I’ve been thinking hard about writing. Wrestling with purpose, my flying elbow ego meets an existential Walls of Jericho when considering any intention or wish to live in a world where grave injustices don’t occur systematically. I want to think and live “otherwise.” My Macho Man axe kicked. I’m tag teamed every time.
On one side of the ring, a fatalist hegemonic culture and on the other is a fragmented left. We’re constantly bombarded with news of tragedy and injustice, but rarely are we told what to do about it, or given suggestions how to think about it. The news cycle and the internet isolate and then dis-empower. It speaks directly to no one. Then we have a left that is all over the place. Common cause is beautiful, but rare. Maybe worse, many activists and sympathizers have a tunnel vision towards a particular issue.
The left needs pundits, not necessarily to lead, but to repudiate, make claims, analyze and inspire. Journalism provides us with little to nothing. I see a constant connection being made between non-hierarchical approaches to writing and an absolute need to avoid editorializing.
It is as if we should leave writing solely to those few pure journalists whose convocation it is to assemble the words and wisdom of the “dispossessed” and present it in a fact sheet or ledger. Subaltern instances should not overcompensate for unifying narratives or lack of unifying narratives, or worse, be worshiped and fetishized. No, the opposite, they should give authority to unifying narratives.
Unifying narratives are perhaps the best to fight hegemonic discourse and fatalism. They must be articulated and if not followed, at least kept in mind. What do I mean by the ambiguous and almost scary phrase unifying narratives?
I think, almost all causes, migrant justice, gender justice, environmental justice, anti-colonialism and anti-capitalism depend on a realization that issues are not just systematic and many times structural in our society and government, but that they have intersection and most importantly are alterable and can be challenged.
This is where we can move past broader fatalism, the feeling that nothing can be done and these are simply the way things are. If not united in tactics or organization, then at least being cognizant of each others’ existence and struggles is an essential first step.
In Rebels, Reds, Radicals, Ian McKay puts it simply, we can be united in our thinking and potentially in action because we think of and hope for things “otherwise” than how they are presently.
This goes well beyond any individual. As it should. The wide left needs a contemporary canon. I put forward that Montreal writers on this blog and others, Quebec writers in all languages, writers across Canada and around the world should make an effort to read one another but, more importantly, mention one another and engage in dialogue.
I am going to list off some folks I think should be read and read often:
Kai Cheng (McGill Daily pen name) or Kai Cheng Thom (tumblr name) is a poet/ activist/ social work student. Thom, all at once, is funny, emotionally powerful, and intellectually engaging. Also the writing is beautiful. The rare mix of social work, a gigantic brain and countless hours of writing poetry and performing live have given this writer the unique ability to explain and engage often complicated and marginalized subjects to any audience. Check it out.
Chelsea Vowel, lawyer and activist, tackles a long range of subjects on her blog. Her style of writing can be characterized with unparalleled precision and clarity. One must revel at her ability to, step-by-step, rip apart any issue or argument. Chelsea might be most well known for her informative and analytical role she played to correct misinformation during the Attawispskat crisis. I have also had the honour of being disparaged on her tumblr.
Up on the left coast, on the land of the Coast Salish, Harsha Walia fights the good fight in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is well known for activism in No One is Illegal, an anti-colonial migrant justice group. Her powerful opinions have made waves within leftist discourse and frequently splash poignant analysis in national media. People still share on social media videos of her articulate defence of Black Bloc tactics. She used to blog for Rabble, many of her articles are still up there. I personally follow her on Facebook (she’s also on Twitter). I get gitty when I see her in my newsfeed.
Edited by Glenn Ford, Black Agenda Report is one of my favourite place to go for news, commentary and analysis. They occasionally get big name guest commentators and tackle news stories no one else is talking about.
La Riposte and Fightback are two great publications focused on Canada and from Trotskyist Marxist perspective.
Obviously I read fellow writers on ForgetTheBox. We’re very lucky to have the multilingual Niall Clapham Ricardo. If you want to know what is going on in western Europe, or any country with a Latin derived language, he is your man.
Now I am not trying to equate the quality of writing or experience of any of these writers or websites to one another. This is just what I try to read. It is by no means exhaustive and it shouldn’t be. I’d love if people were to comment below some writers or bloggers or websites they find inspiring and interesting.