Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Further thoughts on the Anne Lamott revolution

It occurs to me that some people might find sentiments like this:
In this revolution, there will not be any positions except kindness, and libraries. We will not even have a battle cry, as that can lead to chanting, and haranguing: Hey, hey, ho, ho, all that chanting's got to go! We would simply look one another in the eyes, shake our heads, and say, "This just can't be right." We will not try to figure out what it all means: Iraq, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Terri Schiavo, abortion rights, the Downing Street Memo, domestic spying, immigration, the Kyoto Accords, the Geneva Connections, Tom DeLay -- none of it. We all know what kindness means, and I think we can all agree that libraries are sacred, and our revolution will decree that we will fight tooth and nail for these things, politely.
represent a willful and dangerous naïveté. No movement can get by without serious policy analysis, anger, and a willingness to offend. And in a way that’s right, but if you are going to make a mistake in your social movement, I would rather err on the side of niceness. Think about the opposite mistake. One way of understanding what’s wrong with the ANSWER coalition is that they have a critique of empire without a critique of violence. They see the wrong of American imperialism, but, addicted to power themselves, can only envision replacing it with another violent regime. (The other way of looking at what’s wrong with the ANSWER coalition is that they are a bunch of Maoist douchebags.) Given the choice between Lamont’s attending nicey nicey event, and working with Ramsey Clark, I will choose the nicey nicies every time. The more radical the social change you want to institute, the more high minded you have to be about your means. The justification for this principle--lets call it the principle of revolutionary niceness--is the same as the justification for extra caution in big public work projects like dams or bridges. The principle of revolutionary niceness is also the exact opposite of the attitude endorsed by most revolutionaries, which is why so many revolutions wind up like the Cultural Revolution or the Reign of Terror.

Final note: I see there is an old article by Michael Berube online about working with ANSWER. I will have to check that out.

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