Thursday, July 14, 2011

Who Says They Want a Revolution?

I'm in Donegal this week, hence the light posting (that and the absence of 3G cover never mind broadband!)

Still, sometimes being away can provide a little perspective. One theme I keep coming across is the prospects for revolution. And not just in Greece. Satyajit Das sees things moving quickly from angst about Europe's economic stability, to angst about its political stability:
In the afflicted nations, public protests and disturbances are increasing as the populace rejects greater austerity. Populist politicians, willing to reject the need for further “sacrifice” and repudiate the country’s debt, hover in the wings. The argument that the country will be an international “financial pariah” don’t carry much weight when you are already one with no one likely to lend you money any time soon. It also has less weight when you don’t have a job and the country is on the brink of social breakdown.
Are we living in pre-revolutionary times? 1848 all over again? It has that potential - or does it? It takes more than failing economic policies to instigate a revolution. One of my favourite blogs is Kings of War, and they have this to say about the revolutionary potential of Europe's first post-modern crisis:
Teodor Shanin points out an important ingredient in revolutions: “Social scientists often miss a centre-piece of any revolutionary struggle—the fervour and anger that drives revolutionaries and makes them into what they are…At the very centre of revolution lies an emotional upheaval or moral indignation, revulsion and fury with the powers-that-be, such that one cannot demur of remain silent, whatever the cost.  Within its glow, for a while, men surpass themselves, breaking the shackles of intuitive self-preservation, convention, day-to-day convenience, and routine.”  This anger, according to Frantz Fanon is what created the solidarity of the oppressed, and from that solidarity, revolutionary action: “The colonized, underdeveloped man is a political creature in the most global sense of the term.”  
But as they point out: breaking the shackles of convention and convenience is more unlikely than ever in an age of Facebook and Web 2.0. When the voice of dissent is called 'Anonymous' then there is no obvious leader of the revolution to channel moral indignation, revulsion and fury...

Bruce Charlton provides a different perspective (as always): he wonders who will provide leadership and cohesion in the face of chaos or a coup? Leadership of the revolutionary or counter-revolutionary kind. He doesn't think there is an obvious choice in present day England:
Instead there is placid laziness alternating with gross sensation-seeking, reinforced by the rainy climate (which make rioting risky - who wants to riot in the rain? But encouraging ) - but all that domestication will act against the English if society becomes disordered and resistance is required.
It really is hard to exaggerate the weakness of England; at the public level a morass of careerism, hedonism, self-advertisement, self-hatred. All resilient virtues secretly operative only between atomic individuals and hidden within families.
So instead of revolution we face the prospect of something more akin to what is happening in Belfast right now: mindless thuggery masquerading as violent protest against 'the system'. A policing problem, not a political problem. Or at least that's how it'll be until the money runs out. Then we'll all be reminded that civilisation is three meals away from anarchy.

With or without a broadband connection...

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