Over the years, and particularly the past couple of months, we have been seriously thinking about the effectiveness of what many call “movements.” Since our duty is to understand the political landscape, as we learn about all the contemporary movements developing, we inevitably juxtapose these formations with historical political movements. It is through this intense reflection, that we posit the inherent liberalism and self-defeating tendencies which have laced most movements we know of today. This is not to insult anyone who is genuinely involved in activities associated with current movements; this is to encourage people to ask important questions before, during, and after they participate in any group activity which proclaims to represent a “movement.” Unfortunately, many honest people have died and suffered in the name of past “movements” and, more often than not, the goals and objectives of those very movements were based in efforts to influence power for individual leaders to make gains. Let’s start by examining liberalism.
Liberalism comes from Western philosophical thought which purports ALL social reality is created and defined by the “individual”, not the group. As a result, it is an ideology which promotes self-interest and gain. Liberalism combines idealism and individualism to escape any accountability to the group, therefore, when liberals talk about freedom, they always refer to other “individuals” and themselves. For example, we all know the classic references to celebrities, politicians, and individual rich Black people when people discuss so-called “progress.”
Idealism must be a component of liberalism because it fosters the notion that reality is fundamentally mental, or otherwise immaterial, therefore our only limitations are our attitudes and morals, not real systems of oppression and exploitation. Hence the phrase “your attitude, sets your latitude”, and the constant efforts to “influence” or “speak truth to power.” As if power gives a fuck!
This leads us into the liberal influence that has imbued movements, thus rendering them useless for the majority. The leaders of movements are liberals who operate with this ideological basis. For them, the only problem with the system is that they haven’t gotten their share of the pie yet. These people will proclaim themselves leaders and use the aspirations (and energy) of the group to advance themselves with no intention of actually changing or removing the power structure they purport to deplore. Liberal leaders don’t see a need for sustained organization because they inevitably seek mobilization as their primary strategy to join organizations that already exist, but have not seen their greatness! Although they must use the energy of the majority to advance themselves, they are ultimately only accountable to themselves (in their minds at least….there goes that idealism again!). Basically, the mentally of liberal leadership can be summed up by the words of a character named John Boy Jr. in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s novel, Matigari:
Listen to me carefully. Mzee, I would ask you to learn the meaning of the word “individual.” Our country has remained in darkness because of the ignorance of our people. They don’t know the importance of the word “individual,” as opposed to the word “masses.” White people are advanced because they respect that word, and therefore honor the freedom of the individual, which means the freedom of everyone to follow his own whims without worrying about the others. Survival of the fittest. But you black people? You walk about fettered to your families, clans, nationalities, people, masses. If the individual decides to move ahead, he is pulled back by the others. What’s the meaning of the word “masses”? Mzee, let me tell you that what belongs to the masses is carried in a bottomless pail. How does the song go? “Go your way and let me go mine, for none of us is carrying the other.” – My father knew this; that’s why he sent me to school and ignored the idiots who were mumbling nonsense about sharing the last bean.1
Observe the language of contemporary movements….”I just felt….”, “I just wanted to….”, “….express myself….” When we consider that we live in a society whose most common past time is taking “selfies” and which has publications such as SELF magazine, there is no accident that the ideological basis of social movements that do not challenge the status quo will follow suit.
This liberalism is a virus because it has infected colonized people whose traditional cultures were/are communalism and group advancement. We have been so thoroughly indoctrinated that when an individual is called to account for self-serving actions, many of us call it “hating” or “being crabs in a bucket.” But when you consider our conditions outside the lens of liberalism, we must realize that we need to question who put us all in the bucket. And we cannot allow individuals to climb on our backs, keeping us down so they can join the fisherman who want to throw more of us in the bucket. Maintaining our principles to advance the group and enforcing a code of conduct is necessary to build organization. Organization is the only strategy we have to build our power collectively. When we deal with the police, do they operate as a movement, or an organization? Who do you think will outlast the other? The term “movement” itself implies its ephemeral nature! Have we ever known nomadic groups that are constantly in motion to build sustainable nations? We sure haven’t!
So since liberalism goes hand and glove with “movements”, let’s stop starting movements! It seems that the best movements are provided by Metamucil, lentils, spinach, and other fibrous foods. Once we leave that shit in the toilet, we can get to building what we really need….organizations!