I’ve read enough to know that largely revolutions don’t work. Rally the troops, get all excited, kill some people, burn something… and end up with some new despotism with an unfamiliar face. I’ve read a fair bit of autobiography around China’s cultural revolution, the rush of enthusiasm, the hope, the bitter betrayal that followed. It doesn’t seem so far from the wild optimism and brutal bloodshed France went through. Wild, desperate attempts to seize power and make it all better quite often don’t.
Which when you’ve a revolutionary streak, is not happy news.
Fast revolutions don’t work. What is born in anger and brutality, is not likely to evolve into enlightened progress. I’m not someone who believes that the ends justify the means. If you look at history, it seems obvious to me that how you do a thing really informs what you get at the end. Violence begets violence. That which we build out of hatred, anger and resentment will not serve to warm our hearts much in the future.
The best revolutions are slow and quiet. They sneak in. I think about passive resistance and quiet acts of non-cooperation. A little civil disobedience can go a long way. Or wilful obedience. Sometimes nothing can be more subversive than doing as you were told. Precisely and literally. And not doing anything else.
We need change. I’m reading articles in newspapers about how the world is run to benefit the 1% who have the most, a UK education minister blaming feminism for the rising gap between rich and poor. We live in a system that is designed to serve the wealthy. We are playing a game where they make the rules, design the board, own all the pieces. Guess what? The game is rigged. We’re shown the few who sing, act or dance their way to fleeting fame and fortune to keep us believing that anyone can get out of the gutter if they’re young, attractive and lucky. It nourishes our illusions.
It’s not the physical poverty we need to tackle in this country at least. Compared to our recent ancestors, most westerners are obscenely well off. Our poverty lies in our lifestyles, how we feel. What use is money if you are miserable? What good is it playing a game you cannot win, to serve the needs of an elite few?
I’d lay good money if enough of us got angry we could storm the banks, burn a few politicians, put someone new on the throne. Give it a little while for the shine to wear off, and we’d find ourselves in the same system with a new set of faces under the hats of the elite. That’s not progress. Being the person on the throne is not a win, and only when we recognise that can we start to change the rules of the game. It’s only while we aspire to be like the people who seem to have everything, that we remain slaves of their system. Once you stop wanting to be them, its possible to rethink everything.
I want to live in a fair and sustainable world, where need is considered more important than greed, compassion is not equated with weakness, and money is not political power. I want to live in a world where beauty matters more than the bottom line, where quality means more than a quick buck. I want a whole different reality from the one we’ve got.
I am not alone.
Reading blogs and newspapers, seeing the growing disquiet amongst people all over the world, I know there are a lot of folk out there hungry for change. No dramatic uprisings. No bloodletting. No putting a new despot on the throne this time. What we need is a quiet revolution. It starts on the inside. It starts inside our own heads. It is the act of rejecting assumption and trying to figure out how things ought to be. And then, through small action, through personal choice, through our day to day choices, going after that vision of a better world. Throw away the unwinnable game. Chuck out the rules of the few designed to keep the many on a leash. Dream of something better.
Clap your hands if you believe in revolutions.