Why Revolutions Don't Work
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Rage. Devastation. Violence. Hatred. Fear. Fear. Fear.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota Police Officer Derek Chauvin has been a catalyst for us all to look at some of the oldest wounds that fester in our society. That fester in all of us through our complicity with a system founded on slavery and racism. A system that, though having shifted in the execution of these foundations still is very much based upon them. From slavery in the fields to the forced labor of inmates in over-crowded prisons. Inmates that largely are representative of historical slave populations.
We are living in a time when the unseen and untended wounds of centuries are rising through our DNA into our eyes, our ears, our hands and feet. When we are perceiving, for the first time, the collective experience of others that have suffered at the hands of an unjust and murderous system that has gone unchecked because it was not seen. Because there was, until now, no way of bringing what happens in the dark shadows of a this society to the attention of everyone and anyone. At least not in a way that could compete with the media flood of mental conditioning and social programming.
But now we see.
Police brutality is nothing new. The savage killing of black men and women is nothing new. The murder and disappearance of indigenous women and men is nothing new. The murder of gente chicana, Mexicana, latina, caribeña, indígena is nothing new. These are gangrenous wounds at the heart of our society that stretch back into the farthest recesses of human organization. They are at the core of what we term “civilization.” They are nothing new.
We’ve been fighting these battles a long time. But for the first time we have the ability to witness and bring solidarity and cohesion across lines of racial and ideological division. How, then, to do that?
Too often the short-lived responses of action based on outrage flare up and exhaust themselves all too quickly. People forget. The next outrage comes. People flare up. Burn themselves out in their exhibitions of outrage. People forget. The next outrage comes. People flare up. Burn themselves out in their exhibitions of outrage. People forget. The next outrage comes...
We have to acknowledge the rage and grief over the many black men and women that are murdered in our streets. We also have to acknowledge the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women in Native communities. We have to acknowledge the destruction of families and disappearance of thousands of children on our southern border. We have to acknowledge all of these things, and honor them with the requisite grief that they collectively cause in us. But we also have to realize that this same system that allows and condones these things banks on our collective outcries quieting down once the emotional exhaustion sets in. And it inevitably sets in.
From Occupy Wall Street, to Standing Rock, to #MeToo, and now to Black Lives Matter, there is a trend in our society of people rising up in the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of creating a more just society. People who are fed up with the injustice and the flagrant abuse, violence, and murder that is condoned by this system. The emotions flare. The people temporarily organize. The injustice is raged against. Until the exhaustion sets in and, largely, so does the return to the status quo.
In between these brief uprisings we are lulled back to slumber by media. By legal and illegal drugs. And the desire to “get ahead” in the same society that does the devouring that causes the outrage, on the daily.
There are no short-term solutions to long-term problems. The problems are systemic because they are embedded in the very seeds and roots of the system. In you. In me. In us. In them.
If we’re going to tear this shit down we need long-term solutions and long-term thinking. Solutions that set the stage for seven generations from now. Solutions whose fruits we may, in all likelihood, never see. We need to unite in creating alternate societies in our own communities. Divest from all of their media mind-control. From all their systems of dependence. All of them.
That requires a sustained effort and vision towards independence. Pockets of grass-roots growth in all areas of life. Eliminating the reign and dependence upon the mighty dollar. Creating a new society has to be rooted in all areas of life. Action cannot be limited to protesting the existing system and expecting that the system will course-correct when every other segment of the system continues to be founded on the same systems of dominance and dependence.
This means that you and I have to make some big decisions. Decisions that influence every aspect of our lives: from our willing complicity in upholding corporate hierarchies through our consumerism, to reclaiming our autonomy in our food production, education, health and wellness, and our financial and economic structures. Essentially, you and I have to divest from as many aspects of this social structure as humanly possible.
In the process, we have to create, maintain, and nurture a new vision of what our world could be. Not for ourselves, because we will only live to see the smallest impacts of this at first, but for the future generations of human beings that come after us. We have to make sacrifices now so that life can continue later.
But we don’t get to get the glory. No one will know our names in a few generations.
You won’t be anyone’s messianic leader. No one’s liberator. Nothing but a whisper in the wind. And the fruits of the seeds you’ve sown will be the evidence that you once had breath and it will be evidence to nothing but the wind itself.
Is that enough for you?
Are you willing to sacrifice all you are, have, want, have ever wanted to be an unknown face in the birthing of a new world?
To pour more fear and hatred into this one is to feed what has fed it and made it grow all along. And fear and hatred are many-faced, toothy, shape-shifting things. One minute they wear a blue uniform. The next they are a bandana-covered face and a Molotov cocktail. Who they wear and what that person is wearing makes no difference. The same beast is being fed. Different faces. Different masks. Different mouths. Same beast.
As long as they control your food, your finances, your education, your aspirations, your dreams, no amount of protesting or marching or revolting will change a thing. There will be flare ups of outrage and fear, and as emotions and resources become exhausted, they will die down again into the slumbering malaise of media-trance zombification. Movies and models. NBA. NFL. UFC. Netflix and chill. Slumbering minds after the exhaustion of playing uprising.
Change needs to be structural. Needs to start at the roots. Connection to the land. Growing our own food. Making our own medicines. Honoring each other’s gifts. Breathing life into them. Keeping them and our resources in the community. Growing the community. Limited interaction with outside finances and media. Limited until it is no longer necessary. Until there is nothing that we need from this system. Nothing that we want from it.
This takes strategy, vision, and a determination to see that vision through in every one of our actions. A true cultural shift is one that will take many generations to reach, but we can all make steps towards it now by identifying the tangible things that make us dependent on this pre-existing system. It's not about violent uprisings and revolts. That has been proven to lead to more of the same over and over again. Through violent uprising the leadership of a system may be displaced, but the system itself remains in place. Eventually, those that take the leadership roles end up succumbing to the past structures of dominance, coercion, and oppression that they sought to uproot.
We can start to shift the society by putting our spiritual ideas to practice in tangible ways. By connecting with the Earth and with community in the. most intimate, practical ways. Starting with growing our own food. Then creating local, interdependent financial and economic systems. Taking on the full responsibility for our education and the education of our children. Ensuring that that education is providing tangible, valuable skills that emphasize the unique gifts of each person instead of seeking to numb and indoctrinate them into being mindlessly obedient servants.
I'm not saying that this should be done instead of the acts of civil disobedience that seek to demand justice for the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many other black men and women. I'm saying we should never have forgotten to seek justice for Anna Mae Aquash, for Leonard Peltier, for all of those murdered or imprisoned men and women who have never been publicly named for seeking lives of justice and dignity in Native communities. In Asian communities. In the communities that still are labeled by the colonialist adages of Latino/a/x, Hispanic, whatever the dominant politically correct diatribe may be. I'm also not diminishing the injustices to one group by bringing awareness to the fact that this system of discrimination and oppression is pervasive across the board. I'm saying look deeper.
Organize. Protest. Demand justice.
But realize that there must be long-term as well as short-term solutions. This system was never made with us in mind. No amount of ideological bandaids will change that. As the son of struggling Mexican immigrants that went from county jail to an Ivy-league PhD and has seen all things in between and beyond I speak from experience, not from social media-gleaned opinion. I have seen the inside and out of all of these structures, including those that create the ideologies that claim to be empowering when all the while they are insidiously reinforcing the same system they claim to fight against.
You can’t take from this ancient beast of a system with one hand and demand it change with a shaking fist of the other.
Freedom is possible. But it won’t be for you and me. It will be, possibly, for those that come long after we are dead and gone. What kinds of sacrifices are you willing to make for this?
What kind of ancestor do you want to be?
Painting: David Alfaro Siqueiros, De la dictadura de Porfirio Diaz a la Revolución del Pueblo en Armas, 1957.