Thursday 27 November 2014

Urban Dictionary

Urban Revolutionary (n):        A latter-day species commonly found in the region comprising the postcodes EC1, EC2, E8, N1, N8, NW1 and NW3 in London. Urban revolutionaries are a natural progression from previous species, including the Anarchic Anti-capitalist Protester and the Bearded Socialist. In the case of the Urban Revolutionary, he (also a “she”, but we’ll settle for masculine for now), he is the result of a strange mix of late 90s ‘oxton gentrification and mid-noughties Shoreditch hipsterism.

Urban Revolutionaries are socially active creatures with deep concerns about the state of our world. In this respect their role in society is to be welcomed. However, URs (don’t we love acronyms?) have a weakness: most of their activism happens online. Whereas both the Anti-capitalist Protester (the name is self-explanatory) and the Bearded Socialist took to the streets in the past to show their displeasure at the way our modern polities were run, the Urban Revolutionary’s best friend is the mouse. Not the rodent, but the computer one. And sometimes not even the palm-sized, technological version of a real Muridae, because who needs a pointing device when one has a smartphone?

Fashion-wise, the Urban Revolutionary look is über-chic, poster-boy Russell Brand, from the out-and-proud teeth (in permanent “smirk”mode, especially when interviewed by Evan Davis) to the Jesus-like hair and beard. Tight-fitting T-shirts and skinny jeans complete the sartorial package.

Time for a comeback?
In the past, the battlefield against globalisation was Seattle, for instance. Nowadays it is At the click of a mouse you can start your own petition and the Urban Revolutionary has been at the forefront of this new approach to politics. In his favour, he has the vigour of youth, a good, all-round education and possibly, although not always, an affluent background. On the other hand, critics are quick to point out the short-termism of his campaigns. This could be seen as a detrimental factor in – paradoxically – putting people off politics. Too many campaigns being waged at the same time deprive a social movement of the necessary pabulum it feeds off. There are further complications in that, when trying to mobilise support for a cause he deems just, the Urban Revolutionary might overlook the root causes of the problem. You can quite rightly campaign to ban a misogynist from entering Britain, but it would be better to look at the reasons why some people thought it was a good idea to invite him in the first place. Whilst some might rage at an art exhibition that supposedly denigrates a particular ethnic group, Bob Geldoff and his merry Band Aid 30 get away once again with patronising Africans with the three-decade-old question: Do They Know It’s Christmas? They bloody do, Sir Bob, they bloody do. But sadly, the Urban Revolutionary is not available to start an online petition to stop this musical travesty. He is too busy, clicking, swiping, clicking, swiping, clicking and swiping... ad infinitum.

© 2014

Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 30th November at 10am (GMT)


  1. Not sure they get very far now a days as all can click away through the day come what may.

  2. Thanks a lot for introducing me to that "Jesus like" guy in the video. To start, the TV setting made me cringe, with that Che mural in the background, but then, listening and watching that young man, so full of himself, so much in love with himself... oh dear...
    And thanks for voicing your thoughts about Bob Geldof and his latest comeback.

  3. Oh, has Geldof emerged again? I miss such a lot by not watching television. Or maybe not.... He's not a guy I can take to somehow.

  4. Isn't it great to live in a world where we can, with just a click of a mouse, feel good about saving it :)

  5. You are in a prolific mood, it appears, CiL.

    As someone who has seen actual revolutionaries, cultural and political (it was their breath of life), it seems to me most "wannabes" in today's world (in the U.S., anyway) are largely confused and unhappy individuals screaming to be noticed and searching for some way to give their existence relevance. They, in turn, are manipulated by schemers who seek power, which equals monetary profit. There are no visible, legitimate descendants (street variety or computer-bound) to the anti-war and social rebels of the Sixties, only overindulged babies and pockets of gangsters/hell-raisers who are delusional enough to believe that they are the heirs apparent (in this country, anyway).

    A very well and cleverly written piece, CiL. I enjoyed it immensely.

  6. A brief defence of us 60s revolutionaries - drawing our pensions now, but we've not all sold out and become Tony Blair. Some of us still believe that people can behave better, if they only have the information they need and time to think. Which is why I struggle with the knee-jerk of modern revolutionaries. They are purely reactive - while I like to think that some of us are still willing to spend hours thinking through the messy contradictions of the way we live and long for people to be kinder.

  7. I think you nailed it, Jo. "Reactive" is the word as opposed to "proactive" and they lack focus. Too many petitions to sign up to. You can trace the root of most causes to the unfair economic system we live under.

    Thank you all for your comments.

    Greetings from London.

  8. What a strange and crazy world this one has become... you've captured perfectly this aspect of it in at very thought-provokind post.
    Just as in the previous one. I read it, but couldn't comment at the time. I read a lot of YA - maybe I can be a teenager again... :-)

  9. Hi--I think this may be more of a Brit phenomenon than a U.S. one--or at least the accoutrements you describe seem rather British to me. We have and the petitions, but I do not think they gain so much traction here, and really our media is such a DIS-traction in the sense of focusing on the stupidest sorts of things. I do not have a TV so I miss a lot. (Thank goodness!) Take care! k.

  10. what a sweet combination! been a urban revolutionary in a black friday. *)

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