Friday, April 01, 2005

It Makes You Look Like Them

Outstanding article by Kevin Mattson in The American Prospect on opposition and protest, titled "Goodbye to All That":
Authenticity of the self and actually living in a democratic community with other citizens who hold varying opinions are two very different -- if not, in fact, irreconcilable -- demands. In Chicago [at the Democratic Convention in 1968], the two ideals clashed, and authenticity won out. Protesters pitted themselves against the inauthentic masses -- the police, those who believed in the Vietnam War, the “pigs.” When this occurred, participatory democracy no longer supplemented representative democracy but replaced it; authenticity displaced the challenge of deliberating with other citizens who might disagree. To be authentic meant to give direct expression to desire rather than to work through a longer process of changing representative institutions.
And here it is, boiled down to its essence: Why it is that in George Bush's America in 2005, the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Sure, it's personally satisfying to chuck rocks at policemen. No doubt. But to give in to that impulse -- that is, to insist on the ineluctible validity of your own "authenticity" over-against that of others in disagreement with you -- is to declare all other "authenticities" null and void. That's fine, if what you're after is complete self-alienation from the political arena. And losing elections.

So go ahead, call 'em rednecks. Mock their religion, that's always a laugh. Let's hear -- at enormous polysyllabic length -- just how fuckin' superior you are to 'em, with the purity of your purpose and the catholicity of your ethical agenda, with side trips to the evils of globalization and the virtues of hemp sandals. Bury them under with the moral ascendancy of your "authenticity" -- that'll show 'em who's boss.


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