Thursday, January 28, 2010

On The Prospects For Revolution? Part 1

Over the last few years, as the economic landscape began to markedly deteriorate, I imagined that the tectonic shifts taking place in The United States might give rise to a revolution of the type that would hearken back to the one in which this nation was founded. I no longer entertain such an outcome, but rather view the idea of a restorative revolution as a quaint bit of fancy.

There are a number of reasons why I feel the prospects for revolution- at least of the sort many of us are familiar with from reading grade school history text books, and seeing depicted on film- are dim, foremost among them is my growing sense, acceptance really, that the population of the United States, composed at it is of people practicing a variety of religions-or none at all-conversing in more than one tongue, and, perhaps, most importantly, hewing to a dizzying range of, for lack of a better phrase, cultural norms, is simply too disparate to launch, let alone see to fruition, something as demanding, as all encompassing, as Enlightenment era, as revolution.

After all, a revolutionary movement of the sort that occurred here approximately two hundred and thirty five years ago- when the country comprised a fraction of its present territory, had far fewer citizens, and far less economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity, to name just a few differences between then and now- requires that an overwhelming majority of the citizenry fervently agree with whatever the basic argument is under girding the revolution. Following on from that, there must be a willingness to make great, and often times, extreme sacrifices to insure the argument's success.

I don't think there are a sufficient number of "We The People" of like mind to even fix on an argument, let alone to make the enormous sacrifices necessary to enact it. Our aforesaid differences are well enough elucidated in the red and blue national voter maps displayed at every Presidential election. And while the famous (or is it infamous) voter map is by no means the ultimate indicator of what I assert is a lack of a cohesive national identity and purpose, it still manages to be, because of its year to year consistency, instructive.

Thrown into the bargain are other factors and forces that keep the populace confused, and otherwise sufficiently off balance enough to defuse any genuinely revolutionary spark-The Republican and Democratic political cartel acting in concert with corporate power is but one force- that might threaten to burst uncontrollably (and dismayingly, at least to the PTB) into flame.

The Tea Party movement, as a pretender to acting as some sort of revolutionary force, comes to mind as an excellent example of a phenomenon that is doomed both by the narrowness of its membership, (they do not represent anything even close to a broad cross section of the U.S. population) the paucity of its agenda, (typical Republican boilerplate of lower taxes and less government) and, in a feature that is sadly endemic to our time, by the seemingly insurmountable tentacles of corporate power. In fact, the Tea Party movement appears to have been largely co-opted by some rather unsavory elements of The Republican Party, which, ultimately exists, (as do The Democrats) as little more than an ombudsman for corporate interests.

I am loathe to admit that the sheer complexity of our existence at this time (and place) almost certainly has a lot to say about why revolution, of the sort most of us would recognize, is impossible, since it would seem to exonerate, or at the very least, deflect attention away from the already mentioned unfortunate forces and factors acting to forestall revolution. Alas, it seems clear that, for the sake of honesty, the issue of complexity, the crushing weight of which the nation, and perhaps the entire world, is groaning under, can't be avoided. More on that, as it relates to the prospects for revolution, in the next installment.


DED said...

$560 for a ticket to the Tea Party Convention. Yeah. That speaks volumes about what's going on there.

Pointing out the lack of diversity among their members is an excellent point. Last year, their CT protests made the paper. It was pathetic. Looked like a bunch of wealthy white people moaning about losing their Bush tax cuts.

I'm sorry, Edwardo. I don't think that there's going to be a revolution in the old sense of the word. Maybe it'll be something closer to Ukraine's Orange Revolution or just crumble like the Iron Curtain after economic stagnation has left the country bankrupt. I don't know. Just speculating.

Anonymous said...

Two basic points:

1. No real revolution can assert itself against the still-intact power of the prior system.

Rather, the system collapses first, power falls back into the people's hands by default, and there's a struggle to reorganize that power.

At that point affirmative Revolution has a chance.

That's how the classical French and Russian Revolutions went down.

2. You're right that there's no such unitary thing as "America" and therefore could be no such thing as a comprehensive American revolutionary movement.

Rather, any such movement would be one among many centrifugal forces tearing at this unsustainable structure.

Once the Tower of Babel finally comes down, the main force will be decentralization, disintegration.

So Revolution would probably have to think in terms of certain rational geographic/socioeconomic regions, not the nominal borders, which won't mean all that much in the future.

Toby said...

Good stuff Edwardo, you speak my mind. And I agree with attempter; collapse first, then disarray, then out of the mess and even messier struggle a new direction/vision will emerge.

Whatever name we give the current system is largely immaterial; it is defunct, poisonous and destructive. It will collapse in on itself soon. Those people who believe they have something to contribute to the process of shaping society post-collapse (a collapse which will I believe be global) just need to keep on talking and honing their ideas as reasonably and openly as possible. The rest is future, so to speak.

Edwardo said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

Thai said...


Thai said...

And I think now you see why there is such a strong association with income inequality and overall societal health.

The correlation is very strong.

It is the causation that people confuse.

Will you eat out at restaurants less frequently so that people can shoot each other more often?

What will you give of yourself? Where are the boundary conditions you will not cross? We all have them.

Honest, I truly am a big fan of diversity, I see how differences complement- and it can scare the hell out of me when I don't understand it. But diversity does have its downsides as well, this cannot be denied.

Like all conservation of energy issues within a fixed boundary, it is always zero-sum.

... Which of course is why Hell keeps saying he wants us to increase the amount of energy in the system- at least the boundary conditions expand. Further, he does not want us to get that energy from flipper. ;-)

But he also knows that if he increases the amount of energy in the system yet does not change any of the relative proportion of subunits which we see today, the same issues we have today just scale with the increased size of the system and nothing really changes.

It is so easy to be a nihilist.

Be well

Thai said...

Looks like we have a temporary reprieve as "they" seem to have realized "they" missed another variable in the equation. ;-)

Edwardo said...

Regarding the missing variable. Funny how mother nature makes fools of (some of) us mortals time and time again.