Agitprop and Us

The point is not what we expect from life,
but rather what life expects from us.
~Viktor Frankl

agitpropWe constantly look to heroines or heroes to “save“ us. We wait for messiahs, we follow gurus and place considerable faith in politicians and other individuals, elevating them to the status of societal leaders, policy makers and ultimately gatekeepers of societal norms. Many of us dutifully cast our votes at election time, assuming our ballot can effectively shift the scales in our favor regarding civil liberties, personal protection as well as economic and physical well-being. Essentially, when it comes to getting things done, to make life better, we tend to look elsewhere instead of looking to ourselves.

History belongs to the people. So says Sophia Burns in her article “Star Wars: ‘The Last Jedi’ is Revolutionary Agitprop”. Such a belief portrays us as the captains of our fate, the rulers of our days. However the attitudes and behaviors expressed by most people seldom justify such heroic notions.

Yhero-01ou probably do not know the Russian word “agitprop” although you are certainly familiar with the concept. The term roughly refers to effort to spread ideas (pejoratively called “propaganda”) through popular media like movies, music, etc.. Sophia Burns proposes that while previous incarnations of the Star Wars saga presented a top-down view of leadership and socio-political change, The Last Jedi presents a very different idea. Stepping away from the focus on a single individual possessing some sort of royal birthright and almost single handedly challenging an evil empire, The Last Jedi manages to open the door for the rise of common people as a collective force against the Empire. But do we hear this message? Do we look beyond the space battles and the archetypical heroic figures to more pervasive, people-centered possibilities? Do we get the Gestalt, the overall message embedded in the relationships, the general narrative of the art form (the movie) itself? Are we even aware of the “propaganda” conveyed in ANY presentation over which we decide to linker for an hour or more?

Using our previous formula—to feature an article one week, then to post a more extensive follow-up in subsequent weeks—this week we present the agitprop article centered around the recent Star Wars movie. In the next few weeks we will delve into personal responsibility and the need for action by common people highlighted by Ms. Burns’ article. In the meantime, also consider Paul Street’s call for a strong leader of the more radical MLK ilk compared to a Naomi Klein/Opal Tometi article urging us to look past “leadership” personalities toward a more broad, global, interconnected understanding of our problems and the need for common people to build a saner society.