Friday, April 20, 2012

Violence Now?

As a nation, we seem to assume that the frustrations being felt by the middle and lower classes of our society will never give rise to a violent revolution. I'm not so sure that this is true. There is plenty of violence right now, but it isn't being directed in a productive way. People in our ghettos are shooting one another, but they aren't shooting the members of the privileged class who comfortably ignore the suffering that is often just a short distance from their own homes. That could change.

There is also plenty of violence outside the ghetto, largely among lower and middle class people whose personal experience of the world around them is strained. There are domestic batteries, workplace rampages, rage shootings at middle schools, high schools, and colleges, and lots of suicides scattered all across the country. And there are a lot of people who sit at home or patrol their subdivisions with guns, just waiting for an excuse to shoot someone.

It is unpredictable when or whether the tipping point will be reached and our country will rise up in arms. The tipping point is different for different people, and revolutions don't require the participation of everyone, just enough people.

In the 1960s we had riots which looked like incipient revolutions. They were quashed. Faced with riots today, our government would again use its mighty police and military resources to defeat its own people. In order to maintain control, our government would do exactly what it is criticizing the Syrian government for doing.

Whether a violent revolution would succeed cannot be known. Sometimes they do. The more important question for those of us who reject violence is whether anything else can help this country. Because if there is no other avenue for accomplishing reform, the only choice that masses of people will have is between continuing to suffer and attempting to improve their situation through violent means.

Non-violent revolution is possible. It worked in India, and more recently in parts of the Middle East. But our government is just as dedicated to suppressing that sort of call for change as it is in preventing a violent overthrow. George Bush, Barack Obama, and mayors like Bloomberg and Emanuel have made it clear that they will not allow their citizens to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances.

Reform through the ballot box is a theoretical option, but the apparatus of elections has been so overborne by party, corporate, and monied interests that in the most recent elections, almost no one even bothered to show up. Most people have given up on the electoral process.

The least likely route to change is through an appeal to reason. The powers that be simply aren't listening. A spiritual awakening could lead us in a new direction. Or a catastrophe could set us on a new course.

It is all very unpredictable. Maybe nothing will change. Maybe people will continue to suffer and their fellow Americans will not respond. We can sit back and wait to see what happens, or we can choose a strategy and work to make it happen. With the possibility of violence looming, it seems like a good time to figure out if any other option is feasible.

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