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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Activism and Pragmatism

"For meeting the challenge of the AIDS epidemic and its crisis of conscience with vigilant acts of political and cultural provocation – thereby giving voice to the essential creative will of our humanity." Culled from the top of ACT UP New York's website

Being provocative and upsetting the status quo is by definition the raison d'etre of activism. If the status quo were adequate, then activism would be moot, unnecessary.

But there's something very wrong with the status quo regarding the discussion of HIV/AIDS. I was going to post a page's worth of links describing chronic HIV infection as "manageable" or "like diabetes", but you're big folks and can Google it for yourselves. Go ahead.

What you'll find is that the message has been hijacked by everybody.

The current administration has ushered the Xtian Taliban into the discussion, and abstinence trumps safe(r) sex. Schools everywhere have edited their message to fit in with the new paradigm: Sex is dangerous, Gay sex kills. Thanks but no thanks.

Big Pharma has much at stake in promoting the image of a kindler, gentler HIV. Take you meds and you'll be all right. Trust them to prolong your life indefinitely. Go climb that mountain, you're going to be OK.

Mainstream journalism, weary of the eternal pathos of the funerals of the young, talented and beautiful, has come up with some new ugly clichés: Bug Chasers, Bareback Parties, Superinfected Tina Twinks, and other sundry iniquities. We're fodder for the big guns of the culture wars.

The lions of yesterday bemoan the lack of activism on the part of the young, and they're right. Too many young people today are complacent. Their friends aren't dying (yet). They didn't live through the devastation of 1980-1995, and history's such a bore. I remember the feeling, I used to be bulletproof even if my friends were not.

But the heady days of basement meetings and hand-painted signs are history. They're as dead as my first four lovers. And the complacency comes from a desire to believe, to click one's heels and take the pills and be all right. We get that from everywhere. It's comforting, and we want to believe it. Some need to believe it.

But it's just not true. I've been devoutly compliant with my various regimes yet have rarely achieved the magical "undetectable", and then not for long. I have known many who couldn't tolerate the rigors of the meds, and/or the precise compliance needed to ensure their success. They wanted to believe that the guy in the glossy ad standing on the mountain or winning the marathon could be, would be them. Sorry, not in the cards, babe!

So we know that the message is deeply flawed. We understand what's required to correct the message and open up real dialog, and we rally a call for increased activism. But how do we pay for it? Reality intrudes on the youthful vision, pragmatism settles in, complacency blooms. It's all so difficult, and these are not the times best suited for proffering dissent. Just ask the Dixie Chicks.

And when youthful activism shows its bright purple glans, full of piss and vinegar, do we really want to hear it? Do we really think that the guys who drenched church alters in pigs blood cared what anybody that someone might take offense? Wasn't that the point?

Really- who will finance the revolution? And how will it be shaped by the corporate underwriters? Will the barricades have sponsor's logos painted on them?

I don't have the answers. And I can already see the comments deploring my lack of novelty in posing the same questions. It's easy to bitch, coming up with a solution's the real bitch, though.


At Thu Jul 21, 12:29:00 PM GMT+10, Blogger Matty the Damned said...

Excellent point Bucko. We need to remember our activist heritage. The good things many of us enjoy today came about as a result of the struggles of our community members.

These hard won gains are being chipped away not just in the US but in Australia too.



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