[Marxism] Forwarded from Tony Abdo (Robert Jensen article)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 8 14:46:56 MDT 2004

(Tony, this was shortened. In the future, just supply the first few 
paragraphs and the url.)

Real Hope Is Radical

By Robert Jensen, AlterNet
April 8, 2004

Editor's Note: The following essay is excerpted from Robert Jensen's new 
book, Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City 

After an antiwar talk in which I sharply criticized U.S. foreign policy, 
a student asked me, "Don't you find it hard to live being so cynical?" 
When I responded that I thought my comments were critical but not 
cynical, he asked, "But how can being so critical not make you cynical?"

The student was equating any critique of injustice produced by 
institutions and systems of power with cynicism about people. His 
question made me realize how easy is cynicism and how difficult is 
sustained critique in this culture, which shouldn't surprise us. People 
with power are perfectly happy for the population to be cynical, because 
that tends to paralyze people and leads to passivity. Those same 
powerful people also do their best to derail critique – the process of 
working to understand the nature of things around us and offering 
judgments about them – because that tends to energize people and leads 
to resistance. Understanding the difference between critique and 
cynicism – and the difference between hope and optimism – is crucial to 
the future of any struggle against injustice.

At this moment in history, those struggles must not only be about trying 
to win changes in policies but also about the reinvigoration of public 
life – a call for participation, for politics, for radical citizenship 
in reactionary times. Radical and reactionary in this sense are not used 
to describe specific political positions, left versus right, but instead 
describe an approach not just to politics, narrowly defined, but to the 
central questions of what it means to be a human being in connection 
with others. The world we live in is reactionary because it is trying to 
squeeze those important human dimensions out of us in the political 
sphere and constrict the range of discussion so much that politics does 
seem to many to be useless. To resist that one must be radical, be 
political and be radical in public politically.

To explain this I will describe my own journey from cynicism to hope, my 
own struggle both for greater understanding of myself and an 
understanding of something greater than me. This requires talking of 
love and justice, which means taking a small risk that I will be seen as 
naive or self-indulgent or just plain silly. But here we should recall 
one of Che Guevara's most memorable thoughts: "At the risk of sounding 
ridiculous let me say that a revolutionary is guided by great feelings 
of love."

full: http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=18362


The Marxism list: www.marxmail.org

More information about the Marxism mailing list