I’ve been struggling lately with the extreme tendency of activists to try and go back to historical cultural references which serve only to alienate new comers. The world of protest movements renews itself roughly every 2 years, and yet I keep hearing people make references to things which have long since gone in such terms; maybe by as many as 3 or even 5 such renewal cycles. One of these is the PGA Hallmarks, a document which supposedly united a huge range of people throughout part of the 90’s.
I generally agree with everything the PGA Hallmarks has to say, but find myself angered by people’s attempts to attach it to every new movement they get involved with. It was developed by a group of people at a specific time in history to fulfil a certain purpose, and much like the communist manifesto before it, it currently runs the risk of becoming an equal painful millstone, idolised as a cultural reference, yet debilitating its adherents by preventing them from keeping a fresh perspective. Movements which hang on to old images will always struggle to keep moving, in much the way a ship which has put down anchor will struggle to go anywhere without pulling up the anchor or dropping the chain.
A document like the Hallmarks will always seem more relevant to those who were around at the time of its writing, and yet we marvel at the way people are turned off by something held onto from way before their time. For as certainly as movements are built around common symbols and cultural codes, they are also made into ghetto’s by continuing to hold onto these after they have served their purpose.
Even some of the networks which still perform such a function today need evaluating and possibly abandoning in favour of new network initiatives which might only look slightly different from those around today, except for their name and constituent members.
Maybe one day the balance will be struck and the cultural clutter which turns movements into stagnant social clubs will be truly discarded, much like Marx told the worker to discard his or her chains. What a pity we never quite manage it.