I've spent the past two weeks campaigning at a smartly-designed home-made campaign chest (literally a chest of drawers! ha ha) adorned with rainbow flags and crooked, home-cut graphics I made myself. We had little rugs. We had a banner with little hearts cut out. So why aren't the hip kids taking my flyers?
The people who pick up party information are, frankly, squares; the people I love in this blog, the radically self-expressing kids and working-class outsiders, couldn't give a toss. Past me walked sneering emos, bored hip-hoppers, disinterested otakus, indie kids, no-one giving a damn about our political message at all. But why not? The suggestion from my party colleagues when I brought up the issue was that these people aren't really radical, only posers - or maybe it's us that are mainstream-establishment and, in reality, politically conservative.
But in actual fact I'm convinced that both (left-wing and feminist) political activists and self-expressive extremes are incredibly radical, politically. So why is it that we can't meet up? Why does it seem that we're doomed to be two separate tribes?
An interesting (though slightly depressing) perspective on this comes from political philosopher Hannah Arendt, whose thought I was recently reintroduced to by pirate thinktanker Rasmus Fleischer (in Swedish). According to her, the two groups are engaged in completely different political projects that are largely incompatible with each other.
The political activists are engaging in poiesis, work, the building of something. Anything they say or do is aimed towards creating something, namely a political movement or a successful party or an ideal society. But in this work, Arendt argues, they lose themselves. The ultimate aim may be political, but the individual expressions are empty and in some sense lies - they're merely means to an end and tell nothing about the person who makes them, more than what they are: feminists, or whatever.
By contrast, the self-expression of the kids is really, inherently, deeply political. It's praxis, action, the expression of the self of a free individual. It reveals who they are to the world, thus in that moment they are free and have agency. As Arendt sees it, if poiesis gets to overtake praxis then totalitarianism looms.
I'm not sure I completely agree with her, but I do see how the two ways of thinking are really hard to combine. I've really been wrestling with the question of whether I should blog about my political activity because that's what engages my mind at the moment, or whether I should avoid it, because it just feels untrue. Both to me and to the blog readers, it feels as if I'm not really being honest and expressing what I really think when I'm trying to convince people to act in a certain way. At best, it's just so completely square.
Like, pretty much, all overtly ideological pop music. I've always disliked progg, backpacker rap and roots reggae, because the music tends to be incredibly banal and boring and the lyrics hackneyed doggerel, and by Arendt's account this would be because they're not really self-expressive at all. Only by revealing the underlying who can you get that complexity and that rush of freedom that god pop music has. Pop music (like my blogging, I guess) has consistently been ruined whenever ideologies have entered the picture, and made pop music subservient.
What I fervently hope, though, is that feminism as a rather exceptional (and experimental, h/t Rasmus) ideology has the potential to turn things on their head and make ideology subservient to pop music, or at least to praxis. If we make self-expression and agency central concerns (as indeed they should be in feminism) then we're half-way towards solving the problem, and if we co-operate with the cool kids on their terms we're much more likely to successfully integrate. Look forward to at least one event this fall where we're trying to bring in some of the best queer clubs in Stockholm...
Another (perhaps contrary) consequence, which might please my regular readership, is that I'm bringing my feminist blogging elsewhere and focusing on the music here. I'm not quite ready to reveal the project yet, but it'll be a group blog in Swedish. More news coming up!