On revolution, again

Thinking some more about JMG’s extensive post on violence/revolution (and intellectuals taking up arms against the industrial system), my take on this is that in the long run, it may be that revolution/violence of the classic mode may be quite unnecessary and even simply impractical, in the large scale sense.   This isn’t to say we will get a pain-free transition to our next way of living, it just may be that things will not end with a bang, but with a whimper.

On a related note – people do worry about a 1984 police state, but the recent situation in Utah (where they considered turning off water to the NSA’s data center) and in Nevada, where they did the same for the Yucca Mountain Complex (and succeed) indicates that there will be legal and non-violent opposition to things that the central government may do, even from conservative quarters.  The markets may also chime in when governments try to print money to pay for all this, sending the economy (and the legitimacy of the government) into a tailspin.   Governments need legitimacy to govern, and even the police states of the former Warsaw Pact fell when the “man in the street” felt that their legitimacy was questioned.   There’s even a term that pinpoints the moment when that legitimacy falls apart – the “Ceausescu Moment“, when a dictator tries to do the usual things, but falls flat on his face.  If a government of any size or station can’t appear to be legitimate, people might not revolt – they’ll just start to ignore the folks saying they are “in charge.” The rank-and-file enforcers may just shrug their shoulders, and realized they’ve got other things to do with their time, and the whole thing just fizzles out.  The Romanian revolution wasn’t a bloodless one, for sure, but there wasn’t a US Civil War-level of violence that accompanied it.   JMG pointed out that revolutions can have violent components to them, but it isn’t the central part of them – they are about ideas, and new ways of doing things (and the populace has to believe in these new ideas, while rejecting the old).  Violence can push things over the edge, but by the time a successful revolution gets to a certain point, it is a done deal anyway.  Starting out with violence appears to be an incredibly poor way to get changes to happen, as folks in the sixties found out.

Even if opposition to the industrial world or the police state didn’t exist on a human front, there will still be resistance that might not have a smidgen of human centered violence (or human agency at all!) in it.  The situation in Utah is that the NSA data center there needs a LOT of water to function.   Various humans in various human-constructed governmental units might try to force the water to stay on (or off), but there may be a point when the water isn’t there at all, and Mother Nature will have the last say on this, regardless of what silly humans want.   As the Nazis discovered in WW2, you need a lot of oil and petroleum products to run a war machine.  Now, at that time, oil was plentiful, and the only reason they didn’t have it was due to political reasons – cheap oil existed, but nobody wanted to give it to them (the Allies fought against giving them access, of course – with machines also powered by cheap oil).   But if the cheap and easy oil (or the coal derivatives they quite literally cooked up) just didn’t plain exist, the traditional blitzkrieg-style war machine would have ground to a halt.

Calls to bring down the industrial system with violence seem like trying to drill holes in the bottom of a boat when said boat has just collided with an iceberg – it’s not going to really bring the boat down faster, and you could be doing far better things with your time.   Violence, in self-defense situations, can be warranted, and learning how to responsibly defend yourself or your community seems like a logical thing.  But actively pursuing it when so many things need fixing/constructing seems not like the best course to take (and many, many of JMG’s commenters echoed this fact).

One of the best comments on revolution was made by the late Michael Ruppert, in the movie Collapse.  His comment on the coming changes (the revolution in human affairs) was, “I’m talking about a revolution that’s probably the hardest kind, the kind that takes place in the human soul, in the human mind.”  No violence required.


  • When do we get a Ceausescu Moment for our industrial civilization, or has it arrived?   Has it arrived for the American Dream, where people don’t believe it anymore?
  • What would that Ceausescu Moment for our industrial civilization look like? Is that the thing that will push the population to wake up, and start living differently?
  • What pushes some people to go for the violence option versus others?  Is it always the Asimovian “the last refuge of the incompetent,” or something else?
  • A few people brought up the comment that, “This is the age of video game and cartoon violence…Those who consider themselves violent likely cannot even bring themselves to kill a chicken.” we get less violence because of this?   The Letterman quote brought up last week, “War is no fun when the other side shoots back,” is along the same lines.

One thought on “On revolution, again

  1. Pingback: Better leadership, better leaders | peakfuture

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