For socially conscious individuals, identifying with a movement’s goals or an organization’s objectives is an important part of protecting their sanity. Without that connection, thoughtful people will inevitably turn to self-destructive behavior.
The networks that comprise modern social movements, however, are not (as commonly thought) coalitions of non-profit corporate entities. Rather, they are comprised of indomitable individuals — sometimes affiliated with formal organizations — who more often than not are independent researchers, analysts and activists.
While these collegial networked relationships create a sense of ideological belonging, they do not sustain the movements with which affinity groups and individuals voluntarily identify. That, on the contrary, can only be accomplished through shared effort and mutual support. Finding each other jobs, promoting each other’s work, providing for each other’s needs—the kind of solidarity one sees in tribal societies.
Applying this type of solidarity to citizenship within modern state constructs, requires conceptual tools and philosophical development generally unavailable in academia. As such, online hedge schools and the face-to-face discussions they hint at meet a social mental health need, but mostly receive no funding.
Given this undeveloped sense of solidarity, the intellectual services required to attain and maintain social sanity remain largely inaccessible. Turning this situation around necessitates freeing individual minds from the captivity of consumerism—especially eschewing the commodity of conventional activism.
(Jay Taber — recipient of the Defender of Democracy award — is an author, columnist, and research analyst at Public Good Project.)