Manifesto Boi is a generative text performance piece that takes the work from over 50 significant manifestos written by white men in explicit positions of privilege. Using natural language processing and Markov chains, I've generated new manifestos from this corpus. The statements blended together relatively seamlessly.
Visual Inspiration and Portraits of Manifesto Bois
Consider a particularly dangerous kind of idiot; an idiot secretly destructive to the people and society around him. The idiot operates in a world without self-doubt, without self-reflection, without empathy, without understanding. He is devoted to what he believes is The Truth without understanding that the preciousness of his ideas were built by the forces that he now rails against. He operates in and from a position of privilege — though he thinks not. He fears not for safety, he fears not for reprisal. He fears for the loss of not life, but the life he wants. He has been educated and rewarded by a society he now rails against for not providing him what he truly wishes: power, control, respect. And he is willing to often do something so rash and unthinking as demand that the world bend to his word, perfectly willing to sacrifice lives along the way.
Consider the Manifesto Boi.
It's tempting to write a manifesto about the manifesto boi — I began the statement above sort of tongue in cheek, ready to bring manifesto to bear. And while I detest the manifesto boi, I'm more interested in him as type of person that exists in the world.
The current political climate is full of manifesto bois — both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are manifesto bois. Both are racist, and sexist — though one is much more obvious and terrible than the other. But it's interesting that both fundamentally represent the disenfranchised white man in a way that has not been seen in America in quite a while. What we have are two wealthy men who hate the current system so much that they feel the need to reject the thing that gave them power in the first place.
Most current manifesto bois are very eager to embrace socialism largely in an aesthetic fashion. As someone who spent large portions of his life growing up in a socialist state and saw how much it could cost people, I am deeply dismissive of un-lived experiences. In fact, if you were to talk to people who experienced socialism in practice, a large majority of them are disdainful of it, no matter how their country practiced it.
Lived experience, of course, doesn't matter to the manifesto boi. The manifesto boi demands to be heard.
I find it interesting to watch someone operate from a position of privilege and only understand that intellectually but not emotionally. Each manifesto boi proclaims wokeness (which is darkly amusing considering the amount of sexism reported by people within the DSA) but there is zero empathy in the manifesto boi when he encounters disagreement from an ally.
Dismissing manifesto bois is not dismissing manifestos, or viewpoints, or even bois. The problem here is fundamentally unacknowledged privilege and a deep disregard for the consequences of ones' actions. Manifesto bois are not new and not always white but they share the same qualities: power, privilege, authority. Buddha was the greatest manifesto boi of all time. A sheltered rich kid who ditches his family and tells you you're living your life wrong and he's got it all figured out — that's ne plus ultra manifesto boi.
Buddha wasn't necessarily wrong, but that's not what this is about. It's about — who's allowed to write manifestos, and why? Who profits from the writing of a manifesto? Who is trying to create new forms of cultural capital that allow them to live their life they want it to be lived?
I started thinking about this concept when I started reading "Junkspace" by Rem Koolhaus. I realized: the manifesto boi is usually unhappy with the system that has provided him the privilege to write a manifesto, and often times he helped create the system that made that possible. There was something about this that was so deeply offensive as Koolhaus had built his career on the thing he wanted to later destroy. (Even more disgustingly — Koolhaus proposed a building that would take so long that the builders would devote their lives to building it and live and die in the building they were constructing. Koolhaus presumably would be building his next abstraction).
I started thinking more deeply about this, and of which manifestos matter. And I realized that when I listened to the manifestos of people who aren't given the space to write manifestos they tend to be short and direct. Like:
Black Lives Matter.