Daily Archives: September 12, 2008

Agitators and Clowns

“This apparent marginality is a trick of perspective, because as every geographer knows, edges are also interfaces.”

Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag

“Invisibility, let me explain, gives one a slightly different sense of time, you’re never quite on the beat. Sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes your behind. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you’re aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead. And you slip into the breaks and look around.”

“A hibernation is a covert preparation for a more overt action”

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Hanging out on the Northwestern College Campus recently I have had time to hibernate and think. Not only processing the summers events but also contemplating possibilities for the present.

I have been encountering the expected groups of college liberals. I have spoken about my experiences in the police state of St Paul as well as the conditions of life in poverty in Minnesota and around the country. In speaking about these things, sometimes I have chosen to identify myself overtly as an anarchist, other times choosing to keep specific political ideology out of the picture.

In these times of growing tension about the war, the economy, the presidential election, the environment and the general and pervasive feelings of hopelessness that Mr Obama in particular has found great success running on, it is crucial that radicals form strategies for political education in everyday life.

It is crucial that these strategies for education help bring feelings of agency to the front in a world where horrible things are happening seemingly invisibly, whether across the world, in the neighborhood you never enter, or in the lives of people around you who are to embarrassed to speak of them. It is crucial that the disillusionment have plenty of rage and plenty of love.

Many of the young liberals and progressives I mentioned above are unaware or dismissive of marginal politicized groups. In the community where I come from, liberal is a bad word, connotating a conditioned ignorance of how truly huge the problems of the world are and a corresponding limited array of political options for change.

Accordingly many young radicals easiliy dismiss the liberals, choosing to mock them, rather than engage in dialogue which would expand the consciousness of our peers. At Evergreen most political education outside of the classroom occurred in somewhat closed spaces, the same familiar faces at every event. There was no perceptible, successful strategy for engaging the minds of the other 90 percent of the student body and pushing them to action or even outrage.

I believe that a strategy must be put forth to do away with the alienation of our peers. I do not mean that people should not be put in positions where they are made uncomfortable, precisely the opposite! We in the margins, in the in-between-places must use our gifts to push and prod and provoke the minds of those around us, in our immediate vicinity and across the country. The time is truly ripe for mass public education projects, which happen in our interactions with networks of friends and acquaintances and programmatically. We must pull them into our projects and conversations.

The clown and the agitator inhabit similar spaces, neither specifically overt or covert. They make people uncomfortable by making (a) theater out of our everyday lives where people are pushed, prodded, provoked, and tickled into uncomfortable spaces. The clown seeks to be the node, making time stand still playing with and absorbing the apprehension of the audience. The agitator seeks to be the node, from which time and action leap ahead.

It is with this in mind that we must take advantage of our marginality and invisibility.