I feel obliged to talk about the biggest obstacle to revolution—the reason we Americans do nothing to change the
system in spite of the fact that we’re all aware of its flaws. We all know this reason, but it needs to be said
explicitly as loudly and as often as possible: we’re just too damned comfortable.
How are we going to rise up against the system and force our nation to respect human rights around the world
when the system is treating us so well? That’s not to say everything is perfect. Things are not nearly as good as
they used to be—the gap between rich and poor is growing wider and the days when a single worker could afford
to care for an entire family with a comfortable standard of living are now just a memory of a dream—but we’re
still not really suffering. And there has never been a revolution of any kind unless those in power have crossed
the line between tolerable corruption and intolerable repression.
It’s easier to fight the oppressor when you are being oppressed. It’s very clear-cut and black-and-white when
the aggressor nation is occupying your territory and killing and abusing your fellow countrymen. You either suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or rise up in violent rebellion. But when you are the aggressor, it
becomes much more difficult to take the right path. The occupied territories of the Roman Empire were always
places of great turmoil, but the citizens of Rome never rose up and demanded they be allowed their own
sovereignty. The citizens of the British Empire never demanded an end to the brutal treatment of the native
peoples in their colonies. And why would they? They were living quite comfortably and if they had any
awareness of the really terrible things they were doing to other human beings around the world, the prevalent
opinion was that theirs was a divine right to rule the world as they were naturally superior to the rest of humanity.
But that’s not so today. We’ve got technology which renders us capable of actually finding out about the kind of
shit that our empire is pulling all over the globe, and most of us do not believe that Americans are inherently
superior because this nation is a mixture of all kinds of races and cultures. I’ve been outside this country—
Europeans are still bogged down by ethnocentric prejudice to a far greater degree than we are, at least in the
areas of this country with rich cultural diversity. So in that respect we are different from all of the other sole
superpowers throughout history. Which is why I don’t think that revolution is hopeless—just highly unlikely.
The most important point I can make, however, and the only point in this blog post that perhaps has not already
been made a thousand times, is that we just can’t afford to wait until our leaders cross that line and the average
American citizen really begins to feel the sting of oppression by the elite. They’re pushing it as far as they can,
gathering up all the wealth and power for themselves and eventually it will reach the point where there is no longer
a middle-class but only obscenely wealthy and tragically poor. And then revolution will happen, but not the kind
of revolution we need. If we wait until we are starving, the rebellion will be violent and cataclysmic, and when the
system goes down there can be no telling just how far we’re going to fall. A violent rebellion now, when our
technology is so much deadlier than it has ever been in the past, could be the catalyst that will bring about our
extinction, or at least a new Dark Ages.
However, if we can all come together before it gets to that point and decide that all of our current systems need to
be completely overhauled and re-built from the ground up with a global infrastructure that gives all of us an interest
in the welfare of all of the rest of us, we can save ourselves without any violence at all. Global, non-violent
revolution is our only hope for sustainable survival on this fragile little planet, and this will only be possible if we act
now, before we are suffering. The revolution must be fuelled not by anger but by compassion and a shared belief
that we all have a stake in the future, and we all have a right to live in freedom and peace as we advance towards
Why We Do Nothing
Kem Stone - December 2007