My post-RNC progression

Ask yourself, am I a lemon, a drunk, a Che, or an Alexander Wendt?

by Ashley Dresser

Sitting in a jail cell teeming with 323 people at 2:00 a.m., four days into your final year of higher education, can having a sobering effect. There was a lot of talk about a âÄúrevolutionâÄù and âÄúthose f@#ing pigs,âÄù but I was mostly confused; unable to make conversation. My ankle had turned a ghastly purple color from the impact of the rubber bullet and my left arm continued to ache from when an officer had twisted it behind my back and demanded my tattoo (a compass rose) was an anarchy symbol. Though it took only 8 hours to get processed and released at the Ramsey County Jail after my September 4 arrest at the Republican National Convention, I still feel the repercussions. Legally, there are none. My charge of âÄúpresence at an unlawful assemblyâÄù was dropped, along with hundreds of others, as it should have been. The vast majority of us were peaceful. The repercussions I am referring to deal with my philosophy on how to make change. A few months after my arrest, I began an internship at an organization in downtown Minneapolis called The Push Institute, a non-profit futures think tank that tracks the major forces shaping our future and their implications for business, government, and non-profit sectors over the next 5-25 years. Essentially, they analyze change âÄì how to influence, predict, and adapt. It was here where I was finally able to fully develop my own personal spectrum of change: YouâÄôre either a Lemon, a Drunk, a Che, or an Alexander Wendt. And at some point in your life, youâÄôve probably been all four. Usually, we start out as drunks. As comedian Dylan Moran likes to point out, there is little difference between a toddler and a drunk âÄì both only speak in gibberish, can hardly walk, and are mostly seen sucking down a bottle. Point being, ignorance is bliss. As long as you can imbibe from the cup of life and enjoy your personal comforts, there is no need to pay heed to the woes of the rest of the world. Next, most of us progress to the Che stage and wind up at the RNC like me. WeâÄôre young, weâÄôre rebellious, and we want to make a difference. But weâÄôre still pretty naïve and we have a lot of rules and expectations tying us in. We know the world that we live in feels wrong, but we donâÄôt nearly know the extent of it nor how to fix it. So instead, we just fight it. We fight everything. âÄúIâÄôd rather die on my feet than live on my knees,âÄù is a common saying in our circle of friends. Che, of course, was a much more developed revolutionary than this, but he is the icon that is most commonly adopted by the above demographic. Here is where the two roads diverge. You can either become a Lemon or an Alexander Wendt. Lemons know everything there is to know about the corruption, poverty, and war of the world. TheyâÄôve seen it all, but instead of allowing their knowledge to empower them, they let themselves become bitter. They donâÄôt exercise their right to vote because âÄúgreed is all the same to meâÄù and increasingly, they hardly leave their apartment. I have lost many friends to this route. You can sit them down and get them on these spectacular, moving tangents on the purpose of life, but when the call for action is made, they remain motionless in their chairs. They continue to ascribe to end-of-the-world conspiracies and surrender to failure before theyâÄôve even made an attempt. And as intellectually charming as they are, you must leave them behind. Lastly, we come to a man, or rather an idea best populated by Alexander Wendt, known as social constructivism. Social constructivism is a theory that is based on the human consciousness and its place in world affairs. It makes the argument that our society and government are not material constructs. They donâÄôt just exist in the way that the solar system does, itâÄôs not just âÄúout thereâÄù, beyond our realm of understanding. We are the way we are because of a system of norms that has been arranged by a certain people at a particular time. And if we build it up, we can most certainly tear it down. It is the counter-argument to realists who say, âÄùThatâÄôs just the way things are.âÄù Because thatâÄôs not true. It doesnâÄôt have to be. Your next line is probably âÄúmankind is inherently self-serving.âÄù And to that I say, so what? Maybe the mark of a superior human being is those who choose to engage in the struggle of overcoming that supposed proclivity. We need to stop using the Original Sin as an excuse for everything. âÄúPeople are good;âÄù âÄúpeople are bad.âÄù You are what you believe. Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at [email protected].