Why I Am A Radical
-by Josh Saxe
My uncle isn't a janitor and my older cousins don't take a bus every morning into verdant neighborhoods to clean houses or raise rich people's kids. I haven't had to watch my parents struggle to find daily buyers of their bodies, and I haven't had to watch their health go as a boss translated their lives into spending money for his kids. Nobody mowed my grandparents down in the streets with water hoses while news cameras rolled because they wanted their humanity acknowledged. In fact, I am a white male who can't point to a worker in his family; fate has endowed me with comfort powered on the churning wheels of a global capitalism built on mountains of stolen lives and fed by other people's souls.
But how about the souls of the guardians of the system? My parents are academics. Think well-paid, cultured, liberal intelligentsia. The moral laws of this layer are to care, to "vote," to "donate," but not to get too carried away. Vote, or you can't complain, but don't take your eye off the "career," so you don't wind up "uncomfortable," bitter, "unsuccessful," people will talk. Yes, workers are people too, as are Iraqis, Indonesians, and everyone else, but son, if you don't go to a good school you'll wind up fucked down the line. And at the end of the day, have kids, get them to learn about Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, get them on the honors track, get them a good career, and you've lived a good life. A successful life. While your government treats Iraq like a thing that can be reshaped with a power tool if its sharp edges are only chiseled off with uranium-laced bullets and carpet bombing. While cliques at the top of governments show off nuclear weapons and oceans, rivers
and forests get shuffled around like business assets.
I love my family, and guilt for my class background is not what has motivated me to become a radical. I choose the life of a radical, prioritizing social change over any other concern, because I cannot squeeze meaning into the crevices of a middle-class, "career and family" life that prioritizes "comfort" over great moral questions. The next few generations will face moral questions as great as any in our history as a species. Without guilt, shame, or charity, I love and feel lucky to be alive so that I can take part in a movement centered around the crazy notion that people can fashion a society in which oppression is a thing of the past and human freedom grows like a fertile jungle out of the ruins of every prison and slum.
Josh Saxe is an activist and student living in Los Angeles. He can be rached at firstname.lastname@example.org.