"If there won't be dancing at the revolution, I'm not coming."

lately, the number of actions to take in order to keep donald trump at bay is staggering. everyday people pass around lists of elected officials to call, places to show up and protest things, organizations to fund, companies to boycott, etc.

this is all well and good. especially for leftists (myself included) who have gotten lazy due to the belief that our elected officials would do what’s best for us.

but that said, almost all of these actions are reactionary. i might go so far as to say that i’m over being reactive. and that brings me to two one of my favorite quotes:

“If there won’t be dancing at the revolution, I’m not coming.” — emma goldman*


“Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think.” — Emma Goldman, Anarchism: What It Really Stands For (1910)

these two thoughts have a number of implications for my engagement in and thoughts about social change.

first, i want to be a part of turning protests into opportunities that demonstrate to the world we want to see. the women’s marches, while powerful symbols and energizing, aren’t going to accomplish anything on their own. john berger explains what the point of mass demonstrations actually is and jake fuentes discusses how mass demonstrations can actually be falsely cathardic. if our protests don’t show the world what we want to see more of, they’re just continuing to anchor us in the past. in short, this means i’m bringing my little speaker to every protest i go to from now on. i will be the dance party because what i want to see is more spaces for people to dance and be joyful in public.

sidenote: baratunde has a pretty stellar takedown response to jake’s piece and in it, he makes the point that being helpful is more important right now than stating reality as you see it from your high horse. i can see that i’m doing a bit of what baratunde condemns and i will do better next time.

second, it is easier to reject what you don’t want than it is to imagine what you do. and it’s much easier to do both of those than to actually build/prototype what you want. and i’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that sometimes our work to defend the gains we’ve made keep us from making real progress. i sometimes fear that doubling-down on our efforts to maintain initiatives and ideologies of our parents prevents us from creating more inclusive narratives and institution. maybe i’m wrong about that, but maybe not…

* technically, this is a paraphase of this longer quote (thanks, wiki):

“At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha, a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause.

I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business. I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from convention and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement would not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. “I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.” Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world — prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own closest comrades I would live my beautiful ideal.” — emma goldman, living my life (1931), p. 56

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