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Gimme Violence, Gimme Change - Opening Image

Gimme Violence, Gimme Change

by Max Barashenkov / 25.01.2012

The young man sits sipping coffee. He is good looking, talented and smokes too much. He has adopted the aesthetics of past social movements – he is part hippie, part French New Wave auteur – yet he’s failed to internalize the ideals that fueled those movements. Revolution is on his lips, but not in his heart. He has hash-tagged protest, cast-out activism to the Internet, trended change. He is aware, but he is not angry. He is the future, his mind is ready, but it will take blood to make him abandon his chair.

Zuccotti Park is empty now, the Occupy asses got cold and the eviction notice served as final proof of what the bankers knew all along – peaceful protest, by its very nature working within the ‘system’, is futile. The greed pigs looked down from their offices, spat and laughed at the fools sitting on the pavement, much like they spat and laughed at world when they fucked it. “They took it then, like little bitches,” they triumphed, “they’ll take it now and they’ll keep taking it.” The Occupy movement flexed its muscle, showed us all that there is global solidarity, that we have achieved a certain critical mass of awareness, but, in the end, it resulted in an empty wank-fest for the intellectuals. The movement is alive on the web, the organizers whimpered. Like fuck it is. The trend has passed, back to the work, you plebs, have your words; we’ll keep your dollars. Oh, how different things would have been if just one brave idiot threw a Molotov.

Radical regime change has never been peaceful. The system needs to be destroyed before it can be rebuilt, and that is exactly what we need, a ‘rebuild’ instead of a ‘fix’. Look at the Socialist revolution in Russia, followed by four years of bloody civil war. Look at the fall of apartheid, preceded by decades of violent struggle. The Arab Spring begs a mention, but its success is still debatable – we are talking about total system change, not just replacing one corrupt government with another. Of course, global change is an issue much more complex than one country’s revolution, but the thesis holds – only through violence (the concept of ‘violence’ is important and is explored later, so hang on) will anything be achieved. An overthrowing of the current world order will mean suffering for all, it will mean bloodshed, the loss of loved ones, the destruction of the comforts we are all used to. It is a hard ideal to commit to, considering it is only our children who will taste the fruits of the struggle. Words and theories will never move the masses to fight for the future, but seeing friends and innocents die might. Until we have real martyrs, we will just keep clicking the Facebook petitions, aware that we are being fucked, but too complacent to do anything. Martyrs are born out of utter rage, out of total commitment to the cause. Yet, as it stands now, the anger, that the Occupy movement showed us exists, is far too deep under the surface. Social revolt needs to enter all facets of public discourse. We need to get pissed off and violent.

Violence, here, is used as a blanket term covering all acts of active contestation between the people and the state. Physical violence, that spark that will start a worldwide rebellion, can only stem from this, call it, ‘civil violence’ and its constant presence in our lives. It already exists, in small pockets, and is illustrated best in the recent wave of cyber-attacks by Anonymous, the now-defunct LulzSec and other hacker groups. The noose around the freedom of the Internet, that bastion of free speech, that angel of hope for world change, is tightening. SOPA, PIPA and other scary acronyms are creeping up, Megaupload is down and who knows how long Pirate Bay will last. The ‘system’, it seems, begins its active fight against the people and the online community is responding in kind.Wikipedia shuts off human knowledge for a day. Binary blood is being spilled. Calls to digital arms flood Youtube. If we are ready to actively defend ourselves online, then why not offline? What is needed is the transportation of this resistance from the Web to physical reality, the birth of a cross-continental, cross-class, cross-cultural social revolt.

Things need to be called their own names – politicians cunts, bankers thieves. Before the revolution can happen, the discourse must be revolutionized. Culture itself must become a weapon, in the hands of the people instead of advertising agencies.The media must grow balls and teeth, get angry and venomous, realize their true duty to civil society. The artists, the musicians, the filmmakers must become conscious of the cultural power they hold and refuse to be instruments of hegemony. The youth must be politicized on terms that are relevant and engaging to them. The graffiti must shout words of change. The young man, with his coffee and cigarettes, he must unleash the creative beast, let it fuel and inspire others.We need to be surrounded by the ideal, and it’s up to those with the talent and the means to speak to the people to bathe us in it. The need for mass anger has never been as grave as now. Give us violence, give us change.

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RESPONSES (48)
  1. Truth says:

    So you agree writing articles like this is not going to change anything and you need to get off your chair and take to the streets in protest?

    Then you first sir…

    Very easy to write about protest and change, very different to put it into action….

    “If we are ready to actively defend ourselves online, then why not offline?”

    No offence meant – I agree with your thoughts behind this, but writing about this online is ironic and exactly what you deem to be the ‘problem’.

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  2. nero says:

    “An overthrowing of the current world order will mean suffering for all, it will mean bloodshed, the loss of loved ones, the destruction of the comforts we are all used to.”

    I think this is understating the price that will be paid for taking the path of violence. SA is a good example of how long the legacy of violent conflict stays. I think its fair to say that the high levels of violent crime, domestic abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, that we live with in 2012 have their origins (partly) in the the border wars and the civil unrest of ’76 and ’86 and the early 90′s. We are a nation still suffering from PTSD after 17 years of freedom. Do we really need to add to our woes?

    Still, it’s a challenging article.

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  3. Max says:

    @Truth – absolutely, I cannot escape the irony. Yet not writing strong words about it, well that’s just defeatist. No? Things need to start somewhere, even in irony.

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  4. John Mongrel says:

    Hipster movement.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    That young man at the beginning of the article sounds like a hipster cunt

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  6. guy says:

    so Gandhi and M.King’s policies of non violence are not applicable in these days(?)

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  7. Tyrion Lannister says:

    @guy – absolutely not

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  8. Truth says:

    Max, I agree that these ideas need to be spoken in order for the action to become the reality.

    As least we are both the ‘problem’ and will hopefully get off our asses when someone actually does something about it :)

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  9. guy says:

    @ Tyrion… double negativism there.
    can i assume you meant these policies (which kicked out the British from India and rectified the American civil behavior and laws) are still applicable(?)

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  10. Tyrion Lannister says:

    @guy – no they are not applicable.

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  11. Ched says:

    @Anon:

    I think it’s the totally to the point that he sounds like an ‘ipster cunt. It’s those ‘brave’ souls eating organic vegan foods and riding their trikes around that blatantly and overtly voice their strong opinions about such shit but remain extremely and vehemently apathetic.

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  12. guy says:

    @ Tyrion: well, your gonna have to motivate that statement with more than a full stop

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  13. guy says:

    question to the author and anyone else in this thread: has anyone been to an occupy site, or participated in ‘direct democracy’ process? does ‘mic check’ mean anything to any of us here?

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  14. die piston van Germinston says:

    Am SO pleased to see such intelligent and principled responses from Nero and Guy. Keep up the good work.

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  15. Lee says:

    I think that things have to hit rock bottom before the masses “take over” and when that happens the state will fight back. It aint going back down, that much is true, so essentially, it will have to be taken down. Remember we are fighting ourselves so I predict bloodshed and carnage…but out of the ashes…

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  16. che says:

    This article makes me fucking angry!!!!! Thank you max, I’m ready to throw the molotov.

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  17. Tyrion Lannister says:

    @guy – i rate the article, in its treatment of the Occupy movement illustrates my point perfectly, but let’s expand.

    Ghandi’s and King’s tactics are not applicable in our day and the situation we are dealing here. Ghandi achieved governmental transition in India, yet that did not solve any of the problems facing the country. King fought for civil liberties an racial equality, that he did achieve, to a certain extent.

    Yet, what is happening now is much grander and will not be solved by non-violent ways. The cliche ‘powers that be’ might have given up some civil freedoms, but they sure as hell are not going to give up total control, their money, their power. For that, they will fight, tooth and claw.

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  18. guy says:

    @ Lee
    i think that the idea that we have to hit rock bottom before picking ourselves up is one of the reasons we’v allowed states of dominance and control to exist for so long.
    it is also a question of perspective, for monks in Tibet being beaten, killed and watching their culture and bloodlines being decimated…for these people and millions of social, economic and environmental injustices, we have already reached the lowest limits.

    finally, i dont think we’r fighting ourselves, or indeed fighting. the 1% that control processes and hold power over people to make profit..these are the forces we must confront.

    “Power/Authority does not exist until it is given to someone”

    i do agree that now is the time to act

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  19. guy says:

    heres some threads to occupy articles written by people who are actively engaging with the movement and not just consuming second-hand reports fed to them via channels of control and manipulation:

    http://climate-connections.org/2012/01/24/shale-shocked-fracking-gets-its-own-occupy-movement/

    http://climate-connections.org/2012/01/04/from-protests-to-where-in-2012/

    also note that today is the one year annivesary of the taking of Tahrir Square:
    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/01/201212535836564645.html

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  20. Max says:

    @Guy @Lee have to totally agree with Guy here. We HAVE hit rock bottom.

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  21. Rodney says:

    I don’t want to bathe in any one’s talented projection of some other ideology, no thanks. By people with the talent, don’t you mean to say ‘tyrants’?

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  22. dudie says:

    well, there is still one more level down to hit rock bottom – food coupons. Remember Max – 1989, 1990?

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  23. Optional says:

    Read this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Black-Mass-Apocalyptic-Religion-Utopia/dp/0374105987

    It gives an excellent overview of the false belief that a violent destruction of the present order will bring about some sort of utopia.

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  24. Ross says:

    If you have time, read “The Rebel Sell”.

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  25. Tyson says:

    Well written Max. The irony of writing about change is unavoidable, but it’s necessary, so screw what everyone says about that. Still, what do you mean by physical? What is physical anymore? The fabric that we’re heaving against no longer even exists in physical form. There are blank faces behind names and blank forms behind those faces. Throw a Molotov, break a window, whose window … then what? I don’t think we need a transportation from the web to offline, in reality we’re even less calumnious on the streets: look at some of the half-assed hipster fest protests outside Parliament recently, it’s a flatulent fashion show. Like you say, we’re angrier online, we’re visceral and ready to bear teeth. Fuck Molotovs, the revolution needs hackers.

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  26. zero says:

    “Kick over the wall, cause governments to fall
    How can you refuse it?
    Let fury have the hour, anger can be power
    Did you know that you can use it?

    The voices in your head are calling
    Stop wasting your time, there’s nothing coming
    Only a fool would think someone could save you
    The men at the factory are old and cunning
    You don’t owe nothing, so boy get runnin’
    It’s the best years of your life they want to steal”

    The Clash, singing many a year ago, and still relevant today. Not sure if thats cause for hope or despair.

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  27. ferdinand says:

    i think violence is a quick fix. Even when you reach your goals, violence produce more violence and everything that is build over this foundations, is gonna bring more violence. Cuba is a good example of what I’m talking about.
    The problem with OWS was that society is not already prepare for a revolution, we will need more people to be aware about what is going on in the world. I couldn’t see 99% of New York ocuppying Wall Street.

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  28. dudie says:

    @ferdinand – i don’t understand your example. how is cuba a good example of violence producing violence? this example is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to describe: due to the ‘people’s’ lack of violence towards the state nothing has really changed since the cuban ‘revolution.’
    violence is the only way to bring the cocksucking elite back to earth so they can start working for people again.

    another good example is zimbabwe. people just take it there, because they are victims of a highly inept and illiterate society scenario that can never get organized to hold a revolution. are you saying that the french revolution spurred more violence at the end of it all?
    to the contrary, revolutions are some of the only ways that a society can overcome a hurdle and progress to the next cycle of events.

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  29. guy says:

    ye ferdinand. again, if we look at Egypt and Tahrir Square, there were plenty of people who put their bodies on the line and sacrificed their time, comfort and lives for the belief that they had ‘enough’ to govern themselves.

    and i agree that violence rarely creates positive outcomes in the long run. the transition from corporate-driven governance to a more people centric consensus will take forceful and direct action,yes. people will be hurt as control forces seek to hold onto the old order.

    #ows may not be the way, yet it is an active demonstration that a new way must be nurtured. check out the direct democracy / common consensus governance tools being developed in these days. theres a few great you tubies. the ideal of cos, is to get involved personally, cape town is holding an occupy in Rondebosch sometime soon…

    @zero… ye, i think its actually quite sad that the words of Clash are still true. what will our kids say about what we did with our chances..?

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  30. PJ says:

    This is very reminiscent of the sentiment of OWS: vaguely outraged but also very inarticulate. “Damn the man! Fight the power!” etc. What are the grievances? It seems that we should stop calling for change and revolution from behind our keyboards and take to the streets but exactly what kind of change and revolution we’re after is never specified. And maybe that’s what is missing: discussion about what kind of change we want and why we seek it.

    Also: service delivery protests.

    Also, re: Russian revolution: look how that turned out.

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  31. guy says:

    @PJ

    NO!!! we dont need more virtual discussions. what is required is LIVE actual action, meeting the rest of your community in real life and helping to shape the change and (r)evolution…

    quote: exactly what kind of change and revolution we’re after is never specified

    the response is… what do YOU want to see, for yourself, your family, your community AND the citizenship of Earth.

    again, #ows is not necessarily the solution, its aiming to be the platform to create the headspace to effect those changes we want and also NEED…

    ultimately, in a people led democracy, the people must be present and willing to meet and talk, motivate and defend, so this is a call for everyone to get involved.

    the world is evolving and changing and as South Africans we have so much to offer the world thru this change process. and too true..all these begin at home

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  32. Thixo says:

    Why dont you fuck off back to Poland or Romania or whatever dismal shithole you are from if you hate South Africa so much,Max?

    Only joking! Loved the general gist of this piece,-middle class people tend to just sit around and whinge and intellectualize over social and political issues because the can afford to.That’s why the young lions who belong to the ANCYL are the future of this country,-they are willing to fight and die for what they believe in.

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  33. PJ says:

    @guy

    I don’t mean that we need more online discussions about revolution, I mean we need more discussions (in the real world or wherever) about the kind of change we want to see. If the current system of power is broken then we need to discuss how it is broken and why before we hurry off to burn it down.

    Also I’m not asking the author to tell me what kind of change I should want (that’s my own decision) but his thrust is that revolutionary change is necessary but is never justified. I find that troubling in the sense it supposes that we must always be in a state of revolution, we must always be fighting the power, regardless of what that power might be.

    I’m not suggesting that the status quo is desirable but I don’t think that violent revolution and regime change is the only way forward. After all, that path isn’t a surefire win.

    More troublingly I feel that often these conversations don’t attempt to meaningfully engage with the particular government policies which would relate to the underlying grievances. So I agree that the people need to present and to speak out in a democracy, to try to engage with the decision making in their cities and their country. But that’s not what I understood from the article which talks about violence and contestation. There is an implied antagonism between the people and the state which I feel isn’t a given, although it often feels like the case here in SA.

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  34. guy says:

    well, in South Africa, there are many reasons for the people to be angry at the way the current government does business. the decayed promises of basic housing and nutrition, the rampant ‘tender’ irregularities, and the service delivery issues.

    more importantly, SA is number 12 in the world of polluters, and currently are building the 2nd and third largest coal powered power stations despite the fact that this is completely unsustainable and equivalent to ‘ecocide’

    until we reach the point where people are put before profit and pollution, there will always be a call for justice on all of its layers.

    to me its exciting times, that we are developing new tools and processes and being change ajents.

    and i also feel that sites like these, mahala, if anything, help to create walls of illusion by pumping industry-creating stereotypes and choosing to use their network to talk small talk, instead of helping to unite peoples to the causes and concerns that are governing the world right now. middle-class drivel aimed to spark apathy and encourage school level conversations.

    maybe some hacktivists wanna invest some time in crumbling this platform(?)

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  35. dudie says:

    @ thixo – and what exactly do your young lions believe in?

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  36. brandon says:

    @guy wish you would explain these ‘walls of illusion…pumping industry-creating stereotypes’ – it makes very little sense but i like where you’re going.

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  37. PJ says:

    @guy I see that you have particular grievances, and fair enough too: there is a great deal worth objecting to. In your case I can then understand a call for change or a challenge to government. But that is call for a particular change: there are issues at hand.

    My underlying concern with the article is that seems to come from a place of middle class longing for the righteousness and purpose of revolution, presumably on the basis of moral outrage, rather than on the basis of “we have no water or electricity or roads and you lied to us and now we’re going to burn tyres in the road” which is an issue that directly affects those involved service delivery protests.

    More than anything the article reads like some kind of artist manifesto: a call to arms, create revolutionary screenplays and paintings and so on. Violent revolution, however, should necessarily be right down at the bottom of the list of approaches. It is the last resort. Here it is presented as the only effective method of change.

    And on the note of hacktivism: I believe that creates about as much change as signing petitions. Maybe you’ll be noticed, but nobody will take you seriously.

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  38. guy says:

    @PJ perhaps ;

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  39. Lee says:

    @ guy.This is NOT rock bottom (are you kidding me?) and we ARE fighting ourselves. We have ALWAYS fought each other and its high time we stopped. Period.

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  40. n.x.n says:

    So much anger, yet all you do is drink and watch bands who drink.

    Go, Youth.

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  41. Luca says:

    Max, while not detracting from the quality of this article, I think the best thing you have done here is ignite a decent, respectful and well opinionated flow of discourse amongst the readers. I have never seen this on Mahala before, and it is quite refreshing. And for that, I salute you.

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  42. xdoomx says:

    Revolution starts with thinking, that’s why ‘articles online’ are pretty important.

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  43. guy says:

    @ xdoomx

    the revolution started a while ago…

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  44. xdoomx says:

    Apologies, my comment was in response to the first one by Truth

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  45. just me says:

    I agree on a lot of levels with the content of what you’re saying, but the the way you’re framing it sound way too much like the terminology of anarcho-facism. Social revolution, to be begin with, must start from the recognition of our equal humanity and the appreciation of the responsibility we hold towards each other as social beings on this planet. Anger is good, it is just, can even be productive, but it must not become the driving force. I say its one step from violence against those in charge, to violence against any form of scapegoat. Every single one of us holds an individual as well as collective responsibility towards this “system”, we maintain and indirectly support it with our actions every single day. Revolution must start here: with the collective and individual consciousness and the responsibility that arises from it.

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  46. jared says:

    @Max, I think its problematic to fetishise violence in the same way its problematic to fetishise non-violent forms of protest and civil disobedience.

    Occupy, despite its many flaws, brought class to the forefront of US politics for the first time in decades. This is a huge feat. It should not go understated.

    While it is likely that at some point the revolution will be extremely violent, that does not mean we all know what the revolution is gonna be like. Camping out at Liberty Square is part of that revolution. It has to start somewhere – most people are not ready to fight to the death.

    As the revolution is a process, we should not present ourselves as know-it-alls and discount the committed organising of people – whether it is Occupy, Tahrir or M15. Its all part of building towards the revolutions…

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  47. guy says:

    Start Somewhere..
    Starts Mon 27Feb
    http://www.presstv.ir/usdetail/228634.html

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