than between the classes, serves the purposes of the ruling class. Police officers are met with the anger of outraged members of their own class, and far-right marchers and anti-fascist activists are poles of the same socio-economic strata. In clashing with one another both sides in both cases direct their frustrations at each other and thus fail to grasp the reality that their true struggle is against the very systems that ensure the victimisation of young black men and the scapegoating of migrants and refugees.
Our perceived need to act then – insofar as this is action without reflection – is futile. At best it changes nothing. At worst it perpetuates and strengthens the structures that bring about the requirement for action. Another form of action, that is action with reflection, is needed. This is praxis, the succession of analysis and well-directed and thought out action and reflection on the outcomes of each action leading to further analysis. Present moment awareness and right action – if you will. Such must be directed to the end of deconstructing the system of power that causes crises rather than unreflective reprisals directed against the agents of the hegemon. It is this process of thinking that will bring about the revolution.
Author: Jason Michael (@Jeggit)