Social movements today need to reinvent themselves. We will be faced with a challenge greater than any challenge any movement has ever had to do. Stop pushing and start leading.
It is not that pushing did not work. It did. Telling people what to do always works, especially when the leader they have chosen is one they trust and share common beliefs with. And the time of the second half of the 20th century was a time of newly established social groups, who had elected their own leaders with the simple act of following them in their craze and push for social change. It produced a generation of independent individuals with minds broadened by their education and upbringing, by their experiences of variety and diversity. 60 years ago, when the revolution of society began, it did so in a world that was very much used to command and dictatorship. In fact, it was brought on by that immense control and the desire to break away from what Holloway would name "power-over". It was a "scream", and a painful re-birth, a second coming and a perish of the chains of social norm. The movement of the sexual revolutions, of the travellers and the festivals, of the innovators, of the college drop-outs, of the pot-smoking genius and the Eastern European philosopher, of the strong, independent woman, of the rainbow-colored gays and high-heeled drag Queens. They took and reclaimed their stereotypes, they replaced gun-powder with glitter and shined light on all the issues we had kept taboo for centuries. I will not go into detail as tho how some of these movements specifically need to change, that is not my place and I am far too uneducated to make calls like these. They were fantastic and spectacularly successful in what they aimed to do - scandalise the public, bend genders and sexuality norms, shatter ideas about class, racial and ethnic stigma. De-canonise their life and re-establish their identities. They were there like the first-born child of a strict family, to break the rules and establish a path of teenage rebellion for their younger siblings. But there is a piece of advice I can give, as precisely that new generation "social rebel" (oh yeah, I'm that cool), who was born as a result of these movements.
My beloved revolutionaries of the late 20th century, however wild and free you were, remained educated in the ways of a world of rule and were therefore subject to a feeling of need to be guided, pushed and told what to do. Yes, by a member of your own group and movement, but they were there to dictate the next move and to point the right path. The idea that there was needed someone there to guide you was a fundamental part of your existence. You tried hard to not pass it down to us and to make us all masters of our world. And for that, we must be eternally grateful.
Now we must make sure we do not fall into the convenience of our so-called human nature as well.
There exists a millenia-old idea that people are made to be lead. That we can not exert the power to exist freely in a world of our won making. That we "need an alpha-male", a king, a dictator, a President. Now, I must state here, in the beginning, this is not an argument in any way claiming that humans are free electrons in an environment, which does not need social structures and co-operation. Of course, we are social beings, and thankfully so. But what I will try to illustrate further on is that perhaps, we have been putting to much emphasis on controlling and too little on assisting, nurturing and empowering. Perhaps we need to rethink cardinally our views of social structures and not by looking back to past experiences but by actually engaging in creative and imaginative discussions.
But let's start small. Society already has begun accepting that children ought to be let to lead their own lives, Montessori programs and all early childhood programs in general today, agree that children should not be put on eating and sleeping regimes and these processes should in stead come about naturally. Feeding children forcefully, just like making any human do any thing forcefully, results in outbursts of control-need, such as bulimia, obesity, OCD later on in life. If we use common sense, a logical thought hereby arises - the generation of the sex revolution used their experiences to raise their children in a way that promoted freedom and self-sufficiency. Then why do the people these children became suffer depression, OCD, anxiety and anorexia?
There is a very problematic statement in this sentence, which even today, we pass by rarely realising the problem with it. "The people these children became" - the phrase implies the children themselves were not people, they were in stead people in the making. In fact, this is actual language used extensively by the Governments of the 90s and 00s. It wasn't until the 90s that we started realising the issue with the previous generation - they were free to be humans after 18 but were little more than their infant status before then. So all in all, they ended up pretty confused about life. What's more is they existed in a constant conflict. Liberated parents were allowing them certain freedoms, whilst keeping to strict child-rearing programmes, which they themselves could not help but copy as "good practice" from their own upbringing. On top of all that, the culture they were living in was telling them they were free to wear mini-skirts and sleep with many and various of age, race and sex people, cut their hair short, gender-bend and do some mild mind-bending via magical substances, whilst also being incredibly punishable by law, educational systems, and of course completely forbidden to bring out their personalities whilst working. In fact these personalities became a sort of a festival-period in their life. For a few years in their University time and maybe in their 20s, before they were to acquire a proper profession, they were to exercise the liberty their parents had fought out for them and then go back to being normal.
The entire revolution of the late 20th century died out a little, when the last few generations got to their 30s, decided it was time to stop playing and crumbled under the criticising looks of their mothers telling them it's time to get her some grandkids, and start saving up for that nursery home in Devon.
And then came we. Another generation of conflict. BE LEADERS. This is what we are told on a daily basis. BE UNIQUE. STAND OUT. BE DIFFERENT.
If I know anything about the definition of the word "unique", the idea of my entire generation somehow managing to be unique is fucking mind-expanding.
We have been nurtured to take care of ourselves. What my favourite lecturer calls the "guide to eating, shitting and fucking" no longer exists. It was a bridge, burned by our hippie ancestors. But not in college, in college you needed to wear your tie and take off your purple nail-varnish. In school, we had to ask to go to the toilet and wait for the appointed time to go have lunch. Whilst our parents tried to take things in their own hands, a system of hierarchy, order, bluntness and uniformity reinforced our notions of hierarchal social structures, the need for authority and the very important life-skill of shutting up. And this friction created another bulimic, OCD, anxious generation. Once again, a generation is in danger of becoming extinct because at some point, someone will explain that we can't all be leaders and can't all be unique and need to get a suit and cut of our hair, and clean the glitter off the rugs and start saving up for the ever-rising cost of the University education we will hope to provide our children with. We are in danger of falling into what I would call a "sanity-trap". The new social movement's job will be to try to be the first to escape it.
We are the most tattooed, open-minded, free-thinking, connected, networked, confident and least homophobic and racist generation so far. Creativity has now found its way back into our lives and aspirations, innovative, creative thinking is the buzz-word of professional lives today. Leadership is what we all aspire to and no less than the best is what we can. We have endless human, networking and IT resources to work with, if all that wonderful brain was to be put to use other than imaginative swearing on a Saturday night. Speaking of, we are also a generation incredibly full of dicks. Precisely because all of these aforementioned qualities we've been assigned.
This generation is liminal. It has been given extensive freedom whilst being constantly coerced into normalised patterns of behaviour. Yes, we can mary whoever we like in some Western countries now, but the idea that marriage is an end-goal, particularly for women is still there. Yes, women don't have to be housewives and men don't have to be "bread-winners" but even Sweden, 30 years after introducing paternity leave has a shattering disproportion in the amount of paternity leave being taken, as opposed to maternity leave, all prescribed to the stigma attached to stay-at-home dads. Yes, it's OK to be gay, but you might still end up falling in the "gay best friend" stereotype and trans-people and non-binary people are rarely ever considered, when talking about LGBT+ issues. Yes, some sort of gender equality is here, yet women are not paid equal pay, feminism still hasn't gotten to grips with intersectionality, an estimated 170 000 girls will experience FGM in the UK just this year, whilst men will continue to be bashed for not being masculine enough and suffer terrible mental illness whilst fearing to seek help because the risk of suicide is less threatening to them than the risk of being seen as weak. Sure, we allow black people on buses now, but we still search them 30 times more than white people, interrogate 9 year old Indian kids in US airports and basically think every muslim is a fighter of ISIS.
We've now accepted open-mindedness as a good and useful cultural norm but the problem is, we still need it to be a cultural norm, because we still feel obliged to abide by norms. We still feel like we need to be lead into becoming "leaders". And perhaps we do. What do I know? But a part of me, wishes we could overcome this. A part of me wishes we could scrutinise the ideas of "lead" and "power". So that's what I'll do.
"Leading", as we see it today is hugely connected to organising people and telling them what to do in order to organise other people. In short, it's managing a corporation. It's creating a chain of managers, which manage a lower-standing chain of managers, while following the manager who made them managers. Not quite as glamorous as the Jean D'Arc idea we've been thinking off when imagining ourselves enlightening the masses with all that amaze-balls brain and leadership we've been given by the very inspiring leader who taught us how to be prophets.
This derives from the power we have been told we are entitled to and should claim. John Holloway (in his book "Change the World Without Taking Power") makes the simplest yet most mind-blowing division in the world of modern philosophy. To sum it up it says: "You're all stupid. When Martin Luther King Jr was talking about the power we should grab he meant "power to" achieve yourselves not "power over" those around you." Which all sounds very logical. The problem with reading and hearing these messages is that we learn them, yet do not comprehend them. We all know that the power to do things is not the same as the power David Cameron, the mighty and powerful, yielded over all the other Eton boys back in the days of his pug-fucking adolescence. However, we also see on a daily basis that the important power is little Dave's version of it. We had teachers as kids, who deprived us of the power to draw in Maths, just because somehow they decided they had the power to tell us that this next hour is meant for Mathematic equations, as opposed to drawing. So we learnt that our leadership and our power over our own lives depends on our complacency. Or on being badass and drawing in Maths. But mostly on complacency, especially professionally. We have continuously been educated into submission and out of leadership. And by leadership, I mean actual leadership. Leadership, and this is no dictionary meaning, mind you, is an act of taking the lead. It begins, and often does not need to grow beyond, steering your own life and making choices, independently of coercion. We cannot deny social influences and that can sometimes be a good thing. However, emancipating people and encouraging them to explore ideas and thoughts, no matter how ludicrous they may seem is not a crime. We have attached a very odd meaning to the idea of "leading". The phrase "lead a life" is a very good one to remind us where the origins of the word come from. Leading and managing are not the same thing. Feeling in control of one's own life makes one much more confident to share their ideas and expand their knowledge, to contribute to a society of like-minded people, who lead their own lives. When one has never been confined by the dictatorship of others and has not been educated into a submissive role to be performed in an authoritarian society, one will never have the desire to become controlling and to yield authoritarian power.
We are NOT all leaders, not in the sense leadership is being sold to us today. We are not all politicians, we will not all lead marches,we will not all burn down walls. However, a Jean D'Arc lives within us in as much as we experience and conceive visions of the world which will remain intimately ours and it is this power of human ideas we need to reap and allow it to flow freely into our lives. It is fundamental for any advancement of human thought that we do not allow this generation to die out. We are at a tipping point, the climate is set for us to finally truly comprehend that the ideas that we bear with us, which pose limitation to our consciousness, which surround the endless sea of human ingenuity with barriers of bureaucracy, which have prescribed for us a way of life and a path of development, are entirely socially-constructed. We are liminal, in that we have found ourselves precisely on the verge of a truly Earth-changing revolution of mind. Society has, throughout history, thrown out one dictator and replaced it with another. Our civilisation has endlessly nurtured our obedience and has imprinted in our being a false "need" of leaders and of commanders. There is no scientific evidence to point to this being a part of human nature. What's more the idea of human nature is a social construct. We have instincts, but they fail us in the complex mechanisms of our social structures, they are of no use to us and we need to throw them away and understand that every decision made by any one human is an act of power and leadership. Every choice and every action, every personal opinion, every word of pure thought, every question posed, every crack in the glass ceiling of social norms and every defiance of the power, which self-appointed leaders feel the need to exert upon us is a brave story to be kept within us and to be nourished. These are the grass-stems that need to be watered for us to re-plant ingenue thought and the power to achieve humane life.
Our social movement marks a new millenium. Can we live up to that? Can we change our definition of "power" and of "leading". Can we stop pushing youth into controlling behaviour and inhumane extremes? Can we stop ourselves in telling people what to do?
I could not dare to imagine this is in any way new information to you. And I do not wish to fall into the controversy of telling you to stop telling people what to do. It is but my own little grass-stem trying to break through.
Thank you for your time.