An excerpt from a recent newsletter “Radical Change Must Fall Like a Gentle Mist, Not a Heavy Downpour” at The Tricontinental, an international, movement-driven institution focused on stimulating intellectual debate that serves people’s aspirations.
Change comes at different tempos. Political change – the removal of a government – can be swift. Slower yet is economic change, with systems of production far less easy to pivot than the ejection of a government. Harder to change social systems, institutions such as the family, which have deep roots not only in our consciousness but also in our infrastructure (consider how our housing is built, to facilitate an ideological view of the ‘family’). But the hardest of all to change are the rigidities of culture, the tap roots of norms and customs that go deep into the centre of human experience. Prejudices of all kinds – racism and patriarchy – lie far beneath the surface, requiring what Zhou Enlai called ‘ideological remoulding’ to alter them. ‘It cannot be done with haste’, Zhou Enlai says several times in his speech. Such cultural work takes time. It has to dig gently into the earth to investigate the tap root, digging deeper to understand its power. Radical change has to confront culture’s blockages. Two kinds of work are necessary: cultural work, to stretch the imagination, and political work, to undermine the power of nasty cultural forms.