Why Can’t We Start A Revolution?

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PHOTO: “Liberty leading the People” by Eugène Delacroix

Revolutions are romantic, especially for Americans. Our revolutions are all so recent that we are still so close to them, the force and violence of them lingers in our collective attitudes; it influences our laws and society. We had our first revolution a little over two hundred years ago, then the Civil War and a hundred years later, the social revolution of the sixties and the rise of the counterculture. Sometimes being not that far from our revolutions and romanticizing them, a very common action, makes them seem impossible. The problem is that right now we’re more ripe for one than we’ve ever been before.

A revolution is the human version of a perfect storm, it takes a specific mixture to get started and for every group, it’s completely different. What God particle is missing in our society right now that we need to bring this to fruition? We’ve got one of the most lopsided distributions of wealth, a corrupt penal system and a third wave of a population boom. If you strip away all our consumer products and creature comforts, we’ve got the statistics of a developing country. Our schools are losing money yet our military spending is unprecedented, we have prisons and healthcare run for profit yet we’re wildly in debt. We know how bad it is and still there is a level of cynicism; of old failings and surrendered ideals shaping how we move forward. There is a chorus of “that’s just the way things are” chiming in whenever someone approaches these problems with the appropriate anger. That’s just the way things are and that’s just the way things are going to be.

“If you strip away all our consumer products and creature comforts, we’ve got the statistics of a developing country.”

Except that has never been true! Why this sudden belief the world and all its people are stagnant? Are we looking at history in too small of a context? Are we looking specifically at our time period and echoing a sentiment we see? Perhaps we’re waiting for things to get bad enough we have no choice but to demand change. Part of the problem is there are a lot of problems to fix and people are just overwhelmed by it all. In order to get anything done we must break into factions and find the solutions we have a passion for. We can start a revolution with passion, we can change peacefully in this shrinking world. Thanks to social media, we’ve never had this level of connection and interaction with each other and we can use it to our benefit. It is a new world and once again, the disenfranchised outnumber the powers-that-be. For the first time, we can actually take a head count and see where we stand. Plus, much like the start of the French Revolution, we’ve never consumed so much coffee and caffeinated drinks as we do today. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Les Miserables made such a comeback the same year the new Assassin’s Creed was based all around the upheaval in the colonies.

The Occupy movement, though embraced by a significant populace, was met with cynicism by many people. Pictures circulated the internet of occupiers on cell phones wearing brand name clothing, generating a barrage of internet criticism. Suddenly the movement wasn’t about the inequality of our system or how we as a tax-paying citizens demand our fair share, but rather, if you dare to threaten the establishment then you better be willing to exist entirely outside of it. The Occupy movement was not about anarchy; it was not about burning the system to the ground and starting from scratch. It was a plea and a platform for us to be heard on and show that there were so many against so few. Despite it’s anti-climactic end in most cities, Occupy was a demonstration that worked. The fact it happened and had enough of a backing to be a major, nation-wide protest is in itself a victory, albeit a small one. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all. Though it did burn down in about a week.

“Suddenly the [Occupy] movement wasn’t about the inequality of our system or how we as a tax-paying citizens demand our fair share, but rather, if you dare to threaten the establishment then you better be willing to exist entirely outside of it.”

A new way to look at everything, if you’ll permit me: we started our revolution over forty years ago and it has been raging since. Can we deny a rebellious attitude in even the most conservative of eras in America’s recent history? In Reagan’s Drug War America, punks were a large enough group to qualify as a demographic. Even with the post September 11th patriotism, dissent ran fluid through it with conspiracies and questions being raised. Some of this country’s largest anti-war protests were seen in the nation’s capital.

Why do we hesitate? Do we not know how to move forward? Perhaps we can’t find something unifying enough to tie us all together? There’s so much to be angry at, there’s so much that needs fixing. How do we pull ourselves together for a revolution when we’re not even sure what we’re aiming for? We don’t have to be sure of specifics. The general consensus is that everyone wants to have the right to live on their own terms. If our demands are as simple as that, why are we having so much trouble moving forward?

There are more questions than answers because they all cover the same area: how? How do we do these? There is no question of why and there is no question of when; only how. It is the only question that needs to be answered and sooner would be better than later. The concept of later is waning.