In an era soon fit to match maybe only the late 60’s, political tension has remained high since the 2016 election. Mass marches, protests, and online movements quickly eclipsed the then present anger over the incoming administration. What started symbolically years ago with the Occupy movement, now a common language to talk on social issues, the new radical wave of social justice seemed to occur almost simultaneously with Trump’s rise to power. While the political sphere returned to nationalist politics and even traditionalist-right sentiment, the culture wars are now dominated by a sudden wave of radical ideas. Some of them old, but still others re-articulate themselves into the modern structure of society,
In response to police violence and mass-incarceration “Black Lives Matter” has become a tremendous force in our intellectual space, where no one can avoid talking about them, forcing the individual in a sense to “pick a side.” Labor politics return in their true blue form to the United States. Where other movements have focused on exclusively political solutions, the populist politics left behind by both Trump and Bernie, left workers with a more direct approach. For the first time in recent history, giants like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are forced to confront their failure to meet the socio-economic needs of their employees, with both suffering from successful organizing. Interestingly, while not a particularly large movement (but one I have personal interactions with fairly frequently) the decidedly pro-life movement, that incorporates a distinctly Christian understanding of the value of human life, while extrapolating that idea onto a larger ecological model of society, specifically in our regards to economic justice and the preservation of the ecosystem.
However, the court of public opinion is a numbers game. Without widespread exposure and (more importantly) widespread appeal, no particular camp will make any amount of tangible progress towards its aims. So, the modern radical enters into a tenuous pact with major corporations. Advertising has bastardized the vehicle for justice into another tool to sell products. Like anything else, everything about what we do becomes a political statement, one way or the other. In particularly bad taste was the widely remembered Pepsi commercial, where kylie jenner ameliorates the extremely nuanced issue of police brutality by simply offering a S.W.A.T. officer a can of Pepsi. Gestures like these reveal how little the boardroom committee meetings really concern our needs, and how little that structure serves its original purpose. The Pepsi ad suddenly takes on an sarcastic, even mocking attitude. Most recently, many conservatives found themselves unable to cope with Nike’s new spokesperson: Colin Kaepernick. What was so striking to me about this was not the reactions, but instead the embracing of corporate structures by supposedly radically minded groups.
Outside just the symbolic, this is impossible to ignore when understanding the current political landscape, and it’s something we should be wary of. If we really care about the causes and fights that deserve our attention, then we should take care to not contradict our principles for the momentary gain a shoe commercial provides. Real change isn’t going to come from the top on down, and waiting for that change to come only prolongs the issue. It even cheapens the grander message in particularly troubling instances. Further still, This same relationship can be observed to exist between the two major political parties in the United States and their respective bases. Within a realistically narrow margin of ideas do we have a choice in the direction our government takes. Issues like gun rights and abortion prohibition have become effective at keeping each base in line, for fear of losing to the “other side.”
Capitalism survives on the continued expansion of markets in any possible industry, whether it be something overtly sinister like private for-profit prisons, or even the spread of information across social networking. Ideals become memes, and every rallying cry is a hashtag dictated by facebook algorithms. “The revolution will not be televised” echos: we cannot rely on existing structures to produce the change we want. They will only ever reproduce that same status quo that produced them. It is up to us to see those commitments to justice through.