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Revolution considered as a spiritual exercise - is an interesting concept.

You can't have a revolution for something, you must have it against something. Progress toward a goal may, in hindsight, be seen as revolutionary, but up front it's careful hard work that makes a difference.
One difference between a leader and a rabble rouser is that, when they're finished stirring up people, one says "follow me!", and the other says "go for it!" and stands back to watch. This is not to say that the leader is the better person, only that he or she is willing to put skin in the game.
A goal is something you move toward. This is - slightly - different than picking out a primary target to move against.
Retaliation as the goal in a movement signals corruption, or at least confusion, in the movement. A movement which is focussed primarily on defeating an enemy will, should it ever succeed, most likely look around for a new enemy to turn its sights on.
The presence of an unspecified enemies list signals McCarthyism, not a desire for progress. "They are trying to take away all we hold dear" is the same kind of fear mongering whether it's used against "the commies" or "the one percent".
If your concept of a new world is not designed to include idiots, cynics, and hypocrites, then it's not designed to be workable. Whatever you accomplish, you will still have human beings to deal with. "Getting rid of corruption" is a throwaway line, especially if you define corrupt as "willing to compromise" or "capable of imperfection". The "totally moral" man (or woman) will never exist except in theory. Plan for flexibility, not perfection.
"The first thing a principle does is kill somebody." - Lord Peter Wimsey
"Toward a better world" is as least as scary as it is promising, unless you're speaking theoretically. Indeed, the more promising it is, the more people will be legitimately afraid of it, because they might lose what they have in the process of gaining it. It's only when you have nothing to lose that the unknown becomes less fearful than what you have already learned to cope with. Getting people to support working toward a carefully defined goal is a whole lot easier than trying to get them to support overthrowing the current situation just to see what will happen when it's gone.
I have a soft spot in my heart for grand and glorious poetry and songs. I've even written a couple. For finding or building a better future, though, I want to see an absolutely prosaic description of what might be involved in getting there. Try to stampede me into a binary choice and I will fight that choice unremittingly. Not because I cannot understand those options, but because I want to see ALL the options, not just those chosen to create emotional triggers. The world is not black and white, and very few real choices are "either/or".
Here endeth the rant.

10:50 AM PT: Thank you again, Rescue Rangers!

Originally posted to serendipityisabitch on Fri Dec 20, 2013 at 11:18 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (28+ / 0-)

    At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

    by serendipityisabitch on Fri Dec 20, 2013 at 11:18:32 PM PST

  •  I have opted out (3+ / 0-)

    I do good in stealth.  It circumvents the Parasite.  that is my revolution.

  •  interesting thoughts (4+ / 0-)

    I find myself wondering about how the American Revolution became known as a revolution. That word doesn't appear in the Declaration of Independence.

    The American Revolution was definitely against something: subjection to Britain. Its goal seems to have been to end subjection to Britain while preserving most of the new nation's political and socioeconomic institutions. That goal was conservative enough to command wide (but far from universal) support. Not much of a revolution. But, as you say:

    Getting people to support working toward a carefully defined goal is a whole lot easier than trying to get them to support overthrowing the current situation just to see what will happen when it's gone.

    "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

    by HudsonValleyMark on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 08:44:27 AM PST

    •  It's interesting. Just as changes carefully (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HudsonValleyMark, duhban

      carried out with no thought of overturning anything can be seen, in hindsight, as "revolutionary", a successful revolution is going to disengage from the terminology as fast as it possibly can, in order to help create the myth that the changes that have occurred were in fact only a matter of highlighting that which was originally in place. This helps stabilize the situation pretty swiftly, if it can be done.

      At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

      by serendipityisabitch on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 10:29:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not sure what you mean by disengage (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        serendipityisabitch, duhban

        To be explicit, I'm thinking of political revolutions that culminate in regime change. (Of course, "revolution" can mean almost anything. The phrase "revolutionary new technology" garners about 3 million Google hits, and I was just reading about the opt-out revolution. Shrug.)

        If there is exactly one regime change, that can end the revolution -- and it isn't so dangerous to refer to a revolution in the past tense. I've forgotten most of what I ever knew about the rhetoric of the French Revolution, but obviously it comprised a series of regime changes. Then there is Marx's idea of a "permanent revolution," and other conceptions of revolution that imply that it continues indefinitely. I think that very few people are predisposed to join open-ended revolutions, as such.

        I feel I should have something pithy to say about the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, but I quail.

        "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

        by HudsonValleyMark on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 11:23:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, but that is the difference between us. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          duhban

          You know what you're talking about. ;)

          I take a phrase or two and riff on possibilities that come up. Sometimes it comes up with something new that actually helps, more often it produces a good phrase or two that can spawn another riff, and most often it's nothing but hot air, and you get to watch the balloons rising.

          A better way to describe what I was thinking might be that the American Revolution was made to seem inevitable, after the fact, so that the new country had a history which justified all the changes that had to be made. Which follows the standard revision of history by the winners, of course. It helps if you've got really, really good writers working on it, which we did.

          At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

          by serendipityisabitch on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 11:49:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Fear mongering (0+ / 0-)
            The presence of an unspecified enemies list signals McCarthyism, not a desire for progress. "They are trying to take away all we hold dear" is the same kind of fear mongering whether it's used against "the commies" or "the one percent".
            '

            Let's take the Civil War -how do you end slavery without pointing out that slaveholders are trying to take away everything we hold dear? Is Bill Moyers fear mongering?

  •  "grand and glorious poetry and songs" (4+ / 0-)

    We need the poetry and songs to inspire us; to evoke the strong emotions that will carry us through difficult tasks. The strong emotions don't show us how to solve those problems, though.

    That's where the prosaic works of details, facts, and processes come in. We need both. We need sound bites, Youtube videos, songs, and works of inspiration that hook the emotions. We need reports and studies, surveys, experiments, and critical analysis that show effective solutions. Just as importantly we need both of these efforts to be in sync, with no real contradictions and lots of mutual feedback between the two parallel efforts.

    •  I am tempted to argue, perhaps just for the sake (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hey338Too, duhban

      of argument. Not against the obvious, but against one small point that you made in passing.

      Critical analyses do not "show effective solutions". They identify critical problems, but that's the most they can do. Sometimes a correct identification and parsing of a problem carries a solution with it, if you're lucky. Most often, though, the solution has to be turned over to the chaotic processes that define creativity. And if there's one thing most people are scared of, it's letting creativity loose to come up with possible solutions, because it is literally stepping into the unknown. Revolution can seem safer.

      As for the rest, a resounding "YES!" When all the pieces are available, then everyday life can change from a dull monotonous grind to an adventure to be lived - even in times of complete safety. I'm in favor of that.

      At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

      by serendipityisabitch on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 10:23:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not an argument. clarification or perception (3+ / 0-)

        It seems that a lot of the time the process of defining and identifying a problem also presents a solution. For those times when correctly identifying the problem does not "solve" it, the solution process should include opportunities for messy, creative, chaotic solutions to be considered and tested. Brainstorming and other ways to encourage "out of the box" thinking belong in a problem-solving process.

        When the task is effective messaging, creativity and "artsy" thinking are just as much a part of the process as demographics and marketing psychology.

        Read. Learn. Think!

        by IndyGlenn on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 06:41:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  A comment straight in the black. For many years (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Hey338Too

          one of my absolutes was that all it took to solve most problems was to define them correctly - when you knew what the problem really was, the solution was inherent in the definition of the problem.

          In many ways, it still is. But sometimes you can't even figure out what the problem is until at some point it disappears - and then you work back to a definition by hindsight and hope you're seeing all the pieces ....

          At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

          by serendipityisabitch on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 09:51:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  effective messaging is an ongoing iterative proces (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            serendipityisabitch

            I don't know nearly enough about psychology and marketing analysis to know all of the whys and wherefores, but I do know enough to realize that effective messaging is dynamic, ongoing, and requires an iterative feedback kind of process. The transmitters/writers are continually changing and modifying the message to effectively communicate to the receivers/readers.

            There's a tremendous amount of Science AND Art going on for the messaging to be effective.

            Read. Learn. Think!

            by IndyGlenn on Mon Dec 23, 2013 at 09:12:25 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Got your back on very few things being "either/ (3+ / 0-)

    or." You wouldn't know it sometimes from reading this blog.

    "The soil under the grass is dreaming of a young forest, and under the pavement the soil is dreaming of grass."--Wendell Berry

    by Wildthumb on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 09:35:27 AM PST

  •  Excellent diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    serendipityisabitch, duhban

    YOU should write a book.

    Looking through the bent backed tulips, To see how the other half lives, Looking through a glass onion - John Lennon and Paul McCartney

    by Hey338Too on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 09:50:19 AM PST

    •  Well, if I pad this out to about three times what (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hey338Too, duhban

      it is, it would be as long as "The Notebooks of Lazarus Long", which I have to admit I was thinking about while I was typing it. There was a critical moment when I almost put in "Rub her feet", and chickened out. :)

      At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

      by serendipityisabitch on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 10:06:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  True, But - - - (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    serendipityisabitch

    When they are gunning you down - literally or figuratively -
    Ya gotta get rid of the cannons pointed at you, first.

    Napoleon would have been little more than a corporal under the Old Regime.
    MLK, Jr. would have been less tolerated without Malcolm.

    •  Maybe. (That's not a putdown maybe, that's a (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnnygunn, Hey338Too, duhban

      contemplative maybe.)

      When you have nothing left to lose, and certain tragedy to contemplate, against is certainly going to be more reasonable.

      My problem is with the demagogues who inspire fear in order to make revolution (or, sometimes, passivity) seem more reasonable. From some points of view, calling for a revolution rather than sitting down and figuring out real solutions seems like a much, much simpler way to go. Mostly doesn't work, either, IMHO.

      At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

      by serendipityisabitch on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 10:45:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have to disagree with your first point (6+ / 0-)

    Revolutions aren't limited to being against something. Revolutions are both for and against. They are against the status quo and for a reordering of the political and/or social order. What that means in concrete terms depends on what the revolutionaries are advocating.

    If you limit your comment to those ostensible "revolutionaries" who continually mouth the word revolution as an incantation without providing any specifics I'd be more agreeable. However, that isn't a true picture of all revolutionary minded folks.

    This leaves aside the fact that there is more than one kind of revolution. As is most often the case, it's content rather than rhetoric that matters.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 11:57:41 AM PST

    •  I agree, but I want more and better words to use (4+ / 0-)

      to talk about it.

      I would contend that those movements which start with a clear picture of the goals they are trying to reach are distinct from those movements which begin with the declared intention of getting rid of the status quo, for whatever reason.

      The first type of movement may or may not end up as a revolution - if there's a better way to get to the perceived endpoint, it's likely to be tried.

      The second type of movement is never going to be satisfied (hyperbole here) because even if they "win", another status quo will inevitably rise out of the ashes, to be newly vilified and ranted against.

      A short riff, but a merry one. ;)

      At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

      by serendipityisabitch on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 12:22:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes, I want words for this, too (4+ / 0-)

        I've seen "clear picture of the goals" construed as "blueprint." Me, I'd settle for a rough sketch that evinces a decent respect for the messiness of life. It doesn't have to be "pragmatic" -- it can aspire to more than it achieves -- but it has to be humane and consequentialist. Whether it's also revolutionary depends on the context. It does seem to me that a lot of people who look to a revolution to solve "root problems" don't have a clear model of those problems.

        "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

        by HudsonValleyMark on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 02:32:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is sort of in addition to the rec. I agree (0+ / 0-)

          fully with every bit of what you've posted here. Can I add it to what's already in the diary as it is, or would you like to edit it first?

          At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

          by serendipityisabitch on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 10:20:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  this nails a point that I danced around (4+ / 0-)

      I do suspect that siab is reacting to revolutionary rhetoric without substance. "The People Will Win The Heroic Victory Over Evil" just isn't the ticket. But by all means, revolutions are for something(s).

      "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

      by HudsonValleyMark on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 12:44:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  thoughts (4+ / 0-)

    Speaking as someone who has, for my own deep well being, given up on depending on any sort of narratives to describe my perception and reality -

    Revolution considered as a spiritual exercise - is an interesting concept.
    Reminds me of Audre Lorde's "Uses of the Erotic" in which she considers the question briefly. It's a beautiful essay and if you haven't read it, it's worth it IMO.
    You can't have a revolution for something, you must have it against something.
    Reminds me of Gloria Anzaldua's comments about the purpose and limitations of a "counterstance" - I think in her essay "la consciencia de la mestiza" in Borderlands/La Frontera.

    (I don't have either of these books at hand or I'd give better citations)

    I have a soft spot in my heart for grand and glorious poetry and songs. I've even written a couple. For finding or building a better future, though, I want to see an absolutely prosaic description of what might be involved in getting there. Try to stampede me into a binary choice and I will fight that choice unremittingly. Not because I cannot understand those options, but because I want to see ALL the options, not just those chosen to create emotional triggers. The world is not black and white, and very few real choices are "either/or".
    In a roomful of activists, I suspect I would find your energy among the most appealing of anyone there. Though I seldom find myself in roomsful of activists these days :)

    Thanks for this diary.

  •  did you say you have poetry? (3+ / 0-)

    I, among others, I'm sure, would love to read it, even just a paragraph or two.

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 05:30:09 PM PST

    •  Oops. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hey338Too

      Most of it's pagan, or SCAvian. But here's one verse that I'd posted here before. For the moment, it's all you're gonna get. ;)

      At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

      by serendipityisabitch on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 10:05:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  here's some more random thoughts on Revolution (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    serendipityisabitch

    There is no direct evidence that Marie Antoinette ever uttered the phrase 'let them eat cake'.

    While there were numerous abuses in the French Government matters spiraled so quickly out of control that practically anyone even tangentially related to the government was sent to the gallows.

    Der Weg ist das Ziel

    by duhban on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 07:54:58 PM PST

  •  A very smart friend of mine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    serendipityisabitch

    Once said something about revolutions that has stuck with me for a long time. He said this:

    The greatest thing that George Washington did was to give up power, go back to his farm, and let some other guy be President of the U.S.
    And the same goes for Nelson Mandela. That's how you become a beloved figure of the revolution -- you voluntarily step down. You retire and then you let democracy take over.

    On the other hand, look at someone like, say, Napoleon Bonaparte or Colonel Qaddafi or the first Kim in North Korea (was it Kim Il-Sung or was it Kim Jong-Il?). Once each of them became the Emperor or Supreme Leader or whatever, they held onto power until they died. And by doing that, they replaced one bad political system with another bad system.

    Sometimes a revolution gives you a better political system. Sometimes you get more of the same or much worse.

    I'm tempted to say more about revolutions, but I think it's enough to make that one point for now.

    "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

    by Dbug on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 09:09:12 PM PST

    •  Napoleon was forcibly deposed. Twice. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dbug

      The first time, he came back and grabbed the reins of power again - so the second time, he was exiled so far away there was no way back.

      It took the French many more tries to really get the hang of democracy, though.

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 09:57:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Worker/Stockholder imbalance leads to Revolution (0+ / 0-)

    The fundamental problem of our time is the growing imbalance between worker and stockholder interests.  If not brought back into line by the ballot box, it will ultimately result in armed insurrection.

    If we look at payrolls as a percentage of the economy, we find that they have fallen from 52% to 44% over the past 4 decades.  This corresponds to $10,000 per year which is being diverted from the wage of every full time employee and funneled to the wealthy.  We need to stop the destructive concern with debt, which is merely a stopgap for a failing system, and start debating how best to restore balance.

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