One of my young philosophy mentees contacted me yesterday. She was, understandably, upset about the socio-political apathy in her generation. She had recently attended a non-violent demonstration in Portland, OR, with some seemingly politically oriented peers--only to discover that they were, for the most part, more interested in taking pictures of one another "demonstrating" (to post on Facebook) than they were in the actual socio-political issues.
She reported that she overheard comments like "stand closer together so that I can get you all in the picture" and "turn the sign this way so that it shows up in the photo" repeatedly. It was a party, an event, a gala--not a real show of dissent. It was a photo opportunity--which they had confused with a revolution.
Revolution requires the willingness to assume risk--of arrest, of uncomfortability, of anonymity and, of course, of being misunderstood. The real revolutionary, even when part of a group, is alone. Painfully alone. Existentially isolated. The real revolutionary's commitment runs so deep that s/he is rarely understood. Those who do share his/her vision are few. They are real friends. Comrades. Not people to tag in a Facebook picture.
Real revolutionaries don't carry their cameras to a rally. Nor do they carry their tracking-deviced cell phones. They would be just as happy if nobody even knew that they were there. But there are there. Very much so. They are there because they can't not be there. And, they can't not be there because they care so much about the issue. It's not about them, it's about the issue. They care--from deep down inside themselves--about all of the Bradley Mannings, the environment, the economy, The People.
That's the defining line: a real revolutionary doesn't want his/her photo on Facebook. S/he just wants to speak, to be heard, to make a difference. It isn't about him/her. It's about all of us!