The Revolution Issue

I, Revolution

The future does not compute ... It's time to accept radical change as a viable alternative.
I, Revolution - Photo by Stefano Rellandini
A protester throws a rock at riot police outside Aviano Air Base in northern Italy.
Photo by Stefano Rellandini

A Brief History of Revolution

In all revolutions, the agents of change – usually a small core of fired-up individuals – reach a personal point of reckoning where to do nothing becomes harder than to step forward. Then come the televised actions, the rebellions on campus, the random acts of defiance in high schools, supermarkets, malls, workplaces. A mass of support accrues. The little daily confrontations escalate. Momentum builds.

And finally the revolution ignites. Very often the ignition spark is a single symbolic act that takes the old power structure by surprise, a gesture that becomes a metaphor, living forever. Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus. A Vietnam protester feeds a daisy into the barrel of a rifle. A dissident stares down a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square. Nelson Mandela walks out of his prison cell in South Africa. A freedom flotilla breaks the siege on Gaza. These memes penetrate skulls like bullets.

The biggest impediment to revolution is a personal one: our own deep-seated feelings of cynicism and impotence. How can anything “I” do possibly make a difference? Most of us have trouble accepting radical change as a viable option. Entrenched in a familiar world, we cannot imagine another. It’s hard to see our current system as simply one stage of a never-ending cycle that sooner or later will fall and be succeeded – but this process of creative destruction is exactly how the world works.

We don’t need a million activists to jumpstart this revolution. We just need an influential minority that smells the blood, seizes the moment and pulls off a set of well-coordinated strategic moves. We need a certain level of collective disillusionment (a point I think we have now reached) and then we need the leaders of the affluent, “First” world nations to fumble a world crisis like global warming, a stock market crash or a nuclear standoff in the Middle East. By waiting for the right moment and then jamming in unison, a global network of a few hundred of us can pull the coup off. This November we create a sudden, unexpected moment of truth – a mass reversal of perspective; a global mindshift – from which the corporate/consumerist forces never fully recover.

What will you do? Share your ideas: [email protected]

For the Wild, Kalle


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92 comments on the article “I, Revolution”

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Rudy Ray Moore

The left-wing in North America had no capacity to cause a Revolution for the foreseeable future for several reasons:

1) Only a small minority of the population would welcome an attempt by the radical left in North America to destroy the entire economic and political system on the continent. People are willing to buy organic food, and donate money to famine relief, but the vast majority of the population has little to no sympathy for the idea of revolution. If the radical left manages to convince the majority of the population of the utility of their viewpoint, then people will likely vote for (new?) political parties and the "revolution" will occur through the well-ESTABLISHED process of creating political change through the ballot box. Otherwise, what we are talking about is a self-righteous minority trying to radically change society through FORCE. And that would be a huge problem because....

2) Remember what Mao said about political power growing out of the barrel of a gun. The guns on this continent are owned by the army, the police and the farmers. In other words, the right is armed to the teeth. The left consists of primarily of urban-dwellers with little ability to mobilize organized violence. In other words the LAST thing the left on this continent wants is a showdown, because the farmers, evangelicals, army and police would go utterly Deliverance on your ass, and no one in the general population would defend you because you fired the first shot.

3) There is NO coherent idea for what would replace the current system we have. Even if the entire population magically became converted to your political point of view, what would you construct? I've heard that ad busters likes to avoid "solutions" because, oh we want people to have the freedom and autonomy to make their own solutions, but guess what that has produced? Nothing at all. How are you going to feed 350 million people? How are you going to make laws? How will you enforce them? There are a billion questions related to the creation of a new paradigm, and not a single one of these currently has a meaningful answer.

If we are talking about a slow (and welcome!) switch to "independent and socially and eco-conscious local consumerism" (Thank you Anon, August 12), then we are talking about something that is both desirable, and thankfully, plausible. But this would neither be a revolution, nor would it be truly anti-capitalist. In fact it would be take place entirely within the current economic model, where well-informed CONSUMERS are able to change the behavior of business through their PURCHASES. I have no problem with this, but it renders the necessity of revolution and even anti-capitalism itself meaningless.

If people are serious about creating alternatives to the current political/economic/social model we function under, then it is time to put away the fetishization of youth culture, the faux-revolution porn, and the "anti-Western" diatribes that belong in the last century. (Non-Western countries are increasingly powerful and have no need whatsoever to be defended by patronizing Western youth). People need to start constructing actual functioning communities that can be used as a REAL example of other ways of life.

If you are really interested in creating a new society then the next issue of adbusters should put away the pretty pictures and hollow drama, and produce a 100 page study of, for example, how Hutterites manage to create functioning autonomous communities that can defend themselves, feed themselves and sustain themselves without inputs from the larger society. Put away your Che shirts, and listen to the old ladies speaking German and wearing Babushkas.

Rudy Ray Moore

The left-wing in North America had no capacity to cause a Revolution for the foreseeable future for several reasons:

1) Only a small minority of the population would welcome an attempt by the radical left in North America to destroy the entire economic and political system on the continent. People are willing to buy organic food, and donate money to famine relief, but the vast majority of the population has little to no sympathy for the idea of revolution. If the radical left manages to convince the majority of the population of the utility of their viewpoint, then people will likely vote for (new?) political parties and the "revolution" will occur through the well-ESTABLISHED process of creating political change through the ballot box. Otherwise, what we are talking about is a self-righteous minority trying to radically change society through FORCE. And that would be a huge problem because....

2) Remember what Mao said about political power growing out of the barrel of a gun. The guns on this continent are owned by the army, the police and the farmers. In other words, the right is armed to the teeth. The left consists of primarily of urban-dwellers with little ability to mobilize organized violence. In other words the LAST thing the left on this continent wants is a showdown, because the farmers, evangelicals, army and police would go utterly Deliverance on your ass, and no one in the general population would defend you because you fired the first shot.

3) There is NO coherent idea for what would replace the current system we have. Even if the entire population magically became converted to your political point of view, what would you construct? I've heard that ad busters likes to avoid "solutions" because, oh we want people to have the freedom and autonomy to make their own solutions, but guess what that has produced? Nothing at all. How are you going to feed 350 million people? How are you going to make laws? How will you enforce them? There are a billion questions related to the creation of a new paradigm, and not a single one of these currently has a meaningful answer.

If we are talking about a slow (and welcome!) switch to "independent and socially and eco-conscious local consumerism" (Thank you Anon, August 12), then we are talking about something that is both desirable, and thankfully, plausible. But this would neither be a revolution, nor would it be truly anti-capitalist. In fact it would be take place entirely within the current economic model, where well-informed CONSUMERS are able to change the behavior of business through their PURCHASES. I have no problem with this, but it renders the necessity of revolution and even anti-capitalism itself meaningless.

If people are serious about creating alternatives to the current political/economic/social model we function under, then it is time to put away the fetishization of youth culture, the faux-revolution porn, and the "anti-Western" diatribes that belong in the last century. (Non-Western countries are increasingly powerful and have no need whatsoever to be defended by patronizing Western youth). People need to start constructing actual functioning communities that can be used as a REAL example of other ways of life.

If you are really interested in creating a new society then the next issue of adbusters should put away the pretty pictures and hollow drama, and produce a 100 page study of, for example, how Hutterites manage to create functioning autonomous communities that can defend themselves, feed themselves and sustain themselves without inputs from the larger society. Put away your Che shirts, and listen to the old ladies speaking German and wearing Babushkas.

Sarakenos

Your points accurately describe why a revolution will not take place, but they fail to describe why it shouldn't take place.

First of all, not all revolutions require guns. In the revolution that the author is suggesting, guns are completely needless (whether the author realizes that or not is besides the point). All you really need is the power of abstinence: abstinence from consumerism. If people stop buying stuff, the system will collapse. You can destroy corporations one by one, through massive, coordinated abstinence. And I'm not talking about that "boycott" bullshit: boycott GAP and Nike until they pay their sweatshop workers fair wages, boycott Caterpillar until they stop selling bulldozers to Israel; none of that crap. I am talking about completely and absolutely boycotting a company for no reason whatsoever; no demands to be met! Just boycott, till it collapses. Then you target the next corporation, and the next one, and so on, until they all collapse.

We know this works because it has been tried before, unintentionally. In India, for example, people collectively refused to pay their electric bills to Enron, and look at where Enron is today. In Bolivia, people collectively stopped paying their water bills to Bechtel. Look at what happened to Bechtel in Bolivia.

In order for us to change the system, we have to change ourselves. Sounds so cliche, but it was true back then, and is still true now.

You can't start a revolution against the wishes of the people, it won't work. The best you can achieve, when people are not behind you, is a coup d'etat. And most likely in a country like America, the chance for a successful coup d'etat (in this age of technology) is practically nill! It's pointless to even start contemplating it.

The reason why a revolution hasn't happened in America (or elsewhere) is because the majority of the people have accepted their indentured slavery status. They may not like it, but they don't hate it enough to act upon it. They still wanna eat bigmacs and drink coke and fill up their cars with gasoline. They're mezmerized by marketing schemes. Abstinence from within is the only way to go. And you have to do it even if no one else joins you. It's not like "oh well if I'm the only one who's gonna boycott KFC, then screw you all I wanna have KFC too!" ... If that's your attitude then you're the problem why the revolution doesn't take place, and multiply "you" by a billion.

Sarakenos

Your points accurately describe why a revolution will not take place, but they fail to describe why it shouldn't take place.

First of all, not all revolutions require guns. In the revolution that the author is suggesting, guns are completely needless (whether the author realizes that or not is besides the point). All you really need is the power of abstinence: abstinence from consumerism. If people stop buying stuff, the system will collapse. You can destroy corporations one by one, through massive, coordinated abstinence. And I'm not talking about that "boycott" bullshit: boycott GAP and Nike until they pay their sweatshop workers fair wages, boycott Caterpillar until they stop selling bulldozers to Israel; none of that crap. I am talking about completely and absolutely boycotting a company for no reason whatsoever; no demands to be met! Just boycott, till it collapses. Then you target the next corporation, and the next one, and so on, until they all collapse.

We know this works because it has been tried before, unintentionally. In India, for example, people collectively refused to pay their electric bills to Enron, and look at where Enron is today. In Bolivia, people collectively stopped paying their water bills to Bechtel. Look at what happened to Bechtel in Bolivia.

In order for us to change the system, we have to change ourselves. Sounds so cliche, but it was true back then, and is still true now.

You can't start a revolution against the wishes of the people, it won't work. The best you can achieve, when people are not behind you, is a coup d'etat. And most likely in a country like America, the chance for a successful coup d'etat (in this age of technology) is practically nill! It's pointless to even start contemplating it.

The reason why a revolution hasn't happened in America (or elsewhere) is because the majority of the people have accepted their indentured slavery status. They may not like it, but they don't hate it enough to act upon it. They still wanna eat bigmacs and drink coke and fill up their cars with gasoline. They're mezmerized by marketing schemes. Abstinence from within is the only way to go. And you have to do it even if no one else joins you. It's not like "oh well if I'm the only one who's gonna boycott KFC, then screw you all I wanna have KFC too!" ... If that's your attitude then you're the problem why the revolution doesn't take place, and multiply "you" by a billion.

Anonymous

When I think of I, Revolution, I think of the stereotypical kung fu master who lives by himself in total self-sufficiency.

Young people know the master's fighting ability, but what allows the master to be self-sufficient is his knowledge in medicine, environment, agriculture, engineering, etc.

Such a master (of life) turns away youngsters who want to learn to fight, because fighting is not what it's all about. Freedom through knowledge is what it's all about.

As corny as it sounds, knowledge is power.

I'm not saying that we should run off and live by ourselves (or in communes)...although I'm not opposed to that. In fact, many masters, real and fictious have engaged the powers that be of some nation. But perhaps we should strive to master life much more before such engagement.

Indeed, a master can do far more than someone else. Just look at how Ron Paul shook the heck out of the Republican Party.

Anonymous

When I think of I, Revolution, I think of the stereotypical kung fu master who lives by himself in total self-sufficiency.

Young people know the master's fighting ability, but what allows the master to be self-sufficient is his knowledge in medicine, environment, agriculture, engineering, etc.

Such a master (of life) turns away youngsters who want to learn to fight, because fighting is not what it's all about. Freedom through knowledge is what it's all about.

As corny as it sounds, knowledge is power.

I'm not saying that we should run off and live by ourselves (or in communes)...although I'm not opposed to that. In fact, many masters, real and fictious have engaged the powers that be of some nation. But perhaps we should strive to master life much more before such engagement.

Indeed, a master can do far more than someone else. Just look at how Ron Paul shook the heck out of the Republican Party.

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