Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On The Prospects For Revolution: Part 2

What is complexity? For the purpose of this discussion let's define complexity as a condition where many layers or moving parts exist in an intricate relationship. One thing we should take away from the start as integral to complexity- please forgive me for attempting to reduce something that is, by definition, not reducible- is that complexity is antithetical to the image of the proverbial frustrated television viewer correcting a poor picture by slamming his or her fist down on a malfunctioning T.V. set. In fact, it is in the vexing nature of complexity and complex systems that demonstrations of brute force like the aforesaid rarely, if ever, deliver desired results.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with the prospects for revolution in the U.S.A.? Well, as was strongly suggested in the first installment, the United States is just too diverse (i.e. complex) a society, possessed of too many moving parts, to experience a successful revolution, at least in the quaint, time honored, Enlightenment period manner. What worked reasonably well some two and a half centuries ago simply will not yield a similarly beneficent outcome.

In fact, what would more likely ensue would be the opposite of what transpired in the late eighteenth century. Our civilization, rather than finding itself transformed for the better, would, instead, find itself fractured and exhausted, if not wholly decimated. After all, who, except ourselves, would we be revolting against this time? Recall that the one and only instance this nation found itself at severe odds with itself, roughly a century and a half ago, it barely managed- at the cost of many hundreds of thousands of lives, the destruction of entire cities, and various other sorts of appalling devastation- to avert permanent dissolution.

If progress can be measured by anything, perhaps it is best measured by a sense that, over time, sometimes in increments of a few years, at others times in periods taking many generations, the bar is raised regarding what passes for minimally acceptable conditions of existence. In that sense, inhabitants of our present civilization, in the main, have substantially higher standards with respect to quality of life, and possess greater expectations for their future, than did our revolutionary forefathers. That is simultaneously our good fortune and our dilemma when confronting the question of revolution.



11 comments:

Thai said...

Amen

Thai said...

I think of what is happening to newspapers, etc... as exactly the phenomena. The monoculture of newspapers is dying and being replaced with the diversity of blogs, cable television, etc...

Look at how unified we were as a nation after WWII. It was a time of tremendous economic growth as everyone had the similar objectives. But underlying that monoculture was the diverse impulse that would not be contained.

Black Americans reminded us that they were not at the table. People also felt their sexual differences were perhpas greater than was being broadcast by the mono culture at large.

So the monoculture of the 50s was rejected by refer madness, the beat generation and later the free speech and civil rights movements of the 60s+.

The rest has been history so to speak.

This is also the basic thesis of the generational dynamics people who were once regulars posters on Sudden Debt but have since gone...

Here..?

... You have to love the diagrams on that book's cover, for if Xenakis does not have Glen Beck's ADHD then I do not know who does ;-)

Thai said...

Or think about how the fall of the Berlin Wall created the illusion of solidarity and unity.

And in that time of relative peace and unity, suddenly we started shooting abortionists, and terrorism became a national issue, but the terrorists were of US origin- e.g. Oklahoma City and Waco, etc...

Edwardo said...

You're on a roll, Thai. Thanks so much for the link to Jon Stewart's note perfect send up of that very silly twit, Glenn Beck. As the credit card commercial punch line says, "priceless."

attempter said...

If by quality of life you mean material things, they certainly have higher expectations.

On the other hand the American consumer's real quality of expectation, what he wants intellectually and spiritually, seems abysmal compared to the rich liberty ideology of the colonists.

So what does that mean for new forms of political activism, under the ever more impoverished conditions of the coming years?

I'd expect the emotions going into new movements to be vastly more negative than in the 1770s or even the 1860s, while it will be more difficult for idealists to conjure new positive vistas.

After all, nobody even seriously tried to propagate a positive vision for change after 9/11, but every gesture became more defiant, more angry, just digging bunkers. It looks that process has been accelerating and will continue to accelerate.

So, having been pumped full of ideological steroids, will the downwardly mobile "consumer" cling deperately to fraudulent promises of "recovery", and be manipulated into blaming his problems on the weak, and on those trying to help him, or will he recognize his expropriation and see his possible liberation through smashing the criminals?

That'll be the challenge of the period I call "resource fascism."

Edwardo said...

On the other hand the American consumer's real quality of expectation, what he wants intellectually and spiritually, seems abysmal compared to the rich liberty ideology of the colonists.

Interesting assertion. My instinctive response is to agree, however, upon a bit more reflection I am less sure. The spiritual expectations I think I have a decent grasp of, but what what exactly do you think the colonists-in the main- wanted intellectually?

Edwardo said...

Let me try again

Russ wrote:

"On the other hand the American consumer's real quality of expectation, what he wants intellectually and spiritually, seems abysmal compared to the rich liberty ideology of the colonists."

Interesting assertion. My instinctive response is to agree, however, upon a bit of a reflection I am less sure. The spiritual expectations I think I have a decent grasp of, but what what exactly do you think the colonists-in the main- wanted intellectually?

attempter said...

Bernard Bailyn makes a good case that, beyond purely economic interests (though these were certainly important), the colonists had an intensely felt philosophy regarding the inteplay of power and liberty, with liberty always having to be vigilant vs. the encroachments of power.

They saw this same eschatological battle playing out on every front - economic, religious, questions regarding constitutionalism, representation and consent, rights, sovereignty, slavery, the real nature of democracy and aristocracy and their pros and cons.

Whereas it's a scam when system players invoke these things today, the original revolutionaries really cared deeply about such ideas and values.

What I deeply hope is that we can have a renascence of such caring, a renaissance for such ideas and values.

That's the only way America can have a future.

Edwardo said...

Thanks for your answer, Russ.

Anonymous said...

Amiable post and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Gratefulness you as your information.

Anonymous said...

[url=http://b-polski.pl/]Kredytowe[/url] >> Kredyt gotowkowy jest bardzo popularnym produktem bankowym. Rynek jest bardzo obstawiony ofertami kredytow gotowkowych. http://b-polski.pl