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Attention Americans: the Revolution has begun. You must choose a side.

23 November 2012

Summary: The first sparks of Revolution are invisible to the Proles and considered insignificant by the Outer Party.  Only the fierce reaction by the government reveals their importance.  The combination of power and ambition gives senior government officials a clarity of vision we lack.  Watch these sparks. The opportunity to take sides might not last long, before they get snuffed out. Post your thoughts about these events in the comments. For deeper analysis see the links at the end.

It’s the holiday season! Americans gather in their homes, whining about irresponsible and incompetent government while watching TV and consuming their favorite drugs.  Citizens on the extremes wander in their minds, lost in delusions. Those on the Right fondle their guns, dream of insurrection, and vote straight-line GOP.  Those on the Left read esoteric theological and philosophical tracts; they dream of Gaia ejecting the proles so they can rebuild Eden.

But a few citizens act against the regime — daring odds no sane man would attempt.  Revolutions are not begun by cool considerate men, but by those who live outside the envelope of rational ordered lives.  (Revolutions take root if they later attract people of property and calculation.)

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As always, we turn first to Glenn Greenwald for description and analysis of these events.

Whatever one thinks of WikiLeaks, it is an indisputable fact that the group has never been charged by any government with any crime, let alone convicted of one. Despite that crucial fact, WikiLeaks has been crippled by a staggering array of extra-judicial punishment imposed either directly by the US and allied governments or with their clear acquiescence.

In December 2010, after WikiLeaks began publishing US diplomatic cables, it was hit with cyber-attacks so massive that the group was “forced to change its web address after the company providing its domain name cut off service”. After public demands and private pressure from US Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joe Lieberman, Amazon then cut off all hosting services to WikiLeaks. Sophisticated cyber-attacks shortly thereafter forced the group entirely off all US website services when its California-based internet hosting provider, Everydns, terminated service, “saying it did so to prevent its other 500,000 customers of being affected by the intense cyber-attacks targeted at WikiLeaks”.

Meanwhile, Chairman Lieberman’s public pressure, by design, also led to the destruction of WikiLeaks’ ability to collect funds from supporters.

… Over the past 2 years, then, this group — convicted of no crime but engaged in pathbreaking journalism that produced more scoops than all other media outlets combined and received numerous journalism awards – has been effectively prevented from functioning, receiving funds, or even maintaining a presence on US internet servers.

… The ominous implications of all this have been never been fully appreciated. Recall that all the way back in 2008, the Pentagon prepared a secret report (ultimately leaked to WikiLeaks) that decreed WikiLeaks to be a “threat to the US Army” and an enemy of the US. That report plotted tactics that “would damage and potentially destroy” its ability to function. That is exactly what came to pass.

So this was a case where the US government — through affirmative steps and/or approving acquiescence to criminal, sophisticated cyber-attacks — all but destroyed the ability of an adversarial group, convicted of no crime, to function on the internet.

… But what makes all of this even more significant is the vastly disparate treatment of those who launched far less sophisticated and damaging attacks at those corporations which complied with US demands and cut off all funding and other services to WikiLeaks. Acting in the name of Anonymous, a handful of activists targeted those companies with simple “denial of service” attacks, ones that impeded the operations of those corporate websites for a few hours.

In stark contrast to the far more significant attacks aimed at WikiLeaks, these attacks, designed to protest the treatment of WikiLeaks, spawned a global manhunt by western nations and, ultimately, the arrest of dozens of mostly young alleged hackers, four of whom are now on trial in London

To understand their significance, place these events in their wider context.

  • The Patriot Act, with its immense expansion of the the government’s domestic surveillance powers (including transforming much of the US banking system into a surveillance mechanism; there’s a reason your bank and broker ask so many questions about your affairs).
  • The massive expansion of the domestic security services — NSA, “fusion centers”, etc.
  • The militarization of the police: growth of their SWAT and spying apparatus.
  • The government’s illegal indefinite imprisonment and assassination powers.
  • The successful destruction of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, far beyond any legal measures — making examples of what happens to dissidents.

You might sneer and laugh at Wikileaks and Anonymous as quixotic — foolish and vain efforts.  But the government knows better, and devotes great effort to stamp out these sparks.  Without wider support our ruling elites will successfully suppress these movements. With our support these can mature into powerful engines of reform.

My guess:  The government will crush these rebels.  More rebels will appear.  With them lies our only remaining hope for reform.  The Republic’s fate is their fate.  What we do now, and during the next few years, will decide its future.  That’s the meaning of Democracy: its survival lies in our hands.

For More Information

Articles and videos about sparks of Revolution, and the government’s suppression of them (please post others in the comments):

Posts about protests:

  1. Fixing America: shall we choose elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008 — Part One.
  2. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008 — Part Two.
  3. Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008 — Part Three.
  4. How to stage effective protests in the 21st century, 21 April 2009
  5. The first step to reforming America (the final version), 7 December 2009
  6. The project to reform America: a matter for science, or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
  7. Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010
  8. The sure route to reforming America, 16 November 2010
  9. Hear the cattle bellowing in the chutes. Will they revolt?, 8 September 2011
  10. Five steps to fixing America, 19 October 2011
  11. Ask the mineshaft: how to make America angry and so awaken from our stupor, 11 March 2012
  12. We are alone in the defense of the Republic, 5 July 2012

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48 Comments leave one →
  1. Duncan Kinder permalink
    23 November 2012 9:14 pm

    If American counterinsurgency doctrine sucks, then the Revolution is bound to succeed.

    On the other hand, given the deplorable tactics used by Anonymous, Wikileaks, Occupy Wall St., etc., America doesn’t need to master much counterinsurgency doctrine.

    The basic motif of any guerrilla uprising is “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.” The above mentioned insurgents, in contrast, seem hell bent on seizing some exposed, vulnerable plot and hanging on.

    Like

    • 23 November 2012 10:39 pm

      Duncan,

      The vital — and often ignored — distinction is between the two kinds of counterinsurgencies: those against domestic and foreign insurgencies. Since Mao brought 4GW to maturity after WWII, foreign armies almost always fail to defeat local insurgencies. But governments have much better odds against domestic insurgencies!

      For details about the two kinds see Why do we lose 4th generation wars?, 4 January 2007. Almost six years later most of our geopolitical experts remain unaware of this — a powerful example of our failure to learn from either history or experience.

      As for our insurgents: I don’t consider the Occupy movement an insurgency. It seemed more like Street Theater. We can only guess at Wikileaks, but it looks like next-gen journalism, with neither a rebellious intent or a larger political visions. But Anonymous might be an inchoate rebellions, with a rebellious intent but as yet without a larger political vision. But the experience of rebellion might push them to political thought, and perhaps a political goal. Then they’ll become a profoundly dangerous threat to the government.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      24 November 2012 7:04 am

      One of the features of the decline of the nation state is that increasingly, effective political organizations – including insurgencies – are non national in their orientation. Therefore, they can – as a matter of strategy – blur and distort the distinction between foreign and domestic. This is why events in Europe are so important – for they will have a profound impact over here.

      As for purely domestic operations – there is much that can be accomplished in terms of psyops or info ops. For example, one aspect of the current regime which many object to is intellectual property. Well, you can’t copyright history. Ergo, creativity based upon historical themes provides a vehicle to advance a cultural agenda independent of intellectual property constraints. This idea is 2 days old; so it requires elaboration. You just can’t copyright history.

      As for the role of cultural development in revolutions, consider the role that Verdi – as opposed to Cavour or Garibaldi – played in the Italian Unification.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      24 November 2012 7:14 am

      To clarify: of course a historical work, eg the current movie on Lincoln, can be copyrighted. But the character Lincoln himself cannot therebvy be appropriated. We remain free to compose our own works about him.

      Like

    • MikeF permalink
      24 November 2012 11:28 am

      “One of the features of the decline of the nation state is that increasingly, effective political organizations – including insurgencies – are non national in their orientation.”

      Duncan,

      Political organizations being non national is not new. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, there was a huge wave in both the United States and Europe with the anarchist, unions, socialists, and communists. Four distinctly different groups, but all focused on finding a way to build a middle class, at least from the ideology.

      *I don’t think that we have a decline of the nation-state. Rather, it’s a crisis. We rushed in the 20th century to grant the status of nation-state to too many places that wanted the rights but could not accept the responsibilities (govern your people, treat everyone equal, etc).

      Like

    • MikeF permalink
      24 November 2012 11:30 am

      Two great books on the topic.

      • Fall of Giants Trilogy by Ken Follett
      • The Sovereignty Solution by Anna Simons

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      24 November 2012 4:08 pm

      MikeF

      Good point. Speaking of antherms, the Soviet Union’s was, of course, The Internationale.

      The difference is that today we need to consider such factors as globalization and networks. Another big difference is that the Nation state etc. is a fundamentally Newtonian / Cartesian whereas nowadays our economy is quantum mechanical / fractal.

      All of the bleating about “Rule of Law” is a desire to restore a Newtonian / Cartesian style framework to things.

      Like

    • 24 November 2012 5:41 pm

      Soviet National Anthem (With English subtitles)
      .

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      24 November 2012 5:56 pm

      Speaking of internatonal action: here is a ( perverse example) “Argentina fears default after American court ruling“, Guardian, 22 November 2012 — “Judge orders repayment of $1.3bn to ‘vulture funds’ as debt campaigners hit out at speculators’ behaviour”

      “Nick Dearden, director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: “It is completely outrageous that the intransigence of a couple of speculators can bring a sovereign nation to the verge of bankruptcy. These vulture funds never lent money to Argentina – they gambled on a crisis that caused enormous poverty and suffering in that country.””

      I am merely suggesting that turnaround would be fair play. Of course, I am insignificant. What is significant, however, is that many Argentines doubtlessly are thinking along the same lines.

      It goes without saying that this decision does nothing to bolster the legitimacy of “rule of law” as a vehicle for human governance.

      Like

    • 24 November 2012 6:09 pm

      “It goes without saying that this decision does nothing to bolster the legitimacy of “rule of law” as a vehicle for human governance.”

      Sad but true. The world’s international financial regime was developed during the 19th century to facilitate the great powers lending to small States, and for the resulting collection of any resulting bad debts — and suppression of attempts of small States to leave the system.

      In Europe and Argentina we see the high priority given to debt collection, showing that we learned nothing from the post-WWI experience. This is a fake quote, but shows this kind of thinking: “They hired the money, didn’t they?” (fake quote attributed to Calvin Coolidge).

      Like

  2. guest permalink
    24 November 2012 12:37 am

    Revolutions occur when reform has proven impossible, because a sclerotic power in place steadfastly opposes any change that meaningfully reduces its privileges, constrains its power, or challenges its perpetuation.

    Since, as you state, “the government knows better, and devotes great effort to stamp out these sparks”, this means that “rebels” will be pushed towards action outside the law, and increasingly tempted by violence. However, the Occupy and the Tea-Party affairs showed that there is a near complete lack of a strong political foundation in current movements; we can therefore expect random, unsustained actions without clear concrete mid- and long-term goals — hence easy for the government to sidetrack, co-opt or squash.

    Like

    • 24 November 2012 12:56 am

      “the Occupy and the Tea-Party affairs showed that there is a near complete lack of a strong political foundation in current movements; we can therefore expect random, unsustained actions without clear concrete mid- and long-term goals — hence easy for the government to sidetrack, co-opt or squash.”

      I suggest caution about such forecasts. The US has seen cycles of proto-revolutionary protest since 1960. The large race riots of the late 1960s, with our inner cities occupied by troops every summer. The radical leftist violence of the 1970s. The isolated violence in the 1980s – 1990s of both Right (eg, OK City, anti-abortion) and Left (eg, animal rights, anti-logging).

      There has been little domestic violence since them. The Tea Party were GOP shock troops. Occupy was street theater. Wikipedia is next-gen journalism

      Anonymous is the first potentially proto-revolutionary activity of the new millenia. Under pressure they might collapse — or evolve. Political movements evolve by the Darwinian Ratchet (from an October 2007 post):

      An insurgency brings into play a “Darwinian ratchet,” in which the government in effect drives the insurgency. The security services cull the pack of insurgents. They eliminate the slow and stupid, clearing space for the “best” to rise in authority. That is, those most able to survive, recruit, and train new ranks of more effective insurgents. An insurgency with shallow roots can be destroyed. If not destroyed, then evolution takes place: the more severe the efforts at exterminating the insurrection, the more capable the survivors.

      It works with bacteria. Administer antibiotics in non-lethal doses and soon you have a colony of drug-resistant bacteria. It works with people, too.

      Hence the familiar activity pattern of a rising sine wave, seen in Palestine, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, and a dozen other places: successes by the security forces, a pause in activity, followed by another wave of activity – but bigger and more effective.

      Like

    • guest permalink
      24 November 2012 11:15 am

      “The US has seen cycles of proto-revolutionary protest since 1960.”

      This is the point I was trying to make: without a strong ideological foundation, those movements, no matter how temporarily explosive, peter out, leaving no successors, contrarily to successful revolutions which were based on an articulated political program, social goals, and resilient organization (whether Islam, Marxism, Nationalism, etc).

      The examples given in your quote are illustrative: in Palestine, Hamas has a very strong political framework, inherited from a movement (Muslim Brothers) that has been enduring for 84 years. Enough has been said regarding Afghans’ position, based on a mix of Islam and long-standing tribal structures. And so on.

      For that matter, there has been plenty of irregular, violent rioting and looting in Europe in the past 20 years (especially in the UK, France and Greece) — but no movement has emerged from all that tumult. Outpours of rage do not make a revolution.

      Like

  3. gaiasrequite permalink
    24 November 2012 12:39 am

    Interesting post, I had never heard of Anonymous before. I looked them up and ran into this. Thought I would post it a see what others, who pay closer attention to this sort of thing, think about it.

    .

    Like

  4. anonymouscoward permalink
    24 November 2012 1:32 pm

    You guys are completely ridiculous, laughable I would even say.

    But if you did help keep the elections fair, in Ohio, I guess; then good for you!

    But what a bunch of clowns!

    Like

  5. 24 November 2012 6:19 pm

    Comment by Susan the Other, cross-posted from the Today’s Links post at Naked Capitalism:

    There’s no way to trust these blogs. if Fabius Maximus really is a creation of the National Security office it’s curious.

    They admire Glenn Greenwald’s writing. They seem to think a revolution is already fomenting. And they describe both sides (Left and Right) as basically delusional. So why isn’t the middle just as delusional? it always appropriates the most effective delusions of both right and left.

    Well, the name Fabius Maximus implies it is a prudent blog. But it is asking for all the barn burners to step up. Huh? They insinuate that Anonymous will continue to be crushed. But, strangely they admire Anon.

    Who wouldn’t? Anonymous just took credit for vanquishing the evil Karl Rove. Whether or not that is true, it is a pleasure to contemplate: Anonymous secretly put up a fire wall preventing the last minute laundering of Ohio votes in Romney’s favor, etc. Technically, if it is true, Karl Rove should be tried for treason. But hey, we’ve had our elections stolen since at least JFK v Nixon. And not even the Rs wanted that dork Romney.

    Like

    • 24 November 2012 6:51 pm

      Susan the Other raises some interesting points. Most of these result from the nature of the FM website, an extended discussion over time, in many chapters, about complex matters. Her comment and this response were cross-posted at the FM website.

      (1) “There’s no way to trust these blogs.”

      We don’t ask for your trust. We give facts, logic, and speculation. Readers draw their own conclusions and act accordingly.

      (2) “if Fabius Maximus really is a creation of the National Security office”

      Unfortunately not, judging from the tip jar. Perhaps because they’ve read some of the 2,300 posts since 2003, mostly opposing America’s wars since 2001.

      (3) “they describe both sides (Left and Right) as basically delusional. So why isn’t the middle just as delusional?”

      Quite right. Left, Right, and Center all come from the same population. We share the same cognitive errors, described as a broken Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action Loop (see Wikipedia). This makes us easy to govern.

      (4) “the name Fabius Maximus implies it is a prudent blog. But it is asking for all the barn burners to step up.”

      A defensive strategy for America (in terms of both foreign affairs and domestic reform) means cautious operations while building our strength. But it requires just as much work as an aggressive strategy. Successful reform of America requires many of us “to step up”!

      (5) “Huh? They insinuate that Anonymous will continue to be crushed. But, strangely they admire Anon.”

      That conflates two philosophical perspectives. Admiring Anon is normative. Predicting that it will get crushed is positivist — a cold look at the odds.

      Also, Susan the Other ignores the conclusion:

      My guess: The government will crush these rebels. More rebels will appear. With them lies our only remaining hope for reform. The Republic’s fate is their fate. What we do now, and during the next few years, will decide its future. That’s the meaning of Democracy: its survival lies in our hands.

      But there is an alternative to “stepping up”. Sing our new national anthem, one better suited for our New America!

      Like

  6. Tangfwa permalink
    24 November 2012 6:58 pm

    Would that it were! Alas… I think TPTB are reacting so extravagantly primarily for profit: sell more arms, build more administrative infrastructure = abundant $ leakage.

    Also, it is a serious rookie mistake to think that there will EVER come a day when the hard work stops. Democracy, freedom, etc. = forever a [beautiful, terrible] struggle. Revolution cannot have a start date or end date.

    Like

    • Tangfwa permalink
      24 November 2012 9:24 pm

      Forgot to add: remember when some neocon said something to the effect of “liberals study reality for solutions… We create reality with our actions”? Their neoconnery drives the rebelry, not the other way around.

      Like

    • 24 November 2012 9:32 pm

      From “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush“, Ron Suskind, The New York Times Magazine, 17 October 2004:

      The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism.

      He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” He continued “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

      The unnamed aide is generally considered to be Karl Rove, Bush’s senior advisor and political strategist.

      Like

  7. 24 November 2012 7:52 pm

    I saw SUSANS’S offering over at NC. Fine reply FM, actually. Noticeably neither she nor anyone “Replied” to your reply.

    “Telling” as they say.

    Breton

    Like

    • 24 November 2012 8:08 pm

      Breton,

      The Naked Cap website generates few comments considering its traffic. Probably several thousand hits, but only 34 comments. Ditto for those that jumped here. A thousand referred to this post, but only a few comments. Different readers, different cultures.

      As for Susan, popping into an ongoing conversation like the FM website can easily lead to misunderstanding the larger context for the post. As we see in the comments here, people often bring a tribal perspective to their interpretation. Is this by one of “us” or “them”? That the posts on the FM website don’t belong to either team frustrates many readers, and confuses many others.

      Like

  8. SRL permalink
    24 November 2012 10:26 pm

    A digression in my usual style of aphorisms (at least when nobody is paying me):

    1. I believe the assertion that revolutions require an ideology to be successful is false, but revolutions do need an intellectual basis as a vanguard. Since the only intellectuals on the scene are basically talking heads, and therefore dependent on the status quo for their bread and butter, there is a void to be filled. In addition, there just isn’t much in the educational system that would foster the critical thinking skills among an intellectual elite that hails from the working class. The best and brightest become computer technicians. Unfortunately, Anonymous is an organization of technicians, not intellectuals, so I don’t believe this hacker group will do ever do anything other than “poke” the beast. It can only react, not serve as a vanguard. (See J Ellul for more concerning technicians and politics.)

    2. As a physics graduate student twenty years ago, I maintained that physics was not an intellectual endeavor, but rather a technical one. Technicians do not think about the greater world. The dumbing down of liberal arts does not allow the development of an intellectual framework necessary for revolution. There will be nothing forthcoming from academia.

    3. Wikileaks is another organization of technicians; Occupy is street theater but at least it does raise the issue of income disparity through its entertainment. The technical best approach I’ve seen is John Robb’s Resilient Community concept: Help create a community that does not depend on the nation-state and let the state take care of its self.

    -From a reader of both FM and Naked Capitalism

    Like

    • 24 November 2012 11:36 pm

      “I believe the assertion that revolutions require an ideology to be successful is false”

      As usual in politics, this depends on the meaning of revolution. Straight coups in weak States are changes of political system, and so are revolutions in the broad sense. I was thinking (but didn’t say) of revolution in a narrower sense of changes in a political regime involving broad popular involvement.

      Like the revolutions in America, France, Britain, China, and Iran — all had a strong ideological basis. The many successful post-WWII usually were driven by some combination of anti-colonialism, communist, and democratic ideals.

      Like

    • SRL permalink
      25 November 2012 12:59 am

      1. I see your point. Of course, the ideology need not be original–an intellectual vanguard need not formulate revolutionary goals and/or doctrine. These may be borrowed. (Although ideologies can outlive their self date.) Excepting Maoist revolutions, an educated intellectual elite is required to advocate an ideology; and must realize the appropriateness of that ideology for a particular society or else they will fail. Technicians are ill-suited to the task. The liberal arts/social sciences have either been dumbed down or taken up the ways of the technicians. There is no intellectual elite up to this task.

      2. Although educated as a physicist, I am a civil engineer by trade. I manage small scale projects (because I get to do most everything myself). Here are some thoughts by a technician (in the broadest sense):

      a. In the Islamic world (no matter what you think of their actions), engineers have been at the forefront of revolutions and attempted revolutions. The engineers will naturally approach their task as a project. They identify weak points in their adversary and then exploit to maximum advantage. They are therefore effective at destruction, but not so much at building. A war might be pursued as a project, but societies are not products.

      b. Case in point: Hezbollah, which bills itself as a revivalist movement, is successful because its leaders understand the culture of Lebanese Shia. Hence, they can go toe-to-toe with Israel. Beyond destruction, Al-Qaeda, which bills itself as a fundamentalist movement, is not because its leaders do not understand the culture of the 21st century: relatively few people are ultimately desperate enough to be impressed with sociopaths. A-Qaeda will never go toe-to-toe with Israel.

      Like

    • 25 November 2012 1:55 am

      “Of course, the ideology need not be original”

      Originality is to some extent an illusion in politics, repackaging past modes of life and thought for today’s needs and circumstances.

      Like

    • guest permalink
      25 November 2012 1:45 am

      “all had a strong ideological basis.”

      And let us not forget the revolutions in Haiti, Mexico, Russia and Cuba, all with ideological foundations and consequent objectives.

      “revolutions do need an intellectual basis as a vanguard”

      Without a common framework of reference, accepted analysis of the situation and agreement about objectives, there is no vanguard to speak of. This means that people must adhere to some ideology that drives the revolutionary movement — whether it is Islamo-nationalism as in Iran, communism in Russia, democracy and land-reform in Mexico, or enlightenment and equality amongst human beings as in Haiti and France.

      This being said, the observation that society has given priority to technical skills over culture is true, and, as you state, this means there are plenty of “idiots savants” with little capacity to elaborate any kind of vision for social change.

      Like

    • SRL permalink
      25 November 2012 2:25 am

      Unfortunately “guest” you are incorrect. The Idiot Savants do elaborate their vision, but it is always centered around technology as a savior. Technology is not culture either. Hence, by failing to understand culture, their vision goes nowhere (and a good thing too). Marx was the same way, but at least his thought was based on the mechanistic science of his time. Positivist determination is a discredited scientific idea. So what is their excuse for still believing pure rationality can be applied socially?

      Like

  9. Thomas More permalink
    25 November 2012 12:09 am

    I prefer the swingin’ Rat Pack version of The Internationale” by Tony Babino. Look for it to be used as a background in a Burger King commercial.

    .

    Like

  10. poinciana2012 permalink
    25 November 2012 12:16 am

    Reblogged this on #opManning.

    Like

  11. Paul permalink
    25 November 2012 12:59 am

    Seems SRL had similar thoughts and got them out first.

    anonymouscoward’s pointless comment above, and many other similar styles of comments here and all over the web, got me thinking about how a revolution could happen when communication is impossible if it causes an intense emotional reaction whenever a belief, typically conceived of as an ultimate Truth by the believer, is challenged.

    The post a few days ago about the broken OODA loop of the US had this recommendation: “First, we have to understand ourselves.” This makes sense and is the classic first step to any significant personal change. Unless there are challenges there is no growth, change or transformation.

    That notion begs the question of how this begins to happen. What is the process, speech, catastrophe, glorious and wondrous happening, that causes vast numbers of people to begin to question anything about their world in a positive growth oriented way, discarding the belief-reinforcing habits of looking at information that confirms what we already know making us sure we’re super geniuses. What could possibly be a path to a time were you can have a discussion questioning cherished beliefs leading to an ephemeral “something better” or even a revolution?

    And that begs the question of what that “something better” might be? All over this site and the web are comments about the hopelessness of the situation. Of catastrophe looming. Comments that almost long for some version of an apocalypse. In some way I can’t begin to understand, it seems easier to think along those negative lines. Perhaps the notion of downward spiral/collapse/destruction is just easier for our brains to ponder than an upward spiral/growth/prosperity in a subconscious symbolic way, similar to the way it’s a whole lot easier to destroy a building than it is to build a beautiful new one. That takes a lot of work and could be quite daunting if you’ve never done it.

    What does the concept of “revolution” mean anyway? Is it more of the same with different people in charge they way it has always worked out? What would everyone offer if they could define their ideal post-revolution society?

    Which also forces the question of complexity. Our society is quite complex. I’m a reasonably smart guy who went to school for engineering and ended up working in publishing, IT, advertising, restaurants, and film. I will freely admit I have no business discussing sewage and waste water treatment nor should my opinion matter much on the regulation of ocean fisheries or early childhood development education policy. And yet, these kinds of detailed specialist questions come up all the time in government. Fabius in other places on this site has said that a part of the problem is that the American people no longer participate in the system, they don’t vote, interact with government councils, they don’t seem to care. That the American people have given up responsibility. That is true.

    It could be also be argued that life, as most people now live it, is so busy and so complex that the vast majority of Americans who don’t participate simply don’t have the energy, for lack of a better word, and therefore are not qualified to make choices on such complex topics. Especially as the current power structure reinforces the us/them dichotomy and has significant control over the information released on any topic.

    And that begs the question of why anyone would want to participate if they know the information and discussion they might encounter is slanted purposely to obscure or to encourage a simplistic pro/con world view. Or that no matter what they say/demand/protest power will do what it wants. “Global warming” is a great example of this. Both sides in the debate that typically reaches an average person, for instance a friend who is a project manager at a web development company, are so slanted to a particular world view they choose the one that fits what they know to be right and true and never think about it again. They’re too damn busy to devote the time it would take to be able to have a competent discussion about the various merits of policies to reduce carbon emissions vs. policies to encourage technological solutions to evolve over time vs. policies that mitigate the possible effects of global warming leaving the problem to the future vs. whether humans are even the cause of any warming and they can do something about it…

    Taking us back to the beginning of wondering how that painful introspective, understanding ourselves, process begins.

    Apologies for the length. Seems to be a verbosity encouraging topic.

    Like

    • 25 November 2012 1:53 am

      Paul,

      I agree with your comments in general. You raise some important questions! Too many to deal with; this reply hits a few notes. On the other hand, some of your observations don’t well reflect the themes on the FM website.

      (1) “That notion begs the question of how this begins to happen. What is the process, speech, catastrophe, glorious and wondrous happening, that causes vast numbers of people to begin to question anything about their world in a positive growth oriented way”

      We see reformations throughout history. They happen unexpectedly, for mysterious reasons. On a more basic level, pain often improves people’s clarity of vision and thought.

      (2) “And that begs the question of what that “something better” might be?”

      One aspect of our problem is that we lack alternative visions of the future. I have confidence that new solutions are out there.

      “Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.”
      –- Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx (1859)

      (3) “All over this site and the web are comments about the hopelessness of the situation.”

      NO, not on the FM website.

      (4) “Comments that almost long for some version of an apocalypse.”

      Agreed, and there are several posts here discussing this madness.

      (5) “Which also forces the question of complexity. Our society is quite complex.”

      I’m not convinced that our society is more complex than was, for example, Imperial Rome.

      (6) “It could be also be argued that life, as most people now live it, is so busy and so complex that the vast majority of Americans who don’t participate simply don’t have the energy”

      As always. In fact leisure today is far greater for the majority than for most urban peoples in the past. Finding solutions for this has been the key to building representative governments.

      Like

    • Anonymous Coward permalink
      25 November 2012 3:44 am

      You guys/gals are completely out of your minds to be talking about revolution.For all our faults, we are great, and I’m very proud to be American. So, you are all totally insane!

      If you were talking about building a real social-democratic labor movement for example, then you would be doing something other than completely wasting your time.

      But enjoy yourselves, I’m sure it impresses the girls/boys no end.

      Like

    • 25 November 2012 4:12 am

      Anonymous Coward,

      “For all our faults, we are great, and I’m very proud to be American.”

      We bow before your logic and facts.

      “If you were talking about building a real social-democratic labor movement”

      We eagerly await your advice how to reverse the massive loss of worker power since 1980. Deterioration of unions. Deterioration of the labor-union regulatory apparatus. Loss of bargaining power. Loss of job security. Falling real wages for large parts of the workforce. We’re beyond the systematic exploitation of labor by Amazon and WalMart. The cutting edge is unpaid work for young people. “Federal Judge Announces Wageless Job Opening, Calls Working for Free a ‘Moral Commitment’“, AlterNet, 21 November 2012.

      “So, you are all totally insane!”

      When you point with one finger, four more point back at you.

      Like

  12. Jim permalink
    25 November 2012 2:12 am

    “Taking us back to the beginning of wondering how that painful introspective understanding ourselves process begins.”

    Paul, one of the techniques I find useful, often when walking the dog or jogging, is to turn your attention completely inward and try to listen to your internal stream of consciousness (mine is usually a combination of thoughts or voices, images, emotions and memories).

    I don’t seem to have any control over the contents or the occurrence of this stream of consciousness but mine often seems to consist of a hurried narrative of some type, like a short documentary film, which you find yourself watching and listening to.

    By doing this kind of internal watching of my stream of consciousness over a period of months these narrative films seemed to slow down a bit and I discovered that I was often watching/listening to similar stories/films with similar emotional content that felt closely linked to my sense of identity.

    If you try this for awhile would be great to hear what you discover– if there are any similarities or differences to my experience.

    Like

    • Tangfwa permalink
      25 November 2012 3:33 am

      Cool bumper sticker: “Don’t believe everything you think.” Of course this could veer into wrongheaded relativism but… we do need to challenge ourselves, with exercises like the one you recommend, Jim. Mindfulness meditation-ish?

      Also the people should be wary of any revolutionary vanguard. Hierarchy corrupts and deforms. Virulent anti-intellectualism these days is kind of understandable, the way reg’lar folk are talked down to (usually with lies).

      See what happened in Argentina when worker-run cooperatives simply reproduced the old structures with new players (kind of like mother-in-law syndrome in traditional Chinese culture where abused daughters-in-law grew up to abuse their own daughters-in-law). I don’t agree with everything Michael Albert prescribes but participatory is a helpful watchword.

      Like

  13. 25 November 2012 5:26 am

    I’ll tell you what, they best leave enough on the Table for the majority. And they darn well know it. All this QE and the banker-saving, mattress stuffing ZIRP is ultimately about keeping the Table set.

    The so-called Street Theater of OWS was met by an amazing overreach as a preview and indication of how tenuous the Grip is on the future.

    “On a more basic level, pain often improves people’s clarity of vision and thought.”

    If enough pain comes, the pro and con responses will begin to galvanize a critical mass and many a set of values will lead the way. Until then……

    Breton

    Like

    • 25 November 2012 5:32 pm

      “If enough pain comes, the pro and con responses will begin to galvanize a critical mass”

      Although a fan of Captain Kirk, I must disagree with him and Breton. History shows beyond doubt that people will bear almost any burden, as good domesticated animals should. Episodes of successfully large & committed rebellions burn brightly on the pages of history because they are so rare.

      Look at the many peasants’ rebellions in medieval Europe. Such as the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. From Wikipedia:

      Tyler led a mixed group “a very great number of [whom] were not simply peasants but village craftsmen and tradesmen”, taking Canterbury before advancing to … London at the head of a group estimated at numbering over 50,000. … the rebels gained entry to the Tower of London and captured Simon Sudbury, the unpopular Archbishop of Canterbury, before proceeding to behead him and several of his followers. … Richard of Wallingford presented a charter to King Richard II on behalf of Tyler. The king met the rebel army at Mile End and promised to address the people’s grievances, which included the unpopular taxes.

      20,000 people assembled at Smithfield. Richard II agreed to meet the leaders of the revolt, and listen to their demands. Wat Tyler decided to ride out alone and parley with the king. What was said between Tyler and the king is largely conjecture and little is known of the exact details of the encounter; however, by all accounts the unarmed Tyler was suddenly attacked without warning and killed by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir William Walworth, and John Cavendish, a member of the king’s group. This unprovoked betrayal of the truce flag and Tyler’s killing threw the people into a panic. Not being organized as a military force, they broke ranks and began to flee for their lives.

      Like

  14. rkka permalink
    25 November 2012 12:55 pm

    Russia leads the way.

    Vladimir V. Putin has shown that a country beset by a conscienceless plutocracy can be saved by curbing the power of that plutocracy. Recovery can begin once that is done. Births may well exceed deaths in Russia in 2012.

    Did Russia just overcome its 20-year demographic crisis?“, Max Fisher, op-ed Washington Post, 1 November 2012

    This is probably why the Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite and Punditocracy are united in their vituperation of Putin. They don’t want the peoples they bleed to get any ideas.

    Like

  15. gaiasrequite permalink
    25 November 2012 6:48 pm

    Gaiasrequite curtseys to Anonymous Coward

    Anonymous Coward is the embodiment of the percentage of American’s to whom the FM website consistently refers. I think we should all welcome him/her with hoots and hurrahs. And if I may, I would like to ask this wonderful newcomer a few questions.

    (1) “I am proud to be an American”
    Can you give details into what it is to be an American, therefore giving an explanation of that in which you take pride.

    (2) “For all our faults, we are great,”
    The FM blog does a great job of outlining some of those faults. Would you be willing to outline the “greatness” that still remains?

    (3) “You guys are completely ridiculous, laughable I would even say.”
    Could I winkle out of you a bit more of an explanation for this? Because here is what I see;

    A person who truly found the contents of this site “laughable” or “ridiculous” would not lower them selves to leaving a comment. And, even if they felt compelled to do so they would certainly step out side the ridiculousness by NOT assuming the common pseudonym style format so many of us use on this site. Instead you would step out (in all your brilliance) introducing your self by the name the world knows you and provide wonderfully documented examples for your belief in FM and the readers of his sites’ insanity?

    I think the pseudonym you chose says volumes, and I am making a wager that Anonymous Coward will return to this site and one day join the ranks of FM clowns. It’s ok to be disappointed in your countries government AC, it does not make you unpatriotic.

    Now lets wait and see ;)

    Like

  16. e.a.f. permalink
    25 November 2012 9:02 pm

    Without organizations such as Anonymous & other blog sites, citizens would not know as much as they know about the working of their governments. This is critical for a democracy to work. If the governments work in secret we will go the way of other countries & become dictatorships, while thinking we have a democracy.

    It is obvious the “ruling elites” & their corporate sponsors are concerned about hackers & bloggers. The trials & sentences are examples of how threatened hey feel. However, if we governments were transparent in their actions they would not have to fear Anonymous. If it weren’t for bloggers we wouldn’t know half of what the Canadian government is up to or for that matter the provincial government of B.C.

    You don’t have to agree with all the actions of bloggers & Anonymous but I would suggest we do need to support them. If we don’t then it is the end of democracy & the corporate elite will be running the world. At this point in time citizens need to make some decisions about the world we want to live in. If there are no organizations such as Anonymous we can look forward to living in conditions that the citizens of China, Russia, & many central american countries live with. Criticising our governments is a good & worthwhile cause. It is how democracy got a start..

    Like

  17. A lesson from the past: "How Political Campaign Spending Brought Down the Roman Republic" permalink
    26 November 2012 3:25 pm

    Looking to the past to see our future, what the downfall of the Roman Republic tells us about the end of America’s Second Republic: “How Political Campaign Spending Brought Down the Roman Republic“, Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni, Slate, 26 November 2012 — “If Cato, Cicero, or Julius Caesar were here today, they would recognize the danger posed by Citizens United.”

    Like

  18. Mikyo permalink
    27 November 2012 4:16 pm

    Anonymous accommplished nothing. Some showy pranks and internet graffitti. Hi tech version of those kids who spraypaint the sidewalk or drop bags of flaming poop on doorsteps. Yet governments who hit back too hard may create sympathy for them.

    Like

    • 27 November 2012 4:19 pm

      Early stage revolutionary movements are seldom capable of “accomplishing” anything. Goals at this stage are purely mobilization.

      Example: Boston Tea Party. Accomplished nothing. Just a showy prank! But remembered 2 centuries later.

      Like

  19. Mikyo permalink
    27 November 2012 4:26 pm

    Wikileaks does look like the beginning of a new kind of journalism. I supose that if they had a manifesto it might begin with transparency in government?

    Like

  20. 4 December 2013 3:46 pm

    Fantastic and ballsy! My blog, though considered leftist and socialist, is more establishment/mainstream. restoresanity.org

    Like

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  1. Links 11/24/12 « naked capitalism
  2. REFLEXÕES SOBRE A MORTE DA ZONA EURO, SOBRE OS CAMINHOS SEGUIDOS NA EUROPA A CAMINHO DOS ANOS 1930 | A Viagem dos Argonautas

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