What Brings a Revolution? Can it Happen in US?
I began writing this piece In February 2011, during the revolution in Egypt.
Everybody who is following the current turmoil in Greece or who had even peripherally followed the recent events in Egypt knows that these are nothing short of extraordinary days. Not just Egypt and Greece, there were more revolutions in 2011 (e.g. Tunisia, Bahrain etc). Wiki gives quite an extensive list of revolutions and rebellions in the history of mankind.
Philosophically speaking, what brings a revolution? I cannot verify if this is really said by Aristotle, but a web resource says the following about the general causes of revolutions.
In all revolutions, the conditions which leads up to them is the desire of the many for equality, and the desire of the minority for effective superiority. The purposes with which they are set on foot are profit, honour, or avoidance of loss or dishonour. The inciting occasions are many; jealousy of those who have wealth and honour, official arrogance, fear of the law or of its abuse, personal rivalries, failure of the middle class to maintain a balance, race antagonisms, antagonism of localities, and others.
I would sum this up as: a widening gap between the rich and the poor and denial of rights could be construed as main causes of a revolution.
As a transportation engineer, I am tempted to bring an analogy from one of the most striking findings about the reasons for accidents. Most high accident locations (HAL) have one thing in common: higher speed differential between the lower quartile and the upper quartile of the speeds.
To put this analogy into social context – higher the gap between the rich and poor, greater the chance for that society to experience a revolution. Unfortunately, the end result of any revolution – even a successful revolution – may or may not be good for the society. Case in point, the rise of Third Reich due mainly to the hyper-inflationary period that followed World War I.
I dusted my knowledge (there wasn’t much) of French Revolution to understand its common underpinnings with the current revolutions. I found the following quick explanation:
Economic factors included hunger and malnutrition in the most destitute segments of the population, due to rising bread prices (from a normal eight sous for a four-pound loaf to 12 sous by the end of 1789), after several years of poor grain harvests. The combination of bad harvests (due to abnormal/severe weather fluctuations) and rising food prices was further aggravated by an inadequate transportation system which hindered the shipment of bulk foods from rural areas to large population centers, contributing greatly to the destabilization of French society in the years leading up to the Revolution. Another cause may have been France’s near bankruptcy as a result of the many wars fought by previous rulers, as well as the financial strain caused by French participation in the American Revolutionary War. The national debt amounted to almost 2 billion livres.
Furthermore (Source: Wiki):
Louis XVI, his ministers, and the widespread French nobility had become immensely unpopular. This was a consequence of the fact that peasants and, to a lesser extent, the bourgeoisie, were burdened with ruinously-high taxes levied to support wealthy aristocrats and their sumptuous, often gluttonous, lifestyles.
Currently in America ‘high’ taxes is not an issue because all politicians concluded that trickle-down of wealth while, at the same time, triple-up the debt is the way to prosperity in this nation. But there are striking parallels between the wealthy French aristocrats of the 18th century and the current day robbers on Wall Street, many of whom mistake themselves to be hard-workers who deserve every penny of billions of dollars of bonuses they get.
When I see Greece, I see a systemic problem – a failed Government and a laissez faire banking cartel (led by Goddamn Sachs) who put their short-term political and monetary gains ahead of long term public interests.
Since Regan got into office, a blind faith and 30-year adherence to a bankrupt – not to mention disproven – ideology (lower taxes at any cost and increase borrowing at the same time) and is what led to the huge fiscal crisis the eventual destruction of the middle class in this country. It made worse by policies of the Feds which never failed to rescue the large speculators on Wall Street whenever they got the world economies into trouble.
Widespread demonstrations, riots and violence in US could and probably will happen. It is essential for any revolution. However, not every revolution is born out of social programs gone wrong. Like the most of noted revolutions in the history of the world, the French Revolution, was caused by huge gap between the rich (oligarchs) and the poor. NOT DUE TO SOCIAL PROGRAMS.
Take a look at the widening gap between the haves and have nots!
Whether you are on the right or left or in the middle, you would sure agree that US of A is now insolvent. Insolvency is a catalyst for drastic changes in political scene. It is not a bad thing for a revolution to happen. That is how one can tilt the balance.
In a post-revolution America, I would like to see the system to be free from the influence of corrupt big-money interests, a la the Koch brothers. I would like to see those oligarchs, extremist ideologues, and financial ‘innovators’ who destroyed the middle class to stand in soup lines – the modern equivalent to guillotines.