Don’t Be Cowed By Romanticized History

I’ve often heard activists and independent media makers express a sense of inadequacy or longing for a time or place other than now and here, stemming from the belief that it was better then or is better elsewhere.

I addressed that sense of geographical inadequacy in a piece called “The Sense of Place” in mediageek zine #1, which can also be read in the Zine Yearbook #8.

I was therefore happy to be directed (via Guerilla Science) to an article by Bernardine Dohrn, a former member of the Weather Underground, entitled: “Letter to Young Activists: Beware Sixties Nostalgia.” Here’s an excerpt that resonated with me:

At the height of 1968’s upheaval, activists at Michigan State felt dismayed that they were not strong and powerful, like those in Ann Arbor. Militants in Ann Arbor measured themselves unfavorably against the struggle at Columbia in New York. And at Columbia or Cornell or Berkeley, organizers were unhappy that they were not meeting the high bar set by the May Day events in France, where workers and students brought the government to the brink. The challenge now, as then, is living as a radical organizer in your own time, your own place. The difficulty then and now is working away during what the great educator and founder of Highlander Myles Horton called Valley Times. It involves simultaneously acting and doubting.