Readers of this blog have several times heard me invoke the image of a landslide as a metaphor for revolutionary political action. Traditional literature and historiography concerns itself with the doings of kings and queens, generals and emperors, landed aristocrats and dynastic successions. The common people enter their accounts either for the purposes of low comedy or as a backdrop for heroic actions. [Erich Auerbach is brilliant on this theme in his classic work of comparative literature, Mimesis.] But modern political action requires the participation of hundreds of thousands, indeed of millions of men and women, most of whom even in the most detailed histories remain nameless. These are the pebbles and clods of dirt and rootlets, transforming the tumbling fall of one large tree or one boulder into the landslide of my metaphor.
The door to door canvassing that I did yesterday, tiring as it was to this eighty-four year old, was no more than one tiny pebble, rolling hopefully [which is to say, full of hope] down a hillside. Will it be part of a landslide that obliterates the always execrable Mark Walker of the NC 6th CD? Only time will tell.
Now the most minor of actors, unlike pebbles, are self-conscious, and some even have blogs. On their blogs, they are big voices, embracing centuries and invoking giants – Marx, Malcolm, Martin, Mao. But loud though their voices may be, they are still only pebbles in what they hope will prove to be a landslide.
Some may find this discouraging, but I find it reassuring, even inspiring. After all, if I really believe all that sophisticated social and political theory that I read, assign to students, and on occasion try my best to imitate in my own writings, then history ought to be made by multitudes, not by famous men [and latterly, women.]
If you reject so minor a role as beneath your dignity as an intellectual, then you are not a pebble in a landslide. You are merely part of the audience for a soliloquy. And soliloquies are, after all, lonely speeches, even if it is you who are soliloquizing.