I have watched political and social changes all my life starting with the ‘lone gunman’ assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.
Informally for most of it. More attentively over the past twenty years. With critical interest lately.
The futile, ‘Yankee Go Home!’ sentiments of post WWII countries living under the boot of the benevolent hegemon have given way to the orchestrated reorganization of the Global South into a world entity based on a new kind of power, new to us at least: Cooperation instead of Empire. The so-called multi-polar world. But it has not yet tipped, there has been no fall of Rome event to cast the crumbling empire into the gutters and make way for the ascendancy of the next. Whether it lives up to its noble ambitions or not can never be certain. Not until the new world becomes the current world and the current world becomes irrelevant to all but thoughtful historians and late night trivia. As Victor Chernomyrdin said of the tumultuous times in 1990’s Russia, the crazy nineties, “We wanted the best, but it turned out as always.” Revolutions, reorganizations, and rendezvous with destiny turn out like that, as always.
For the time being the Uni-Polar world stands.
My fear is that a revolution will change the world once all the conditions have clicked into place. My terror is what comes next. Most revolutions are followed by counter revolutions, local uprisings, secessions and civil wars, war lords and drug lords morphing into barons and Mafia dons, and eventually into ‘legitimate’ statesmen and patricians-the doge of Venice was once a common pickpocket, or another age of terror. Even free, City on a Hill, America had her Shay’s and Whiskey Rebellions, brutally put down by her Cincinnatus-esque father, Geo. Washington, while bankers bought up ‘worthless’ Continental dollars from local farmers in Tennessee and Kentucky that the Federal government, at the instigation of Alexander Hamilton, had agreed to honor, unbeknownst to them. And nobody was about the tell them that their money was actually worth something. Money gathers money. The one percent wear many cloaks, all with pockets. Examples from other times and terrors are legion. As Baron Rothschild is alleged to have said, "The best time to make money is when there is blood in the streets."
There are exceptions, of course. The constitutional conventions. Bismark and the Second Reich. Franklin and the Articles of Confederation. Dekanawida and The Iroquois Great Law of Peace, which influenced Franklin at the constitutional convention 200 years later. Plato’s Republic. Confucius’ Divine Rule. Even Machievelli’s “The Prince” was a stab at writing a republic into existence. But the rallying cry for most revolutions is, “Here it comes again, just like never before!” And then they proceed ‘as usual.’
And then there was COVID-19.
The exceptions seem to be revolutions via Le Guillotine de Biologe. There are War and Famine, but Pestilence is Death’s most faithful servant. The one percent will always eat and are responsible for most of the world’s wars and the picking of pockets, but they succumb to pestilence as readily as the unwashed, charging headlong into Death’s Petri dish. However, there are a lot more unwashed doing a lot more essential, yet unrepresented, services. We can do without 10, or 20, or 50 percent of the useless eaters of champagne and caviar at the top. Hell, they only ever serve themselves, anyway. Not so the beer, meat, and potato eaters at the bottom.
What does this have to do with politics? Revolutions are politics by other means. These are the consequences to the traumatic act, not the main event itself. These are the side effects that nobody anticipates. The things that ‘turned out as always’ though nobody saw them coming. The sub-plots to the main story. The variations on a theme. Blow back and repercussions. Whether it is a pandemic or a plague, a war or drought induced famine, what comes next is all that matters.
In the military they are called force multipliers. In engineering they are called mechanical advantages. In society they are called black swans. They are all basically just levers. Social levers, political levers, narrative levers, musical levers, theatrical levers, war levers, biological levers, cultural levers. Things that make other things happen, only more so. Yet they are always hidden, never anticipated. It’s not the virus which comes and goes like a dancing hurricane that leaves devastation in its wake. It’s what comes waltzing in afterward.
We cannot suffer the past to come unto us, so we invent new, more impressive sounding names for things like these so we can pretend that our ancestors never dealt with anything of this depth. That we are smarter that those who lived before us and who never had to deal with such weighty things. “Nobody ever had to deal with a calamity like this before!” we regale ourselves and then proceed to do exactly what they did in the same circumstances. As always.
It’s also how we inoculate ourselves from learning from history. If those poor, naive, illiterate peasants never had such things in the past, then they have nothing to teach us about such things in the present. But thank God we can use our superior wisdom of such things, along with our brilliant solutions, to instruct the future. We, who cannot learn from the past, busily recreate it. As always.
That doesn’t shield anybody from repeating the same mistakes. As always.
We are in for pain and rebirth. Whether it is at our own hands or at the hands of the creator tyrant, Mother Nature, time will tell.
The future is accelerating. As always.