Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Viva la revolution!

John and I have always been revolutionaries.

Scratch that.  John has always been a revolutionary.  I have always wanted to be.

I am a person who can't stand a lie or any form of injustice.  On the other hand, I'm scared to speak out.  I want to be a good girl and not make waves.  In boarding school, the real revolutionaries washed out in a hurry (lucky them).  Those who weren't as sensitive just chugged the kool-aid and were happy.  But I was a person who would hear something that didn't sit right with me, and I would just feel ill.  I felt uncomfortable and I knew it was wrong.  But I also felt powerless ... that there was nothing I could do, so I'd do better just not saying anything and going with the flow.  That got to me.  It's the reason I was so unhappy.

When I met John, his tendency to be a rebel was frustrating to me.  Why did he have to make a fuss about every little thing?  Why couldn't he just take what he was given?  It just seemed a little spoiled to me to expect things to change to suit him.

But then he started rubbing off on me.  He would ask me questions like "Do you actually want to be in Regnum Christi?" and "If you don't want to be, why are you still doing it?"  Or he would go on a huge inspiring tirade that would get me signing up to help refound our college's paper or start the controversial new debate society.  Next thing I knew, I was sticking my fear in my back pocket and interviewing a stranger or addressing a roomful of people.  I still wouldn't boycott mandatory college events with him, and I never got caught breaking a rule.  But I was overcoming my fear and starting to believe that I didn't have to be content with what I was given; I could actually change my situation and make it into something I wanted.

He didn't like his first several jobs out of college, and I was annoyed.  It seemed spoiled to me to think that a steady paycheck wasn't good enough for him.  But he turned around and got his masters degree and is now working to break into a field he loves.

People my age are always being told that we are spoiled and entitled.  In some sense this is true.  We were raised with more affection and less strictness (on average) than our parents were.  So we tend to expect a little more out of life.

As teenagers, I won't lie, this generation drives me up the wall.  I taught high school, and I found their constant questioning frustrating.  In retrospect, I realize that they were asking really good questions.  I wish I had taken the time to give them better answers.

When people with high expectations grow up and find the world not to our liking, we get angry.  We were told, growing up, that if we went to college, we would get a good job.  We were told that if we worked really, really hard, we'd get promoted.  We were told that if we paid into Social Security our whole lives, when we retired, we would be taken care of.  These things turned out not to be true.  We were raised in an up economy and came of age in a down economy.  We went to college, did well, and didn't get jobs; or we got jobs, worked hard, and were laid off.  We have become aware that Social Security will be bankrupt by the time we retire, and that all the money we pay in is going, not just to your impoverished, ailing grandmother, but to millionaires who are in the prime of health but don't feel like working anymore, while we ourselves are having trouble making rent..  That means a lot of frustration and a lot of crushed dreams.  And I think that's the root of what the Occupy movement was about.

But we haven't just stayed angry.  People of our generation have found solutions.  Some have solved the problem of a workplace full of drudgery and no reward for hard work by founding companies of their own -- companies with new rules like flexible hours and on-site daycare and shared ownership.  Some have solved the problem of poverty by going back to the land and starting sustainable microfarms.  Someone in my generation invented microlending.  Someone in my generation is making huge strides in education with Khan Academy.  Someone in my generation is finding better ways to diagnose cancer with computers.

The next step after anger is revolution.  We aren't sitting like spoiled children whining because we don't have what we want.  We are working to change the system so that we and everyone can have what we want.  That's why young people have been flocking to Ron Paul.  (Don't tell me you weren't expecting me to bring him up!)  We are tired of slaving away so that our money can be confiscated by the government, who gives it to the federal reserve, who gives away massive bailouts, not just to domestic industries, but to foreign banks.  We are tired of being told we have the right to vote and decide our own government, only to find that we only ever get two choices, and that they look remarkably similar.  We are tired of seeing the news media report only those things that will support one of two major parties. 

And yet we aren't just angry about this.  We have gotten around the media blackout using the internet and social media.  We have infiltrated the Republican Party to the point that they were forced to use obvious strongarm tactics to stop us ... so that now everyone knows they have no interest in letting the people have any say in what candidates we have.  In short, we have begun to break the bubble of silence and make it widely known that the democratic process does not work anymore.

I know that now is a time of massive discouragement among Ron Paul supporters.  In the short-term, we have lost.  We had a strategy, it could have won, and the other side cheated.  I don't see any way that Ron Paul will be our president in 2013.

But Ron Paul seems oddly hopeful.  When told that the Revolution will not be happening, his answer was "Don't they just wish."  I got a lump in my throat when he said that.  Isn't it true that the Revolution, in fact, will not be happening?  We lost.  But he was looking at a stadium full of screaming young people, and he knew that we couldn't be stopped.  He knew that no power on earth can stop and idea whose time has come.  And no power can stop young people who have educated themselves and know exactly what they want.  Every four years, more of us come of age and walk into the polling booths.  We'll make it happen.  It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.  I can see that, and I'm frightened.  But that fear doesn't rule me.  We will win in the end.

In a way, the revolution that is taking place right now is my revolution.  Not the noisy one, the one with shouting and cheering and signs; not the speedy one with a vote that's counted overnight.  The revolution that happens when I, and people like me, stood up and said, "I will teach my children that they matter.  I will teach them that what they think matters and what they want matters.  I will teach them to be compassionate and kind.  I will teach them that their own actions make a difference.  I will teach them responsibility.  I will love them and nurture them and tell them that this is the treatment they deserve.  I will not hit them, belittle them, or abandon them.  I will not circumcise them or leave them to cry alone.  I will not send them off to a government indoctrination center to be taught how to think and behave.  I will give them books, computers, and the great outdoors.  I will let them meet people who are different, examine ideas that are different, try methods that are different.  When they come of age, the world will become different."

I was told in a facebook debate yesterday that I am like a spoiled child who screams for a cookie and throws their food on the floor because they didn't get what they wanted.  That's not me.  I'm the girl who drank an entire glass of sour milk because I thought it would be wrong to complain.  But I'm getting brave.  I'm learning that, if I'm offered a plate of E. coli and a plate of salmonella, I don't have to choose.  I can leave the table and get myself something different.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try to give some specific advice for what a revolutionary can do right now about our current state of disenfranchisement.  But for now, all I can say is, the revolution is not over.  It is just fledging its wings.  We will get there.


cephas said...

I don't know how much Warren Carroll you've read, but since reading his tome on Communism, "revolution" has become synonymous to me with violent overthrow, primarily against order, which is from God, and having its base primarily in the basest of places. Do we agree that all authority is granted by God? It would seem that the order we have now, corrupted, unjust, and dispiriting as it is, remains preferable to the instability, disorder, and mass chaos that would have to follow its overthrow before society to accustom itself to the new order. There is not virtue sufficient in society today (was there ever?) for society to order itself absent law, which disappears and is usurped into the might in revolution.

some guy on the street said...

All authority is from God, yes; it does not follow that every exercise of power is within its authority, nor that authority is above correction. In other words, honour Claudius in the office of Emperor, but tell him the truth of your faith, too; or honour Gregory as Pope, but exhort him return to Rome as Pope, too.

Since you confess yourself attached to one sense of Revolution, yet Sheila seems to be using Revolution in a different way, should we seek a different word that does what Sheila wants Revolution to do? (You might remember the confusion over ethics/morals that I had a few posts back) Or can we understand revolution in an honestly broader or more poetic sense?

John C. said...

As a graduate of Christendom College, where Dr. Carroll's books were mandatory curriculum, I can safely say I'm familiar with his definition of revolution. I also think it's hogwash. He does all manner of contortions with his definition to make the American Revolution to be something other than a revolution, while condemning the French Revolution.

For 200 years, the general understanding of the term "revolution" has been a radical change in the thinking of society. Our country's founders felt that revolution is a healthy thing, especially when the change represents reinvigoration of old ideas (something that WAS present in the French and American Revolutions, whether you liked them or not). Thomas Jefferson said that every generation needs a revolution; the reasoning is that self-rule can only be maintained by a populace that remains vigilant and vigorous in the defense of its liberties. And self-rule *is* possible. It's a natural thing, given us by God. To disbelieve this is fine, but it is also to disbelieve in our nation's principles. Law exists to protect our rights to self-rule. Anything further is an abuse of those in power.

Sheila said...

John is right; I am much more of a Jeffersonian than a Carrollite. And I think if you read my post carefully you will see that I am speaking of a peaceful, democratic revolution.

The Latin meaning of re-volution is a return or a turnaround. That is the meaning I use here. I want to turn this country around so that it will go in a better direction. And I believe the best way I can do this is to be the best mother I can be; and the second best way is through peaceful activism -- from blogging to voting. Do not be alarmed; I do not intend to assassinate the President.

Megan said...

Petrus, why would you try to argue about something someone else said rather than address Sheila's very interesting and eloquently expressed points? Warren Carroll is a wind bag with atrocious grammar and a debilitating research handicap.
Love your post, Sheila. I really wanted to respond to your husband's last post too.... STILL lacking a permanent home and permanent internet connection. But I wonder if you guys have thought much about the effect of excess regulation on markets and esp. on the working poor. It's basically impossible to break into any field without drowning in debt, and even then, you have to fight the protectionism made law by the Boomers. You can't even wash dogs in CA without a license from the govt. (which means a huge fee, and expensive and worthless training).
Viva la Revolution!!

Belfry Bat said...

OK, that's enough pestering Petrus (I know, I started it; still.)

Sheila and John, I happen to know that most places within my Commonwealth Realm, a write-in candidate is considered a spoilt ballot (and they generally cover the paper with enough ink that you can't fit anyone's name in anyway). Out of curiosity, what's the deal where you are?

Sheila said...

Megan, as a person I liked Dr. Carroll very much. Can't speak to his writings, though, as I hardly ever read them. Huge quantities were required reading in college, and I would doze off three sentences in. Later I'd wake up struggling for breath because of the massive weight of the volume crushing my chest. Yes, I was a very bad history student.

Oh, that overregulation makes me FURIOUS! I nannied for a lady who owned her own business teaching swimming lessons. She had a pool in her backyard, so that when her husband left her she was able to support her children without leaving home. Except the area was zoned residential, and so she had a ton of trouble from the city ... buying a variance for a lot of money (of course: it's all about money), bulldozing her front yard to make room for a handicapped parking space, redoing her bathroom to fit the required dimensions ... the whole thing was idiotic. The government does not want small businesses to succeed, because they do so much better with big businesses ... which supply hefty campaign donations and tax money. If we had a truly free market, small businesses and small farms would be much more prevalent.

Another issue is the massive leap from welfare to work. You lose your welfare if you work, but meanwhile it's unlikely that your first job off of welfare will be fulltime and supply all your needs. So you stay on welfare forever, though you'd rather work, because a job that's enough to get you off the welfare never comes along. Plus, if you're a mom on welfare you're disincentivized to get married, which is a reason why so many kids grow up without fathers. I'm all for safety nets, but the ones we have fall short in so many ways.

BB, I have to look it up. As far as I know write-in votes are not counted. What that means to me is that self-government doesn't really exist. If all you have are government-approved choices, and you CAN'T nominate someone else, you're kind of screwed. Even if 90% of the country got together and chose someone, unless the two mega-parties approved their candidate, they don't get heard.

It may take me more than a day to get my next post together, after all. There is just so much to say.

Anonymous said...

I love this...and I'm not even a Ron Paul supporter. : )

cephas said...

John, I appreciate your distinction in definitions. I'm not very familiar with Jefferson's writings. Do you recommend anything in particular where his ideas are best expressed on revolution?
SGOTS, I'm not saying it follows by any means that authority cannot err or is above correction. My point was more toward the danger of anarchy, and the redeeming quality some order has on authority, no matter how otherwise perverted an authority is. I think it self-evident that there is a breaking point, beyond which the lack of authority is less threatening than the terror that is the present authority, but I didn't want to get that deep into it. I remember we had a discussion on ethics and morals, but I don't recall how it went.
Sheila, I think we'll have to disagree on Carroll appreciation. Of course things are generally not appreciated when they're force fed, be it to students or to children. I was distracted by your terming it revolution, but I applaud your approach:
"The revolution that happens when I, and people like me, stood up and said, "I will teach my children that they matter. I will teach them that what they think matters and what they want matters. I will teach them to be compassionate and kind. I will teach them that their own actions make a difference. I will teach them responsibility. I will love them and nurture them and tell them that this is the treatment they deserve. I will not hit them, belittle them, or abandon them. I will not circumcise them or leave them to cry alone. I will not send them off to a government indoctrination center to be taught how to think and behave. I will give them books, computers, and the great outdoors. I will let them meet people who are different, examine ideas that are different, try methods that are different. When they come of age, the world will become different."
I also drank the sour milk because I didn't know how to say or do anything else, and it's refreshing to choose something else now.
Megan, isn't every part of the essay something to discuss? Why be so restrictive? Are there any debate rules in effect I missed?

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