With their new watch, the nation (wryly and ironically of course) describes their pointless, depressing view of progressive activism. Score.
"Eternally condemned, the Greek hero pushes his boulder round and round as the seconds and hours tick by. Sound like life as a progressive?"
Good job Nation. If this is how progressives view themselves, should we be surprised that magazines like the Nation, and the ideas it presents, remain marginal? Who wants to be part of a movement that is eternally condemned? And why should anyone bother pushing this boulder around?
Behind the typical ironic, high-brow style of humour lurks a very serious problem. Do the "progressives" who thought this one up really think it's possible to win positive social change at all? Or do they only participate in the struggle so that they can look in the mirror each morning and see the "Greek hero" smirking ironically back at them? If this is what really motivates some people, and I think it is, we should be thinking less about Sisyphus' bolder and more about Achilles' heal.
I'd like to see a movement that really thought it could win. Where members put at the forefront of their activities the vision of a lasting victory for social justice, and acted to bring this about by their day-to-day activities, not just validating their own viewpoints with useless gestures. I'd like to see a movement where involvement looked less like pushing a rock up a hill and more like ordinary people becoming empowered, engaged and in touch with their very human urge to be involved with making society better. A movement that improved people's lives. And a movement which sees the main causes of oppression not as an eternal curse from the untouchable gods, but a temporary problem caused by institutions with feet of clay, ready to be overturned and replaced with something better.
We are definitely involved in an uphill struggle. Sometimes — especially for social democrats, with no vision beyond resisting the constant attacks of elites within the system that empowers and enriches them — it might seem never ending. That's why it's crucially important to combat this with a compelling vision of a better society and an organisational culture that gets us there. And that's the kinds of attitudes revealed in the Nation's ad, no matter how shrouded in the typical "co-ordinator class" cloak of irony, are some of the most important things holding back the movement for positive change.
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