Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

You Say You Want A Revolution?

One of the problems with the American mythos is that it encourages people to think that violent revolution brings positive change. This is almost never the case.

The French revolution brought in a national civil war and blood bath which ended only when France turned into a dictatorship which directed its violence outward in a series of wars under Napoleon which helped to tear down the old balances of power in Europe and light the slow fuse that burned through to the Franco-Austrian, Franco-Prussian and Austro-Prussian wars that gave Europe a German empire and fundamentally weakened the Austro-Hungarians, and then finally WW1 and WW2 and the colonial wars of liberation that followed.

The Russian Revolution and Chinese Revolution were both utter disasters for their countries and for the world.

And while non-global powers may not upend the world with their cycles of revolution, we see the endless seesawing as each new force of liberation becomes its own dictatorship of violence which is in turn thrown off by another revolution.

The amazing thing about the American revolution is that it DIDN'T create a violent failed state. And it came closer than we are often led to believe. The first US government failed and had to be replaced at the Constitutional Convention. As president Washington had to suppress armed rebellion. Washington's own Cicinnatus-like virtue in stepping down after two terms did tremendous things for our country, and even so Adams and Jefferson and their parties used levels of state suppression against each other we would still find horrifying. And that's all before we went through a Civil War which was planted in our country early by its acceptance of the massive injustice of slavery.

But because of the myth of the American founding and justice coming out of rebellion against tyrannical authority (I'm glad we're not part of the commonwealth, because we happened to develop written constitution during the flowering of the British Enlightenment and thus enshrine liberal values in our state much for firmly than Britain -- but honestly the idea that Britain was particularly tyrannical is silly) we are far, far too tempted to fall for the idea that there's quick salvation to be found in a violent revolutionary cleansing injustice from society.


Sarah said...

Hannah Arendt's book on revolution (I think that might be the actual title, but I'm a bit lazy right now) ought to be mandatory reading in high school. Loved that book and its insistence on participatory democracy and legitimate forms of revolution.

Theodore M. Seeber said...

Orwell's law in action. Any given SJW while correcting an injustice will create a larger injustice to correct it. Any given revolution will be more tyrannical than the tyranny it is trying to end

Agnes said...

I'm not quite sure but I have the gut feeling that revolutions against an outside oppressor might end better than a revolution against the country's own, however dictatorial or wrong leaders. Maybe because there is a greater unity of the common goal? Freedom fight versus civil war. New tyranny can still result, so I agree about your assessment of the founding of the USA.

DP said...

I think it resonates particularly well with Americans, but the ideas of alienation and violence in vogue have more recent roots in Marcuse and Fanon, among others.

The American Revolution is entirely too reactionary for the vanguard's tastes.

CMinor said...

Well and succinctly put.