Rhetoric to Revolution
Rhetoric to Revolution (Not)
Back in the day when ethnic studies and cultural diversity
sprang into being on college campuses simply because they could I took a class
called Rhetoric to Revolution. The teacher or professor or whatever you want to
call a not quite Master’s degree sociologist Black student acted confidently
about whatever he talked about and during the intro class explained the class’s
The idea of the class was to study all the revolutionary rhetoricians who were so bountiful in those days, from Eldridge Cleaver to
Marcuse, from King to Malcolm, from Tijerina to Che, from Mao to Ho Chi Minh. A
regular feast of ideas about how to accomplish a revolution. I’ve left some out
because there were a lot. To study and understand how revolution first rhetoric must have, an impulse to define through ideas and speech the course of
events to come.
Revolution as recipe.
That was enough. By then, I was basically a college dropout
hanging out with the other college dropouts on the campus or the one we dropped
out of, waiting I suppose, for classes to be more relevant. So here was one and
I signed up for it.
By the second class, Nixon and Kissinger bombed Cambodia,
and suddenly, students and dropout students were in the streets once again,
glory hallelujah, marching to the drums of action. I forgot about going to
class, any class, and it didn’t matter because I had already read all those above-mentioned people, plus extra, like Ty Grace Atkinson and Robin Morgan.
Then, I believed that the latter two feminists rhetoriticians excluded me from
their revolution, at least in the beginning, much like the Russians wanted to
exclude the proletariat until they were educated enough to take control anyway,
and although I would always be a white, middle class raised boy/ young man/ old
man, it didn’t keep me from believing I could accept some revolution in my
Since then, I’ve waited for rhetoric to change to revolution
and lately have been thinking that if Nixon hadn’t bombed Cambodia maybe the R-to-R class would have been relevant and ultimately satisfying.
But that’s the problem, isn’t it.? Despite the rhetoric and
decades of information about the American Empire, endless war, catastrophic
economic scenarios, plus three different generations (since mine) coming of
age, there is always something that prevents left or liberal thinkers from ever
getting beyond their own minds or being able to convince people that giving up
something that they don’t really need for something that they do need, such as
trading 500 tv channels for universal health care and calling it freedom of
choice. Or giving up Wars as national policy for Real international egalitarian
policy making. The same war, different countries, but never for a different
reason or like economic downturns that drag on for years then things go back to
where they were. Yes, liberal media chronicles it all. Those of us in the know,
know it, know the reasons, the why’s and wherefore’s.
Looking up revolution, I am always amazed how simple in
words it is. “The overthrow of a government, form of government, or social
system by those governed, usually by force, with another government or system
taking its place.”
One problem is that we all know what’s wrong with that. It’s
those who can say it best are ensconced within the very system that they say
they hardly can endure. Yet no one turns their back on that system. One cannot
change systems unless there is another system. There are no Continental
Congresses, no Declaration of Independences, no Manifestoes and no social
/community/educational alternatives capable of withstanding the reaction a
genuine commitment to change would entail.
The problem within the problem is that the left has never
been able to put aside the rhetoric to make a revolution. Those who followed the
Russian revolution rhetoricians into their rhetorical dead hell and those who
adhere to various “living” revolutions, such as Cuba or Bolivia, rarely can
find reason to disrupt what we have here in America being dislodging and then
replacing with what they have in Cuba or Bolivia.
Aside from what you believe about Cuba or Bolivia or Egypt (in progress) revolution is from the bottom up. Either the people on the bottom
after much suffering create a stir that ripple through and if the ripple is
powerful enough the working people who suffer push as well. It’s a matter of
physics then. Anything can happen but when all is said and done nothing will
change if the have nots want whatever the haves have and nothing else because
then money changes hands and it’s back to money talking.
Howard Zinns history is more accurate than the Tea Party version, but history has never taught us anything.
Where are the examples, the real examples of what rhetoric
has produced. Liberals in America are so subdivided into the various causes I
believe there is an unstated and mistaken “spiritual” belief that someday all
these molehills will rise up, and form a formidable mountain range of some sort
of socialism. The left thinks it’s
fighting on all these fronts, mostly legal ones, utilizing a justice system
that has always been corrupt regardless of whether or not it has on occasion
acted responsibly. The same goes for the other institutions, religious or
governmental. At any time, a conservative neo-con president such as Nixon, Reagan,
Bushes can be elected and cause more problems that cannot be resolved by
future, somewhat liberal governments. There are those who would say that’s the
way any system would work. There will always be differences of opinion, and I
say, aye, aye to that, but in a system that primarily is economic tyranny (the
rhetoric is right about that) the differences of opinion on those matters of
economics that are important to how people live and will live will always be
decided by the tyrannical. The system really does not work for those who
believe in equality. The inequality is built in and just about every person
takes advantage and can take advantage of that inequality by whatever unequal
mechanism they can contrive, whether it be race, wealth, corporate vs individual,
Also, the leftist concept that revolution takes not only one
lifetime but several. Believe me you could say the same thing about fascism,
and today’s world seems closer to that reality
than the other.
We cannot continue to accept what little humanitarian aid
goes out from America simply because some good is better than no good. Look at
History, People!!! Even Hitler opened his arms and pocketbook to Germanic
people “stuck” in the non-Germanic world.
Basically, you can divide the world into those who will
suffer and sacrifice themselves because they believe it will prevent or lessen
the suffering of others, whether their family or beyond that and those who will
make others suffer so they won’t themselves suffer. Put like that those who
will make others suffer so they won’t say I’m being unfair because they
believe they are making the world a better place. They don’t see that if you
take the ability to make decisions away from some people who are affected by
the decisions, they have really set the world back. Equality is the only
measure of a true democracy. When you have so many divisions within any
community, solutions based on power brokerage democracy doesn't exist. One vote
per person seems like democracy but when 100,000 dollars can buy the votes that
count in congress what’s democratic about that?
We’ve always had the freedom to cut our own throats
figuratively speaking but never had the power to cut theirs figuratively. It
wouldn’t be allowed.
Look at all the struggles going on, from the revolts in the
Middle East, to Wisconsin and the other United States in liberal free fall, to
the devastation in Japan, right up to today with the entire world in economic
chaos. And they want us to believe this is the stable way to secure our future.
In each case it is the conflict between those who always decide and those who
should decide. Like the great(ironic) George Bush quipped, “I am the decider.”
Even the distinction between liberal and conservative is diminished when one
applies the question, who makes the decision, in both the case of liberal and
conservative, the answer is “they do” because the power to make decisions
always comes from the top down regardless of the rhetoric of political parties.
Although I always claim contrary to what current bumper
sticker tea party/minuteman rhetoric says that “Freedom isn’t free” a slogan
which I believe is false, still, what is true about it is that what politicians
give you isn’t free but what they try take from you is freedom.
If you look at Bush
and Obama, basically you see or want to see two sides, the two philosophies
side by side, and you see no essential difference. I actually get a kick out of
the Tea Party rhetoric regarding Obama because whatever is happening now is
what’s always happened in American politics. It’s the system of government we
live under. There is no essential difference between Obama and George Bush
except a degree of style. Obama isn’t going to side with Wisconsin protesters
any more than he will side with Syrian protesters because although, there would
be considerable fanfare if he did, it rocks the boat way more than what he
could manage. He supports unions as well as union busting, whatever. He is the
decider now, even if he chooses to continue the previous deciders decisions,
which it looks as if he does. The only thing about American politics that isn’t
middle of the road morality is our foreign policy which is a variation of
“Walk stealthily and carry a very big gun.”
In a land where wants are met by a advertising driven
consumerism, and everyone regardless of race, creed, or cultural preferences
want what their neighbor has and where needs are whatever can’t be bought, such
as love, freedom, or justice there seems to be a chasm that can’t be bridged by
politics, yet that is the structure by which we invest so much to give us more
while on the other side of our inner struggle and where the world faces wants
so intrinsic, such as water, food, work, land, we will not see, cannot see, we
are blind to revolution like the mole is blind to the earth’s beauty.
Revolution is an alternative lifestyle. One in which one
voluntarily gives up his/her priveleges. Unfortunately, people are as much
snakes as saints, or as a cartoon several years ago created by Far Side’s Gary
Larson illustrates- we are all like a thousand penguins standing on an ice floe
with one or all of us singing “I am Me”