We've Got a Revolution on Our Hands

If you look at the MeToo and BLM movements and ask Why Now? What was different this time?, it’s clear some key conditions were in place. A sort of energy had been building, an invisible rising heat that needed to meet its historical moment, and a final torch blast to get it to Fahrenheit 451.

The same restless revolutionary energy has been brewing for a century and a half in the shadow of consumer capitalism, and it too is going to make itself felt. It already has – in brief charged bursts of righteous uprising: culture jamming among them. These may look like flash-in-the-pan insurgencies, but they do real work. They build organizational wisdom, etch new political high-water marks on the rock. They are the necessary trials of any real revolution.

We’re talking about an inevitable psychological pressure that absolutely has to find expression when power is as imbalanced as it is right now. Humans don’t naturally retreat into themselves and just tolerate being oppressed and humiliated; that’s not how we’re wired. We’re “prone to solidarity,” as the great Turkish social scientist Zaynep Tofekci puts it. We’re innately invested in each other’s well-being. We both reach out a hand and look for a hand, across a gap, always. In a sense, MeToo took off not when a critical mass of women joined but when a critical mass of men did — finally owning their part in the culture that made it necessary. BlackLivesMatter likewise became an unstoppable force when enough white folks figured out it was a little bit their knee on George Floyd’s neck. That is the required social mindshift: the collapse of the Othering. The redistribution of chairs from opposite sides of the table to the same side.

The difference with this movement is that overwhelming numbers of us are already on the same side of that dining-room table. It’s the side that’s not getting any food. And when that feels weird and wrong enough, to enough of us, that’s when we overturn the table and holler to whoever’s in that kitchen “Serve us dinner!”

And now — now — you’ve got a revolution on your hands.

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