W a l t e r z A l t e r
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a r t i c l e s


What's so Revolutionary about Revolution?
FAD Magazine 1987


You know, revolutions are kind of funny. Sometimes they work out fine, sometimes they don't. In any event, they never play out in reality like they do in the movies where the credits roll up over Pancho Villa and the boys with spurs jangling down the steps of El Banco Nacional, a bottle of Mescal in one hand, a sack full of cash in the other. They tend, on the other hand, to be dirty internecine affairs rife with treachery and institutionalized sadism, particularly when manipulated from backstage by some compulsive quest for spiritual or economic purity, which is usually the case and is seen as an artifice and anachronism today in the age of info. In McLuahan's “Global Village”, the constant cascade of image rich events creates a certain transparency as to how things are actually structured. Within the inescapable perspective of total field provided by instantaneous electronic media feed, words don't always check out against deeds and we are left with a growing number of inconsistencies to mull in between trips to the microwave. Meanwhile, the pile of corpses grows.

Media is kind of funny too. It has this two-edged nature. One edge reveals its manipulation (you recall how naked Ollie North looked in his Marine Corps uniform before the Senate Committee on the Contragate scandal). The other edge is involved in the cover-up of history on account of the carrier wave of immediacy and the rapid pile-up of updates at 6:00 and 11:00. I don't want to be condemned to repeat history, the Dark Ages were not pretty. So I'm gonna try to remember it right here and now and let the Sectarians squabbling over whether or not George Santayana or V., I. Lenin said it first.

Back around the mid 17th century, Oliver Cromwell figured that it you wanted something done right you had to bloody well do it yourself. In the aftermath of the gore fest known as the 30 Years War, Democratic Republicanism took its first brief blast of air in the obstetrics ward of social justice. Although short-lived, Cromwell broke the back of the Counter Reformation in a reaction against ruling class ungodliness.

A severe precedent was set for Populist uprisings to succeed in removing the monarch's head from his shoulders, but as luck would have it, internationalist banking circles rallied their boardrooms behind the restoration of Charles I's clone, Charles II. Albeit against a hawk-eyed Parliament. Political undesirables of the day took to sunnier climes in North American, never ceasing to plot the downfall of tyrants.

And tyrants there were in abundance, breeding like rats. But our stalwart Quakers bred like March hares and had the savvy to parlay a European political traffic jam into a brush fire victory with the help of little slogans like "All Men are Created Equal" and "We, the People". The Crown had forgotten that the bumpkins in the colonies were once the intellectual cream of London.

Their shouts and shots were heard around the world and Monarchist ground-rent speculators were booed down by a chorus of Polish Patriots, German Naturalists, Irish Idolaters, a smattering of Augustinian Papists and the occasional odd Freemason.

The first ever Democratic Republic founded upon the ideals inherent withing the eventual perfection of human nature wiggled its middle finger at Brahminic hypocrisy and their vague sense that some people deserved to be born filthy rich.

So a lot of disenfranchised humanity got the idea that justice meant they themselves, even though they couldn't spell disenfranchised, which is a shame because revolution without literacy tends to do what a glass of milk left in the sun does. The literacy rate in the American Colonies wa about 90 percent at the time of our revolution, but in France, maybe 50%, Parisian Enlightenment and all, and 20% in England, Shakespeare and Marlowe and all. When Danton and Marat got done, sure a lot of depraved and listless Aristocrat heads went into the basket, but regrettably also a lot of professors and scientists and skilled workmen and yah, them pesky intellectual book readers.. Well, I guess you can'[t expect too much of a revolution that kicks off with the storming of a prison and the liberation of two certified lunatics, a convicted sex-offender and four petty thieves.

After a year or so of some judicial unpleasantness known as the ":Reign of Terror" the stage was set for the little guy with his hand in his vest. Enter Napoleon, populus ex-machina, and another million acres of good, productive farmland got harvested by the grim reaper.

Naturally enough, as power shifted out of the hands of the landed aristocracy into the hands of first, the merchant bankers and then, the industrialist financiers, the grand old ruling class strategy of maximum exploitation of human toil took form in British workhouses, Czarist coal mines and mass production assembly lines from Boston to Budapest. Craft guilds evolved into workingmen's associations evolved into labor unions and the age of steam became a spectacle of adversity between the producers (working class) and consumers (petit bourgeoisie). Localized uprisings (Paris 1848, Paris Commune 1871, Petersburg 1905) banged their heads against cobblestones until 1917 when the combined factors of a Europe that had shot its wad in the "war to end all wars" and a cadre of conspirators madly pamphleteering resulted in the last vestige of western dynastic imperative being shot in a basement, stuffed down a well and later exhumed and burned in the woods.

The specter that haunted Europe became a full blown poltergeist, knocking cups off the shelf from hemisphere to hemisphere, sputtering then sputniking, banging shoes on podiums, air brushing history into selective amnesia, and creating the largest bureaucracy the world has ever seen, a nation as yet without telephone books.

But we do have a tendency to overgeneralize from simplistic slogans as a matter of convenience. It may well be convenient for the readers of FAD Magazine to consider the term "Khmer Rouge" to be a new kind of lip gloss and decry passionately, when the opportunity arises, the sickening events that led to the Jewish Holocaust in Nazi Germany. Fascist radicals to the right of us, communist radicals to the left of us, what are men and women of good conscience to do when faced with the contradiction of a Marxist Pol Pot murdering every one of the countrymen able to conceive an idea, or conservative Manual Noriega suddenly being destabilized by conservative strongman Ronald Reagan, or Peru's Alan Garcia, labeled a Soviet sympathizer by no less than Henry Kissinger, yet fighting a bitter war against the Maoist Sendero Luminoso, or America's secret support for the Khomenini reigme, or the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and so on?

Here we are, a generation after the "Aquarian Age" revolution and things still don't add up. Drugs are fun, but gangsters aren't. Rock & Roll is powerful but it won't stop sectarian massacres om Africa. Technology is bad but we have to cure Aids. Politicians are corrupt but we can't seem to elect honest ones. We like to party but the problems are not going away.