Progressive Futility

Their world is a counter-culture paradise or organic food and yoga. Relationships are supplanted by organized orgies. Death is an occasion to organize blame. Explosions happen all the time and seem to be creeping closer and closer. We’re told a war is on, but it’s hard to identify the enemy.

Zazen exposes the hypocrisy of progressive activism when performed by nihlists

Zazen exposes the hypocrisy of progressive activism when performed by nihlists

Della, who narrates the reader through a nearing apocalypse, collects the names of people and animals who have died and attaches fortunes from Chinese fortune cookies to their names, following the pre-plot death of her sister Cady. To leave this world seems an occasion for recognition. This isn’t about spirituality; in fact, Della’s family celebrates each anniversary of Cady’s death. It’s an escape from the escape itself.

There is always the option to leave the country, an option Della tries hard to resist. She knows only extremism and little of the very world she’s always been told she’s trying to save.

It is a strange thing to be inundated by too many like-minded people. The reality of any situation becomes so quickly distorted by unchecked agreement and group think. Too often, we see our political problems in terms of deadlock, but unflinching fundamental disagreement is only made possible in a society that is never in true dialogue, rather perpetually digging in, empowered by over-simplified dogma instead of fact.

The counter-culture and progressive politics are nothing without ideals and the belief that it is possible to affect real change in an imperfect world. The people in Della’s world are incapable of practical demonstration because they are without hope. They are content embodying contrived identities as liberals, hippies and artists while they spiral in empty self-indulgence and self-righteousness leaving Della alone in her search for something of substance.

The author, Vanessa Vanelka published "Zazen" at independent Red Lemonade.

The author, Vanessa Vanelka published “Zazen” at independent Red Lemonade.Her characters certainly would approve.


Her solution: to call in bomb threats at random. This is not a futile attempt to fit in—she shows no desire to be a part of the in-crowd—rather it’s a legitimate attempt to save people, not from the Establishment, but from the very movements who are trying to save them from it. A bomb threat creates chaos and though paranoia is corrosive, it takes the form of self-defense. There is no home for Della but the house of the extreme; she must operate within its confines and that means sabotage.

I want to believe that we exist for something greater than to consume. Like Della, I want life to be its own reality, not just to exist to be projected onto by a prefabricated template. Still, the more we try to break away from this relationship, the more dependent we become on the system we mean to fight. We pay the same money for a t-shirt whether it has liberal irony or a patriotic message silk-screened across the chest. There must be a better way.

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