[iDC] activism now and

Judith Rodenbeck jrodenbe at slc.edu
Fri Dec 9 11:36:49 EST 2005

> saul ostrow wrote:
> > What is really interesting about this thread is that spontaniety,
> > resistance, activism, media, etc. are being fetishized, while no one has
> > raised the question of political program and leadership.  

The problem of leadership was, loosely, the point intended in raising the
Western intellectual reception of the Iranian Revolution--which was not the
same as the Islamic Revolution in Iran, see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_Revolution and 
A people's revolution was detourned by a powerful, charismatic leader into a
fascist theocracy that was arguably as repugnant as the thing it nominally
replaced. Cultural relativists may argue that the Ayatollah was "popular":
yes, that's the nature of charisma aligned with power.

then brian holmes wrote:
> Leadership, in the contemporary media-populist electoral
> democracies, has been so bad that I think even a little bit
> of sympathy for the people writing here would excuse them
> for not desiring it.

Leadership (and charisma) is a problematic that bears examination. Neither
hierarchical appeals to leadership nor knee-jerk disavowals nor radically
relativist je m'en foutisme are adequate responses--and quite frankly,
pragmatic, empirical skepticism of authorities is something the
enlightenment got right. Which is why I like this:

> Only a real political program can produce
> decent leaders and limit the scope of their arbitrary power too.

but also this:

> But now our generous visions look so distant from
> the basic public disourse that clearly it's time to work on
> something more simple and below the belt.

Fetishes themselves become, indeed by definition are "authoritative." It's
important to keep in sight how it is and of what spontaneity, resistance,
activism, media, connectivity, communication themselves are constructed as
words, as materials, and as actualities. I take "below the belt" to imply a
kind of pragmatic bricolage, "simple" to imply testable.

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