Sunday, July 24, 2011

#205 / Revolution #3

I consider Hannah Arendt (pictured) to have been the greatest political thinker of the 20th Century. I particularly recommend her book On Revolution.

Arendt joins with the Beatles in dissociating "revolution" from an inevitable need to employ "violence" in pursuit of fundamental political change. This gives us some hope. There are many (count me in) who believe that a genuine "revolution" in the conditions of our existence must be a primary objective for those of us alive now. If that kind of fundamental political change would in fact require recourse to the incredible reservoirs of violence with which modern governments are now possessed (the United States government above all), pursuing a revolutionary ambition would be stymied, in every practical sense.

Revolution, according to Arendt, means "beginning again," and telling "an entirely new story, a story never known or told before." Violence isn't part of the definition.

Reflecting on the reality of how revolutions occur, Arendt notes that "revolutions always occur where government is incapable of commanding authority and the respect that goes with it." This sounds quite a bit like current poll results, to me.

Arendt notes, however, that "even where the loss of authority is quite manifest, revolutions can break out and succeed only if there exists a sufficient number of men [and women] who are prepared for its collapse and, at the same time, willing to assume power, eager to organize and to act together for a common purpose. The number of such men [and women] need not be great; ten ... acting together, as Mirabeau once said, can make a hundred thousand tremble apart from each other."

Now, that seems hopeful to me. Even I can count to ten.

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