Celestial Lands Liberal Religious Faith… and the occasional political musing.

3 Thoughts on “So… What Comes After the Revolution?

  1. Just read this. Sorry not to see any other replies, but I’ll go out on the limb.

    I think you’re way off on this one.

    1) Internal morality and learned responses also tell us when we are “for” something, and just as easily and strongly as the “against” reaction. I think your view is tainted by the media promotion of the negative and the natural human tendency to remember the negative. How many people gossip about how wonderful X is?

    2) “So much so that we become experts of standing in opposition to everything.” Do you really know many people who live their lives in opposition to everything? I doubt it, even admitting it is hyperbole. Again, the emotional valence of negativity sticks out here.

    3) “It not only assumes, but requires the continued existence of its opposite.” This is a result of you framing the debate in dualistic terms. Ying/yang, Dems/GOP, people who do/people who don’t, etc. is wonderful for writing, but it’s not how most issues work. Much closer is Yankees/Red Sox. Yes, they hate each other deeply, in part this defines each side. However, who has a better season record is determined over 10 times more by their other games. Yanks v. Sox is a great narrative, but poor reality.

    4) “The greatest catastrophe that can befall an oppositional movement is to win.” In the terms of the Occupy movement, I would put a Block on this statement. I am morally opposed to it. (I didn’t just prove your point, btw.) If we talk it out, the main issue I suspect is that I consider all movements to be oppositional. And all movements are for something. They are just two sides of the same coin. What happens in most cases is that the status quo gets placed as the arbiter of who is “for” and who is “against”. So revolutionaries are “against” and the powerful are “for”. But neither label matters. As a concrete example, in what camp to you place the civil rights movement?

    5) “Saying you are for honesty in government is just a re-statement of the opposition to corruption in government.” Saying you are for corruption in government is just a re-statement of the opposition to honesty in government. This is a truism.

    In general, all the talk of political movement vs. revolution is another dualism that doesn’t advance understanding of the Occupy movement. I’ll take a shot at sharing my understanding of it:

    Occupy is neither a political movement, although it contains both those terms, nor a non-violent revolution, ditto. “I contain multitudes.” The best-shortest-overused quote around. But it’s perfect for Occupy. The most important thing to realize about Occupy is that it is as minimally hierarchical as any group of people can be. Both political movements and revolutions require leaders, and the successful ones have strong ones that organize and lead the movement/revolution. Occupy doesn’t have leaders. The basic unit of organization is one person.

    Yes, there are working groups that report to the GA and some people do more than others and OWS is evolving a Spokes Council. But the basic unit of action is one person talking to another. Right now it is transforming each individual occupier’s experience, understanding and perhaps values or even lives. That’s what is so exciting and promising about occupy. Calling it a movement or a revolution is selling it short in a way. It could become a beloved community, or communities.

    “In other words, we need a vision of the world we would create… and we need it now.” No, no, no. We haven’t figured it out yet! We probably never will. But I have a vision of the world I would create. And I can tell it to somebody else, who can accept, reject, change, ignore, or misunderstand it. And they can do the same. Right now, we need more more vision sharing, not any agreement on which particular vision. If that is even possible.

    In general, you are analyzing Occupy through traditional political and historical lenses. I suggest you put aside these lenses for a while, and read, listen and watch accounts of what is happening on the ground and over the internet from people telling their stories. Chris Hedges at Truthdig (New York), Jaime Omar Yassin at Hypenated-Republic (Oakland), Charles Davis at false dichotomy (DC), I just heard about Tim Pool, streaming videographer (NY). I’m sure there are hundreds more online. And real people close by you (and everybody else). Check it out.

  2. 1) Internal morality and learned responses also tell us when we are “for” something, and just as easily and strongly as the “against” reaction. I think your view is tainted by the media promotion of the negative and the natural human tendency to remember the negative. How many people gossip about how wonderful X is?

    Oh, I could not disagree more. I believe that at least products of American Society, if not humanity as a whole, are programmed to react with opposition. We live in a culture created by the idolization of conflict, or the idolatry of war (see my sermon Embedded War). We have been trained to react in opposition, because it is easier. Opposition takes no further work. Opposition does not require you to function as a visionary. And… opposition locks you into the framework as set by those you oppose.

    This is the whole point of my article… if you accept the opposition role, then you are allowing the framework of the debate to be defined by others.

    I do not believe that internal morality or learned responses tell us when we are “for” something… particularly if that something is outside of the Pro-Con framework. I’m making the argument (as I will point to later) that you are not really “for” anything unless you move outside of the Pro-Con framework. To do that requires that you do work. That you do the hard work of deciding what it is you would replace the current framework with… why you would do that… and how you would do that. To be “for” something, in my estimation, requires creation beyond what already exists.

    2) “So much so that we become experts of standing in opposition to everything.” Do you really know many people who live their lives in opposition to everything? I doubt it, even admitting it is hyperbole. Again, the emotional valence of negativity sticks out here.

    Oh, I actually do know people whose primary interaction with the world is opposition… quite a few. I’ve spent a lot of time in counseling with them… many of the most ardent activists are locked in this structure. Many people who have left a religious tradition wounded spend quite a bit of time locked in this structure. It so common a reaction to trauma (of just about any kind) that I am sometimes in awe when I see a different reaction in the person who has experienced trauma.

    And, it is a way to power, because it taps into a deep human need for certainty. It defines the roles and the boundaries. I’ll point to what happened in the Former Yugoslavia after the death of Tito just as one rather blatant example (admittedly, one I’m overly familiar with.)

    To be locked in the structure of opposition is one of the most common spiritual ailments of our times…

    3) “It not only assumes, but requires the continued existence of its opposite.” This is a result of you framing the debate in dualistic terms. Ying/yang, Dems/GOP, people who do/people who don’t, etc. is wonderful for writing, but it’s not how most issues work. Much closer is Yankees/Red Sox. Yes, they hate each other deeply, in part this defines each side. However, who has a better season record is determined over 10 times more by their other games. Yanks v. Sox is a great narrative, but poor reality.

    You make my point for me, although I don’t think you intended to. You are operating on the presumption that there is one reality. There are in fact many. I agree with you… the universal reality is not dualistic. Buddha was partially right about the universal reality… it is indeed all one thing… and yet that thing exists as a spectrum…

    And yet there are also societal realities, and the Western Societal Reality is well steeped in dualism. Because human reality (and the structures that come from it) are created by humans, it forms in relation to human interpretations. Therefore, if you have a society as steeped in dualism as Western Society has been since before the Greek Academy, then you have a society that is not only composed of said dualities but replicates dualities as new memes as naturally as bodies replicate new cells.

    The non-dualist concept is almost useless in understanding western society and institutions, because it a meme for another culture. I do believe post-modernism (and similar trends) has begun to shift the dualistic nature of western society… but that process has barely begun. To depend on non-dualism to understand a dualist society is a primary error of context.

    I personally believe that all things exist on a never-ending series of interconnected spectrums between twinned polarities…. The twinned polarities are in themselves dualistic, but transcend said dualism by being the right and left limits of spectrums of existence, and by being infinitely interconnected with all other said spectrums between twinned polarities… My understanding of the “Interdependent Web Of All Existence” if you will. But I’m not certain that my core understanding of reality is all that helpful… perhaps it gives some context to my thoughts.

    4) “The greatest catastrophe that can befall an oppositional movement is to win.” In the terms of the Occupy movement, I would put a Block on this statement. I am morally opposed to it. (I didn’t just prove your point, btw.) If we talk it out, the main issue I suspect is that I consider all movements to be oppositional. And all movements are for something. They are just two sides of the same coin. What happens in most cases is that the status quo gets placed as the arbiter of who is “for” and who is “against”. So revolutionaries are “against” and the powerful are “for”. But neither label matters. As a concrete example, in what camp to you place the civil rights movement?

    To be for something that is just a twinned polarity for what you oppose is to accept being locked into that structure…(such is the “coin” metaphor) and that is what I am trying to point out. For a movement to be “Revolutionary”, it needs to break out of the structure of said twinned polarities and create something new. It needs to become visionary.

    Let’s take the Civil Rights Movement… I would say that it was a largely failed attempt to become visionary. It moved us along several twinned polarity spectrums, (equality/inequality; justice/injustice; racial acceptance / racism, etc) but most of the movement it actually achieved was along set spectrum lines. It did not create new twinned polarities (something I believe is required to be “revolutionary”)

    I believe the movement tried to create said new twinned polarities… I know MLK did. His “I Have A Dream” speech was an example of trying to change said twinned polarities. It was amazing how fast after his death the culture protected itself from his revolutionary/creative bent by turning him into an Idol… (check out Clinton Lee Scott’s piece “Prophets” in the Gray UU Hymnal to see what I mean).

    Just one example… here’s a historical exercise for you… take a look at how many “movements” that operate without changing the institutional structures end up mimicking their “opposition” when they win? There are easily hundreds of examples, but I will point you the 1985 election in Bolivia… a movement election that did not change the twinned polarities… with predictable consequences.

    Or, I could just point you to the 2008 U.S. Elections…

    5) “Saying you are for honesty in government is just a re-statement of the opposition to corruption in government.” Saying you are for corruption in government is just a re-statement of the opposition to honesty in government. This is a truism.
    In general, all the talk of political movement vs. revolution is another dualism that doesn’t advance understanding of the Occupy movement. I’ll take a shot at sharing my understanding of it:

    There is more to your post on this… but this is enough to let us know where we are in your argument.

    I get your understanding of it… and I think you are mostly right about where the occupy movement is… It shows that we are arguing apples and oranges… because I’m arguing for what the Occupy movement could be… with a vision. With a genuine attempt to change the twinned polarities of the society it exists in… to change the argument (use whatever metaphor you want).

    Is occupy a Revolution? No. What I am arguing is that it has the potential to be… if it finds a vision of its own, if it changes the twinned polarities, and if it does the hard work of deciding now what it would like to put into place of the current set of structures. Otherwise, it is at best another political movement, and at worst simply another cultural expression of opposition.

    Thank you for the engagement!

    Yours in faith,
    Rev. David

  3. 1) Your “for” is what I learned is called “critical.” Meaning it doesn’t take the status quo as fixed. That’s great. But in practice, in the moment, it doesn’t exist. What I get from your writing on this is that you are emphasizing theoretical concerns, to the point of denigrating practical ones.

    2) The most ardent activists, are they oppositional with their colleagues? Their family? Their lover? For those with trauma in their lives, yes, I grant that opposition is common response. I think your sample is strongly skewed towards those with trauma. Being a military chaplain and a parish pastor, how could it not be so?

    3) I think the whole Western society is dualistic and therefore has to be viewed in dualistic terms is malarkey. One criticism that I didn’t mention yet is that you are way too abstract in this essay. I don’t see how it applies to actual situations. So no, “twinned polarities” isn’t helpful.

    4) I understand revolution needs to destroy something and build anew. And I get how Obama looks like “the opposition” in office. (The error there is thinking he wanted to be a revolutionary). There are hundreds of example of failed movements. What is an example of a successful revolution?

    5) “we are arguing apples and oranges” Agreed! The issue is we are both stubborn enough to try to get the other one to change fruit. Where I think you are wrong is exemplified in your last paragraph: it finds, it changes, it does. “It” isn’t like other “its” before it. It is multiple organic movements that are only united in a label and a general feeling something is wrong and it needs changing. It isn’t going to find A vision, but many visions. That is what makes it powerful and me hopeful.

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