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Friday, June 15, 2007

So You Say You Want a Revolution... but What Kind? Or Do You?

OK, so the General is gone for a bit and I have the opportunity to post at a time other than my usual... so I'll post something other than my usual. Instead of asking questions about some particular issues, I'll ask questions about all the issues at once and see if anyone can be provoked into some out-of-the-box ideas...

America is revolting, or perhaps it's just not revolting enough. Extensive complacency seems to have set in, preventing people from getting outraged enough to do anything about the various — and connected — problems throughout society. Does anyone think that any of these problems will fix themselves? Perhaps part of the problem is that these problems have been building for so long that people no longer recognize the trouble we are in. If that's the case, then it might be helpful to keep harping on these problems and insisting that people directly face them.

We have a president who wants the power to declare people non-persons who can be condemned to perpetual incarceration without legal counsel, trial, judicial review, or even visits from family. The same president would abrogate all standards of legal and moral decency in order to torture said non-persons in order to extract information they may or may not have in his pursuit of a war on terror that promises to be just as perpetual — and without review — as the aforementioned incarceration. All of this follows closely on the heels of launching a preemptive war that was based on intelligence and legal justifications that were morally and factually dubious, to say the least.

We have religious and political leaders who deny the reality of basic science at every turn — evolution is but the most prominent example of a pattern extending to global warming, renewable energy, stem cell research, and beyond. The assertion of political and religious ideology above the facts of science has long been a popular theme with authoritarian movements because they are all obsessed with purity: ideological, political, and religious. Purity is the currency of the narrow-minded absolutists who cannot abide by any sort of diversity, dissent, or pluralism.

We have wealthy plutocrats who are only getting wealthier because the wealth of the nation is being redistributed in an upward direction: the rich aren't getting richer because they themselves are producing more, but because the workers are producing more while the rich are able to retain more of what has been produced. The productivity of workers has been increasing, but the amount they are able to keep has been decreasing. The difference all goes to the wealthiest few. Moreover, what little people still have is becoming increasingly insecure as people risk losing their houses, their jobs, and their health for various reasons.

These same plutocrats are putting their money, power, and influence behind authoritarian politicians who are using their own power to find ways to stifle dissent, spy on Americans, restrict freedom of expression, and so forth. These efforts tend to limit the usual means for changing the system, making it harder to "work from within" to create any improvements. Political problems require political solutions, but the problems in America go much further than mere politics, and so it's fair to inquire whether the solutions we must consider also go further. Blogs might be one example of going further than traditional politics, but then again they might also qualify as a way people think they are engaged without necessarily accomplishing anything.

Change — significant, fundamental change — is necessary, there seems to be little reason to question that. If you're happy with the way things basically are and see nothing that requires more than a few small alterations, then you won't see the need for a revolution. Unfortunately, a few minor alterations won't actually help anyone. Thus the question we must answer is how to make the changes we need. Given how extensive and fundamental the changes likely have to be, it's not going too far to suggest that what's needed is some sort of revolution — radical and pervasive changes in basic social institutions. It's just a matter of what sort of revolution we should have.

So, do you say you want a revolution or not? If so, what sort of revolution do you want? Don't just sit there assuming that there is nothing which can be done. There will be no change unless you're willing to take some action, but you won't be able to take effective action unless you have a good idea of where you want to end up. What's your vision for American society? What do you want, and what are you willing to do to achieve it?

No, I'm not talking about a violent overthrow of the government — that's ultimately a lazy solution and one that typically succumbs to the aforementioned obsession with purity. It's easy to sympathize with the attractiveness of simply sweeping everything aside and starting from scratch, but there is no starting from scratch because the means you use is always part of the foundation you create. This is why having a clear vision of where you want to end up is so important: where you want to go will play a large role in determining the means you use to get there.

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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.