February 06, 2012

The real problem with revolutions

I cannot bear to turn on the television these days. Even online, I have begun avoiding news sites, Facebook, Twitter, and everything else. The barely controlled chaos of the past three years has finally broken down into full-fledged chaos and there is no telling where it will end. The one thing I can guarantee everyone is that innocent bystanders will suffer the most. They always do.

CNN: U.S. Closes Syrian Embassy
CNN: Syrian bloodshed prompts riots at embassies around the world
Bloomberg: Time is running out for Greece
Washington Post: U.S. Demands Egypt Release NGO Representatives
MASSLive.com: Police disperse 1500 UMASS protesters after Superbowl loss

All of these reports share one common thread that is not immediately apparent. In each case, collective action is making a bad situation even worse. Those among us who insist that somehow we are all magically the same and entitled to the same material success are joining together to tear down "invisible walls" between preconceived ideals of "right" and "wrong". As they burn cities, ignite civil wars, break windows in buildings they do not own and will not have to replace, they believe their violence is somehow justified because they are fighting for what is "right"; therefore, by definition, anyone who disagrees with them is "wrong".

I'm calling "bullshit" on the lot of them.

Before this year is over, millions of people around the world are going to be dead. These victims will be the collateral damage from violence that is supposedly, "for the people!", "for our children's future!", and "for the sake of humanity!" Funny, isn't it, how fighting for humanity always seems to bring about the untimely deaths of ordinary people going about their lives, raising their children, and struggling to pay their bills? The very same people that violent collective action claims to be helping always seem to wind up victims of that very same violence.

You cannot save the world through vandalism, murder, and mayhem. Yes, it is absolutely true that evil people now hold the reins of power. The ambitious, the greedy, the narcissistic, and the sociopathic control the media, the economic engines of our world, and the political mechanisms that keep everything working. So why are you burning the shops of ordinary grocers, destroying the campus where you will learn how to defeat them, defecating in parks where working families take their children to play, and blocking the entrances to places where the people you claim to be fighting for take their children for lunch and dinner?

The real problem with revolutions is that far too often the victims of those revolutions are the people the revolutionaries claim to be fighting for. Even the American Revolution saw the destruction of countless farms, family stores, and practicing craftshops. Over the past three centuries there have been numerous revolutions that targeted the problem of an entrenched oligarchy. Most of them resulted in second revolutions that brought about even greater destruction. The American Revolution, for example, left the question of slavery unresolved, contributing directly to the American Civil War. The French Revolution, in its turn, left the military in charge, leading directly to the Napoleonic Era, the Franco-Prussian War, and eventually, the rise to power of Adolf Hitler. The Chinese revolution fed finances and fervor into Vietnam, fueling the debacle of the Vietnam War and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

This chaos needs to stop and it needs to stop now. But I know that it will not. Once the angry beast of emotional outrage and collectivist action has reared its ugly head it will not cease to devour everything in its path until there is nothing left to consume.

There is really only one question left, is this the road to Armageddon or merely a bloody side journey along the way?