How to Live With a Revolutionary Without Losing Your Head (Or Committing His)

Chapter 11: On Ideology (Coming back to Bite The Rev in The Ass)

Essentialism, Definition: Essentialism is a generalization stating that certain properties possessed by a group (e.g. people, things, ideas) are universal, and not dependent on context. Needless to say, Comrade Said and the Revolutionary do not approve.

For those of you who follow the hectic life of the Revolutionary, you already know that it’s difficult keeping up with him. The risks of being contaminated are limitless, and soon enough, you will find yourself talking about essentialism, quoting Comrade Said and Comrade Trotsky right, left and center.

However, beware: this isn’t because you’ve actually cracked under the pressure and gave in and started reading the Bible (last time I explain: by Bible, we here mean the Permanent Revolution by Comrade Trotsky and NOT the religious book). This is merely because the Revolutionary repeats the same concepts and arguments so many times that your poor brain has now integrated them effortlessly, and you now dub anything essentialist, reactionary and/or counter-revolutionary 1) just to shut him up and 2) because now, you can.

The Revolutionary isn’t exactly happy about that.

While his mission is indeed to spread the Gospel of the Revolution (No! Not in a religious way! We are not proselytes! What we’re trying to do here is simply awakening and mobilising the masses!), the Revolutionary would like to see dedicated revolutionaries-to-be using these concepts and gathering people, not his entourage recuperating the much beloved revolutionary discourse to have a good laugh.

No no no, this is absolutely NOT going according to plan! This is simply too much to bear for the revolutionary: on the one hand he has his banker friends using the word “struggle” to explain everything and anything, and on the other hand he’s finding his (working in a bank, Great Apostle of Capitalism) sibling explaining his own version of essentialism. As in:

– Revolutionary: Banks are all looking for their own profits while not giving a damn about people! You can’t talk about ethics in the global financial system! The whole system is corrupt and needs change and reform! See where Money Men like you are driving us!

– Capitalist, remaining calm: Are you generalising on bankers? You can’t do that. This is essentialism.

To which the Revolutionary will choke and suffocate on: is the struggle against essentialism being recuperated and used against the noble quest of equality? But, but this is evil! Damn those reactionary counter-revoltuionary forces! They’ve already recycled the Che for mercantile purposes and now that! Such Utter Disgrace!

Once more, the Rev will find himself struggling.

And it’s not like his hardships and hurdles stop there.

Keen to prove he’s a revolutionary each and every steps of the way, there is no worse insult for the Rev than to imply he might not be. As a feminist, you might point out some patriarchal attitudes that remain in the Rev’s behaviour (after all, he IS a man, and society hasn’t left him out of its share of masculine privilege), to which he’ll object, all indignant: I’m a feminist! I’m a revolutionary! I support all oppressed people in the world! Men, Women, Animal! Gender is a social construct! What else can I say?

You might think that’s nice, but try and endure a whole movie in which the main actress fights against patriarchy with the Rev whispering next to you: See, I’m not like that, I’m there for you, I encourage you, I support you huh? huh? huh?

You however feel for the Revolutionary (well, most of the times): Can you imagine the stress and pressure he’s continuously under?

Beware, people: Ideology kills.

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