Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair
Marx was certainly right in arguing that the point is not to understand the world but to change it, but what he underemphasized was that the world cannot be transformed if one does not understand what is to be changed. As Terry Eagleton rightly notes “Nobody can change a world they didn’t understand.” Moreover, the lack of mass resistance to oppression signals more than apathy or indifference, it also suggests that we don’t have an informed and energizing vision of the world for which we want to struggle. Political struggle is dependent on the political will to change, which is central to any notion of informed agency willing to address the radical and pragmatic issues of our time. In addition to understanding the world, an informed public must connect what they know and learn to the central task of bringing their ideas to bear on society as a whole. This means that a critical consciousness must be matched by a fervent willingness to take risks, and challenge the destructive narratives that are seeping into public realm and becoming normalized.
Any dissatisfaction with injustice necessitates combining the demands of moral witnessing with the pedagogical power of persuasion and the call to address the tasks of emancipation. We need individuals and social movements willing to disturb the normalization of a fascist politics, oppose racist, sexist, and neoliberal orthodoxy.
As Robin D. G. Kelley observes we cannot confuse catharsis…