As teenage nonconformists, we prided ourselves on seeing past society’s lies. We picked apart the system with cynical quips, and felt emboldened every time someone found this off-putting. We thought we were part of a special elite endowed with such strong critical thinking skills that we could live separate from the charade which entangled all the average people.
We went to college intent on learning how to do more than just quip. We wanted to dismantle the structures of oppression. We became journalists, teachers, musicians, lawyers, and social workers.
We got salaries and fringe benefits. We started paying off our debt and buying things. We gave up on some of our more radical ideas after they failed the test of experience. Dust settled over the unused parts of our bookshelves: The Communist Manifesto; Days of War, Nights of Love; Steal This Book; Ishmael; and even Walden.
Now we read The New Yorker and watch The Daily Show. Presidential elections come and go. We always speak passionately during campaign season, mostly about how much we hate Republican elitism. Sometimes the Democrats put up a skilled orator and we let ourselves indulge in some optimism.
We vote. Small things change. We go back to jobs where bureaucracy is king and we leave tired. We know this life is not what we thought it would be; we are not at the epicenter of sweeping social change.
That unbridled adolescent passion is dormant somewhere within us, but we’ve learned to not get our hopes up. We know the proper channels don’t create the kind of change we need. But we don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to change society.
Let’s stop living like we’re waiting for something to happen. It’s not enough to harbor radical sentiments but then simply wait for someone else to spark things off while we pass the time talking shit about conventional politics.
We need to change the conversation. We need to talk about concrete strategies for change. We need to be creative. The master’s tools are not going to dismantle the apparatus which created them, and nobody else is going to come along and enlist us in the cause.
Everything is on us, and it all starts with talking about concrete actions.