You can’t both believe and be ironic. Even if you don’t care about politics, politics certainly cares about you. If you don’t take part of your time to address the socioeconomic/political realities unfolding around you, it will come, and it will screw you over. There’s no free pass. I have no patience for anybody who’s whining about politics and not doing something about it. The more you read about history, the more you realize that’s a luxury most people haven’t been able to afford.
I’ve become much more clued in to the way irony is used by politically inclined people to salve their frustrations about political realities. Although I love humor like The Daily Show and The Onion, it’s kind of sad that these have become the main conduits for so many people’s political awareness. Unfortunately, sitting there, laughing (alone, by the millions) at people or things you know are bullshit or wrong isn’t a replacement for voting, protesting, raising awareness, throwing rocks, defacing property or doing whatever real-life actions you find effective in achieving actual change in this world.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers‘ website is certainly one place to go. One, they work nights and weekends. Two, they’re not afraid to be unironic. Although they are capable of being very funny, they’re also not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, to insist upon being heard, to be unliked and unwanted, to get into people’s faces. It’s a special ability to be an activist; you are not in business to be liked. You’re in business to bug people until it’s easier to change than to resist.
I think they’re heroes. They changed my idea of democracy. I realized through them, through watching them work, that democracy is an incredibly tedious, frustrating job sometimes, and it’s tedious and frustrating in a very specific way: it involves listening to people whose concerns you don’t understand or share. It’s often boring, and it’s maddening.
And what I learned over time by watching them and also thinking about globalization is that if you’re not bored and made mad sometimes by people you don’t understand, you’re probably not dealing with enough people who are different from you; you’re probably just living in a bubble, hearing your own view of the world reinforced again and again.
To bring it home to the point of my book: if you’re watching some guy on TV talking about globalization and how great it is for the world and for the millions of Chinese who now make our stuff, you should ask yourself why we never see these people on TV, telling us in their own words what their world looks like. It’s probably less cozy than Thomas Friedman’s view of things.
Act. Every email, every body at the protest, every bit of news coverage is hugely powerful: corporations who have spent bazillions of dollars on branding don’t want to be associated with slavery. Although we love to imagine they’re all-powerful, they’re actually very vulnerable on this front.
So join the campaign, and if you happen to feel superuppity some day and have the time, call a company that makes some food you like, and ask, “Hey, can you guarantee me that there’s no slavery involved in getting this thing into my mouth?” If the answer’s not yes — uh-oh!
From an interview with Suzi Steffen for AlterNet.