For most of my life, the first sixty years of it anyway, I could not imagine the idea of Canada in revolt. That has changed over the past three or four years.
I've always had a fairly simple concept of revolution - an uprising against oppression, a quest for a new order that cannot be had any other way. This was the narrative common to the American, French and Russian revolutions along with others.
Revolutionary thought is making something of a comeback today. Prominent thinkers from John Raulston Saul to Chris Hedges, Henry Giroux, Gar Alperovitz, Naomi Klein and others see nothing for the great majority of us and even less for our children unless we find some means to get out from under an increasingly oppressive, nihilistic, neoliberal status quo. It took a lot of reading and mulling over but the inherent realism of their views prevailed.
Even the late Robert F. Kennedy foresaw the inevitability of revolution when he said, "A revolution is coming - a revolution that will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough - but a revolution that is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability."
Kennedy was not advocating revolution. He was not championing a cause, some new order. His was a reluctant revolution, an inevitability that could, if shaped by wisdom and compassion, be successful. He didn't dwell on the alternative that awaited if the inevitability was ignored.
David DeGraw, author of "The Economics of Revolution" recognizes that we are beginning to make real progress in evolving new economic systems, new communities and new media but concludes that it's all too little, too late.
I am forced to confront the fact that I do not see how emerging solutions will reach a critical mass and create the needed change before the affects of inequality, poverty and the overall deterioration of society will lead to widespread chaos and violence. As much as I wish this wasn’t the case, as much as I want to just disengage from the status quo and focus on the implementation of local solutions, we cannot ignore the urgent need for significant systemic change on a mass scale now.
The longer mainstream society stays on the present course, the worse things will get and the harder it will be to overcome the growing crisis. No matter how much we are inclined to ignore it, we will not be able to escape this reality: under present economic and government policy, more and more people will fall deeper into debt and extreme poverty.DeGraw goes on to cite the now well known but dismal statistics of life in today's blue and white collar, working-class America. Only enough full-time jobs for half of America's workforce and half of those full-time jobs paying less than $35,000 a year.
Mainstream propaganda has temporarily obscured the fact that we are sitting on a ticking economic time bomb. Statistical fraud by the government on poverty, cost of living and unemployment cannot cover up the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population is on a fast track to impoverishment.
The government’s policies and actions in dealing with the growing epidemic of poverty are the very definition of tyranny. It couldn’t be more blatant. Just when the economy has reached a point where there are not enough jobs that generate an adequate income to sustain the cost of living for the majority of the population, the government is cutting billions of dollars from assistance programs and pouring billions of dollars into the military and prison industry.
An out of control private military complex is fueling violent conflicts abroad. A perpetual state of never-ending war is exhausting public wealth, with trillions of dollars diverted from social programs into the pockets of war profiteers. Here at home, the police force is being militarized and the private prison industry is growing at a shocking 1600% rate. We already have the largest prison population in the world. The current per capita rate is worse than the darkest days of the Soviet Gulags. On top of that, many cities are now criminalizing poverty. As ominous as it may sound, a tyrannical assembly line of incarceration is now in place.Studies in the US have shown that more than 7 in 10 Americans are convinced their country is heading in the wrong direction. In a viable, functioning democracy the views of that powerful a majority would be heeded by elected representatives if only for their personal advancement. Yet, no matter who they elect, the public will and the public interest are discounted and routinely subordinated to private interests.
A majority of Canadians also know our nation is heading in the wrong direction. A solid majority want effective action taken on climate change. Most of us want Canada to reclaim its pre-Harper stature on the world state. Few of us believe our children will achieve the same standard of living that we enjoyed. We want inequality addressed and the decline of our middle class truly reversed. Many of us think with trepidation on what awaits our grandchildren. Yet, despite our desires and concerns, our neoliberal political caste chooses the private interest over the public interest again and again.
It is this insinuation of private interest to sever the connection between the electorate and their intended representatives that is now referred to as "political capture." Yes you may still vote but that doesn't much matter to the outcome in a truly illiberal democracy. And so a large segment of the public stops believing, becomes disaffected, no longer looks to democracy for solutions to what ails their society.
Few have the courage to say that any political apparatus that no longer acts in the public interest is, in the context of democracy, illegitimate, a sham - a usurper. Fewer still are willing to risk the consequences of denouncing the surveillance state and calling for something better.
Yet the miserable path we are embarked upon is not of our choosing, certainly not of our making. And, as we continue along this darkened, potholed pavement we begin to grasp Kennedy's words when he warned that revolution is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character but cannot alter its inevitability.