I caught a truly crass review by Stefan Beck in the March New Criterion of a Judi Bari (Earth First) bio. Trying to prove your conservative cred to your superiors with your sneers, Stefan?Well, yes. Last Saturday James and Roger caught me hacky-sacking with that “Repeal the Patriot Act” guy in Union Square, and they threatened to give me the axe if I didn’t prove myself by taking down a liberal. Random character assassinations are a fairly standard loyalty test in the VRWC Volunteer Force. Here’s a bit of the grotesque smear I cooked up. (De mortuis nil nisi bonum? My apologies, but the Movement must come first!)
It is unsurprising that a woman, intoxicated by the grandeur of nature, would want to spend her life defending it. But why should she one day feel an overwhelming passion for the Worker (no loggers!), the next day for Central American “anti-imperialists,” another day for abortionists, another day for old-growth Redwood forests? That’s an awful lot of passion, even for a Californian.King Wenclas replies, “The passion Beck knocks is what gives our short lives meaning. The alternative is to be walking dead robots passing through this civilization in unquestioning straight lines.” Ah, another zero-sum game. Either one runs about wearing his progressive zeal like a Che Guevara t-shirt or one is a mindless soma-popping zombie. I guess that explains why The New Criterion is just another tentacle of rage, but the Underground Literary Alliance sticks the word “revolution” in its URL and, hey presto, a bitter goulash of one-note rants and awful poetry (think of that girl in your high school who wrote the classics “I Hate My Mom” and “The Prom is Stupid,” and then imagine her as a grown man) is transformed into literary filet mignon.
The point here, of course, is that passion--like patriotism, benevolence, free speech, etc. etc.--is nothing by itself; indeed, it is often very bad by itself. It must serve some end other than noisy self-aggrandizement--which is Judi Bari’s legacy. We can be thankful that her story makes the point more gently than, say, Che’s story. But make the point it does, and King Wenclas would do well to consider it.