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Monday, January 14, 2013

And This is Revolution

There are a few things worth knowing about revolutions. Most people don't participate in them, even if the history books often make it seem otherwise. Revolutions are thought up by small groups of people who then make it everyone's business. Or alternately they don't. And those are the revolutions that never happen.

Most people, at any given time and place, are dissatisfied with the government and believe, rightly, that whoever is in charge is guilty of stealing from them, oppressing them and making it impossible for them to live their lives in peace. And they also believe that things are not likely to get any better. Hope is a vanishing emotion that dissipates easily in the drudgery of ordinary everyday work. It may be taken out for a spin on historical occasions, but then it goes back into the barn where it sits for a while gathering dust until it is needed again.

There are however some known crossroads of revolution. A successful revolution usually doesn't happen among the thoroughly repressed. Those people tend to lack the motivation and skills to face down a modern army. When the peasants revolt, they can often be tricked into going home with some false promises and free beer. It worked more often with the serfs in European history than you would think. It's the middle class that you really have to watch out for.

People are not at their most dangerous when they're eating bread crusts and hoping that they won't die tomorrow. By then they're often broken, perhaps not individually, but as a society. It wasn't the people on the collective farms who challenged Soviet tanks in Moscow. Nor was it the Chinese farmers, now being bulldozed off their land, sometimes literally, who stood up to the tanks in Tienanmen Square.

The most dangerous people are the ones who have tasted enough freedom and prosperity to want to keep it. They don't think their leaders are godlike and they have enough education and competence to think the heretical thought that just about anybody could do the same job as the king, the emperor, the czar or the president. They have experience enough upward mobility to understand that a man's place in the world isn't fixed. It can and should be changed. And that is what distinguishes them from the serf. That is what makes them so dangerous.

Authority works best when it isn't challenged. Ceremony, whether it is that of an emperor or any lesser rank, invests authority with mystical force. Peer pressure and social conformity employ horizontal pressures to keep everyone in their place. Secret police and ranks of informers allow the regime to project an illusion of omnipotent force that seems to be everywhere at once. Reigns of terror create examples to intimidate anyone who might think of challenging the regime.

Revolutions strip away these illusions. The secret police run for cover or comically march out with clubs and guns against mobs, and get beaten to a pulp. The neighbor who rats on everyone sits home and stews in front of the television. And then the regime has no choice but to call on the army and hope that it still retains enough control over the officers and that the officers still have enough control over their men to do the bloody work of winning a civil war.

The army test is the acid test of a regime because it exposes the actual level of power of the regime, which relies entirely on its officer corps and its grunts to be willing to shoot people in the street. In Russia, the army proved unwilling to kill a bunch of civilians to protect a coup by their own superiors leading to the end of the Soviet Union and the fall of Communism.

After generations of worldwide terror, the great red beast was reduced to relying on the willingness of a handful of Russian kids in tanks to run over protesters. The kids, who had grown up on Western rock and roll, listening to old men preach about a coming revolution that was already older than the oldest man they had ever seen, while the echoes of capitalist dreams leaked through the Iron Curtain, chose to sit this one out. And Communism died in the streets of Moscow.

But where the Soviet Union fell, the Chinese Communist Party succeeded because they had men who were willing to run over other men with tanks. After all the great debates and posturing, the fate of hundreds of millions of people came down to the same things that all revolutions come down to, not cogent arguments or complex theories, but the willingness of some men to kill other men for a cause.

Communism also died in China. It had to. But the leadership class remained in power and their princes made it into a hereditary dynasty. In Iran, protests were pitted against the guns of the Revolutionary Guard. The regime won, but at the cost of shifting power to the Revolutionary Guard. In Syria, each side escalated, found foreign backers and is fighting a war in which the most ruthless bastards are winning. That is how the Communists ended up winning in Russia, but not after a long bout of murderous warfare in which all sides did horrible things and painted the land red. Any Russian naval officers with a sense of history watching the whole thing happen from a portside cafe are probably remembering how the same thing went down in the land of red snow.

It's the aspiring middle class that begins revolutions, but when they turn bloody enough, then they usually aren't the ones who inherit them. An ascending middle class begins revolutions to protect its privileges, only to see those revolutions hijacked by the fanatics, who to be fair, often began them, the lawyers who want to be executioners, the demagogues who fail at everything but street corner tirades and the psychopaths who drift in and then take over.

The American Revolution avoided being overtaken by these types of lunatics, though at times it was a closer thing than anyone realizes. If history had gone a little differently, Aaron Burr could very well have been our Robespierre. And General Lafayette could have been France's George Washington. Instead the American Revolution stayed in the hands of the people who wanted peace and prosperity, rather than radical social change, and France descended into blood and chaos at the hands of those who thought that revolution was worthless unless it allowed them to completely transform society.

The other kind of revolution, the Bastille kind, has managed to catch up with us. A vast territory and technological revolutions held it at bay for the longest time, but it was the aspiring middle class that eventually allowed itself to be seduced into mortgaging its political power, national integrity and economic freedom to gain an illusory peace and security in the form of a powerful government. And if there to be another revolution against it, it will once again come from the ranks of the middle class.

The American middle class can feel itself sinking. Its prosperity has been stagnating and the jobs are drying up. The educational revolution isn't doing what it was supposed to, for most, instead it saddled much of the country with even more debt. Debt is the watchword of the present, as it was of France before the Revolution. Everything is in debt and mortgaged to the hilt for everything else. International financial systems have made it possible to spread the pain and bury it in complicated financial transactions and speculation, but that just means the debt is bigger and badder than ever.

The pre-revolutionary middle class can choose between two sets of villains, big government and big business. Both are big, and thus meet the criteria for being worth revolting against, but the choice of villains often comes down to a choice of professions.

The college student who owes insane amounts of money to a complex network of financial institutions for a degree of dubious worth and a credit card whose interest rates are more complicated than the subject she was studying, is likely to sympathize with Occupy Wall Street's bank baiting. The small businessman who feels like he spends all day filling out forms in order to get other forms to fill out, while seeking his profits being sucked up by the government and its institutions, feels a tug toward the Tea Party.

It's the anarchist who is closest to the mark when he notes that there really isn't that much of a distinction between the two. The government bails out the banks with bad money and the banks bail out the government with fake money. Governments and corporations, are run by the same people with the same phony mantra of social justice, that really means showy philanthropy and profitable regs. But then the cynics usually tend to be closer to the mark because faults are easy to find.

The American middle class is caught between two rebellions. One by an urban middle class elite that would like a more closed and regulated society and another by a rural middle class that would like a more open and less regulated society, with the suburbs split in the middle.

Having the cities is not absolutely mandatory for a revolution. The modern American city is a drain that produces very little except bureaucracy and culture. And while the power of those two should not be underestimated, if every major American city were to vanish tomorrow, some of the sciences would be hard hit and the bureaucracy would become decentralized, but most other things would continue on as before.

During the American Revolution holding on to the cities proved next to impossible, because of British naval power and the large concentrations of Loyalists. Even during the Civil War, most Northern cities leaned rather close to the anti-war side. Urban Democrats may lionize Lincoln now, but many of them thought of him, the way that their descendants thought of George W. Bush, as a war criminal with the brain of a monkey who was obsessed with oppressing the common man. Even some liberal Republicans thought of him that way.

But underestimating culture is dangerous. The sort of culture that we have is mostly worthless, but that doesn't make it any less effective. There is a great distance between Beethoven's Eroica and Katy Perry singing for Obama, but unlike Beethoven, few modern liberal writers and artists would have the integrity to rip up the title page on learning that their messiah had feet of muck. The Soviet Union fell in part because it lost that sense of cultural momentum, clinging to the Western Canon, while being overwhelmed by the pop trash that now rules Russia. And though it may be trash, cultural innovation creates a sense that we are moving forward. Those on the side of the newest trend seem like they have the answers to the future. Those who aren't, end up looking like Brezhnev.

Revolutions can be won without that cultural momentum, but it's harder than ever because culture carries with it that tang of prosperity, that sense that the good times are out there for those who want them. And revolutions tend to fall on the side of prosperity, on the side of an aspiring middle class looking to the future. Culture can be beaten, but it is best beaten with culture. Successful revolutions make their ideas compelling and appealing, not just in words, but in attitudes, in music, in literature and in art. France had Marat and America had the Death of Jane McCrea,

A revolution is part anger and outrage. It is that sense that you are being unfairly treated and that the life you had or could have had is slipping away from you. It is that breath of freedom that you once took and the belief that life on the other side of the wall must be better. It is a narrative, a story that rejects the authority of those in power on moral grounds and on practical ones.

Revolution works best when the authorities are weakened by a transition period, when they were once oppressive, but have been liberalizing, or where they are asserting a new level of authority that the people are not used to. It is in these transition points that revolutions are most effective because the authorities are not ready to cope with them and the people are made bold and desperate by the uncertainty.

Revolutions are not easy, until they begin rolling, and then it seems in retrospect as if they were always inevitable, the way that big things are. It is that explosion of kinetic energy born out of the potential energy of large numbers of people discovering their strength that fills the air with energy. That ionization is what most people associate with freedom, with the inevitable collapse of an old order and the rise of a new order.

At first a few people begin to push against the wall, and then more and more, their numbers growing as wall-pushing suddenly becomes the thing to do, and suddenly the sober men and women who never held with it, who put their faith in protests and petitions, join in. The wall shakes and then it falls.

This is revolution.

33 comments:

Gayle said...

Conflicting anecdotal reports, but it's looking tonight like businesses who sell ammo - including Wal-mart - are being leaned on (by FBI according to some) to simply...stop. Immediately.

Times are getting real interesting, real fast.

LT Prepper said...

Revolution is at the door... they have given us all the reason we could ever need, and then some. All that is left is for them to strike steel on flint, and the conflagration will begin.
http://ncrenegade.com/editorial/no-quarter-will-be-given/

mindRider said...

.........A revolution is part anger and outrage. It is that sense that you are being unfairly treated and that the life you had or could have had is slipping away from you.........
And that's why each and every revolution even when successful only begets the core of the next revolution. Change & hope, change & hope, become an aim in their own, whatever they lead to.

Dex Banner said...

As we settle into the New Year, we're giddy at the thought of the limitless opportunities for change. And, over champagne, it's easy to get carried ...

Vladimir Val Cymbal said...

In America the president is in charge of the military. This makes as coup almost impossible since our military has sworn allegiance to the POTUS. Unless the Pentagon folks are into a revolution, it will be though dodging the drones.

mindRider said...

@StukaPilot Whatever side Jews are on, thru-out history, in the aftermath of any revolution they find themselves to have been at the wrong side.
Hungarian Jewish refugees from the 1956 uprising where just as afraid of the often fascists revolutionaries as of the Russian troops send in to surpress the uprising.

Anonymous said...

Vladimir: Military officers pledge loyalty to the Constitution, not this (nor any) President. Officers of the US military will be the last bastion of freedom and the rule of law. I'm sure that the debate on whether, or when, to refuse to issue illegal orders is underway. Sultan points out that oppressive regimes ultimately depend upon a young man or woman's willingness to kill his neighbors.

fsy said...

The most essential non-physical thing all of us on the side of the good guys needs right now is a short list of 10 (or maybe even less) of Obama's biggest and most obvious illegal and unconstitutional acts that we can spit out in our sleep. Where to start? Fast and Furious, the BP spill and subsequent drilling ban, suing Arizona, weakening our military, etc. Whoever can draw this up in a page of well-documented readable legal prose will be a true hero.

Joan of Argghh! said...

This new generation practically worships fire. I don't hold out much hope of changing that culture. They're going tribal, and fast.

fsy said...

The reason we all have to have Obama's list of crimes on the tip of our tongues is that otherwise we will be told, "You are the minority; you have the right to your opinion (for now), but the majority rules." This is exactly what the White House wrote to the petitioners for secession, that "we value dissent (sure!) but we cannot let it tear us apart". What's going on now is not "dissent" but hopefully the punishment of criminals.

Empress Trudy said...

No. Because the question you have to answer is how did we arrive at this point. We arrived at this point through fat stupid inertia. And we are now the United States of Inertia. We are the Iranian middle class who wants nothing more than to be more or less left alone with a modicum of illegal satellite TV, freedom to drink at home and not wear hijabs among our friends. We don't care about the 'Green' revolution in the streets we don't care about the idiot debates on TV we don't care about the kabuki dance between President Whatshisname and the Congress of Crows. 1% tax here 2% there, not fun but not unbearable. No one will squawk not even when we all fall to the standard of living of 1979 East Germany.

Anonymous said...

great article

ASG said...

I truly believe that we would already be fighting a new Revolution if it weren't for the illusion of Democracy. People hold back because they believe that people like Governor Deval Patrick and Barack Obama were elected by the people. History may uncover that this was an illusion. How many people see the counting of ballots? For all we know, we feed our ballots into the machines and those machines are nothing more than a big shredder. The outcomes of recent elections may have in truth been completely different than we realize. So this cloak of Democracy is placed over the people and filling them with the thoughts that they would only be bucking a free system and painted as usurpers of freedom in order to keep us docile and in line. And what do we expect? That the people most benefiting from this illusion are going to investigate the illusion? A magician never shows his secrets. But I believe a revolt is coming. We may even find out by the end of the day today as the White House prepares its assault on the 2nd Amendment.

Leo said...

@fsy
IMHO there is no apparent shortage of materials covering and analyzing actions of O-administration in great detail, among them for example "Trickle Up Poverty" and "Trickle Down Tyranny" by Michael Savage, to name just a few important books on the subject.

ASG said...

@Vladimir -
Oath of Enlistment

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Officers Oath

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God

Notice in the Enlisted Oath that "I will obey the orders of the President of the United States" comes after "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same" and does not mention Allegiance to the President.

To those of us who have served, the safety of the American people is our first priority, it is why most of us serve.

fsy said...


IMHO there is no apparent shortage of materials covering and analyzing actions of O-administration in great detail, among them for example "Trickle Up Poverty" and "Trickle Down Tyranny" by Michael Savage, to name just a few important books on the subject.


Exactly my point. There is a huge glut of information (this blog being an excellent example), and that is wonderful, but right now we all need a one-page well-supported list of the "high crimes" to quote to anyone willing to listen (or not).

Leo said...

@fsy
What I meant, for non-professional it would be from difficult to impossible to do the same research and analysis that professionals do, to produce high quality results etc. However, based on their research of the subject, it is much easier for a non-professional to compile the desired list of any kind, some talking points or whatever. So it would be reasonable to start with several reliable sources, focused on accurate description and analysis of actions, misdemeanors, usurpations and abuses of power by O-administration. Also President Obama’s top 10 constitutional violations might be a good start.

ASG said...

@Fsy- The first high crime in my opinion that must be addressed is the High Crime of Treason and providing aide and comfort to our enemy. It started in Libya. As an Iraq Vet I was enraged at the idea that after a decade of fighting al Qaeda, the American President decided it would be a grand idea to assist al Qaeda by dropping bombs for them in their effort to overthrow an entire country. It was a betrayal of the trust of everyone who has ever served.

Leo said...

@fsy - Speaking of various lists, designed to influence people and shape reality, I honestly don't know what kind of list can be more important. The one with accurate account of actions of O-administration, or another with accurate chemical composition and dangers of marijuana. The former is designed to help people capable of discerning reality to make the right decisions, and the latter is designed to help people just to preserve their capability to discern reality. Go figure.

Leo said...

There are conversations taking place all over America. They are not being screamed from the mountain tops, they are being whispered from one end of the nation to the other. ... The Marxists have decided that Sandy Hook Elementary is a good enough reason to go ahead with the gun confiscation model used by totalitarian governments the world over. Senators, Governors, Representatives and the President have all come out to warn us that they are coming. How they come and how hard are the only questions left to be answered. T.L. Davis | Deadly Quiet Conversations | Jan 14, 2013

DenisO said...

First, I must reflect a bit on mindRider's comment that Jews were historically on the wrong side of revolutions. I can't think of an exception, and their loyalty is always punished. Most Rabbis who speak out are frustrated by this suicidal instinct, esp. re. Israel.
Something we must consider before we start making lists is whether George W. Bush can be accused of doing the same things. Presidents can only do what Congress allows, and Lincoln set the stage for Presidents violating the Constitution, shutting down newspapers, imprisoning dissenters without trial or indictment, even ordering the Chief Justice to prison (though no Officer would enforce it).
There is no "Treason", according to the Constitution, except giving aid and comfort to an enemy in time of war. War requires a declaration and a defined enemy. Wars on "Terrorism" are equal to wars on "Poverty", and other legal absurdities.
Obama is an opportunist, not a courageous hero, and he knows he can only go so far. He carefully generalizes about "reforms", but will point at Congress when criticism comes. He knows that every Representative will be up for reelection in less than two years, and will not vote for anything that could be called "gun control". I doubt he'll try Executive Orders, which only apply to Executive Branch agencies, and any that harm the People will be quickly and embarrassingly reversed by the Courts. Agency Officers also take an oath to support the Constitution, and they're not all dummies.
Lastly, I see a real need for a blue pencil on this article. Too many confusing typos that contradict the meaning of sentences. What editor could keep up with the volume generated daily? Nobody willing to work that hard?
Denis

Some dude said...

I haven't read the whole article yet, but I was very happy when I read this part:

"People are not at their most dangerous when they're eating bread crusts and hoping that they won't die tomorrow. By then they're often broken, perhaps not individually, but as a society. It wasn't the people on the collective farms who challenged Soviet tanks in Moscow. Nor was it the Chinese farmers, now being bulldozed off their land, sometimes literally, who stood up to the tanks in Tienanmen Square. "

How many lies were we told as children regarding the reality of the situation, of human nature? How often were we told that "the people" would revolt if pushed too hard? I want to cry at the truth you are speaking. It is so heartbreaking that so few people understand what you have written. They have no idea of how vulnerable human liberty and human dignity truly is.

Anonymous said...

"Authority works best when it isn't challenged. Ceremony, whether it is that of an emperor or any lesser rank, invests authority with mystical force. Peer pressure and social conformity employ horizontal pressures to keep everyone in their place. Secret police and ranks of informers allow the regime to project an illusion of omnipotent force that seems to be everywhere at once. Reigns of terror create examples to intimidate anyone who might think of challenging the regime."

Sounds like Mohammed and Islam. Mo invoked Allah to invest his authority with mystical force.

Arlie said...

Daniel...I clicked on one of your links named Taming Korach...you will probably want to remove this link because it is not what you think it is. I was pretty shocked at what was on this link. Just FYI.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Sorry about that. Looks like the domain lapsed and was taken over. Thanks for letting me know.

Leo said...

The proper web address for tamingkorach.com should be either yearsofawe.blogspot.com or yearsofawe.blogspot.co.il, it looks like "tamingkorach.com --> yearsofawe.blogspot.com" forwarding has been altered.

careyrowland said...

Whoa!

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't see an armed revolt in this country's future unless it truly becomes a police state and freedoms are extremely restricted.

But a non violent revolt is definitely brewing.

Keliata

Ironboomer said...

Many of us can agree that the current regime is unworthy of our affection. Before a revolution a la Egypt or Syria, however, it must be asked what will be the new model of governance? Where would be the seat of authority? If the present system were kept, would the results not be duplicated?

Anonymous said...

One thing is certain about revolutions-the outcome is seldom what was envisioned or predicted. The French Revolution gave them an Empreror. The Russian Revolution gave them not land and bread but Stalin and misery. Cambodia got a butcher's bill.

If revolution comes to America then a butcher bill will be paid. I hope our leaders realize they will be the first to ante up.

Leo said...

Speaking of errors and typos in blogs, it is natural for a human being to try to help his beloved author to achieve perfection, to help him in any way possible toward that noble goal ... and Ray Bradbury's old story comes to mind, where a grandma in some fascinating disorder and mayhem in the kitchen managed to cook incredibly tasty food, and when some visiting relative "helped" her into perfection by imposing strict order, the miracle is gone, regardless of the perfect order in the kitchen, or maybe because of it, needless to say family members reacted like of course you are right dear the order is important, but you better be gone.

speak2truth said...

Anonymous stated: "Military officers pledge loyalty to the Constitution, not this (nor any) President"

Yet, when a military officer demanded (for two years) that the military chain of command show him that Obama could legally issue orders, they could not do so. Instead, they sent Lt. Col. Terry Lakin to prison for disobeying illegal orders.

They made an example of Lakin as a warning to anyone else who would dare uphold that oath to the Constitution.

They're "just following orders". We have heard that line before.

Leo said...

@speak2truth ...when a military officer demanded (for two years) that the military chain of command show him that Obama could legally issue orders, they could not do so. Instead, they sent Lt. Col. Terry Lakin to prison for disobeying illegal orders.

Sometimes I come across apparent anomalies like Oath Keepers pretending not to know anything about oath keepers like LTC Terry Lakin. I guess it would be just natural for them to publish a serious in-depth article, to mention his book OFFICER'S OATH etc. I hope I am wrong and it's only malfunctioning SEARCH on their site.

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