The revolution will not be tax-deductible

So you want to get started right away, making changes and rumbling the earth. That’s great. We all do! But then reality sets in: you have to sell some of your precious time for money––time that could be spent organizing, researching, and working towards your radical goals. This is an especially difficult task for someone who, like me, abhors the very economy they are forced to contribute to.

Audre Lorde’s essay “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” describes, in beautiful language, this desire to continue experiencing the joy that we derive from pursuing our passions:

“For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. … And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.”

At the end of this passage, Lorde charges us with the responsibility of refusing to settle for anything that’s merely conventional or safe. This is a great goal to aspire to, but some of our pursuits will inevitably suck the joy and passion out of us (namely, those pursuits which are required to pay the bills.)

Audre Lorde, in her own words: "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet."

Unless you have a job that allows you to be an activist for a living, you have two options: you can choose to live a double life of sorts, keeping your personal life, your work life, and your life as an activist separate; or you can merge all of these spheres and allow them to influence one another.

The latter path is much more fulfilling, and it’s capable of keeping you on track when the going gets tough. If you choose this path, you’ll have a support group everywhere you go. By bringing the joy and fulfillment that you experience from engaging with your passions into every other aspect of your life, you’ll transform your conventional experiences into extraordinary ones.

Let your passion influence all areas of your life, even in the simplest of ways. Becoming the person you wish to become, despite all of the obstacles that exist in our society––recall chapter two––is radical in itself. You set an example for others, and  you change the world in the process.

If you feel overwhelmed by your fast-paced life with its unending list of commitments, remind yourself of your passions, and let this push you through. When you’re in transit, read a book or listen to a podcast relating to your interests in order to ground yourself.

Talk to your coworkers and peers about your interests. Let your passion shine through, and your enthusiasm will become contagious for those whose receptivity to your message is there, but latent.

I got my first job as a teenager working at a local ice cream shop. At the time, I was just beginning to get into the issue of income inequality. I talked to my coworkers about the ideas I was reading about and listened to what they had to say. Most of them found that they thought along the same lines as me, and we had a number of  interesting conversations while dishing out exorbitantly-priced sundaes and contributing our precious labor time to an economy that we had no faith in.

Having my friends and coworkers tell me that they began investigating the issues we discussed convinced me that I was on the right path, and I’ve continued to allow my radical interests to intersect with other aspects of my life.

As a student, I allow my radical thought to influence my schoolwork. I’m able to twist most any essay prompt into something I can answer with ideas grounded in critical theory. As a writing tutor, I create conversations with my students aimed at helping them engage with their readings more deeply, tease out the connections between the ideas and their own lives, and become truly interested in what they’re writing.

Scribble ideas into your notebook while you’re waiting in line at the store. Read things relating to your interests during downtime at work. Talk to the people around you about your interests, and invite them to look at the work that you do. Become active in the union at your job, or try to create a union if your workplace doesn’t have one already (as long as organizing wouldn’t get you fired.) Bringing your radical ideas and tendencies into every aspect of your life will help propel you forward and keep you feeling fulfilled during your more monotonous experiences.

Of course, the most powerful thing you can do is to devote a chunk of your free time to pursuits that advance your goals and resonate with your values. This is bound to infuse you with energy and passion that will spill over into the less sexy aspects of your life. We’ll discuss this next.

Amanda Fox-Rouch (Hunter College)

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