Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mainstream is the New Radical Chic

You'd think this would be obvious. You'd think this wouldn't come as a newsflash. But after four years in York's political science department whose politics are somewhere left of Lenin, the following revelations are quite a shock to my system:

- Most people are suspicious of people who describe their politics as Marxist.
- Most people are pro-capitalism.
- Many normal people actually actively and sincerely support a mainstream political party.
- Most people, including most aspiring journalists, don't think the media is involved in a conspiracy with the state-corporate elite to spread capitalist propaganda to the citizens
- To most people, the phrase "While I get where the Foucauldians and postmodernists are coming from, I really think it's important to find a way to incorporate anti-racist feminism into a Gramscian historical materialist analysis" means absolutely nothing.
- And it certainly wouldn't be casually dropped into a conversation with your friends and classmates.

Seriously, I know, this is not exactly breaking news. I am not calling CNN over this. But I didn't realize how normalized radicalism had become for me. I've had professors argue with a straight face that Stalinist Russia wasn't really as bad as they make it out to be. I know that if you soak a handkerchief with vinegar and hold it up to your face it helps keep the tear gas fumes from getting to you. We criticized everything "mainstream" in class, from politics to the media to music, but any time I criticized Marxism in class I was met with shock and outrage by not only my professor, but my classmates.

So to hear people raise their hands in J5000 and utter the words "Well the author's a Marxist, so this article is clearly an ideologically biased rant" is just... weird. Welcome, don't get me wrong. I found it absolutely horrifyingly creepy how quickly the York political science department seemed to literally brainwash students over the course of four years into neo-Marxist automatons. But weird.

There were lots of things I loved about York's radical politics. Not the Marxism, I always found that dogmatic and frankly, kind of dull. But the activism, the engagement, the alternative way of looking at things shaped the way I think and act. I know I'm supposed to be all non-partisan and junk now that I'm a journalist, but I think it will make me do my job better by looking for stories from ordinary, under-represented people instead of the usual politicians, CEOs and "experts."

And I have to admit... I'm kind of craving a solid feminist deconstruction of Paris Hilton's New BFF over a couple of beers. Or a rousing bout of "Hey hey, ho ho, corporate fascism has got to go." Sigh... heartwarming nostalgia.


Sonya said...

Life's To Do List, in chronological order: buy hat with ear flaps, rent cockroached but cozy apartment in Moscow, revive Pravda, bask in revolutionary glory.

Radule said...

because Pravda means the truth :)