Classy class warrior

Dear Auntie I've dedicated my last 15 years to 'the movement', even hitching to Genoa for the 2001 G8 protests and biking to Stirling for last year's counter-summit. But I share this passion for activism with a love of fine living. I wouldn't be seen dead without my Gucci sunglasses, my most treasured possession is my Aga stove, and I even rounded off the Genoa trip with a spot of wine tasting in Tuscany. Can I continue to be classy without being a class traitor?

November 1, 2006
2 min read

Rosie Divine, Hebden Bridge

Dear Rosie

You don’t need an activist haircut to be an activist, but a little bit of prefigurative politics never goes amiss. ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ doesn’t sound so convincing if you’re sitting in the back seat of a Mercedes sipping on Dom Perignon and picking out your dream coffee table from the latest issue of Wallpaper.

But are our actual experiences of anticipating ‘another world’ really much better? As a counter-summit veteran, I’ve done my fair share of collective living in anarcho-bliss. My conclusion is that the change I want to see in the world definitely does not involve waking up in a soggy homemade tent with a stray dog sniffing around my boots, or eating from a pan of mouldy couscous.

You need to go on the offensive and argue that you’re actually living the dream of alternative consumption. Defend that Aga as the energy-efficient hub of an organic, slow food revolution – an antidote to mass-produced microwave meals. Tell your friends that alternative globalisation means levelling up: brie rather than Dairylea, D&G rather than H&M, Pinot Noir rather than Jacob’s Creek.

Of course, there’ll still be some things that you can’t explain away as lifestyle choices that anticipate a better world. For those, you need to put forward a solid analysis of capitalism’s contradictions. Sure, you buy Gucci sunglasses, but not in conditions of your own choosing. And come the revolution, you should say, there’s bound to be some bright and stylish synthesis to overcome the false dialectic between Ralph Lauren jeans and Che Guevara t-shirts. Bring it on.