In history and in the news, there is an over-emphasis on the evil and the villians and even when there are heroes, the critics are resolved to point out every flaw and mistake they ever made to the point you would believe everyone is irredeemably evil. The number of people who have called Gandhi a pedophile and a racist when he was not the first in any real sense (however weirdly his repressed sexuality expressed itself around mid-late teenage girls) and while he was a Racist, it is difficult to hold that too hard against a man who died in 1948 and whose racism amounted to remarks and sentiments at times when lynchings and genocides were happening in first-world countries.
Reading Gandhi as a list of clickbait scandals would be an inaccurate means to weigh his character which had more serious problems relating to his extreme vegetarianism and asceticism. In the end, his racism and grossness around adolscent girls is unimportant, his advocacy of mass suicide as a political protest is far more problematic since he did that as a polemicist and one with persuasive power to influence people. Still, I would not assassinate his character over it because for all of his faults he was fundamentally a good man with a character of steel who spent his entire career trying to maximize the good he did in the world.
I did Occupy Wall Street and one thing I remember rhymes with the previous paragraph. We got lots of hate (more than any other protest I have ever done) being told to get a shower and get a job and, generally, being treated as aimless, dirty, hippies morally inferior to everyone who wasn’t protesting. Even if one disagreed with our aims and our politics, at least, we should have gotten credit for being civically-minded activists trying to their best to make the world a better place when youth participation in politics and civics is dismally low. Almost no one else I went to college with did that type of activism or any type of activism and according to the teleology of our critics, no one should do anything grassroots and political ever.
Not only as a political person but as a poet, I am enthralled with the romance of rebels with causes. The daring struggle against the system to either triumphantly win or tragically be vanquished. The years of 2008 through 2011 were the first phase of the long series of protests and movements that continue to this day and in their first phase they were remarkably different than the metonymic Black Lives Matter and #metoo movements they became. They begin with the Obama Campaign in 2008, to the Iran protests in 2009, the Greek anit-austerity protests in 2010, the Indignados in Spain in 2011, the Arab Spring in 2011, the M15 protests in Britain in 2011, Occupy Wall Street in 2011, and so on. They were, very idealistically, an attempt to be a hybrid of 1968 and 1989. The former turning normal democracies into social democracies or more socialist social democracies and the latter turning dictatorships into liberal democmracies. Idealistic as compared with the rather myopic goals of third-wave feminism and contemporary anti-racism. They were attempts at utopia and while a utopia, itself, it is a bit lofty to be truly attainable; aiming for perfect often yields progress.
In their idealism and their utopian teleologies, they possessed the magic, altruistic passion, and philosophical wetness that I relish in religion. At Occupy Wall Street, we, more or less, believed in most of Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History” but we believed Fukuyama’s “The End of History” was the neutral that history had then thus far come to and from that platform we could build something radiantly beautiful. Looking back to the 20th century, we thought, if we could make that much progress just think what we could do in this century. We often spoke about “permaculture” which was a term for our version of the “end of history”, it was the hippie New Jerusalem we believed we were realtively close to making real. Again, so much human advancement had been made over the previous century that it did not seem to be quixotic.
Perhaps, we were right but as history would bear out; nobody wanted it. Not even a lot of the left. As I remember, the hippie idealism died with the Trayvon Martin protests because George Zimmerman became the left’s Casey Anthony. The belief in a radical teleology of universal love and to build a permaculture of eduemonia was more in vibe than it was explicitly stated. Even among those who stated it, very few of us would have had the courage to stick to our principles, be intellectually honest, and defend loving the worst. I was among those few. I refused to participate in the Trayvon Martin protests, largely, because I saw George Zimmeran as becoming the left’s Casey Anthony and felt they were metaphorically burning him in effigy. I knew it would alienate me from probably the closest thing I had to supporters in a world where I didn’t have much support but it was a hill I was willing to die on.
The most painful part of doing that was while I was doing it out of moral courage, nobody saw me as having that for doing that and certainly the broader world didn’t give a shit. In one sense, that was a hill I was dying on. Not only that particular case but the choice to keep pursuing the utopian teleology I had believed so hard in and kept believing in. The worst bullying in my life had been in the previous summer and it had not fully stopped. It was at that time, as mentioned in a prior article, mostly vigilante hazing, so I couldn’t fully talk about my trauma for fear of being judged for the autistic social mistakes and similiar things that led to my being victimized. If I lost my political support or the ability to get it then (it was more the inability to woo or keep support than a major reputational scandal on my part, at least, among the political activist community). One of the things that could have saved my reputation and given me some of the help I needed was to surrender to a bandwagon that no one would blame me for save God and my own conscience.
I think to all the media where someone is tempted into an affair or something akin to that, and, almost inevitably, the character is weaker than their base lusts. It makes one lose their faith in humanity and makes one believe humans are slaves to their neurochemsitry. Looking back on those decisions I made, if nothing else, gives me more faith in humanity. That human free will is strong enough to disobey the forces of nature, of their social psychological instincts, and a society with the incredible power to punish them for disobedience. That disobedience of nature and society is, of course, the greatest sign of character and most sure exhibition of moral coruage. In the world that has arisen since those protests and movements, the media has been dominated ever more by people who have no character and sociopaths who make normal people look like saints in comparison and thus make obedience, as an inclination, seem like the more moral approach. If you watch lots of true crime and slasher horror then deviancy is a red flag. If our society emphasized those who rebelled against nature and the world for a divine cause of love, normal people would not be nearly as content with themselves and would strive to disobey in the direction of God.