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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

REVOLTING

You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead
-Revolution, The Beatles

Revolution. That's what many on the right keep whispering, or thinking, or even saying. They look at the country and can't understand how it could possibly have gone so wrong, so fast. They think the nation has been taken away from its true roots and meaning, and that it is headed to disaster.

In short, the right is having more or less the same thoughts and worries, sharing the same concerns as the left did the previous eight years. The left was convinced President Bush was destroying the constitution, demolishing everything America stood for, feared what he was going to do, and whispered revolution.

The left staged various protests (most of which were arranged by the Worker's World Party - a communist organization - through their subsidiary International A.N.S.W.E.R) which over time gained in popularity but never suffered for media attention, went to psychiatrists complaining of depression because the world just didn't make sense any more, and felt betrayed by their nation.

Now the right is staging various events, not so much protests as rallies, and feels betrayed. Rush Limbaugh and other pundits speak of a rising tide of discontent and anger building in the nation, as polls (for what they're worth) show that the majority of the people oppose what the government is doing with bailouts and stimuli, not just Republicans. Now it is the right's turn to call for revolution like the left did. Yet both, I believe, are mistaken.

The United States changes governments regularly and peacefully every four to eight years. That's happened more than forty times in the history of the United States, and each time the policy has shifted, the leadership has had different priorities and ideas about how to deal with problems, and the mood of the country has been different. Presidents come and go, since 1789, and the nation has had different guidance and different governments all that time. Congress changes every two years and those changes reflect the will of the voters and what they desire and understand at that time.

I am not opposed to protests or rallies or publicity stunts to get the government's attention and try to shape policy. That's an expression of every citizen's basic duty to be involved in their government. What I'm concerned with is the child-like notion that we can fix everything through a single powerful moment. That a revolution will make it all better, that we can have tea parties and street protests and hold up signs and wear paper-mache heads and everything will be better and brighter and all our problems will be fixed.

It is this attitude of "get the right government in and all our problems will be solved" that betrays the very concept of America and conservatism (and classical liberalism, which is virtually identical these days) at its core. America was founded on the principle that government should be as small, unobtrusive, and frightened of the people as possible and that the people were to be self-reliant, self-starting, independent, and not require assistance from the government to deal with their problems.

As time has gone on, we've become more and more convinced that it is the people in Washington DC, not the people in the mirror and next door, to whom we turn to in crises. I was feeling under the weather and watched a few old John Wayne movies we have on DVD. They're from the 1930s such as Blue Steel and The Star Packer and each one features a western town with some trouble (usually a band of outlaws) that complains that the government never is any help, and in the end it turns out that John Wayne has been playing a government agent who rode in and saved the day. Hooray!

This theme of the feds saving the day because we just are too helpless to do it ourselves has been repeated and hammered and forced into our consciousness for decades, for generations until now the first instinct is to call for some program, some action by the feds to make things better, like children crying for mama to fix their scraped knee. Kiss it and everything will be better! Strap on knee pads, don't let me go outside, put me in a padded plastic bubble. I'll be safe, then.

Revolution almost never ends well. The American Revolution was an astounding aberration in history, a revolution that actually did what it was intended to do, led by wise, cautious men who followed through on their words and plans, and resulting not in equal or even greater tyranny, but liberty and justice. Almost every single revolution in the history of the world is best described by The Who in Won't Get Fooled Again. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The only thing that really changes are the names and faces.

France exchanged a brutal tyrant in King Louis for a brutal tyrant in Robespierre. Then another revolution in smaller scale took place, and Napoleon took over, and became a brutal tyrant. Revolutions usually exchange one evil for another.

There's a good reason for this. Not only is the lure of power overwhelming and the character of people who tend to lead revolutions untrustworthy, but the reason revolutions happen and their goals are usually ignorant, foolish, and untrustworthy. To be certain they almost always happen in response to unbearable tyranny and because of deep frustration among the people. Yet they are usually led by and in the cause of something terribly foolish and misguided that sounds nice but is in the end utterly unworkable.

When communists take over a country, they do so by promises and ideals that sound great - equality, food for everyone, nobody telling you what to do, freedom to live your life, nobody poor, the rich are stopped, no exploitation - but never work out and in real life cannot work out. And what's worse, the people who tend to lead these revolutions are the kind who believe they have the best, most glorious idea, and anyone who disagrees is not merely mistaken or misinformed, but actually evil and destructive. That they the revolutionary leaders are especially enlightened and understanding, so that their every decision and idea needs not merely to be implemented, but absolute law.

The founding fathers of the US were more humble, more cautious, more driven by long considered ideas and principles. They were motivated by a desire to take power away from government and leave it in the hands of individual citizens. They longed for a world of opportunity, freedom of conscience, and a lack of government oversight that forced them away from the path of Robespierre. Instead of being driven by a sense of personal glory, entitlement, and enlightenment, they were driven by a need for liberty and to avoid personal advancement. George Washington set the tone well when he removed his chair from a higher platform, noting this was too much like a king, and he was a man among equals as the president.

The TerrorAll this talk of revolution makes me nervous, because when some patchoulli stinking leftist mumbles revolution in a gust of pot smoke, he's just making noise. When some angry gun-toting ex military guy growls revolution, there's teeth behind it. The reason we have President Obama in office now is because of the mumbles of revolution, the protests and the credibilty and professionalism-demolishing sellout by the legacy media to get him elected. They didn't care what he really thought or was like, as long as he could beat a Republican. They wanted their revolution and they'd worry about the consequences or what the results were later. Even Chris Matthews, mister "thrill up my leg" is now having some second thoughts about President Obama. Well Mr Matthews, the time for that has long passed. If you'd done your job originally and showed skepticism instead of revolutionary fervor, then perhaps people might have known more about the man. It's too late now.

And that's the problem with revolution. Driven by emotion, anger, and the passion of the mob sweeping through people, careful consideration and skepticism are not just pushed aside, but attacked and even brutalized. How dare you question our patriotism? How dare you fight against the mob?

The changes we need - and there are many - cannot be accomplished by revolution. The changes we need have to be changes in us, not just in government. The reason we have the government we now enjoy is because of us, not because of some external deviltry among us. We elect these men to office, we support these policies and ideas that are so damaging. We are the ones who seek comfort, riches, and ease at the cost of our futures and the liberties we say we hold dear.

Until we can abandon the infantile need for government to fix everything, until we can re-learn the virtues of our past, the ideals the nation was founded on, and face the hardships and realities of life without a comforting barrier of government programs to make it all better, no amount of revolution will make things any better. All we'd get is the same sort of nanny state with a different group of people in charge.

We have to recapture that independent, self-governing, personally responsible spirit that founded and built the US to what it became: the world's greatest superpower, the richest nation in history. We have to regain the virtues and ethics that maintain and support a democracy, abandoning the hedonism and immorality that corrodes it. We have to abandon the idea that the only way to help our neighbor is by paying taxes, and build the idea that it is our responsibility to help those in genuine need in our family and neighborhood - coupled with the pressure both inside and out to avoid living on and relying on the kindness of others.

Nothing we do will matter until we change those basic things. The nation will not be healed or fixed from the top down. We cannot make things all better by putting different guys in office. They'll corrupt the same as the previous ones, they'll make the same kind of unAmerican, liberty-demolishing decisions as the other congressmen until we as a people demand different and choose differently. As long as the federal government is so titanic that a trillion dollars seems like a reasonable price to pay there's no man alive who can resist the crushing power of all that money.

In short: I'm opposed to revolution. We need reformation. We as a nation need to abandon the policies and dogmas of the past that have built like weeds and barnacles on the bottom of a ship, slowing and weighting it down until it's nearly sunk beneath the waves. We need to scrape all that debris off, no matter how hard the work is or how painful it might be, and start anew, afresh, with a ship that dances across the waves and moves us into the future with flying colors.

Until that day comes - and I have absolutely no confidence it will - all this talk of revolution is simply madness. So go have your tea parties, your rallies, your speeches, your blog entries. Make committees and talk and pressure congress, run for office, and do your political duty. Just don't expect those things to fix our problems. The fix comes at home, with you and me, making a difference in our lives right now and raising our children differently than the past, with a renewed embrace of liberty, honor, and virtue that will, in time, make a difference.

The truth is, it took years, decades for us to slowly creep into the position we are in right now, and it certainly looks like everything is starting to fall apart, as many of us warned about in the past. It will take years to fix the problems we face, if at all.

2 Comments:

Blogger Eric said...

I don't think we are to the point where revolution is inevitable, but I do think we are in a situation where if there were a major domestic terrorist attack on the White House or the Capitol, you'd have a whole bunch of Americans who wouldn't know whether to cry or to cheer. And that's not a good place for our country to be.

11:08 AM, February 24, 2009  
Blogger lance said...

"The truth is, it took years, decades for us to slowly creep into the position we are in right now, and it certainly looks like everything is starting to fall apart, as many of us warned about in the past. It will take years to fix the problems we face, if at all"

-------------------------------

Well put CT. That is the sad reality it isn't the present administration or even the previous administrations fault. It is several generations of the same type of politicians (regardless of party) being voted into office.

11:16 AM, February 24, 2009  

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