Aging Political Activists: Personal Narratives from the Old Left

By David P. Shuldiner | Go to book overview

Chapter Twelve
Conclusion

In commenting about Joe Dimow's narratives, I observed that life stories are shaped by a dialectical tension between different aspects of identity in the process of development, including that between past and present selves. While reviewing Joe's discourse, and those of his life-partner and comrades, it has become clear that another dialectical relationship presents itself, one that is of particular relevance to the narratives of political activists. It consists of a tension between one's core identity as self-declared or revealed in the course of a dialogue and the profile one might draw from the description of those life activities that one chooses to recall when queried about this core identity. Sometimes the relationship is apparent, sometimes it requires illumination. It is, in a real sense, analogous to the relationship between theory (the political idea) and practice (its implementation).

In fact, perhaps one of the most difficult challenges that a political activist must face is the wide gulf between the grand vision of one's overall perspective and the practical reality of strategies and tactics employed in its fulfillment. There are often times when the direct outcomes of political work seem remote and out of reach, especially when the ultimate objective of one's efforts is the radical transformation of society.

Lil spoke of the tremendous satisfaction she got out of her work as an arts-and-crafts instructor. Part of that satisfaction derived from the fact that she came to see it as a transposed form of political expression. But she also was gratified by the fact that she could see tangible results from her work with her students.

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