Search This Site


Monday, June 13, 2011

Putting Clarity Into Your Revolution

Fake Revolution
Image found at Secret History
[Update: An empirical view of the power of non-violence can be found at Sojourners (free registration to read) - People Power by Erica Chenoweth. (h/t Lisa Simeone)]

As I write this, there is a rather serious conversation going on over at Ian's place regarding the "options" available to those of us who have seen the bankruptcy of the current order. The commenters at that site are an erudite and philosophical bunch - out-of-the-box thinking tempered with a natural hewing towards the pragmatic - so this subject frequently crops up. But of late there has been some focus.

The three posts (as of this writing, of course) that have stimulated this post, in chronological order:

Stephen Moss tells us the powerful do as they will and the weak can suck it up - 2011/06/07
Strategies for Resistance and Change - 2011/06/10
The shiny - 2011/06/11

I have written about revolution before, and these discussions have clarified my thinking further. I was pleased to see, however, that my basic positions have not wavered. Excerpts:
...Stop playing the oppressors' game. The game is - you want what we have and you can't have it. To stop playing it, you simply say, "No, actually, I don't want it."

  • Stop respecting the idea of property....
  • Money should never be used to transact in human rights...
  • Do not exploit the labor of your fellow human beings for your own profit...

Just those three things are so revolutionary that you will bring upon yourself a great deal of resentment from the players in the oppression game - both sides. That should sate some of the initial impulse to dance with these fools.
A Word About Revolution
Remember, the revolution I advocate is primarily a mind-set. It happens, quite successfully, one person at a time. My kind of revolutionary can live amidst any settled social arrangements, it is my behaviour that counts, not the world's.

This does bring up another matter. One of the reasons that I am so certain that this will work is because the capitalists have told me so, in no uncertain terms. Because capitalists evidently can't live with
me.... they cannot have people dropping out of the game, because then their game loses its meaning, and their gold loses it shimmer. And they object. Strenuously...

You, too, will be demonized and shunned. When that happens, you know you're doing something right.
More Words About Revolution

As I am understanding the discussion thus far, there is a fading tension between the hues within the rainbow of (would be?) revolutionaries. I would characterize that spectrum as moving from pacifists, demonstrators, non-cooperatives, non-violent resisters, towards off-gridders, saboteurs, and outright in-your-face Che motherfuckers. I would remiss not to note that the latter is not a frequent or popular position - as I said, there is a natural hewing towards the pragmatic with these folks.

As can be seen from my posts, above, and some of my drive-by comments in Ian's threads, I could be characterized as an "off-gridder," but note that, in the above spectrum metaphor, I placed it closer to the "Che motherfuckers" than to the pacifists, and even at a distance from the non-violent resistors.

For those who are fixated upon the concept of open, violent clashes with the "State" - "The shiny," as Ian puts it - the point is often made over how out-gunned "our" side is. Of course. That should be the first signal that wading right in with that sort of activity is kind of stupid. My idea of "off-gridding" addresses this point in three different ways. Briefly:
  • Depleting their resources. The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex are dependant upon your facile participation in the consumer society. We don't need a tax revolt. Stop buying shit.
  • Make them come to you. All insurgencent activity is most successful if they come to your neighborhood, rather than seeking out the adversary on its own turf.
  • Winning hearts and minds. A strong side effect of the strategy above - when they come to tax or otherwise appropriate your neighborhood garden, you have a neighborhood on your side, likely to include local cops and their families.
The one other point I'd like to add to this discussion is the primacy of deep humility in the revolutionary. We must acknowledge our own roles in bringing ourselves to such a state. In another blog post of mine (not surprisingly, also inspired by another Ian Welsh post), I discussed this responsibility:
For it is indeed a Faustian bargain that the good people of America and elsewhere have entangled themselves in. The payoff is that we get to blame "unproductive" and "unambitious" "other" people for their troubles - we're doing the right thing over here! As Ian said:
...which is what the rich bribed the middle class with – you can have your little castle and your unearned unwarranted wealth increase in your unproductive suburb away from brown and black people, in exchange we get to be really, really rich...
Really rich, and really stupid about what it is to be a human being in this world.
Faustian Dealings With The "Rapacious Warrior Class"

The point being - if we do not deeply acknowledge our own sicknesses, we will simply carry them forward no matter how "successful" a revolt may seem. It will not be a successful revolution at all.


  1. Your Favorite BartenderJuly 7, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Oh Petro, why must you insult those of us who like nice things? Seriously. Isn't it possible that I like my 52" flat screen and surround sound system simply because it provides me the best reproduction of the television show/concert/movie I am watching? Does it HAVE to be that I am actively participating in the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Professional-Institutional-Proverbial-Hypothetical-Constitutional-Heretical-Fanciful-Gullible-Bioengineerable-Actionable Complex? Let me try to put it a different way that (with a little luck) won't allow you to knee-jerk response your way into a smug dismissl of my Capitalist loving inferior mind.


    We love art. Right?

    You of all people love art, correct?

    SOME art...not all but dependent on technology. Movies, music, television and video games (YES SOME ARE ART GODDAMNIT!) in particular are dependant on often expensive technology to produce, but also to experience. The world's greatest jukebox sounds WAY better on really good speakers, with a really good receiver. The best film need the best projection equipment to rise to the height of their form.

    These advances cost money, to create, to produce and distribute in mass quantities, and to experience, they cost.

    According to your "screw the man and stop participating" logic, you would not be able to experience them, certainly not in the ways in which they are best experienced. There is literally no way to convince me that a film like 2001 looks and sounds better on a crappy 17" black and white screen than a 52" LED flatscreen.

    I didn't buy the TV because I wanted to shit on the less financially able, or to make some grand statement about my superiority. I bought the TV because I like to experience art in its highest possible form.

    This does not make me a bad person, though I suspect it still makes me a sheep (in your opinion).

  2. Well, isn't it nice to hear from you after all this time, FB!

    I'm really not into judgmentalism for practical reasons, as well as for personal mental health, so I would not call you a bad person or a sheep (why insult the innocent animals? Heh.) We are social animals in a social milieu, which we take seriously for reasons that go way back into the evolutionary chain. It takes a certain amount of will to buck the zeitgeist, and a very good reason to do so as well. Until the reason is well-understood and internalized, I would neither counsel one to iconoclasm, nor would I judge those who are not there yet. As John Michael Greer ( likes to point out, "three centuries of cheap abundant fossil fuel energy have imposed lasting distortions on the modern mind."

    On television: If I could identify one specific technological evil that has appeared recently, it would be the one-way mass-broadcasting of television. It is no coincidence that Hitler troped immediately towards television (

    So, you really could've picked something a little more benign as an example in defending consumerism. I would counsel that you could stick with buying used TVs - that would hurt as much as not buying any at all - but you preempted me with the bigger, better, faster argument. Oh that that could go on forever!

    In general, I will say that the facts on the ground will ultimately dictate our behaviours (as they always have,) and I submit that those who voluntarily submit to poverty will suffer far less substantially than those who are wrested into it.

    You see, I am not proselytizing for revolution, I am merely offering pointers for those who do not wish to be caught off guard by the inevitable.

    I love movies, too - but I must be prepared for the day when the resource costs for such productions, and their distribution, become untenable (I was going to say unsustainable, but that is already the case.)

    Also, we have to acknowledge that the easy access to this glittering and bombastic mass entertainment has softened our brains. (Again, I'm not judging - I myself like softening my brain, and will continue to watch movies on my computer - I don't have a TV - and consume information until the electrical grid sputters out. As I said, I'm just preparing for the coming vacuum.)

    As for art... well, let's just say I'm in the art-is-narcissism crowd. It is fun, it is entertaining, it shall be around forever. But I would not hold it up as a virtue to defend something else (the art-for-art's sake contingent.) That's when you end up with serial-killers' ritual mutilation, and crucifixes in urine.

    You want sustainability? Thank the FSM that alcohol and marijuana will be with us forever!

    Peace & Love,

  3. The world's greatest jukebox sounds WAY better on really good speakers...

    Wait - did you just say that you're rocking Mike's Juke Joint?


I welcome all reactions and points of view, so comments here are not moderated. Cheerfully "colorful" language is great. I'll even tolerate some ad hominem directed against me... each other, not so much. Racist or excessively abusive comments (or spam) will be deleted at my discretion.