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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Liberation Day 2

 (A break from "Coming Storms")

I am thinking again of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Iran.  It is like 1848 when all the capitals of Europe experienced "revolutions."  Regimes were thrown out by popular uprisings.  Unfortunately, in a very few years they were all reestablished.  But it still did lead to some additional movement towards democracy and maybe some additional rights.

Why are not the youth and their allies on the streets in the USA?  Well, there is Wisconsin.  Is that a beginning?  There was also grass roots energy behind the Obama election and the Tea Party movement.  But like all "revolutions" we just elect our masters and turn over power to them. There was authentic revolutionary discontent in the Tea Party movement but then they let themselves be defined by Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Rand Paul, and Glen Beck--pure defenders and products of the established regime.  And the Obama movement wound up in an election in the same old structures.  I experienced their appointments--safe and reactionary.

I go back to my original distinction between "revolution" and "rebellion"--or really Albert Camus's distinction.  Revolutions revolve back.  Rebellions like Sisyphus and Prometheus are on-going.  Jefferson and Trotsky were advocates of perpetual revolution.  Each generation must wage its own.  No absolute state, no utopia. 

The US is I think in a condition that begs revolution. It is totally controlled by corporate based plutocrats who shape the values, the perspectives, the behaviors, and the leaders of the existing social order.  They often decide who will win elections--most important they decide what will happen no matter who wins elections.  They set the limits for any change that might affect them--e.g. health care, taxation, military equipment, contributions, foreign aid, business, communications, energy.  They do not form a party or "interest group."  No need for that since they can generally shape what any party does and also support the think-tanks, magazines, and media that represent their regime.

I don't blame the Obamaists and the Tea Partiers for getting caught up in the electoral process since I think the blame game is unwinnable.  Also the electoral process is important, but that's not where the revolution is.  The revolution is redoing the constitution, i.e. the social order (I don't mean rewriting the American Bible) so that there really is freedom and justice for all. 

That will not happen through populism (e.g. mass movement or democracy) which just changes players in the same game with the same owners.  Populism is like the NFL--huge cheering crowds with the owners choosing the coaches and players and the rules of the game.

Social justice will be achieved only through republicanism--that is the creation of publics, localities in which people educate themselves in the interests and values of each other, develop their own rules, exercise leadership collectively, and continually learn from and connect to other publics.

Hannah Arendt described these publics occuring in the townhalls of the American colonies, the soviets of Russia, the societies of France, and in civil society institutions of developing countries.  She also described how the townhall, soviet, and societe traditions were overcome by centralized domination of economic concerns.

Jefferson, a member of the landed plutocracy, was no democrat and like many of the founders of America distrusted the masses.  But he was a republican intellectually and morally and had faith that people who thought, spoke, listened, and acted together, could continue to change.  He, and the other founders, knew that the American Constitution as written as well as the constitution as actually performed were very flawed leaving out the rights of many people (e.g. blacks, native Americans, women), trade-offs necessary to create a strong central government.

His republican hope, and ours, is that people by meeting, speaking, listening, and acting together would continue the progression of humanity towards greater freedom and justice for all.

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