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 purpose.

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 life.

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, consumerism.

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 teddy’s.

“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”


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