Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Agitator.

By Ajax.

Think truly— and thy thoughts
Shall the world's famine feed!
Speak truly— and each word of thine
Shall be a fruitful seed!
Live truly— and thy life shall be
A great and noble creed.
— G.W.

At various periods in history and on the advent of every social change, and more especially at the break-up of any given civilisation, persons mostly of obscure birth have boldly stepped upon the stage of public life and by their zeal and self sacrifice to a cause have ushered in new ideas and sometimes overthrown established institutions that have outlived their usefulness, and are a stumbling block on the path of progress. The agitator is the product of his age. There are economic and psychic forces silently at work in society that lead inevitably towards the ideas and ideals of the reformer. Being gifted with higher intelligence than others, the agitator is the pioneer of every new movement. Agitators are rarely thoroughly understood in their generation. Their ideas are necessarily in advance of public opinion, or rather one should say mental apathy of the herd. Moreover, the agitator is usually a unique type of individual whose ideas are unorthodox, whose habits are Bohemian, and his tastes unconventional. The chief charge against the agitator is that he is against the existing order. As a witty writer once put it, "English society can forgive crime, and even murder, but it cannot tolerate a new idea." The agitator directly or in directly threatens retrogressive institutions, he is the exposer of fallacy and quackery, and the denouncer of corruption and fraud. Parasites, priests, politicians and other sycophants recognise the agitator as the personification of discontent and aspiration for radical change. Education of the masses is the one thing above all others charlatanism dreads. Our civilisation to-day is essentially based upon ignorance and perversion of the past. In spite of its glamour and show, most of its venerated institutions rest upon metaphysical ideas, or rather the acceptation of false conceptions by a large section of the people. Knowing this, hypocrites in high places loathe the agitator. Especially is this the case when around his doctrine flit the hopes of the oppressed.
 Amongst the great agitators who have left their footsteps on the sands time are Confucius, Christ, Savonarola, Bruno, Darwin, Ferrer, and many other lesser lights, including the world's best and bravest. Most of these men paid the price of their life for their ideas. When alive they were bitterly denounced, persecuted and murdered. When dead a more educated generation recognises the greatness of the agitator, and erects statues and monuments to the memory of the men their forefathers murdered.
 Of course, there are many kinds of agitators. Strictly speaking, any person advocating certain ideas and actions is an agitator. A recruiting officer, parson, or politician is really in agitator. Statesmen, editors, preachers, and so forth, are really agitators, but are not treated as such. The plutocratic press twist the word to mean a term of opprobrium. Any licensed public man who is advocating something detrimental to society as a whole, but useful to the ruling class, is not designated an agitator. He is a most important individual, whose integrity is above suspicion. On the other hand, if the ideas are detrimental to exploitation, then he is a despicable agitator. Recently in England, Kitchener received thousands of pounds for advocating the murder of Boer farmers, while Tom Mann got six months gaol for telling soldiers not to shoot strikers. In the former case the important personage was advocating something conducive to plutocratic interests, therefore he was loaded with honors and titles; in the latter case it was the reverse, therefore the agitator was prosecuted.
 The presence of the agitator is not a sinister sign except to a limited few. The more agitators, the better for society. If it were not for the agitator we should sink to a state of mental torpor; indeed, the masses are perilously near that condition, and require more agitators to wake them up.
 Whatever may be his faults, and no matter how erroneous his ideas, the agitator is a being who in the long run works for the mental health of society. The agitator is really a rung in the ladder of thought, and stimulates intellectual progress. A man who can give the world a new idea, beneficial to the community, is of more value than all the generals, popes, and notable personages. Apart from their ideas we have to remember that the agitator in all ages has carried the banner of free speech onward and upward past thrones, altars and dungeons. That one fact alone should command our respect. The agitator is a necessary and inevitable factor in human progress, a biological necessity, whose importance we cannot afford to ignore. 
 Thought is changing fast, and is infinite in its variety. What is jeered at to-day becomes an established fact to-morrow, and in its turn gives place to something better in the near future. Amid the fall of dynasties, the crumbling of creeds, the crash of empires, the new rapidly displaces the old. In the realm of thought, truth is eternal. In the words of an agitator, "This generation shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away."
 Last century saw science wrest the sceptre from superstition. To-day the sociologists are fighting a similar fight against orthodox political economy. They are the agitators of this age who understand the realities of life and the hopes of the future. They carry the torch of progress on past the dens of ignorance and faith, the power of privilege and pelf, towards the goal that the agitators in the past have striven "The Kingdom of heaven on earth."

 Direct Action 6 November 1915,

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