Academy vs. Activism

Knowledge + Action = Praxis

You have to be an optimist if you're going te be politically active; what's the point of activism if you don't believe that change is possible, that you can make things happen? Not that I'm not cynical, but I can say these things because I'm only 23 and haven't quite hit the burnout point yet.
I believe in art and theory and direct action. All these combined, in my mind, create praxis. I can't stop thinking about praxis, about how te engage in it on an everyday basis. Writing and thinking and creating and doing.
And I believe these things to be true. You have to have faith in your activism and let it consume you for it to be af any real worth or effect. In short, you have to get and be inspired, motivated, pissed off and even angry... You have to be driven.

Subculture, Activism, and Academia

And finally, being a punk with a degree of self-righteousness and pride at my school necessarily entailed being an activism. Challenging homophobia, fighting with preachy Christian teachers, wearing controversial clothes that the school tried to prohibit, correcting patriotic history, being straight-edge, being anti-consumerist, and having self-confidence in the face of constant harassment were all ways of challenging power structures, which is one way to define activism.
These seem like righteous activities, but in relation to power structures they are utterly impotent. Fighting preachy Christian teachers and wearing controversial clothes that the school tried to prohibit are surely fun and self-righteous, but it will do nothing against the Church of the School. You're just feeding your own self-importance, not fighting power structures. Although, phraselogically, everything is in place: challenging power structures is not overcoming power structures. You can challenge a brick wall as much as you want without ever climbing over it.

Uncovering our work: The production of knowledge in academia and activism

Excerpts of a thesis: http://etd.fcla.edu/UF/UFE0010495/guest_a.pdf
Huh, still available on 3. June 2013.
On January 1, 1994, the date of the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Zapatistas began an armed uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas that "was the first denunciation of a 'new world order' from the viewpoint of that order's victims" (Hayden 2). This uprising would have been impossible without the previous years of organization and theorizing by its members. The figurehead of the movement, Subcomandante Marcos, describes how the position of the Zapatistas differs from other uprisings: "In previous armies, soldiers used their time to clean their weapons and stock up ammunition. Our weapons are words, and we may need our arsenal at any moment" ("Hourglass" 12). The Zapatistas draw on the power of demystification to give power to their activism. Rather than succumb to denunciations of action without thought, thef consciously exposed processes for scrutiny. Certainly, they invoke this method as deliberately in the production of knowledge as do methods meant to obscure. However, their self-revelatory process exposes their undergirdin:
Speaking and listening is how true men and women learn to walk. It is the word that gives form to the walk that goes on inside us. It is the word that is the bridge to cross to the other side. Silence is what Power offers our pain in order to make us small. When we are silenced, we remain very much alone. Speaking, we heal the pain. Speaking, we accompany one another. Power uses the word to impose his empire of silence. We use the word to renew ourselves. Power uses silence to hide his crimes. We use silence to listen to one another, to touch one another, to know one another. This is the weapon, brothers and sisters. We say, the word remains. We speak the word. We shout the word. We raise the word and with it break the silence of our people. We kill the silence by living the word. Let us leave Power alone in what the lie speaks and hushes. Let us join together in the word and the silence which liberate. (Marcos, "Word" 76)
Marcos's repetition of the word throughout his actions and writings (which are inseparable), show us how an exposure of the processes leads into new forms of activism. It also places individuals and their experiences solidly in the forefront of their movement. Marcos is suspected to be a "former" academic, a Marxist whose academic status is "former" only because he no longer works within a university. Unquestionably, no matter who he is, Marcos's recognition of the similarities between thought and action, academia and activism, fostered the Zapatistas: "He wrote in a torrent, producing hundreds of texts, quickly disproving Hannah Arendt's claim that 'under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think.' In less than twelve months, during sleepless sessions on the word processor in the midst of fighting a war, [Marcos] generated enough text for a 300-page volume" (Stavans 389). He produced all this writing to explain the Zapatistas' demands, communicate with people outside the movement, and as or more importantly, to engage with people who are drawn by that. The written word became a seductive tool for taking the Zapatistas beyond another group of indigenous people who could easily be dismissed. The Zapatistas combine the power of action and the power of the word to amplify both.
The quote by Marcos actually sounds like a pretty neat piece of Bakhtinian philosophy. If he really was a Marxist academic then it might have been possible for him to be aquainted with Voloshinov's text.


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