[iDC] activism now and

saul ostrow sostrow at gate.cia.edu
Fri Dec 9 11:57:15 EST 2005

When I raise the question of leadership - this is not indexed to the 
notion of a leader/ the leader -- obviously, the failure of leadership 
in this period is a collective failing -- it is ours  - When I raise 
the question of leadership I mean those who are will to be  exemplary 
-- the notion of those who take the lead, offer a model not just 
rhetoric  - in our case it would be the public intellectual -- and by 
this I do not mean the celebrity intellectual -- or the all purpose 
expert that is endlessly quoted on every subject  but seldom opens the 
way to debate -
On Dec 9, 2005, at 11:36 AM, Judith Rodenbeck wrote:

>> 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
> http://www.fsmitha.com/h2/ch29ir.html
> 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.
Saul Ostrow
Visual Arts and Technologies Environment
Chair of Painting
The Cleveland Institute of Art

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