11 April 2008

Rates of Change: A Meditation on the Calculus of Societal Revolution

Revolutionary societal changes occur in increments. A complex array of conditions must be in place for pendulum shifts of change to occur, and it is useful (in the context of pendulum shifts of societal change) to view the "body politic" holistically, that is as a single body, a single organism composed of multiple smaller organisms in the same way that a living body is composed of multiple and varying structures, systems, cells, molecules, and atoms. (One might alternately allude to a "Systems Approach," meaning that everything affects - and is affected by - everything else.)

One of the requisite conditions for a societal pendulum shift is the oppression of a critical mass of citizens to the degree that that mass is impelled by tyranny to rebel. Another needed element is tested charismatic leadership, but it would be a fallacy to think that the charismatic leader drives change; the truth is that she responds to the impetus of the masses, serves as a focal point of the people's discontent, and simultaneously harnesses the energy of the disaffected mass of people. All of this occurs in an organic process that has a life progression (power) of it own, the pace of which cannot be forced, not even by the tested charismatic leader.

Up until now, the pressure of tyranny has not been present in enough force to stimulate change. The constitutional abuses that the Bush administration has inflicted upon the nation - and the world - thus far do not affect a large segment of the U.S. population viscerally. The real pain of catastrophic economic downturn has not made itself excruciatingly known, yet. The ravages of combat born by an all-volunteer professional military do not touch the masses. Eventually though, a tipping point of one or all of these (and likely other conditions as well) will be reached. Could public revulsion toward Bush's enthusiastic embrace of torture emerge as that tipping point? Whicever iniquity does finally push the citizenry beyond its tolerance for oppression, some fiery individuals will push back in response, with varying degrees of effect. In other arenas, groups will respond. If history is a guide (and there is good reason to believe it is), the pendulum will swing. In all likelihood, many more people - mostly largely innocent - will suffer during the process. It is a pity, but no less true for it, nor in any way avoidable for the knowing.

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