Today I am thinking about his concept of the "empty protest" and find much comfort here. Some context: the interview starts with some criticism of the self-absorption of modern psychology, its tendency to focus on a "fixing" of the self, not the self's engagement with the world. He's trying to say feelings are important, but so is social justice; so is political action. How can the individual validate his or her feelings and act in the world, and maybe by acting in the world?
Near the end of this interview, Hillman says:
It's better to go into the world half-cocked than not to go into the world at all. I know when something's wrong. And I can say, "This is outrageous. This is insulting. This is a violation. And it's wrong." I don't know what we should do about it; my protest is absolutely empty. But I believe in that empty protest.
Now the "half-cocked" might be a little disturbing as an image, related as it is to firearms in our overly-violent, and often half-cocked, as in "inadequately or poorly prepared" definition, in American society, except that "half-cocked" is safer, as firearms go, than fully-cocked. The gun can't go off yet at half cock.
But Hillman's image is simply underscoring his point about 1) lack of a fully-thought-out solution (I like his honesty in knowing he doesn't have a solution for everything) and 2) his relative lack of power against, well, the "big guns," the power structure.
He goes on:
You see, one of the ways you get trapped into not going into the world is when people--usually in positions of power--say, "Oh, yeah, wise guy?" What would you do about it? What would you do about the Persian Gulf crisis?" I don't know what I'd do. I don't know. But I know when I feel something is wrong, and I trust that sense of outrage, that sense of insult. And so, empty protest is a valid way of expressing feeling, politically. Remember, that's where we began: how do you connect feeling with politics? Well, one of the ways is through that empty protest. You don't know what's right, but you know what's wrong.
I love that: his encouragement to express the feeling, openly, that something is wrong. His own willingness to express outrage, to speak up. We know, from history, what awful things can happen when people sense something wrong but don't speak up.
But, yes, the powers that be are always telling us to shut up, in subtle or overt ways.