While listening to the musical Les Misérables for the umpteenth time, my mind ran wild contemplating the pros-and-cons behind the revolutionary mindset so prevalent in our modern times.
Historically, revolution, although heavily romanticised, has mainly meant the exchanging of one set of flawed values for another set of flawed values. And this is not forgetting the loss-of-life (the ultimate sacrifice) and incarceration (causal consequence) associated with this accepted ‘noble’ mindset.
Needless to say, I found myself at odds with the whole causality of insurrections.
In a democracy, compromise is a given. As a matter of fact, it is not only a given but a necessity. So much so, that in a democracy very little would work if it were not for the mores of compromise: compromise is the understanding that most viewpoints are postulations on perceived rationalisations and personal experiences, thus the quest for a negotiated deal (middle ground, win-win scenarios, etc) is the primary mover of all thing democratic.
Revolution on the other hand, is the diametrical opposite of democracy. Revolutionary tenets or emotive aphorisms (catchy sound-bytes) rely on democratic philosophies to propagate its drives and ambitions. In revolution there is no compromise. It is an all or nothing attitude using the human emotion of ‘hope’ (a better tomorrow) as its key driver.
Yet, life in itself is all about change and change dynamics. Progress relies on change. Evolution relies on change. Cognitive ascension relies on change. The list is endless and ever changing: as Heraclitus so aptly stated: Nothing endures but change.
The natural propensity of life to change has brought with it limitless avenues of development and evolvement. If it were not for change, the human animal would still be roaming the earth as hunter-gatherers rather than the technological wizards it is today. Space exploration, mathematics, communications and medical advancements, would be mythological ideologies or superstitious maxims were it not for change.
The positives of change cannot be ignored. “Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.” ~ King Whitney Jr.
But therein ends the lesson. Modern change where human nature is concerned has not always been for the better or for-the-good-of-all. Wars, political indifference, ideological cleansing and the pursuit of self-centered insensitivity have intensified, and are mostly driven along by ‘technology’ and greed i.e. The internet came to life as a first world evolution, a boon to the quest for information, a decentralization of human demographics and a noble depiction of the human spirit. Today, that dream is littered with disinformation, plagiarized articles, Trojan type viruses, degradation information, and pirated entertainment clips. One has to check and verify every piece of online-information just to ensure that what is being portrayed and or displayed in correct and safe to use.
It is this very change-ethics that has me perplexed: One, change is a requirement to human development and two, that chance is not always good.
Does one accept a bad action as long as the end-product delivers on an ideal quickly? Does one wage peaceful war (non-threatening, sit-around-the-table engagements, etc) on a moral standing knowing that the desired outcome will take years to achieve? Is collateral damage i.e. loss of human life, destruction of property, causal incarceration, etc, an acceptable risk on the path to achieving an ideological outcome? Is long-term suffering acceptable in the struggle to a peaceful negotiated change? In the end, are there any guarantees in life?
Over the past while, there have been many violent uprisings that have led to a ‘regime’ change. The human fallout in the process has been high and damage to property just as heavy. The final results have shown that the means to an end did not deliver the expected results for the people are generally not happy, and life did not return to the ‘new’ normal. Dissidence rules, inequality rules and criminality rules. Even the ‘new’ rulers are not enjoying the projected peaceful after effects.
Not that I am a true believer in the whole democracy-is-great ethos, for in my experience, if it is a capitalist based democracy, it delivers to the few while keeping the rest in a state of ‘hungry’ ignorance. If it is a socialist based democracy, it proposes to deliver to the many whilst keeping the few in ‘blinkered’ ignorance.
The problem is that violence is not endemic to insurrections: “Politics presupposes violence. Violence, or the threat of it, is one of the principal concerns that motivates people to form societies in which government is entrusted to a central authority – the state. And it is for this reason that the state claims a ‘monopoly on the legitimate use of violence’ – an exclusive right to exercise force against external enemies and its own citizens, when they break the rules.” Ben Dupré.
Let’s not forget that the state is all-pervasive: we are born and die in its embrace, and it extends into every aspect of our lives. And being of human construct, it is susceptible to corruption, greed and power quibbles.
In returning to my original thoughts on the futility of revolutions, I find myself in agreement with Hannah Arendt (Political Theorist) when she said that “The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative on the day after the revolution.” Karl Marx himself was reluctant to draw up blueprints for post-revolution societies: it is not our task to write recipes for the kitchens of the future.
Yes, many regimes and despots have been brought to their knees by the force of the ‘annoyed’ masses but, was it all worth it: the death, the beatings, the bloodshed, and the incarcerations? Are the post-revolution living conditions better than the original pre-revolution conditions? Were the changes significant enough to make the vile displays of human nature at its worse acceptable?
Although I am against the whole violence mindset in all its forms, I cannot discard the studied tendencies of the human propensity to solve problems by force. Round-table talking has only served as a ‘deflectionary’ pacifier and not as a solution.
Thus, alas, my turmoil on the whole revolution as an end to a means continues. To my mind the ideal of a better-life-for-all (what an emotive beautiful aphorism, so fitting of our modern sound-byte loving society) will remain elusive for years to come.
In the meanwhile I’ll continue to enjoy the music of Les Misérables to its fullest.