An interesting essay by Beaver on the subject of revolutions. Given the increasing rhetoric from both the far left and right on revolutions or the overthrowing of this and that, this proves to be a decent read. If one sit back and consider it, the election of Donald Trump, for better or for worse, was in a way a revolution as described by Beaver:
When is the right time for a revolution and how should it be achieved?
To the first question, there are two answers: The ideological one and the practical one. Both answers are quite simple to state, yet not so easy to detect. Ideologically, a revolution should happen when the nation is ruled by a tyrant or when leaders’ incompetence is damaging it. Practically, a revolution should happen when there is more to be gained than to be lost. The truth is actually both: A revolution should happen if the nation is tyrannical or incompetent and these is more to be gained than to be lost.
Yet, as said, it may be easy to say this, yet it’s not as easy to determine when those conditions have been reached. When are leaders tyrannical? When are they incompetent? When do you know you have more to gain than to lose?
I’ll start with the first and easiest one: When do you know you have more to gain than to lose? This one is simply mathematics yet ofttimes, revolutionaries overlook it. They’ll oust their leaders with the belief that “things could not possibly get any worse”, then things actually do get worse. Evaluate: What services does the government provide? Is there justice in the nation? Who are our enemies and how would they react to a civil war? Can we keep the nation supplied in food, water, fuel and other goods without the current government? In the end, what good is it to get rid of a tyrant just to starve to death? Or to replace incompetent leaders with even worse ones? So, all the variables must be taken into account before engaging in a revolutionary act. As the saying goes, “Out of the frying pan, into the fire” would not be a good thing.
Next, how do you know your leaders are incompetent? This is seen through calamities; famines, pandemics, immense criminality, financial crashes, etc. Yet, these events could be completely out of the hands of the leaders: Even the most competent leader can’t predict, prevent or end natural disasters which can lead to these issues. However, one can tell if they had prepared for such eventualities, how they react to such events, if they acted for the good of the nation rather than their own when those incidents happened. It goes back to the “profits/losses” equation: Can you tell with relative certainty that different leaders would have handled the situation better? If so, then it’s time for a revolution.
Finally, tyrants. Believe it or not, detecting a tyrant is more difficult than you’d imagine. Even the most benevolent of leaders will have to take decisions which will harm a minority to help the nation. To these people, the leaders will appear as tyrannical. Yet here is the key, isn’t it? If the decisions always harm as few people as possible while benefiting as many as possible, then they’re clearly not tyrannical. So, we can define a tyrant as a leader who takes decisions which benefit a minority to the detriment of the nation at large. We can thus state the following:
“If leaders are taking decisions which benefit a minority to the detriment of the nation OR if different leaders would definitely be capable of taking better decisions AND there is more to be gained than to be lost from a revolution, then it is time for a revolution.”
Yet how can a revolution be achieved?
People think revolution and they inevitably think “violence”, yet it is not always necessary. In fact, most revolutions are non-violent, we simply call them something else: elections. Yet there are other kinds of non-violent revolutions. I’ll examine three types: The violent revolution, the election and the quiet revolution.
The violent revolution is the one people have in mind most of the time when they think about revolution. Yet, it is the least desirable: A violent revolution brings about death and destruction. Simply put: The losses incurred by a violent revolution are great and thus will likely outweigh the gains. Still, undesirable does not mean unnecessary. To know if a violent revolution is necessary, ask yourself two questions:
1. Is a revolution necessary?
2. Is it impossible to have a non-violent revolution?
If you answer yes to both of these questions, then it’s time for a violent revolution. The first step here would be to obtain the collaboration of people who know how to engage in violence, namely the armed forces and the police forces. This is not always possible, yet if it can be achieved your victory is assured and in fact will be far less violent. When obtaining their collaboration however, make sure they have the same goal as you, namely improving the nation. This is difficult to achieve and can only be done through ideology, yet it can be done.
Once that’s done, you should determine what needs to be destroyed and who needs to be killed. You want to avoid attacking the country’s infrastructures as much as possible. If it’s possible to destroy infrastructures which service the ruling caste you want to overthrow without destroying infrastructures which service the rest of the nation, then it’s the first thing you should do. Aqueducts, power stations, oil fields, roads, bridges, etc. Destroy only what you cannot steal or disable. As for who should be killed, there are two kinds of targets: Leaders and followers. Followers should only be killed when necessary: When they attack you or to reach objectives. However, killing leaders (or at the very least capturing them) should be a priority. Many of the people who follow corrupt leaders will give up the fight once they are removed. Yet beware: The more followers they have, the more likely the power vacuum will be filled. Yet the more corrupt they were, the more likely they’ll collapse when the power vacuum appears.
In the end, I’m no military man and so have little expertise to provide in this matter. If a violent revolution were to be necessary, it would be best for it to be conducted with a man of military experience. This would be why I recommend obtaining the collaboration of the army, or at least the police. Even the collaboration of a minority of them would provide you with strategists and tacticians with the experience necessary to achieve results.
Yet, the more interesting revolutions are the non-violent ones.
We’ll go over the first and best known type of non-violent revolution: elections. Whether you’re a democracy or any other kind of republic, it is possible to remove the current rulers and replace them with others through an election. Rather than explain such a well-known process, I’d rather touch on when it’s time to go for something else. Namely, when the voting pool gets limited to candidates which are all incompetent or tyrannical. The obvious answer here would be to present candidates which are neither, yet this is not always possible. So, when all candidates are incompetent or tyrannical and it is impossible to present a candidate which is neither, it is time to abandon elections as a viable option.
The other method I would like to propose is one which was witnessed in my society, and actually in quite a few others: The quiet revolution. The quiet revolution happens when the entirety of the population (or so close as to make no difference) stops listening to what the authorities say at once. This works best if the enforcing bodies, namely the military and police, collaborate with the population. In this case, citizens need to build new, alternate power structures to replace the old ones, to compete with them. As time passes and the new, better power structures actually do their job, the old leaders’ authority will wane and the revolution will be achieved. However, a quiet revolution requires a very homogeneous population which is in agreement with the abandonment of the power structure. It is a hijacking of authority, so to speak.
To give a specific example, let’s imagine a government has an office of roads. They manage roads. They do it badly. Now, a citizen says “I’ll make my own office of roads!”, receives donations from citizens and actually starts doing the job the old office of roads wouldn’t do. Eventually, people stop paying their taxes to the office of roads and instead start paying them to the new one. The old gets replaced with the new in a non-violent way. As said, this is only possible if you have the collaboration of enforcing agents. If the old office of roads tells the cops “GO ARREST THAT NEW OFFICE OF ROADS” and they listen, then it becomes impossible to achieve a quiet revolution.
So, before violence, you should attempt elections or hijacking authority.
There is much more to be said on revolution, and I suggest you read up on it because it will unfortunately be very important in the coming years. People need to understand that revolutions are necessary, yet they also need to ask themselves two questions before doing so:
1. Is it worth it?
2. Can we do it without resorting to violence?
If we can educate people in this matter, I am convinced we can avoid many horrors in the near future. Denying the legitimacy of revolutions will not prevent them from happening; it will only prevent people from learning how to achieve them properly.
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