So why a revolution, rather than any other action? Considering the inherent dangers, what are the realistic possible results to be gained from a revolution. There has to be some sort of cost/benefit analysis done somewhere. And there has to be objectives that can’t be achieved any other way. Arguably, anyone with the drive, determination and charisma that would be necessary to successfully prosecute a revolution, could be just as successful (if not more so) working within a democratic system. Or could they? It depends upon the objectives, the problems and the grievances.
Typically, in one respect at least, the question never really arises. By the time a revolution is fomenting and precipitant, the current system has blatantly failed to deliver required actions and remedies to extant problems. You will be in the final stages of a failed state. However, not necessarily – there are other motivations for revolutions, such as class divides and cultural divides. The Iranian revolution was a classic cultural divide issue. Arguably the French Revolution was a class divide. the American revolution falls into a bit of a unique category. In some ways there was no particularly obvious Casus Belli, British colonies in Canada managed to get along OK. The Americans decided they wanted to do something different however, and the existing system wasn’t amenable to that apparently. Albeit, an outside observer might well wonder what particular differences exist between Canada and America to justify revolution and a rather murderous little war to achieve it. Who gets to make the decisions and control the money seems to have been the main point of dispute. No question, America is definitely about the money, Jerry McQuire anyone…! Although to be fair, Americans are passionate believers in democracy, they will hold elections for anything(American idol) So there are some more reasons to consider; financial/management/control issues.
Which could actually be what the next revolution will be all about. The Americans have managed to influence and shape the world so effectively to their model of political economy and financial management(or mismanagement as the case may be) that reaction to that may be the developing zeitgeist. I am of the opinion that American mismanagement of their position of financial supremacy is a good 50/50 proposition for the sufficient conditions necessary for a revolution, even as far away as here in NZ. But… we shall see. Going out of an evening and seeing all the people wining and dining in the bars and restaurants suggests we are still a long way from severe economic depression. And assuming that is the fate of the direction of things, there is still a way to travel yet to achieve it.
We still haven’t addressed the central question of why it would be necessary to break the system and start over though, rather then work from within it to reform it. The answer in a word is “Irredeemable”, there are some things that are inherently irredeemable. That means that anything that you do, cannot and will not achieve the desired results if you work within the system. There is no end of systems and institutions that this applies to, but the big three are: Political, Legal, Economic. It is inherent in the nature of bureaucracies and human psychology that situations of power and privilege will be captured and/or ossify. While these systems will undeniable evolve and grow they will also increasingly become closed systems that work to exclude rather than include. Even when it is the law of unintended consequences, bad decisions and systems will be protected and supported rather than terminated. There are too many vested interests at play. The bigger the system, the more mass and momentum invested in the status quo and the more that an evil consequence can be ignored as insignificant or condoned as unavoidable. Perhaps the most perfidious evil is when the cost and consequence is some-one else’s problem. Shuffle the costs on down-stream to somebody else and then there is no limit to how bad things can get. When things that are bad end up getting worse because of policies that are actively being pursued, but at no direct cost to the initiator, there can be no real motivation to reform.
Which is where the real issues lay. It is inherent in human nature to resist reforms and change. Particularly with the types of people who inherently gravitate towards bureaucratic and accounting types of systems. Unsurprisingly the institutions they work in and promote reflect that too, and doubly so. They ultimately become self interested, self serving, defensive, authoritarian and dehumanising. Anyone who has had the privilege of working for a large Corporation or Government department will know exactly what I am talking about. Their dynamic is to continually grow and to become inwardly focused. Regardless of the deleterious effects both on the larger environment and even for the vast majority of the people within them too. There will be a subset that do very nicely out of all this, thankyou very much! Que – ossification! Gotta lock in them benefits. Both for the people within the system, particularly the elite, and therefore ipso-facto the system itself, the prime motivation is to secure the benefits and export the harm. Anything and everything else becomes, at best, secondary.
This is not a system that can be reformed. It may start out beneficent, but once the evolution of this process passes a certain point there is no turning back. Breaking it – is the only remedy. To leave these systems in place is to ensure the actual promotion of harmful, even evil, consequences. There is even an expression to describe it – the banality of evil – it is not something that is done by shrieking demons and monsters, it is done by faceless, anonymous minion of a careless grinding system. And the sacrifices in lives, hopes and treasure does not ultimately improve anything, those are just resources to be squandered in the pursuit of undefined, unplanned and undesirable objectives. The unintended consequences multiply until they swamp the initial aspirations. Ultimately these institutions become too big to be controlled either from within or from without, they cannot be reformed, they cannot be contained or stopped. They are irredeemable – they can only be broken, deleted and over-written.
When the systems are the State and the State is the problem, then in the end the only answer is Revolution. Tear down and rebuild from scratch. The benefit comes twofold, preventing the harm, self inflicted, under the old regime, and reopening opportunities that have become locked out and denied. Aspiration is what dies when the irredeemable is in control. I have a friend who wants to get a T-shirt with the slogan on it saying “There is no point to anything”. We need to believe that there is a point, things can change and that we do matter, we can achieve, succeed and make a difference. Do you feel like that?