Aging Political Activists: Personal Narratives from the Old Left

By David P. Shuldiner | Go to book overview

Chapter Eleven
Age of Wisdom, Age of Action: Narrative Theme and Variations

THEME AND VARIATIONS I: JOE

A review of the transcripts of my interviews with Joe Dimow reveals a depth of introspection unusual among activists that I have interviewed over the years. The apparent lack of self-reflection among many political activists might be attributed to the fact that they are constantly "in the moment," that is, fully engaged in tackling particular issues. Often this amounts to crisis intervention, since political events present continual challenges to the limited resources of the "movement" in which activists are involved, leaving little time for the relative luxury of introspection.

Another factor in the relative absence of self-reflection in personal narratives of activists is the public nature of the activities that have dominated their lives. Activists are accustomed to speaking in a "public voice" in defense of those issues of critical importance to their political lives. In any event, it is understandable that there will be a greater tendency to present and defend one's view as one would at a public forum rather than make a disingenuous attempt at "objectivity." Lack of self-criticism may reflect an effort at self- management or simply a genuine confidence in the certainty of one's views.

However, even among activists confident of their capacity to defend often-unpopular views in public forums, there may still be a certain amount of self-protective behavior in an interview situation, particularly when sensitive political issues are the topic of discussion.

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