Various Thoughts on Radicalism

It’s fair to say that most of my radicalization has happened through music, specifically folk punk, and I think it’s equally fair to say that my politics are fairly well expressed in a song not written for my context. When Pat the Bunny wrote From Here to Utopia he probably wasn’t thinking of a liberal arts college kid studying philosophy with about as much midwestern privilege as the next person. That said, there’s something in the lyrics that gets at a simple reality: namely that learning to think and make unthought worlds means hating the world, denying it, and still hoping for a world where “I don’t wanna have to hate everything anymore.” It’s a hope that the song gets at, that the world as we know it is problematic and young kids attempting to be radicals aren’t new at declaring the problem of the world. That this shit can’t go on, yet it does. Pat gets at this reality, the simultaneous failure of radicalism and its necessity when he says that our enemies “will teach our corpses to dance.”

Radicalism in the modern age requires a sense of nihilism. Nihilism that is guided by a reality that we live in a new geological age and the planet is beyond saving. Install solar panels on your house, recycle, do the best to care for this planet but realize you’re only slowing the inevitable. Nihilism guided by a reality of living in a world made by, and defined by, white supremacy, queerphobia, nationalism and a myriad of other evils is beyond recognition in any humane, gracious way. Course, saying that radicalism needs nihilism seems odd since nihilism is given the bad rap of being a suicidal way of seeing the world. Well, the world’s already killed itself (or at least we aided in the suicide).

The world isn’t good. It’s beyond saving in a lot of ways. At least under current models of being. But I think that’s where nihilism shuts us down and gets us outside of ourselves. But it’s not enough.

Nihilism isn’t enough. Nihilism is just facing the reality of the world but still trying to explain away suffering. What comes next is sitting within suffering, working from within it, naming it, naming the unthought, and realizing that half this shit is unthinkable, at least to our white, heteronormative, Eurocentric modes of thought.

So, am I radical? I don’t know. Radicals are basically folks who claim the title but sit on their ass and aren’t willing to do anything. I’m one of those. I’m a failure at most everything I say or claim as a belief or guiding principle. But I try and move baby steps forward. And realize that pragmatism (note: pragmatism isn’t equivalent to getting one’s hands dirty) is a luxury afforded me. A luxury not afford other folks. Face the world, name it, damn it, and move on.

“Who killed the world?”