RE: is this what the revolution will look like?

Date: Thu Oct 15 2009 - 15:41:32 EDT

This message from Jurriaan was archived in the internal archives @ csu

but not in either the ricardo or utah archives so I am forwarding in the

event that others haven't seen the post.


In solidarity, Jerry


PS to Allin and Hans: do you know why this post wasn't archived?


> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Jurriaan Bendien" <>
> To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
> Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 3:53 AM
> Subject: is this what the revolution will look like?
> > Frankly I don't know, but it's probably not like a Monthy Python movie.
> > Often, revolutionary overturns or revolutionary upheavals take most people
> > by surprise, and people enter into revolutionary struggle not so much
> > because they want to, but because they have to, because it turns out that
> > moral appeals no longer work and only force can settle the issue. Raymond
> > Aron, the eloquent French liberal, declared just prior to the '68 revolt
> > that the Fifth Republic had "never been so stable". Usually a
> > pre-revolutionary crisis involves that popular opinions have become highly
> > polarized.
> >
> > In my lifetime, there has been a whole series of revolutions (see e.g.
> > )
> > not infrequently involving military wars amidst crumbling social
> > structures, but not where I was. I watched bits of '68 on TV in hospital
> > as a 9-year old, but the biggest mass protest I personally participated in
> > was, oddly enough, the anti-Springbok Tour protest in New Zealand in 1981,
> > which took the Left by surprise - nobody had expected that there would be
> > such large masses of people on the move about an issue like that. Its
> > organizational methods were shaped a lot by the preceding experiences of
> > the anti-Vietnam war protests, and it was mixed with resentment against
> > the Prime Minister and about high unemployment. Usually popular revolts
> > initially build on the memory of the experiences of struggles that most
> > immediately preceded them, it's only in the course of the fight that
> > people begin to innovate new things.
> >
> > Next, there was the "neo-liberal" revolution in New Zealand, i.e. the
> > large-scale sell-off of New Zealand assets to the multinationals, and the
> > radical restructuring of the government apparatus - more radically than
> > happened in Chile and probably more radically than anywhere else in the
> > world - but that wasn't really a political "revolution", because the
> > ruling elites weren't overthrown but to the contrary consolidated their
> > power - the main "revolutionary" effect, apart from a few mass protests,
> > was that a very large proportion of NZ-born residents left the country,
> > mainly to Australia. The Left was completely routed at the time, they were
> > intellectually unprepared to deal with it.
> >
> > At the time of the first Gulf War, I recall a mate of mine went to
> > California and recorded some of the anti-war protest there on video. It
> > was very strange to watch, because, like, there were were all these people
> > just randomly standing in the street, they seemed to have no concept of
> > political organization at all, they just seemed to be staging an
> > individual protest on their own, without any clear group affiliation or
> > organisational unity, and without any obvious target or purpose. And one
> > wondered what would need to happen before people like that would attain
> > serious political organization.
> >
> > Apart from that, the main "social revolutions" I've experienced in my
> > lifetime were the sexual revolution and the emancipation of women, and the
> > digital revolution, which have enormously changed the ways in which people
> > relate and communicate. When I studied at university I was still using an
> > ordinary portable typewriter, only in 1983 I was using computers for the
> > first time. I owned my first PC in 1990. It was only in Holland in the
> > mid-1990s that I got my first mobile phone. It's funny to think that
> > really, all told, my generation witnessed more social and technological
> > change, and more population growth, than all the generations that came
> > before. And the pace of social and technological change only seems to
> > accelerate more.
> >
> > As a reflex it is causing considerable conservatism, anxiety and moral
> > disorientation, when people grapple with lives in which you cannot be
> > certain about very much at all anymore, even about what the very efficacy
> > of your own actions can or will be. Often people secretly wish "if only
> > some things would stay the same", and the emphasis shifts often to instant
> > or short-term gratification, the "consumption of the moment", since
> > tomorrow things could be very different, and you really have no way of
> > telling how things will pan out. In practically every job I have had, the
> > organization I worked for was "restructuring" and "reorganizing", so that
> > the tasks also changed, work itself became a "process of change".
> >
> > The cognitive, social and emotional demands made on people seem to have
> > become much greater, so that a lot depends on personal strength - not so
> > much physical strength or capacity, but the assertion of will and
> > endurance. A lot of the modern-day preoccupation with "spirituality" and
> > suchlike is simply about attaining and preserving some kind of inner calm
> > and balance, a sort of inner defence against overstimulation and excess
> > change. I remember how, as a schoolleaver in 1977, people were
> > tremendously worried about rising unemployment, but ironically nowadays
> > we're encouraged to think of a global financial crisis as just a spot of
> > bad weather, which should not be allowed to intrude too much into the
> > beauty of life. Obviously that is in good part propaganda, but the
> > mentality in response to adversity has certainly altered.
> >
> > What of the future? The main thing I guess is that popular revolts, if
> > they happen, can spread very, very fast, but also, that it is much more
> > difficult to know what the effects will be - the potential for society to
> > be plunged into a chaos is much greater, but even if order is just as
> > rapidly restored, it is not clear that the order itself will last. So
> > there's a sense in which life becomes a matter of choosing what
> > "processes" you want to involve yourself in, shutting out some processes
> > and admitting others. Physical walls - aside from defence barriers -
> > nowadays have mainly entertainment value
> > , the real "walls"
> > are cultural or semiotic walls, or cyberwalls.
> >
> > Psychically, human character becomes much more malleable, flexible and
> > adaptable, a habituation in response to change, but at the same time a
> > sense of responsibility for anything bigger than oneself is eroded, since,
> > confusingly and frustratingly, people often find themselves being asked to
> > take responsibility for things that they cannot really take responsibility
> > for, while they cannot exercise true responsibility for things that they
> > ought to take responsibility for, and organisationally the difficulty is
> > that responsibilities have to be constantly renegotiated, rather than
> > being fixed, durable and certain. It creates a sort of "puberal",
> > infantilized and often highly ambivalent culture, which begets a
> > conservative reaction, except that conservatism lacks much efficacy also,
> > since the experience of stability and the tradition for it are lacking.
> >
> > It could be argued therefore, that people are, psychically, steadily being
> > prepared for ever more revolutionary changes, since, more and more, the
> > limits of what is conceivable and permissible in social behaviour fall
> > away - the only real conservatism that remains, consists of the sense of
> > constancy created by not doing things, refusing to be involved in
> > something, not merely passively, but as an active choice - but, since one
> > doesn't get anywhere much with not doing anything, the conservative
> > challenge effectively becomes to do as little as possible, with the
> > greatest benefit to oneself. Yet again, this is also frowned upon and
> > often treated with contempt - in the end all we can be sure of is that
> > things will indeed change, like it or not, even although we may not really
> > know how they will yet.
> >
> > Jurriaan

Received on Thu Oct 15 15:41:36 2009

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