3 years, 11 months ago
A sketch written mostly for my own entertainment, and to see what happened if I wrote with a relatively constrained form on a one hour sprint.
Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency
A sure shot, really. If nothing else the abuse we’re heaping on the planet seems sure to cause social revolution. We’ve effectively broken the food chain. We have huge amounts of the global economy invested in cities that will wash away in a bad storm, and bad storms are becoming increasingly frequent. The social order of the world is not going to remain unchanged in the face of that. Carrying on is, in fact, going to work.
Do the words need changing?
We may, after all, want to direct things. Perhaps we want “a revolution," but odds are we have some of the details in mind. Given this, it’s useful to frame the question. Magicians call this a statement of intent. Yours may vary. Let’s suggest something fairly generic like a utilitarian model of social good.
Social revolution is a complex thing, not a discrete event. Major upheavals to the system come out of aggregate causes from initially diverse areas of society. It is perfectly imaginable that something you are already doing is contributing to a massive social change, whether passively as you blast increasing amounts of carbon into the atmosphere or actively as you participate in thriving artistic communities. As strategies go, “do what makes you happy" isn’t that bad.
Overtly resist change
Certainly a popular strategy, especially in terms of the close links between white heterosexual male power in the world and environmental devastation. The fact of the matter is that the economic right and the outright radical right (who in fact promote change, but frame it in the recapture of a fictitious past) do offer a viable model for complete social revolution.
Make something implied more definite (reinforce, duplicate)
An increasingly viable avenue is the changing of the everyday in the expectation that political change will follow. Steubenville essentially functioned like this, though with dramatic blowback. The existence of dramatic blowback is interesting, however. The prospect of coverting what is de facto normal in the world into law is oddly terrifying to those who wield power in the world. This is what transparency and leaks do, after all - reveal the applications of human nature to the mechanisms of power. Proceed carefully, but embrace.
The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten
There is a critique of ideology that suggests its most destructive effects are on the level of language and thought. It is not the things that the society loudly and overtly forbids us to do, nor even things like “give peace a chance" that we reject out of hand, but the things that we do not ever think to do in the first place that are society’s most effective form of repression. In this regard we might consider that spiritual enlightenment is a form of social revolution inasmuch as the social only exists on the level of its interaction with individual consciousness. Modify that and everything else changes.
Not building a wall but making a brick
Social revolution implies a very large society. We ought remember that our social life is a smaller sphere. Community scales, and the newspaper stories about the mechanisms of power are but oblique forces affecting our day-to-day life. Consider - how much of Congress have you ever met? How many Presidents? The mechanisms of power are no more real to you than The Simpsons. Social revolution can start on a neighborhood level. Go have a cookout and give burgers away to your neighbors. See what happens.
Ask people to work against their better judgement
Another reasonably frequently enacted strategy on the right, in which our sense of what is best for us and what is empirically demonstrable as best for us diverge. Active engagement of this tendency in humanity can be used to control it. This may seem counterrevolutionary, but remember - stasis is a viable strategem.
When exactly did you want this revolution? On a scale of centuries human understanding of the world transforms completely. You absolutely do not think like someone from 1513. The resemblance between your worldview and that of someone from 1013 is next to nil. Even on the small scale of a lifetime this is true - the world of 1913 was profoundly different to that of 2013. Even if we solve every practical problem facing contemporary civilization with no major transformations to its social configuration the basic sweep of time will still accomplish the task.
Emphasize the flaws
Political protest remains a fascinating phenomenon. It is difficult not to feel a thrill go up the spine as one watches anybody demonstrate loudly in the streets from a safe distance. Even when it goes to rioting, there’s a secret thrill. Clearly we want to root for this side, despite no clear mechanism of action or explanation of how Occupying Wall Street and overthrowing the global financial system are going to be causally linked. Again, the basic principle that if you’re spooking the people in power you’re probably doing something effective seems to apply. If the NSA is interested in it, it must be cool.
You don’t have to be ashamed of using your own ideas
Let’s presume you’ve already focused on internal consciousness as the sphere of your revolution. You still have to get up off your zen meditating ass and take a shit from time to time, so you may as well apply your perfect understanding to the real world. Even if you haven’t gotten the whole blessed and highest level of evolutionary consciousness thing down, you still may as well apply some of that rich inner life of yours to the real world. Which is to say that if you’ve got a revolutionary idea, revolute, baby, revolute.
Repetition is a form of change
History does have a habit of repeating itself. In this regard even the most progressive figure can learn from the radical right. Historical methods of enacting social change probably still work. The Situationist International almost overthrew France. The lesson to learn from this is not “well that doesn’t work," it’s “fine tune that and try again." On a more prosaic level, consider that preserving elements of society is as effective as destroying them in changing it.
Don’t be afraid of things because they’re easy to do
Easy solutions do exist. Turn out the lights in rooms you’re not in. (The Woman laughs.) Pay more attention to where your food is from. Volunteer in your local community. The obvious things people do are worth investigating.
Take a break
I am, in fact, out of tea.
There are people who have spent a lot of time thinking about many things that you may be interested in changing. Expertise is a tricky business, but it exists. On a basic level, listening to what scientists have to say about climate change is probably a good idea. Listening to what engineers say about the long-term viability of Miami’s urban infrastructure is probably smart. It’s terribly unlikely that you are the first person to try to solve this problem.
There is more appeal in the Berlin Cabaret approach than the description suggests. It may well be that a life of decadence is the best route, particularly if you frame decadence as an ideology and not as an act of selfishness. What it lacks in surefire success (and remember, anything’s a surefire success) it at least makes up for in fun.
Are there sections? Consider transitions.
Are there sections? Before we consider any social transitions, we should perhaps figure that out. Contemporary social justice theory suggests a focus on intersectionality. On a basic level, this consists of the observation that most people who are screwed are screwed in several ways. On a more complex level it suggests that progress in one sphere is likely connected to progress in another, such that feminism and economic justice are natural allies. Which is to say that we should consider the possibility that there are not, in fact, sections. Equally, we should consider the fact that any given section is necessarily connected to another, and that working on two problems at once is not a bad idea, while working on all of them at once is.
Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify them
As we’ve previously observed, leakers are not entirely beloved by the establishment. Journalism might well be the answer. On the other hand, did phone hacking bring down News International? Did the Guardian’s PRISM scoop end NSA surveillance? Still, Havel’s injunction to live in truth seems useful and worth keeping around.
Would anybody want it?
Social revolution can be thought of as nothing more than a sales job. Does anybody want communism? Is libertarian anarchism a lot of people’s dream? Moving something into the realm of the possible is the first step in accomplishing it.
Find the problem. Destroy it. There’s a certain simplicity to it. You can identify something wrong in the world. Go try to stop it.
Which elements can be grouped?
Of course, intersectionality is only interesting inasmuch as its a practical tool. If everyone’s getting it in the neck that’s all well and good, but what can we do about it? Who are our viable allies, and what do our alliances constitute? Social revolution necessitates the social. You don’t get to do this alone.
Think - inside the work - outside the work
Social revolution is not the whole of society. Even when everything is changing there are aspects of society distinct from the Revolution. If you have no awareness of what those are, what you are pursuing is not the Revolution. If you have nothing that is not the Revolution you have not become the Revolution, you have become nothing.
The first step is deciding to do something. Passivity is merely one choice. That others are scary does not rule them out. If you want radical change, you may have to actually make one.
Humanize something free of error
Religion is an aspect of society. It is worth considering whether there are gods that might be of direct use to you. Consider this both purely and in terms of intersectionality.
Always first steps
The end game is uncontrollable from the beginning, after all. You’re not solving the end of the problem right now, you’re starting a revolution. Even if the Revolution is underway, you’re still at the beginning of the future. A focus on the here and now is not counter-revolutionary.
It does seem likely to be one of our most fundamental political issues, doesn’t it? Whether it be the water that’s going to wipe coastal cities out, the water the Middle East doesn’t have, or the water that increasingly more places are losing, this would appear to be a hot-button issue.
The inconsistency principle
Again, social revolution necessitates change. Changing things for the sake of it is not as frivolous a strategy as one might think. If there is nothing in your life that can viably change your life’s direction you are almost certainly not contributing to a social revolution.
Take away the elements in order of apparent non-importance
Prioritize the weaker enemies, in other words. You probably can’t end economic injustice, but you probably can alleviate the sharpest ends of it for some of the people around you. The political causes that can be won right now are not replacements for ones that are further away, but that doesn’t mean taking out the easy steps first isn’t productive. A hot-button political issue is one worth weighing in on.
Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame
It is worth remarking on the fact that con men have a romance to them. And more to the point, a romance that seems necessarily adjacent to the political revolutionary. Perhaps fakery and lies are a more valuable tactic than we think. Alternatively, perhaps superficial change is all there is. As the advice goes, never waste a good crisis.
Make it more sensual
Alan Moore’s famed argument about how sexual liberation coincides with particularly nice periods of history does have some appeal to it, though one has to stack the deck a bit. We ought consider the possibility of sexual freedom, particularly if we remember intersectionality.
Abandon normal instruments
There is something to be said for outright personal radicalism. The commune in the woods, as it were. Certainly inasmuch as society is the thing you’re experiencing around you this would constitute a revolution.
It is of course theoretically possible that the structures of power can only be altered through violence. Virtually all historical social change has coincided with violence, although correlation is not causation. Still, armed and violent revolution should not be discarded as a possibility. We might also consider “fight dirty" as a corollary of this.
Go outside. Shut the door.
Two major themes here have been nature and collaboration. Both likely exist outside of your house and day-to-day life. If we do not want to completely cede the fight on environmental issues, this is outright necessary.
Gardening, not architecture
Aside from describing an environmental cause, we should note that social revolution is about cultivating what exists and nurturing it, not about building new structures. The world will change. Revolution is thus not about causing that, but interacting with it.
Is it finished?
No. It never is.
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