Today, I mentioned to a couple of people that there is a revolution taking place in Europe: Spain and Greece. I was not surprised that people didn’t quite understand it. See, the problem with the concept of revolution is that it only exists in textbooks… something that everyone has, at a given point, conventionally agreed upon.
Some have corrected me: “it isn’t a revolution,” they say. “It’s a riot or a labour strike” or some kind of combination of both, you know, like that occupy thing that happened here sometime last year.
I guess at this point I should be glad enough to learn that people in my neighbourhood have actually heard of occupy. Well, to be fair, I have seen some of my neighbours walking by or even within the occupy vancouver camp.
But the thing is… if you are unable to tell me that what is happening in Europe – or occupy for that matter – is a revolution, then what is? If you can tell me that what is happening right now is not a revolution, then you must be able to tell me why it is not, and what you think a revolution is… but… there were no answers… because… “that depends” (which is a very common answer i get). On what? well… no one actually knows…
People seem to understand revolutions only within a historical context inherently belonging to a distant past, something neatly summarized in an Oscar winning blockbuster. Revolution is supposed to “look” like “something”, but that something is different from occupy, labour strikes, or a riot. Then, what is it supposed to “look” like? I guess… a page on a history book.
It doesn’t seem to look like occupy, nor its hippy-looking or even well suited occupiers, greedy teachers in t-shirts, or even scientists in their white coats… there must be some kind of fashion code that I’m missing… maybe one should try to resemble Che Guevara, perhaps? Would that be considered revolutionary?
It doesn’t seem to apply to lawful citizens being brutalized by the police en masse either… UNLESS… it happens in some far away land such as Egypt or Libya… then it IS a revolution driven by those rightfully hungry for freedom.
Or maybe the concept of revolution is so diluted to the point of nothingness… Here, nowadays, there is nothing more revolutionary than a laundry detergent…
Maybe it isn’t about finding it. Maybe it is about feeling it. Maybe, just maybe, a revolution is about identifying an underlying sense of unjust struggle beyond artificial divisions we all seem addicted to. Maybe we will find a true revolution when we each stop internalizing and personalizing our struggles and realize that there are people out there who are speaking up for the rest of us.
And if for whatever reason this does not resonate with you, dear reader, may I humbly suggest a dose of self-honesty, a little research into the headlines of the last couple of years, a simple objective analysis of what has taken place while you were too busy making ends meet, and perhaps an honest dialogue with someone who is now speaking up, an honest and respectful debate with those you so quickly judge as greedy teachers, entitled students, overcompensated workers… because until you truly engage and listen to what they have to say, you are in no position to claim you aren’t sharing in their struggles.
I have no reason to lie to you… and perhaps you think I’m one of those you are told to dismiss, fear, and even hate… but one thing we all know about revolutions is that no status quo ever embraced revolutionary ideas, of course, for the exception of laundry detergents. So don’t trust me, but do yourself a favour: start paying attention.
This is a relevant article written by our friend Gilbert Mercier: Can a Global Revolution Be non-Violent?