Beware the Moderate or Premature Revolution

pussy hatsReformists call for moderate change, though some of them use the word “revolution.” Certainly, moderate change would be easier to achieve than actual revolution, and it might indeed alleviate some of our problems for a while.

But it would leave the underlying system intact. The people who are in power, the institutions on which our lives are based, the underlying causes of our problems, all would remain in place. And so the problems would come back.

thomas-jefferson truncatedIf we don’t look beneath the surface, we don’t see what is really happening. The great “revolution” of 1776 merely replaced a foreign plutocracy with a domestic one. The New Deal of the 1930s temporarily make our lives more comfortable, but it did nothing to transfer power from the plutocrats to the people.

Some people see history going in a circle. We have decay and corruption and inequality, which is ended by a revolution or great reform. But the revolution or great reform isn’t great enough, because the revolutionaries don’t really understand the underlying causes of the problems; they rebelled before they’d really figured it out. And so those problems return. We lock up or behead the plutocrats without changing the culture that spawned them, and so it spawns a new batch.

climate cliffThis circling process has been going on for thousands of years, but it can’t continue much longer. Modern technology is a new ingredient, and when combined with corruption it degrades the ecosystem. The ecosystem is getting close to collapse; it’s much closer than most people realize (because they don’t understand the nonlinear effects). So we may not make it through another cycle. We’ve got to get it right this time.

So now we have to figure out what the root problem really is. For a simple answer, I’d say it’s capitalism. The reformists seek a kinder, gentler capitalism, because their analysis hasn’t gone deep enough; they haven’t understood that a kinder, gentler capitalism is not possible. Indeed, all trades have externalized costs — that is, unmeasured side effects that are borne not by buyer or seller, but by community and ecosystem. These include war, poverty, and ecocide. Thus, the market really is NOT efficient; rather, it is inherently destructive.

But the system we call “capitalism” has only been around for a few hundred years. For a deeper analysis, I’d say the problem is hierarchy and property, which began 10,000 years ago. They’ve become deeply embedded in our culture, so it’s hard for us to imagine living without them. But it’s becoming clear that with them we won’t live much longer.

And if we “start the revolution” before people properly understand all this, the revolution will be taken over by people whose goals are too small. A “moderate revolution” may delay the ecosystem collapse less than it delays the fundamental changes that we actually need. Thus, the net effect of a “moderate revolution” might be to make things worse, to hasten the total collapse.

So we have to work on spreading this understanding before we start breaking things.

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2018 Dec 31, version 2.03. (Original version 2018 Dec 5.)