Activism and ... Messiahs

IssueOctober 2015 - November 2015

Well, everyone has to get through having movement messiahs. It’s a process of inspiration followed by disillusionment.

People always say about Evo Morales [president of Bolivia since 2005], he came from the movements, and the movements kept him in check, and he understood that role.

Obviously, Julian Assange had the best comment on this when he arrived at St Paul’s [Cathedral, London] on the first day of Occupy. We were in the middle of the first general assembly, and I was facilitating.

Julian Assange walked up through the crowd, literally followed by some disciples – and some bodyguards I think – and he made a Life of Brian refererence.

There’s a bit in Life of Brian where he shouts something at the crowd, and they shout it back, and he looks stupid. [Brian: ‘You’ve got to think for yourselves. You’re all individuals.’ Crowd: ‘Yes! We’re all individuals!’ Brian: ‘You’re all different’. Crowd: ‘Yes! We are all different!’ – ed]

Anyway, he shouted at the crowd in the general assembly and they all shouted back, and it was very funny.

It was a very good moment for showing why you shouldn’t have messiahs, because he totally disrupted the meeting.

It’s a double-edged sword because you need inspiration.

Activism is a constant process of trying to prevent scepticism turning into disillusionment, and messiahs can play a role in refuelling your optimism.

- Man, London

I’m not very inspired right now.... We’re halfway through a film....

- Woman, Hastings

Ah, 15 Saviours of the World, Crucified. Written in 1875. Krishna and the others, everywhere in the world you find crucified saviours. I listened to this man at Speakers’ Corner and I said, ‘Where did you get this information?’ And he gave me the reference. Good book.

One of the most famous brands of local spirits in Iraq is called ‘Messiah’, ‘the anointed’, it’s an aniseed-based liquor.

He’s going to save us. He suffered so that we don’t suffer.

But we have no choice, we have to suffer. Nothing will save us unfortunately from our tyrant, our body – the pain.

We are living longer, so we have to suffer more pains. The painkillers is our saviour. From paracetamol to opiates.

And here comes the opiate of the masses. The best thing, Marx said, the best thing about religion is that it is an opiate, it sedates.

The worst thing about religion, they say, is it frightens children. They use it to frighten children, and they use it to start wars.

You can see in the Middle East, in the name of religion. This is the bad thing about religion, wars.

- Man, London

I don’t really have any spiritual faith nor belief in messiahs or gods so....

But I’m encouraged by the pope at the moment, as a leader, because he’s sticking his neck out.

I usually see religion as a problem, it’s so deeply irrational.

I see myself as a very rational person so I find it disappointing to see activists who are not.

There’s people you’re really respecting because of their intellect, then they say: ‘What star sign are you?’ Which really deflates me.

I kind of have the same attitude to messiahs: completely, utterly dismisive. Also, I don’t like gurus.

But I must say, Jeremy Corbyn comes as close as I ever have to saying ‘our great leader’....

I have been known to say, lately: ‘our great leader, Corbyn’.

- Woman, London

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