[Noisebridge-discuss] This Is What Revolution Looks Like

Jake jake at spaz.org
Fri Nov 18 11:24:18 UTC 2011

This Is What Revolution Looks Like


Posted on Nov 15, 2011

By Chris Hedges

Welcome to the revolution. Our elites have exposed their hand. They have 
nothing to offer. They can destroy but they cannot build. They can repress 
but they cannot lead. They can steal but they cannot share. They can talk 
but they cannot speak. They are as dead and useless to us as the 
water-soaked books, tents, sleeping bags, suitcases, food boxes and 
clothes that were tossed by sanitation workers Tuesday morning into 
garbage trucks in New York City. They have no ideas, no plans and no 
vision for the future.

Our decaying corporate regime has strutted in Portland, Oakland and New 
York with their baton-wielding cops into a fool's paradise. They think 
they can clean up "the mess"-always employing the language of personal 
hygiene and public security-by making us disappear. They think we will all 
go home and accept their corporate nation, a nation where crime and 
government policy have become indistinguishable, where nothing in America, 
including the ordinary citizen, is deemed by those in power worth 
protecting or preserving, where corporate oligarchs awash in hundreds of 
millions of dollars are permitted to loot and pillage the last shreds of 
collective wealth, human capital and natural resources, a nation where the 
poor do not eat and workers do not work, a nation where the sick die and 
children go hungry, a nation where the consent of the governed and the 
voice of the people is a cruel joke.

Get back into your cages, they are telling us. Return to watching the 
lies, absurdities, trivia and celebrity gossip we feed you in 24-hour 
cycles on television. Invest your emotional energy in the vast system of 
popular entertainment. Run up your credit card debt. Pay your loans. Be 
thankful for the scraps we toss. Chant back to us our phrases about 
democracy, greatness and freedom. Vote in our rigged political theater. 
Send your young men and women to fight and die in useless, unwinnable wars 
that provide corporations with huge profits. Stand by mutely as our 
bipartisan congressional supercommittee, either through consensus or 
cynical dysfunction, plunges you into a society without basic social 
services including unemployment benefits. Pay for the crimes of Wall 

The rogues' gallery of Wall Street crooks, such as Lloyd Blankfein at 
Goldman Sachs, Howard Milstein at New York Private Bank & Trust, the media 
tycoon Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers and Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase 
& Co., no doubt think it's over. They think it is back to the business of 
harvesting what is left of America to swell their personal and corporate 
fortunes. But they no longer have any concept of what is happening around 
them. They are as mystified and clueless about these uprisings as the 
courtiers at Versailles or in the Forbidden City who never understood 
until the very end that their world was collapsing. The billionaire mayor 
of New York, enriched by a deregulated Wall Street, is unable to grasp why 
people would spend two months sleeping in an open park and marching on 
banks. He says he understands that the Occupy protests are "cathartic" and 
"entertaining," as if demonstrating against the pain of being homeless and 
unemployed is a form of therapy or diversion, but that it is time to let 
the adults handle the affairs of state. Democratic and Republican mayors, 
along with their parties, have sold us out. But for them this is the 
beginning of the end.

The historian Crane Brinton in his book "Anatomy of a Revolution" laid out 
the common route to revolution. The preconditions for successful 
revolution, Brinton argued, are discontent that affects nearly all social 
classes, widespread feelings of entrapment and despair, unfulfilled 
expectations, a unified solidarity in opposition to a tiny power elite, a 
refusal by scholars and thinkers to continue to defend the actions of the 
ruling class, an inability of government to respond to the basic needs of 
citizens, a steady loss of will within the power elite itself and 
defections from the inner circle, a crippling isolation that leaves the 
power elite without any allies or outside support and, finally, a 
financial crisis. Our corporate elite, as far as Brinton was concerned, 
has amply fulfilled these preconditions. But it is Brinton's next 
observation that is most worth remembering. Revolutions always begin, he 
wrote, by making impossible demands that if the government met would mean 
the end of the old configurations of power. The second stage, the one we 
have entered now, is the unsuccessful attempt by the power elite to quell 
the unrest and discontent through physical acts of repression.

I have seen my share of revolts, insurgencies and revolutions, from the 
guerrilla conflicts in the 1980s in Central America to the civil wars in 
Algeria, the Sudan and Yemen, to the Palestinian uprising to the 
revolutions in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania as well as the 
wars in the former Yugoslavia. George Orwell wrote that all tyrannies rule 
through fraud and force, but that once the fraud is exposed they must rely 
exclusively on force. We have now entered the era of naked force. The vast 
million-person bureaucracy of the internal security and surveillance state 
will not be used to stop terrorism but to try and stop us.

Despotic regimes in the end collapse internally. Once the foot soldiers 
who are ordered to carry out acts of repression, such as the clearing of 
parks or arresting or even shooting demonstrators, no longer obey orders, 
the old regime swiftly crumbles. When the aging East German dictator Erich 
Honecker was unable to get paratroopers to fire on protesting crowds in 
Leipzig, the regime was finished. The same refusal to employ violence 
doomed the communist governments in Prague and Bucharest. I watched in 
December 1989 as the army general that the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had 
depended on to crush protests condemned him to death on Christmas Day. 
Tunisia's Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak lost power once they could no 
longer count on the security forces to fire into crowds.

The process of defection among the ruling class and security forces is 
slow and often imperceptible. These defections are advanced through a 
rigid adherence to nonviolence, a refusal to respond to police provocation 
and a verbal respect for the blue-uniformed police, no matter how awful 
they can be while wading into a crowd and using batons as battering rams 
against human bodies. The resignations of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's 
deputy, Sharon Cornu, and the mayor's legal adviser and longtime friend, 
Dan Siegel, in protest over the clearing of the Oakland encampment are 
some of the first cracks in the edifice. "Support Occupy Oakland, not the 
1% and its government facilitators," Siegel tweeted after his resignation.

There were times when I entered the ring as a boxer and knew, as did the 
spectators, that I was woefully mismatched. Ringers, experienced boxers in 
need of a tuneup or a little practice, would go to the clubs where 
semi-pros fought, lie about their long professional fight records, and toy 
with us. Those fights became about something other than winning. They 
became about dignity and self-respect. You fought to say something about 
who you were as a human being. These bouts were punishing, physically 
brutal and demoralizing. You would get knocked down and stagger back up. 
You would reel backward from a blow that felt like a cement block. You 
would taste the saltiness of your blood on your lips. Your vision would 
blur. Your ribs, the back of your neck and your abdomen would ache. Your 
legs would feel like lead. But the longer you held on, the more the crowd 
in the club turned in your favor. No one, even you, thought you could win. 
But then, every once in a while, the ringer would get overconfident. He 
would get careless. He would become a victim of his own hubris. And you 
would find deep within yourself some new burst of energy, some untapped 
strength and, with the fury of the dispossessed, bring him down. I have 
not put on a pair of boxing gloves for 30 years. But I felt this twinge of 
euphoria again in my stomach this morning, this utter certainty that the 
impossible is possible, this realization that the mighty will fall.

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