You Say You Want A Revolution
Monday, August 29, 2011 at 3:45pm
In a headline to a link on Facebook to an August 25th opinion piece in the New York Times about Martin Luther King weeping from his grave by Dr. Cornell West, we're told "Martin Luther King Jr. Would Want a Revolution, Not a Memorial." Perhaps. But is the Ivory Tower professor himself really ready for the reality of a true revolution?
Revolution. How easily the word rolls off the tongue. But jumping up to do it requires a commitment to the possibility of personal loss of comfort, freedom, limbs, and life. And those of your loved ones. This demands a complete certainty of the heart regarding your cause.
Only true personal hardship and fear brings people to the streets in a revolution. People don't want to fight. It's not in human nature to be confrontational toward authority. People have to come to a point that they can't take it any more. When they believe they have no other choice. People don't do it in their spare time, on weekends. It is an all consuming pursuit. People revolt when they see their children killed, are hungry, are brutalized. That's what causes revolutions. Not just some abstract debatable issues.
While the American Revolution was a case of the aristocratic class of the colonies convincing the impecunious to fight against their British rivals by offering them an actual slice of the spoils, the French who were barely surviving in abject poverty were forced to directly alleviate their suffering by violently deposing the source of their misery.
The American Blacks who took to the streets and formed militant revolutionary organizations in the 1960s and '70s were at a point of oppression and degradation they could no longer abide without exploding.
The revolutionary anti-war movement arose when traumatized and damaged young men returned from Vietnam with stories of the horrific discovery that they had been set up to be the enemy, committing atrocities against people in their own land, and fear of the draft swept through the country. People felt it personally and viscerally, and reacted thus.
Finally, if anyone entertains the fantasy that revolution can be peaceful or bloodless, they need to understand that the power establishment being revolted against did not get that memo. There will be violence, whether you are willing to commit it or not. The shock troops of empire are willing to commit it. As well as many of your own allies. Once the ball is in play, the game is on. So it better be what you really want.
You don't have a peaceful revolution. You don't have a turn-the-other-cheek revolution. There's no such thing as a nonviolent revolution. Revolution is bloody. Revolution is hostile. Revolution knows no compromise. Revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way. ~Malcolm X