Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will

Posted on December 31, 2011


Time to close another year. As I never was good at doing inventories of everything that happen to balance, I’ll just take one significant occurrence.

If something, 2011 was the year of “the People occupying the Public Square”; Time magazine was right, for once. In Tunisia, in Egypt, in Israel, in Europe and in the United States, people who seemed asleep, fearful or conformist before, suddenly took on the streets to say “enough is enough”.

Did they succeed at this new, unplanned endeavor? Hard to tell yet. In some places their efforts led to change of government masks while the very substance of the system that prompted them to the streets remained as it was before; or  worse. The vote of the non-activist majority masses gave a chance to a bunch of technocrats or  religious parties hidden in the shadow until then.

In other places, like Libya, the true desire for a democratic improvement was used by a cynical coalition of imperialistic old-fashioned powers to set up the propagandistic basis for a crude intervention, send weapons to reactionary monarchists and earn a triumphant colonial come back. Having learned the lesson, the Syrian regime retorted to its well proven methods: kill the protesters before they can gain momentum.

Even in the States, the development of the Occupy Wall  Street movement that blossomed alongside the country isn’t clear. The increased repression by the authorities in various cities, together with the winter weather, combined to put a halt to the presence of the activists in the streets. But this kind of political action can’t last indefinitely anyway. At least, not without a clear objective to get.

The next year, with its impending election, will show if they reach some kind of success. Be it the “End of Capitalism” (hardly), a significant improvement in social justice or, if they fail, a rightist backlash. If I’m able to imagine something desirable after all the struggle, it would be to broken the vicious circle of links between Politics and rich lobbies that impede the people to get from their elected representatives the aims they voted for. Not much, if you want; but, as I said before, you have to take into account the wider public, which is not ready to go so far as the brave activist vanguard is. The true test of the latter would be to show the masses a change they can understand and to show it as achievable and desirable as a sane basis for further improvements. With this in mind, I think the pressure should be focused on the Supreme Court to allow the restrictions for corporative donors it ruled out until now; or to resign.

This is the reason I chose the famous phrase from the ill-fated Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci. Imprisoned, banished from his beloved and from his friends; tortured by his ill body and by the machinations of his jailers, the stubborn will of his brave heart kept his portentous brain alive, thinking and writing for generations to come after his unlucky, brief time ended.

Hopefully his heirs in this time will have the insight to choose the right positions to attack and the courage to conquer them.