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Revolutionaries
JohnH
Reading the New York Times (or as I like to characterize it, "the fascist funny papers") I found out there is a new documentary about Angela Davis.

Apparently this documentary is quite flattering to Ms. Davis. Which is exactly the opposite of what it should be.

Like a lot of well educated but dumb people in the 60's and 70's she acted in ways that got people killed to no good purpose. One cannot propose revolution and then hide behind the institutions that one proposes to revolt against. If you want to be a true revolutionary one must be prepared to die or be incarcerated for that stance, otherwise it is meaningless.

Ms. Davis in word and deed pretended to be revolutionary, then when the shit hit the fan she ducked behind the legal system she pretended to abhor.

Far too many people in the 60's and 70's spoke of revolutionary action, then hid when things got difficult. I knew then as I know now that violence against the state allows the state to be violent against you. One must temper their actions and their words with that knowledge. If you chose the path of violence in your actions and your words than you must be prepared to go the whole way or you negate your actions and your words. Ms. Davis chose to negate her actions and her words and deserves to be condemned for that.
Edited by JohnH on 04/06/2013 11:08
 
seeker
I actually met Angela Davis, very briefly. She organized a demonstration at Pomona College during the years I was attending nearby Harvey Mudd College. She was very charismatic.

I think history is full of people who stir the pot then leave when the results are served. We are seeing that play out now in spades. People are so easily misled.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
Cynic
I've been trying to make sense of the OP for a while now. Over the years I've "become" increasingly liberal. I put that in quotes because I honestly don't think I've changed all that much but rather have gotten a better handle on what I really think and all the implications of it. I've grown more decisive about things I used to take a hide-and-watch attitude with, more tolerant of people's mistakes and less tolerant of the crap that leads to them.

Much of this is probably simply due to the inexorable crystallization of my own ideas that I once associated with getting old and that I now self-servingly term "wisdom". But it's more than that. Among the most important of my guiding principles for a long time now have been honesty and integrity. The kind of inflexible thinking I have always been annoyed at in people as they age (generally) or get deeper into their chosen obsessions (Christianity, liberalism, conservatism, physics, etc) just isn't driven by honesty.

Anyway, that's my mindset when I say this:

Why must someone be condemned for learning or otherwise changing their mind? How is being consistent more laudable than being right? I don't know much of anything about this Davis woman but I don't feel like I have to in order to nitpick this criticism about her.

For one, we're treated to the classic "No True" fallacy. No True Revolutionary, in this case, which while less classic is still just as wrong as those that are and for the same reasons.

Somewhat related to this, we're told that if you're not 100%, you're 0%. All or nothing. Black or white. This or its opposite. If can either propose revolution and suffer the consequences, or it's as if anything you every said about it never happened. This has not been my experience -- and it hasn't been yours, either.

I could go on for quite a while about the presumption that this woman was "pretending" to be all these things but I won't. The fact is, people learn, they change, and they get bored. Yes, there are fakers out there, sure. But people don't tend to spend time and effort and money on things they don't believe in at the time. But people do tend to have lots of regret or disdain later on sometimes about how they've spend these things.

I've always been annoyed when people who have gotten heavy into drugs and gotten clean are held with higher regard than those who have never done it in the first place. Yeah, I've always been dimly aware that such things are an attempt to convince people who are into drugs to quit and to highlight the hassle of it all. Yeah, I've always been aware that a strategy of saying "hey, look at all these lean-cut youngsters who never got into drugs!" has never been an effective strategy either. But my response has still always to basically be annoyed by this adulation thrust upon idiots.

And hey, sure, I even get that people who get heavy into drugs aren't necessarily idiots -- they might have depression, crappy home or school life, be genetically predisposed to it, be living in socio-economic conditions that simply make it more likely, etc. My honesty demands that I take as much into consideration as I can. But damn if I don't first have to shrug off my "I was smart enough to not go down that path in the first place" urge.

But my point is, never once have I found myself condemning people for not being hardcore and continuing with drugs until it killed them. I don't get that at all. While the analogy might be poor, I think you can see what I'm saying here, and maybe... maybe... why I'm still trying to figure out what the OP means. Or more precisely, why.
 
JohnH
Oh boy, it is late at night and I should be going to bed but Cynic I must respond.

Yes I can be a moral absolutist in certain ways. I will not deny that. Your observations that one can change are correct.

When one espouses certain types of behavior and then changes ones mind it is one thing. When others get killed because of that behavior it is another thing.

Ms. Davis purchased the weapons that led to 4 people dying and one being permantly wheel chair bound. I should point out that most of the dead were the people she armed. She purchased these weapons and gave them to people that she knew probably would use them in a violent way.

OK I fucked up, I did not do the crimes but I did facilitate them would have been a good if weak response. Hey I had nothing to do with it and I have legal representation which can get me off is not such a great response.

If I remember correctly you were born in the 70's. One should live with revolutionary rhetoric and be a non violent revolutionary like myself and then one can judge someone like Ms. Davis.

I know judging is wrong. In this case I cannot avoid it.
 
seeker
I think you have to allow for the fact that most times things seem easier in the planning than they end up being in execution. Sometimes you don't really know where you stand on things until you are well into the weeds.

Angela Davis was a public face of a very unpopular movement. I'm not trying to excuse her for anything but there was no way that she was going to be a voice for communism and the Black Panthers without being associated with some violence.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
JohnH
Seeker, Angela Davis was a public face of a very unpopular movement. A movement who's members were assassinated like Fred Hampton, were subject to inhuman conditions in prison like George Jackson and were convicted with shaky evidence like Geronimo Pratt. There were 3-5 Black Panther associates who were in hiding for a long time (30 years?) for the murder of a San Francisco cop for which there was scant evidence they had committed it. Something like testimony from someone who had reason to lie. The COINTELPRO program of the FBI was intended to infiltrate and use every means necessary to convict african american revolutionaries.

A movement that also included people in it for the money like Huey Newton who ended up killed during a drug deal gone bad. There were real revolutionaries and there were fake ones who knew how to scam a richer populace, that considering the times were vulnerable to being scammed.

Ms. Davis was a well educated genuine revolutionary she very well articulated the plight of minority poor in this country and articulated the anger that this portion of the populace had legitimate reason to express. She also purchased weapons that ended up two days later in the hands of Jonathan Jackson, brother of George Jackson, then only 3 months into his 17th year. These weapons were used in an attempt to free his brother and others by taking hostages. He and three others were killed and one of the injured spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair. No good came of the event. Anger from the general public did much to cripple the Black Panthers themselves.

The rhetoric and the understanding that violent acts may occur are much different than arming children. If we may condemn the warlords of africa for arming children may we not condemn "revolutionaries" for doing the same.

She should have righteously done the time claiming that she understood the actions but she did not know they would occur. She should have made up some story about purchasing the weapons to protect those who ended up with them. Since she did not pull the triggers and would have first rate legal help 2.5 maybe 5 years max. And the book she would write in prison would make her more famous than she is now.

I have been pissed off at this woman for 40 years or so. I will go to my grave pissed off at her. Her politics may be similar to mine her actions in furtherance of those politics were so wrong.

Don't talk shit about violence and further it then walk away from it. Such weak shit is contemptible.
 
seeker
John - As your own post points out though, this is an era when there was a toxic mixture of people who legitimately trying to change things for the better, people who were just in it for the violence and/or drugs and government instigators. Let's not forget that in this same era you had politicians like George Wallace and Jesse Helms all but advocating violence against African Americans in order to preserve segregation.

I agree that Davis could have acted better as could Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale et al but I highly doubt that there would have been any change in Civil Rights in this country without some demonstrable willingness on the part of African Americans to stand up to the status quo. That kind of violent environment, especially with FBI agents actually stirring the pot by instigating violence, was bound to result in all manner of deplorable acts.

Look at what did not occur though. There was never any thought of terrorism, what violence did occur was more on the order robbery than any attempts to actually focus on targeting innocent people.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
JohnH
Seeker, you make good points and I will agree with them almost fully. Particularly true is that most actual violent acts were directed against institutions not the general populous. Some bombings did injure or kill people and there were a few violent robberies where people were injured.

Arming a 17 year old boy and backing away from it completely troubled me then and will continue to. That was my beef with Ms. Davis then and it remains.

I am not sure what Malcolm X should have done differently. Once he distanced himself from the Black Muslims he may have been strident in speech but he was never violent in act. I am not aware that he was violent when he was in the Muslims either. And yes I know he had a criminal past.

The Muslims were/are a creepy lot. There would often be a couple outside a 24 hour market in Oakland late at night. I read some of their literature, very weird.
 
seeker
I do agree with you John that she showed pretty poor judgment in that situation but I have to wonder; Did she buy the guns knowing who they would be given to or did she just buy them trusting someone else to distribute them? Maybe she felt forced to trust prople she shouldn't have.

The worst aspect of revolution is that most willing revolutionaries often aren't likely to be the most trustworthy people.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
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