Rachele Megna 17.11.16.
“The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge–unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.” – Walter Benjamin
November 9th, 2016. It happened. He won. What happened to the generation of the yes we can? The hearts filled with hopes and love? What happened to that spirit of revolution that has galvanized generations, inspired politicians, teachers, social workers, and doctors? Where are you, courageous people? Donald Trump has control of both houses of power. The face of Hillary Clinton was transfigured with pain and disbelief. She, such a competent politician, who has navigated the spaces of world politics for so long, lost against someone who has never been in politics before.
How did we fail so badly? How did we, the people who dream of the revolution, who study critical theory and are part of the most educated middle class / elite—how have we been so blind to the approaching catastrophe? How have we managed, the most radical thinkers of our generations, educated in gender theory, black feminism, philosophy, postcolonial literature—how could we not see the real possibility of a Trump presidency; how did we not want to see it coming? What would have we done differently? What would a different and more accurate political analysis have done for our thinking and organizing? How did we refuse to hear and see the danger that was coming and prefer to turn away? Where was our courage?
Garyatri Spivak, in her piece Can the Subaltern Speak, emphasises how the representation of the subaltern is an epistemological impossibility, given that the possibility to be represented is itself inscribed in a colonial epistemic relation that does not conceive of the subaltern as representable. When the subaltern is recognized, it means that (s)he is not a subaltern any longer, as (s)he has learned the language and the “looks” of non-subalternity, becoming hear-able and see-able, while the structural framework by which the subject-object violent hierarchical relation between the subaltern and the non-subaltern remains untouched. Arguably, this analysis applies to the failure of critical theory and revolutionary thought on November 9th: we refused to hear what was in front of us, we ridiculed what we did not understand as possible, we made it “other”, and in this manner we paved the way for its victory.
However, it is not the Spivakian subaltern who entered the realm of power, but the epitome of the anti-political figure: someone who is politically incorrect, insulting, verbally and physically violating, a non-taxpayer, a rich, neoliberal product of American individual capitalism. Someone who could have argued against any of us in a pub and generated a lot of frustration: this person won the US Presidential elections and managed to convince more people than we were able. The disaster is real.
How do we take responsibility for this, and how do we fight the battle that remains in front of us—a battle of language and thought, a battle of ideas over what it means to be political, of who and where the political stands?
The main lesson that we need to learn is that Trump is not outside of our political mentality, but the direct product of it. We need a revolution, but we will fail if we remain the same. I have much faith in the millennial generation, who voted blue in 43 out of 50 states, in those of us who are the future and are fed up with the neoliberal imagination, and those of us who struggle everyday to find a new way to think about who we are and what we want this world to become. Who live everyday the psychological and economic failure of neoliberal policies, being the first generation prospected to be worse off than our parents, despite holding multiple degrees.
But we are still here and our time is coming. We, who fight multiple battles everyday and still get up and dance, we are coming and we are the future. No matter how hard it is to find a job, to pay back student loans, to fight against the multiple injustices that wound us in our everyday, we will change the world radically, we will speak another language, we will perform art, write books, and we will be faster, happier and wiser. Dreams of justice and freedom, of clarity of mind and open heartedness. Of love and energy to ride each wave that comes our way. To change and challenge, and to never stop. To dance, run, and shine even in the darkest times.
Marx believed that the revolution is only possible after the worst (for him, a government of the bourgeoisie) has been reached. We must have the courage to keep finding ways to think differently of ourselves, and of what really matters. Even though we might not realize it yet, this is our world too, and soon we will run it. We need to decide what to do and to love. To those who made many jokes on leaving the US and going to some remote refuge, pretending that this is not happening and that we are not implicated, we need to respond: we will remain here, and we will still be here when you are gone. And this really matters. If not us, whom? And if not now, when?
So, a toast to the millennials who voted in these elections and who worry everyday about what will come, who will keep it moving and will not give up on themselves, who will keep smiling, thinking about the future which is yet to be decided for us. We will make it happen differently.