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So you want a revolution?

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Well, you know/ We all want to change the world -- The Beatles

Incantations of "revolution" rise from right and left choirs, reminiscent of the visionary '60's. That turned out well -- as "the system" swallowed the great divergence, spitting out what it couldn't digest. How easy to declare war against today's power-hungry elites, firming up one's credentials as insightful contrarian, even revered prophet. And yet, sweeping declarations, especially if premature or overstated, won't likely achieve the core objective: to win over a critical mass. Pie-in-the-sky proclamations alienate, even demoralize newcomers when predictions peter out.

So pardon my skepticism, but permanent revolutions are rare birds, scaling more than misery, even despair. Hard times do not automatically presage something better.  Peak events celebrate heroism, yet most history records feats of remarkable endurance to suffering. What, aside from high hopes, makes today so special? Revolutions succeed no more often than breathtaking ideas shake generational foundations. 

Less inspirational are voices that reluctantly acknowledge the status quo, not because it's favorable but because of resistance against big change, certainly revolution. Desperate jeremiads in America, when even our brightest feared apocalypse now, are commonplace. How the world escaped the global nuclear war calamity that bedeviled my childhood is still a mystery.  Ditto, the equal horror that sprawling communism would bury us. Reality outsmarts nearly all predictions, dire or otherwise.

Though terrorism re-ignites current fear-thresholds, no mushroom clouds outdid genocides since 9/11. Hey, the year 2000 sparked a mania. Excluding the Confederate rebellion, our legacy is evolutionary reforms, not massive upheavals. Why, we haven't had a good revolution in centuries. Though the right batters the extraordinary New Deal reforms, this is our grinding, frustrating model of change. 

The Elusive Revolution

Are today's arrogant corporatists worse than autocratic Robber Barons, armed with bad laws, zero regulations, and armies of mercenaries? Did we not resolve equally onerous income inequality of 1928? Does our slowly improving recession outstrip the Great Depression? In fact, '30's thinkers outdid today, with clearer visions, even agendas, prominent leadership and a more dedicated critical mass. 

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Yet, history has failed to address regressive structural failings: the outdated Electoral College, prehistoric Senate rules, or state-gerrymandered House districts. Plus new problems, like billionaire payola, knee-jerk media, and post-terrorist hysteria obsessed with symptoms, not causes. Notably, two conspicuous uprisings since 2008 -- Occupy and the Tea Party --  have peaked. In this context, I question Chris Hedges' mystical notions in "Our Invisible Revolution" that insurrection rises like an unheeded volcano:

No one knows where or when the eruption will take place. No one knows the form it will take. But it is certain now that a popular revolt is coming. The refusal by the corporate state to address even the minimal grievances of the citizenry, along with the abject failure to remedy the mounting state repression  . . . and the loss of hope and widespread despair, means that blowback is inevitable.

Proof for such exaggerated broadsides?  When have ruthless tycoons (think bitter late 19th C. labor battles) willingly addressed grievances? How can that which mocks prediction then justify the facile certainty a "popular revolt is coming"? And does today's corporate state disregard "minimal grievances"? What about half-assed Obamacare? Food Stamps are down but not out; ditto, Medicaid, housing subsidies, and job training. Falling short does not equal falling apart. What's "invisible" here isn't revolution but balance and respect for evidence. With such despair, why do rightwing pitchforks rise, as well-fed, older, whiter reactionaries execute "blowback" with no small success?  

Hedges' default to mysterious, even subterranean forces imply that context, timeliness, or leadership barely matter, making revolution more like a lottery. Will "state repression" incite "revolution" in jobless millions, or outrage a different class? Do the unemployed track state spying or welfare lines? Overall, what revolution, across American, French, Russian and Chinese events, did not culminate years of bold handwriting on the wall? 

Hedges does pinpoint one critical lever, "An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites. Social upheaval without clear definition and direction, without ideas behind it, descends into nihilism, random violence and chaos. It consumes itself." But that only prompts the most obvious objection: what positive, compelling ideas or vision emerge in his distinctly negative polemics? Where on the left is "revolutionary" definition and direction?

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Strangely enough, the right is flush with ideas and vision. Rapture addicts are addled with weird ideas and nightmare visions: the twin-swords of Almighty retribution and grace will resolve all, in a flash: no muss, no fuss, and upheaval arrives like lightning. Less global, but nearly as implausible, is the revolutionary rhetoric from today's Confederate zealots driven by the nullification of secession. That crusade might threaten the "ruling elites" but, existing only in a alternative universe, lacks support or leverage. One more bout of secession madness will really do in that noble cause. 

Left & Right Mesh

However contrary the aims, curiously the left and right share similar aspirations, even assumptions:

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Educated at Rutgers College (BA) and UC Berkeley (Ph.D, English) Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, U. Chicago) for business, founding and heading SOTA Industries, high end audio company from '80 to '92. From '92-02 he did marketing (more...)
 

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Is it healthy to cry revolution, even when prematu... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Nov 6, 2013 at 9:46:48 AM
I can't remember when I last read a better article... by BFalcon on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 11:08:24 PM
Thanks.  Have to make sure some compliments d... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 10:26:59 AM
Exactly. For me the biggest value was that you sto... by BFalcon on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 8:48:07 PM
My core belief about modern changes, especially to... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 12:07:26 AM
Indeed such a revolution is necessary. Please see ... by David Chester on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 9:57:40 AM
"Necessary" was never my issue, and I support all ... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 11:34:30 AM
Well, on the very day I reluctantly scold partisan... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Nov 6, 2013 at 3:27:46 PM
I think that a principled proposal involving the S... by BFalcon on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 11:11:21 PM
I recall proposal by Dennis Kucinich (while still ... by Charles Roll on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 12:39:15 AM
Additionally, if people retire earlier, younger pe... by BFalcon on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 1:13:55 AM
This sentence is unclear: "Desperate jeremiads in... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Nov 6, 2013 at 4:57:24 PM
Just now I found a terrific interview with Erica ... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Nov 6, 2013 at 5:02:05 PM
I think there's something to be said for old-fashi... by Charles Roll on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 1:01:12 AM
I think leadership of the Obama sort (and most Dem... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 10:20:26 AM
Now that's an interesting response!I think leaders... by Charles Roll on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 8:11:32 PM
We should admit huge geographical distinctions and... by Charles Roll on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 8:18:52 PM
M comment was a toss off and I am aware there woul... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 12:03:05 AM
"Toss off" or not, I think it's an interesting ide... by Charles Roll on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 4:00:00 AM
I'm envisioning the embracing of regionalism in th... by Charles Roll on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 4:11:13 AM
Could be. I have a page draft somewhere on the pro... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 11:50:59 AM
A lot of good thinking went into this article. Yes... by Timothy Gatto on Wednesday, Nov 6, 2013 at 5:25:21 PM
Thanks, Timothy.  No doubt shifts in perspect... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 10:58:14 AM
"demand answers!"Yeah, that'll work. Don't petitio... by Charles Roll on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 1:20:07 AM
You want evolution, because we lack the maturity t... by anna kakol on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 11:09:41 PM
I had once my say and it is only half  of my ... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Nov 6, 2013 at 8:20:46 PM
I am not sure your earlier piece pinpointed the tr... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 11:10:20 AM
Great article you posted, back whenever you posted... by Charles Roll on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 1:43:31 AM
The Rober Baron years were met with the Trust Bust... by Eric S on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 11:43:24 AM
But the large, cyclical sequences you set up just ... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 12:21:29 PM
"Unless, of course, revolution comes to America, t... by R. A. Landbeck on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 12:09:12 PM
The perfect Hedges follower.  And you know al... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 12:19:27 PM
Yah, for sure, poetry is and will be part of it, w... by Charles Roll on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 2:31:30 AM
Was that not, after all, the whole point of the Be... by Maxwell on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 1:52:52 PM
Killing a scientist does not prove the French revo... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 2:19:54 PM
No, I was saying the opposite: the revolution had ... by Maxwell on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 3:38:40 PM
I've long wondered what she was getting at with he... by Charles Roll on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 1:56:46 AM
Your skepticism over revolutions seems limited t... by K V Ramani on Thursday, Nov 7, 2013 at 9:21:41 PM
Yes, unintended consequences ... that's true of wa... by Charles Roll on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 2:26:43 AM
"Being skeptical about revolutions is a denial of ... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 10:12:59 AM
Thanks for the compliment. You are no pushover w... by K V Ramani on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 9:22:14 PM
Now you see why I stick to what I know best.  ... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Nov 8, 2013 at 11:57:55 PM
I suspect the American revolution will be trigger... by K V Ramani on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 9:27:30 AM
It sure does look like it will be something econom... by Michael Dewey on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 11:38:52 AM
We disagree: the mythology continues, just differe... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 11:45:58 AM
Little of what you have said addresses the issue o... by K V Ramani on Sunday, Nov 10, 2013 at 6:04:18 AM
It is my understanding that our dollar is pegged t... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Nov 10, 2013 at 11:45:40 AM
I yield you the last word here. But the last laugh... by K V Ramani on Sunday, Nov 10, 2013 at 8:21:10 PM
For some years now, all political views seem to re... by Charles Roll on Tuesday, Nov 19, 2013 at 11:52:16 PM
A good half of our population still believe lies t... by Joe Miller on Saturday, Nov 9, 2013 at 8:11:20 PM
Folks, you all will be very much surprised  t... by Mark Sashine on Sunday, Nov 10, 2013 at 8:06:36 AM
Hey, can't we always find those few moments before... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Nov 10, 2013 at 11:48:33 AM