Am I angry when 50- and 60-year-old congressional legislators say in television interviews say that the anti-war protests of 20-something university students are invalid because those students lack the perspective of living through the Vietnam war?
Yes I am.
Discussing this with my mom, she suggested that people of her generation and older had the disadvantage of lacking the long-term personal investment of someone who is going to have to live through the results of all this shit for another 80 years. My government is not representative of me, in part because there is no one from my generation who has direct input in the decision-making process. Why does government discriminate so heavily with regard to age? Because of the myth that wisdom is always gained with age? Please.
I know twenty-three-year-olds who know more about politics, relationships, love, intuition, rational thinking, and who have more wisdom than most people 3 to 4 times their age. I do think time is a resource across which some gain wisdom, and therefore many wise people are in the elder generations. But many people in elder generations are not wise. And many young people understand and learn more in their short tenure than has the aged inheritants of power in our governments demonstrate they have seen or learned. But who knows this? Only those who are themselves unusually insightful. The masses do not know this. A voting majority does not know this. Henrik Ibsen said “The majority is always wrong. Always.” And what he meant by that is that the best, most useful, wisest, stellar choices and opinions, due to their extraordinary makeup, always elude the majority of thinkers; hence, because the best ideas are not (easily) tenable by most people, the best ideas will not be agreed upon by a majority, thus the best possible choices will never be made through democratic process. The democratic process is not friendly to unusually bright suggestions. Unusually bright (or otherwise odd) suggestions must be trumpeted by a different horn. What is that horn? Among others, literature, propaganda, peaceful demonstrations, and terrorism.
You see, terrorists and the profoundly judicious share a common bond: most people aren’t listening to what they have to say. They are marginalized by societies and states. There is no way for their voices to be heard through the regular channels. If there was a forum for their frustration, a way for them to participate in the decision-making process of their world, then they would have no need to resort to extreme means to make their voices heard. If their need to speak and be heard is denied, then they will take the stage by force, will incite attention to their cause by, as many have said, any means necessary. Artists do this; they operate in a world where most people are not trained to understand in the way that they do, where most people do not have the sensitivity to feel what they feel. As a result, the majority always initially misunderstands their methods of self-expression. A majority, I will add, whose grandchildren will honor in museums the very same works their ancestors censored and felt threatened by.
Rudolph Guliani, hailed by our precious majority as a national hero, has demonstrated his lack of wisdom regarding this ancient issue in his attempts to censor prominent New York City art museums by withholding public funding because the museums chose to exhibit work that many scholars consider brilliant expressions and some less-educated people found offensive. The art community took the stage in creative ways to respond to Guliani’s own incarnation of barbarism. One is chronicled by an Australian Broadcasting Corporation website:
“New York is about to experience a new Sensation – a follow up to the exhibition that Mayor Rudolph Guiliani tried to put a stop to last year. You may recall he was particularly offended by a picture of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung. Well, this time, in a show soon to open at the Whitney Museum’s Biennial there’s an elephant dung smeared portrait of Guiliani himself . It’s part of a most unflattering work by a New York artist which depicts the Mayor as a Nazi, with framed quotes by Guiliani next to a copy of the First Amendment, all accompanied by the sound of marching jackboots. The Whitney Museum does not rely on public funding – your move Mr Guiliani.”
Rudolph Guiliani is not a hero. His mayoral censorship endeavors are frighteningly akin to the international policies of global superpowers that have so marginalized and disenfranchised poor people in countries all over the world, including their own. Guliani’s economic sanctions against institutional cultural pillars marginalize artists in the same way that socially-average schoolchildren marginalized the suicide attackers of Columbine and the same way that the most powerful countries of the world have desolated, starved, and generally marginalized less powerful countries to the point that their people are ripe to be converted into disciples of terrorist leaders.
It is crazy to think that a country led by people who are so willing to censor their own citizens’ pinnacle forms of self-expression is likely to arrive at an optimal solution to the problem: What Role Should We Play in a World where Terrorists Exist? Many of our leaders have repeatedly shown that at the very least they do not comprehend the workings of systemic marginalization. Some of them have demonstrated that they are not even aware of such forces of cause-and-effect. Our leaders keep saying this is not a conventional war. Even though its face differs slightly from those of past military campaigns, I find it quite conventional indeed; it is a symptom-treating measure that blatantly disregards the root causes of terrorism. It is a momentary stopgap at best, and probably one that will have long-term effects that are exactly the opposite of our stated superobjective.
Where is this type of discussion taking place among you, the chiefs of my tribe? Is this type of analysis being performed by my elders who wish to discredit the protests of my peers, citing our lack of perspective? Do you not heap upon yourselves the very fate you are trying to avoid by refusing to listen to the voices of those who are crying out against your foolishness and lack of insight? And do you not, by marginalizing the critical thinkers of your own country, personally invite more severe demonstrations from those whose voices you would silence? These voices cannot, will not, be ignored forever. With each new denial and each new insult they do grow louder and stronger and are bound by necessity to rely on more and more extreme measures in order to be heard over the roar of your ignorance. CP