Who wants to be a revolutionary anymore?
:: by Christie A.M. Modeste ::
“The revolutionary is a doomed man. He has no personal interests, no business affairs,
no emotions, no attachments, no property, and no name. Everything in him is wholly
absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.”
~ Sergey Nechayev, 1869
With their Bob Marley t-shirts, Che Geuvarra satchels, army slacks and beat up converse sneakers, they rove around university campuses globally; singing songs, writing essays and spouting poetry. The pop-revolutionaries. They speak, sometimes admirably and knowledgeably of poverty, injustice, ignorance, violence and a desire to change it all. Sometimes they blog about it. Most times, they get on with the task of living. In our server centric, internet inspired, ‘third-world’ ‘postmodernity’; where Tumblr and Facebook superficially provide bite-sized and immediately digestible snippets of formidable political and religious philosophy, where absolutes are frowned upon, doubt and skepticism congratulated, and at stage of human history where so much has been said and done that it is difficult to imagine that anything novel can be unearthed, here stands my fragmented, wishy-washy generation. Is it capable of producing the type of characters that can initiate positive change? Further, is it possible to conceive of a few emerging that can inspire on the scale necessary to produce mass change?
Ironically, the terms ‘revolution’ and ‘revolutionary’ have failed to diminish in their importance as a descriptive tool in the current tumult of international politics. Revolution is supposedly everywhere. From North and Central Africa to the Middle East, South East Asia to South America, even North America and Europe, it would seem that there is always a group of people willing to protest, fight and kill to bring about their particular interpretation of justice. In Western rhetoric, much ado was made of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. It was heralded as the enlightenment of the Middle East and compared to the European revolutions responsible for ushering in European democracy. We have yet to assess whether these claims are accurate, or whether the Arab Spring was no more than another drop in the bucket of Anglo-American political sabotage – See Central and South America beginning in the 1950’s. NATO was even so gracious as to assist the rebels in Libya. But what of the rebels at home? Curiously enough, the “Occupy” movement that simultaneously surfaced in the United States was rarely officially described as revolutionary, and was quickly and forcefully squashed by the powers that be. Although the grouses were the same, it would appear that justifiable revolution is only permissible in resource rich third-world countries that are ripe for capitalist picking. Is this true revolution?
As I constantly turn in the gyre of information overload, I find myself fascinated by the heroes of the preceding generation; their glorious myths captivate my imagination, even though I am aware that they are no mere myths but real feats, accomplished by real people. Of late I’ve been specifically acquainting myself more intimately with the lives, ideas, musings, passions, deeds and writings of the West Indies’ very own Dr. Eric Eustace Williams, with Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and Angela Davis; in order of seniority. These looming figures, their shadows outstretched over the unfurling landscape of Western political development, have all found it fit to chronicle their respective journeys in one way or another. They all made hearty use of the jargon of various resistance models. Among them, there is much sentiment regarding anti-imperialism, self-determination, anti-racism, social justice, wealth redistribution, poverty eradication and the initiation of general social change and development in their respective regions of interest.
Closest to home, and therefore to heart, stands Dr. Williams with his undeniable and exemplary brand of excellence. It may sound a queer assertion to label Dr. Williams as a revolutionary to be lumped together with the likes of the warlike and fiery Che Guevara, or the eternally rebellious Angela Davis. As the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Williams was a clear ideological proponent of embracing the modern social and economic framework that British imperialism had imposed on Caribbean peoples, although he heartily resisted the continuation of formal colonialism itself. The independence of Trinidad and Tobago came about under his essential guidance. His weapons of mass change were education and bureaucratic maneuvering. In sharp contradistinction is Che Guevarra, who was, among many other things, an accomplished fighter and military strategist. He had no qualms about executing those who opposed his revolutionary views in Cuba, and he even did the deed personally at times. His ultimate intention was to start a third world war, a global uprising of all oppressed peoples, to bring about the bloody destruction of American and European imperialism. Unusually bright, passionate and faithfully determined to succeed, Angela Davis leapt to the forefront of the American race struggle fairly easily. Her practical awareness, at a very young age, of the need for concrete action and deliberate steps taken to achieve well defined goals was extremely impressive to me. All of the above was done at the cost of great personal sacrifice and difficulty – Che Guevara in particular paid the ultimate price, a price which he was always prepared to pay it seems. So again, I ask, can this generation hope or expect to produce persons of a comparable ilk?
Christie A.M. Modeste is a Trinidad and Tobago World Rank Order Scholarship Winner, having placed 3rd in the world in A-level Sociology. Currently pursuing her Masters degree in Public Law, she is a practising Attorney-at-Law of three years standing. Her active interests include visual arts, craftwork, history, philosophy, sociology and law. Through understanding, she hopes to help make changes that leave her less disappointed in herself and humanity generally.