Friday, December 23, 2011
Sunday, December 18, 2011
The age of soot started farther back than we would like to remember, fire was a god, and the mouth of the Gods, the Vedic Aryans called him Agni, whose Latin cognate is ignis, from which we get our word, ignite. However, for many millennia, humans could only make a local dent in the world, though those dents could be quite large when a land became stripped bare of trees. By steps, the demand for fire grew greater and hotter: bronze, iron, metallurgy, steel. But it was with the adaptation of fire to work, and then transportation that it was loose upon the world. The coming of petroleum came like a shot: wood only replaced muscle after thousands of years as an energy source, and it took coal two centuries to overtake wood, oil from the first internal combustion engine, to becoming the primary power source in America, was less than 70 years, and it has already held on for longer than coal did. The ages of petroleum were first a wild search for it, and then the colonial age, where the producers outside of the industrialized world were occupied, then the imperial era, when they were kept under captive governments, then the hegemonic age, when they were under dictatorial governments that could never the less set their own prices. We are now leaving that age. Each age had a balance to itself: the price for controlling what Yergin called "The Prize." In the hegemonic era, the key to political economy was the "red queen's race." The West had to increase the value of capital faster than the resource exporters could use free cash flow to buy it. Each side had its problem:
- For the resource importers could never really free themselves from imports, because the power of the rulers over the ruled was precisely that there was no other way to make a living but by the grace of the ruler, whether king, or president.
- For the west, it was that there was a narrow band of allowable growth, and much of it would be directed by the resource importers.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Now as to why. There is a generation in power in the developed world, and it is the most incompetent generation since the generation that created the First World War, and perhaps more incompetent. The Generation that created the Second World War was ideologically blind, but it was not, in fact, incompetent, incomptence's vestigial hand being lopped off by the economic crisis and the pressures of modernization. They were not equal to their moment, but their moment was faced with an epoch making challenge of the introduction of mass production, internal combustion, and telecommunications.
We are not able to handle even a rebalancing of the costs of these realities, let alone realities of similar import. We fret about oil depletion, but it is not depleted yet, we fret about the retiring baby boom, but they are not an unbearable burden. In all cases our problems are real, but distant, or imaginary and immediate. Right now, it is the problem of how to make it so all the world's billionaires get an equal share in the parallel world they are building for themselves. When the history of this time is written, the authors of it - because while news is written by winners, but history is written by survivors - will have unvarnished contempt for the present generation in power.
By now the members of the Baby boom have turned away, because they, in typical self-absorbed fashion, think that "generation" means them. In some sense they are right: as the largest and most consequential component of Generation #Fail, they will deserve the lion's share of the blame. However, they are right in fearing that they will receive an even greater share of the blame, because of their size, visibility, and generational identity. They are long, while there are arguments about how long the Baby Boom is, depending on methods, biases, and country, at very minimum they run from 1944-1964, or 20 years. Longer than the Generation X that followed them, longer than the Silents who are 1930-1944, at longest.
They are also because of the very nature of the "Baby Boom" larger than both of the generations around them. Hence, to the naked eye, the present is the Baby Boom writ large. This is exacerbated by a trait that the essay will explore in some detail later: the Baby Boom has an enormous opinion of themselves. To the baby boom, they are the greatestest generationest Everest. The pinnacle of generations. This wide disparity between their sense of themselves, and their actual accomplishments, is what will be their Waterloo in history. Having taken all the credit, they are now prepared to later be assigned all of the blame.
To answer the essential questions in order, the essay must tackle first: What is Generation #Fail? Then Who are Generation #Fail? After this Why Generation #Fail?
What is Generation #Fail?
Beginning in the early 1980's the Soviet Empire began to rattle apart, and the People's Republic of China slowly shook off Maoism and began the slow road to liberalization. In 1989 the death throes of the Soviet system began, and by 1991, it was over. There was one major transitional war, between the United States and Iraq, which was one of the most lopsided victories since the early German Blitzkriegs of 1939. An epoch, the post-World War II epoch, was over. In 1993 Bill Clinton took office, and in 1994, Newt Gingrich swept out of power the post-World War II Democratic house. In the developed world a series of new leaders took over. Clearly the beginning of an epoch, but not necessarily of a failed generation in power. There was a great deal of assertive confidence in that time, and there was no reason to believe that the present generation was going to make a mockery of itself. The triumphalism should have been a warning, when books such as "The End of History" launch careers.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Nor was 1968, 1968. In 1967, in April, Dr. Martin Luther King warned that "10 cities" could explode into racial violence that year, it turned out to be widely short of the mark. Already disturbances, in many cases condoned by civil rights leaders, had boiled over in Boston and other cities. In June, 25 died in Newark in five days, in July, 43 died in Detroit. From there violence wound down, but flared up across the country, in places as far from the stereotype of urban concentration as the relatively sleepy city of Pheonix Arizona. The Senate ordered the Committee on Government Operations to prepare a report that was completed by the investigations sub-committee. It concluded that 70 cities had had disorders large enough in the previous 3 years to be "major incidents."
A generation had not only come of age, but had established its own myth.
In gauzy, and largely Anglo-American, retelling this was "non-violent." The facts speak differently, even those in the civil rights movement were not as pure as people now demand themselves to be. The term "Black Power" was coined by Stockley Carmichael, in a paper directed to the leadership of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Council. In it he warned of explosion coming if the tension between what black Americans contributed to society, and what they got from it. But he did not condemn or advocate for violence. Instead:
If people must express themselves freely, there has to be a climate in which they can do this. If blacks feel intimidated by whites, then they are not liable to vent the rage that they feel about whites in the presence of whites--especially not the black people whom we are trying to organize, i.e., the broad masses of black people. A climate has to be created whereby blacks can express themselves. The reasons that whites must be excluded is not that one is anti-white, but because the effects that one is trying to achieve cannot succeed because whites have an intimidating effect. Ofttimes, the intimidating effect is in direct proportion to the amount of degradation that black people have suffered at the hands of white people.Note well: rage experienced by the masses of black people. Carmichael himself would see beatings as proof that non-violence was a tactic, not a principle. Later he would change his name to Kwame Ture.
But this should be clear, behind almost every non-violent revolution, there is the spectre of a violent one, or a violent overthrow, which forces the powers that be to accept as genuine and legitimate the political leadership that is committed to civil process. Civil process is not non-violent: it arrests and threatens with arrest myriads of people every day. It is not always lawful: laws are bent and broken all the time. But fundamentally it is committed to doing things in ways which can be repeated. If exceptions to a law are made, then they are exceptions that can generally bear repeating, or are labelled as extra-ordinary and unique. The revolutionary process, by its nature, consists of acts which cannot be repeated constantly, because they destabilize. Revolution is a door that goes only one way.
The reason, of course, is that counter-revolution, the use of exceptional and unsustainable violence, ebbs and flares with the power of change. To put a dramatic period at the end of it, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down. It was, as the Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives, dryly noted: "not an historical abberation."
But the myth of a consumer revolution remains. It is into this myth that the boom's echo, was raised, combined with a conservative system joining. Everything's a revolution, until nothing is. Rebel against the system by joining it.
The reason for that moment, which came in forms around the world, was that the great synchronizing event of the Second World War had reached an age of political action. The "Baby Boom" is the generational generation: it is one of the longest, largest, and most coordinated generations that will ever happen, because global events of that size and clarity are few and far between. The only other real competitor was the generation that spawned them. The war, made everyone a GI. The boom's love of generational demographics is as nature as a panda seeing the world held up by bamboo: it is the single most powerful force of their existence, and means that almost every problem had a high synchronized appearance as demand crested. However the generations around them, smaller and less synchronized, did not have the same demographic moment, and thus did not respond with the same eruptive force on command. They were also shorter, and less numerous.
This is why in the wake are a more fragmented trail of cohorts, rather than generations. Talk about generations, and the people talking most passionately have been talking about their g-g-g-generation since the beginning.
One reason the GI generation held the political field as long as they did – producing every American President from John Fitzgerald Kennedy through George Herbert Walker Bush – is that the generations before and after were bust generations. Only 16 years separate the birth years of the first of these Presidents from the last. There Boom may well hold power as long, and with fewer Presidents, already at 20 years, they could easily add 8 or 12 more. Again, to either side of the boom are bust generations. The same is true with the other dominant cohorts: the 1790-1808 burst that goes from Tyler to Andrew Johnson, essentially the ante-bellum generation, and the post-Civil War generation that governed from US Grant to Benjamin Harrison, and the late Victorian run from FDR through Eisenhower. But between these large runs, are spotty moments, sub-cohorts where people clustered close together produce a period of dominance, and then are pushed aside. Some it is hard to really argue for one bracketing over another.
The political adulthood of the boom came with what seemed to be the great disproof of turbulence: the coming of the "Great Complacency" and "Great Commodities Depression" and the period of politics associated with the unipolar world. No generation has spent as much time in a long noon day sun of seeming stability, nor came to ultimate power in such a strong position. This, as well as the need to compromise between two increasingly partisanized, but not polarized, political factions, led to the golden age of incrementalism. All change, is gradual change. All political battles, are battles of generational attrition.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was a powerful synchronizing moment, but far less than it looked, because it sent some nations down, as it lifted others up. The change to a globalized market economy had been well underway before the shriek of tank shells broke the Moscow day. The financial crisis, however, is a far more powerful synchronizing event, the collapse of the baby boom's peak earning, is a synchronizing event, the failure of the Iraq strategy and the peaking of cheap oil is a synchronizing event. These events were driven by the GI generation's late political mantra: incrementalism: which was to make incremental improvements, and then consume them. For example, the 1983 deal to raise Social Security FICA taxes, and then use them to cut taxes on the wealthy, rather than, in fact, prepare for the retirement of the Baby Boom. This was repeated by the boom itself: Clinton's balanced budget era, was used to fund the largest upper income tax reduction in history.
The specifics of why this moment will be argued, particularly by those who think it can be turned back, or renormalization is possible. But they cannot be turned back. There is no second bite at 1968, or even 2000.
Instead the texture of demographics has been set off. While the GI/Boom pairing made it seem as if all of history is one generation after another, the reality is that there are a few major synchronizing events. These create generational moments: people of different ages are suddenly on the same clock. Between these generation dominated times, there are cohorts: smaller groups of people born close together. Thus the texture of history is of large unified generations that peter out into disunified cohorts. The large unified generations see themselves as generations, the cohorts only as a reflection of their circumstances. Thus the "Generation X" and the "Millennials" are cohorts, they have not been fused into generations.
As importantly the millennials are over: the people now filling in behind them do not share their buying into the system, nor their mimickry of late boomer consumption habits. Instead, they are more violent, more cynical, more bitter, having born the brunt of the crash: they have the debts of a go go generation, and the income of a depression generation.
The reason for this was visible in the early 2000's. It was perhaps prescience that the "Matrix" movie labelled 1999 as the peak of "your civilization." While this is probably not so, it was the peak of that wave of prosperity, which had been rising for 20 years. Growing up in this era, and being adult in this era, is what joins the millennials and the boomers. It taught the lesson that things mostly work out, stay in the system. In this the boomers came full circle: 1967 marked the moment where they rebelled against regimentation and presumed sacrifice of waiting and a war, and now they have inflicted those same conditions on the millennials. The millenials have also repeated the structure of that moment: of an older rising wave that clung to the sense of change by increments, and a younger wave no longer tied to the system. This younger wave is not the millennial generation that the boom wants. Already derided as nihilist, mocked by boomer icons like GB Trudeau for being incoherent and told to get in line behind boomer heroes, this new generation is as yet, without a name.
But the event that set this in motion was not the downturn, however, instead, it is the response to it.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
But then, it isn't a class war if one side just massacres the other, now is it?
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan sees it the same way - though viewed distinctly from the other side of the ideological spectrum. He sees national ethnic identity and democracy as intertwined, which it is not clear that it is.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
- Old Center left government agrees to corrupt austerity deal.
- New center right government implements deal. No election is called where the public
- gets a chance to reject the deal.
- Public accepts.
- Country's GDP tanks.
- Country is bought up at low prices by outsiders.
Next is Spain.
Italy will twist until the Center-Right government falls to a center-left government, so that it can do the dirty deed, and then go back to a center-right government.
Center-left parties that sell out to financial interests are a major cog in the austerity machine, and the only course is to repudiate third way parties, because they in the end, are wrong way parties.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
This is not the first time we have seen this cycle.
Friday, November 4, 2011
What happened in the last week was that the Prime Minister threatened to hold a referendum – that is, a member of the elite was using the threat of a popular blow to enhance his own position. The result was a no confidence vote being scheduled, which is, as my essay made clear, a constitutional coup. The PM withdrew the referendum call, and was allowed to remain in power. The return blow then, must be from the public. If the public does not topple the government, then they are accepting the outcome that all main political parties regard protecting Greek elites as the paramount concern of government. The Greeks will then have to vote with their feet, as they have in the past, as Greece, itself, will be driven down deep into second world status, with a deflationary spiral causing repeated crushing burdens imposed, and demands for everything to be sold off at fire sale prices. They are, as Ireland and Portugal were, at the end of the line.
This is not about "the ability to borrow." It is about the elites having liquidity to leave Greece, and then buy back in at lower prices later, while the public is stuck with illiquid and vanishing assets - pensions, rights, franchises, monopolies. All of these will be taken away, because they cannot be converted into hot money – the Euro.
Contrast this with Greece going off the Euro - which it should not have been on – and going to the drachma, with a forced conversion to drachma of Euro based assets owned by Greek citizens. That this point the elites could no longer flee Greece, nor buy back in later – using catastrophe arbitrage. Greece could borrow, either in Drachma from its own citizens, or in hard currency from the outside world, though at rates which would end lending. Now, they will borrow, in order to bail out others. The money will not "bail out" Greece, but instead be charged to Greece to bail out others. Greeks over the next generation will be bailing out others, not be bailed out themselves.
The key rule of financial crisis is to prevent flight of assets and liquidity, however, corrupt elites have flight as their first priority. Therefore, if the public wants to have a country left in such moments, they must demand that capital flight end, if necessary, by toppling governments until one committed to remaining in the country takes power.
Since Portugal would not do this, and it seems Greece will not, these nations are going to be crippled for years to come, or have a half life prosperity only by doing off shore work for someone. Do not be surprised however, if Greece ends up going the road of Albania, and becomes a haven for drug running, gun running, and other forms of smuggling – because these are the businesses which they will be able to enter.
This "skipping stone" cannot go on for very long, because on each down leg more economies fall into recession or depression: the UK is in a stagflation recession now, and Greece dropped out the bottom on this down skip. Spain and Italy are next.
While various people speculate about what might happen, all you really need to know is this: upskips cannot even generate enough jobs to soak up the new people coming into the job market, which means that the unemployed become the unemployable, and then the disemployed.
The various political movements running around are going to do nothing about this, so there are no unforeseen factors in developed economies. This is it until such time as the patience with bear depression cycles ends. Since there is only one workable way to produce a fast shot of growth, that is a non-conventional carbon boom, that is what will be done, under a Republican in all probability. This will lead to another raid on the atmosphere, until the tail effects of climate change are unavoidable. The Baby boom will be gone then, and they will have packed power with generation asswipe: the obsequious courtiers of the Millenial generation willing to osculate posterior to get ahead, but who are incapable of doing anything other than balance the various immovable ideologies in a room.
It's over people, only when Generation #Fail – that amalgam of Silent, Boom, X, Millenial that we have now – passes off the stage, will there be change, however, it will be tumultuous violent change, because every component of power today knows they can stop real change by simply not agreeing. Thus, only when people are to the point of violence will this be broken.
Sorry about that.
So look forward to about a year of skipping stone as Obama and Bernanke try and save their jobs, and then Drill Baby Drill after that.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Whether none of the Seven Suns can be seen, or all together at once, it is possible to watch, and observe even the faintest object. And so, though bent with many years, and with a beard that hangs round and round his shoulders, and drags on the tail of his threadbare robes, the keen-eyed tan skinned astrologer is always there found, tinkering with the orrery, which shows the seven worlds looping around the seven suns, in their whirring progression from station to station in the celestial dance – or almost as often staring into the telescope, and scribbling notes with a fine hand on the velvet creamy vellum imported from Aliorntha, the green and ripe sphere from which the softest feathers, leathers, and women come.
There were an array of instruments: the orrery, a very large telescope, several smaller ones, a mechanical clock that tracked the hours, a water-clock that was combined with a fountain, a cage with a mechanical bird, and several other smaller devices of various descriptions. The result is that the air softly clicked, hummed, and spun with the singing of gears, bearings, the ticking of ratchets, the flowing of water, and the variety of bells from each of the instruments. The floor is a curious pattern of tiles, called knot tiles, which never quite seem to repeat, but have a strange cadence and order to them, highlighted by the bright ceramic glaze colors of blues and oranges. Glints of light reflected from the moons and on to the floor shine here and there, creating small five pointed bits of scintillation in the eternal darkness. The tiles are worn, because long in the past he had many visitors.
But the astrologer is long past caring of the comings and goings of people, and their throngs, or even of his machines save the one he is using, instead he cares only to stare beyond the stars, into what lies beyond, and listens to the ether chatter of the gods imprisoned in the seven suns, and the goddesses imprisoned in the seven worlds, and the mewlings of the moons as they grow from birth to adolescence. He listens as the sons within the suns maneuver and flirt to attract the sisters in the spheres, beckoning, enticing, hoping to join with them at the proper conjunction, and, perhaps, there to conceive a deitic soul that could be come a moon.
He listens and then in an instant startles, because Korana has gone silent. She of al-lat, of almond eyes and almond skin. She, the sphere he was born within, on Arafar, the continent that splays like an octagonal star, in the city of Bahir. The city whose eight gates and eight minarets are famed, which sits upon the gate between the outer skin of Korana, and the inner lands were most people live, and thus is one of the great trading ports between the worlds. He knows and loves her ether voice more than any other, and has another memory that is not his, but was left with him.
She falls silent, and his brow furrows. This has never happened, not in his memory, nor in any book he has read that he trusts, nor in the mention of any spirit, dragon, or deity he has heard. He swings the telescope to see her, though she is not far away. He notices nothing amiss, except, perhaps, it is hard to focus. The clarity is not there. But this is common enough, it could be anything, from turbulent nymphs of the air, to more malign influences in the aether between them. But he is concerned, and realizes that he needs more wisdom than is in his charts.
He sobs a moment, feeling cut off from his place of birth, and more distant than in all the years since he was within Korana, truly alone. His eye tremors, but his body is too decrepit for tears. Korana is the last spirit in all the worlds that he cared for, save for one human friend he has left.
He ponders, knowing that none of the seven sons care to speak to him, as he flouts their radiance by taking over the tower raised on this peculiar spot, and the six daughters do not deign to notice anyone that the sons will not speak to. So he listens to their chatter and waits. He knows they must know, if she is truly silent. Perhaps that is it, he thinks, it is just some eddy in the ether that carries her words away. But then, as he listens, he notices that she is not called to, nor is their any hanging question or solicitation that implies her presence. No invitation, no plotting for the next conjunction, no recounting of some time by a son when he and she were incarnate, and enjoyed the physical caress of sexual and spiritual union. No wry joke, or witty aside on the other dancers, or the dance.
She is silent not only to his ears, but erased from the conversation. His face grows black, and his white beard twitches like a tail. He needs more knowledge, and walks to the rail leaning out and looking. He thinks, perhaps, that a comet is blocking all her influence. This he knows is possible, at least in theory: a truly malign comet could do this, though it never has before.
But such a comet would be a blazon banner, striking a streak across the sky that would make mortals quake. He sees no such thing. What he does realize is that his eyes have failed to focus, and that, in fact, he can see ribbons of darkness around Korana, that look like clouds, but are beyond the ayres of the world he stands on, Eowilonwey, also called Eo for brevity's sake.
And so he thinks, and realizes that it is time to consult with more than mortal sources. Would, he thinks, that he were a summoner, but such is forbidden to any who watch the stars, because the influence could suck the summoner down, or the summoned up. And, if nothing else, he is a creature of order. So he walks to his desk, covered with scrolls and the tools of his trade: fine astrolabes, several clocks in various states of assembly, compasses, rulers, acids, inks, annealing bowls, and picks up a large ring, upon that are so many keys that it is impossible to guess how many. Some are gold and jeweled, others are tiny, many are rusted or tarnished. One small key shines with many colors, and it is this one that he picks.
From there he walks to a gilt cage, where within is a small mechanical sparrow, made of silver and lapis lazuli, with feathers of the finest wrought precious metals of many kinds, and meticulous craftsmanship to form each soft feather in its plumage. Once is was polished, but now has dulled with years, looking all the more valuable for its age. It sits with one leg down, as if roosting. He winds in carefully, and then whispers a message into its ear, that turns the thousand clever gears within, and stores his breath inside a tiny sphere of curious metal. He opens a small door between the wings, shifts the gears about, and tosses the bird into the air. It opens its wings, and takes flight of its own, flapping off into the distance. His old dear friend, a summoner of some renown, will hear it sing his message in his ear, however far he may be. Since it is common for that friend to be wandering the great wood that covers much of this sphere, searching for rare woods that, when burned, will produce the proper smoke to call spirits from the vasty deep, he hopes that it will not be long. But who knows? Sometimes the summoner, means sometimes the summoned, and the bird would have to hover until his return from which ever dark lamented place he abides in.
In this place, where Lilith the moon by some fiendish mirror magic is always mirrored in five places through the sky, days are not counted as in other places. Instead, he trusts the orrery, and a small homunculus who turns a small hour-glass over and over again. He turns to it, and tells it to begin counting from this moment until the sparrow's return. It doffs its tiny velvet cap, and mumbles numbers under its breath.
He then sets down and begins writing several letters, some to people who are important, and others who merely think they are. This is news, and while there are others who listen to the ether as well, they are few, and some are not always generous with what they hear. He sets down the account of what he knows so far, and with a pantograph making copies, he is soon ready to send these off. But he has only one mechanical bird, and not being a summoner, has few spirits at his service – the hourglass homunculus was a gift, you see – he then walks down to the base of the tower. His doorman, one of his only servants, is snoring away, as usual it might be said, and has to be roused. He takes out two small silver coins, and instructs his doorman to make haste to where these can be distributed. The town is two day's ride away, and it is urgent. Or, thinks the astrologer, as urgent as the affairs of mortals can be when speaking of the seven sons and seven sisters.
He slowly makes his way back to his observatory, and sits to rest, the flourish of activity has made him tired. He awakens from his slumber sometime later, and begins writing a letter.
I have become forgetful of little things of late, and you must be even more so, so I am sending me this letter from myself, in hopes that if I have forgotten anything, this letter will serve as sufficient reminder. On the back I copy out the celestial positions from the orrery, and the counting of my clock, so that you will know how long it has been since this letter was written. Of the event that precipitates it, there can be no doubt at all: Korana has gone silent. I hope it is some unique and perfidious part of the complexities of The Dance between The Dancers. I hope it is some malicious influence, or a comet that is black as night and which I cannot see. I hope that it is some event that, even if it is without precedent, is a temporary interloping in the progression of the spheres. But I fear it is not. As our little universe is a hollow sphere, within that the Seven Suns and Seven Spheres are made to imprison the Seven Sons and Seven Sisters, it cannot help but be true that malicious and malign events, even on this scale, are created and intended as a punishment. The great hierophants of the outer gods speak of the endless evil that is possible, and of the torments that reign beyond the skin of the skin, where the dead cling to it, fearing what will happen should they be sucked into the vastness of the outer space. Since they seem to speak from some communication with the outer that I have never quite understood, but can sense when they perform it, you, meaning me, must trust me when I say that this is a grave situation.
Let me then summary the actions that I have taken. I have sent Sparrow to the Summoner, so that he might call forth those with more knowledge than mortals are allowed to remember. I have written a letter expressing the gravest urgency of the situation, and warning all of the hazard to navigation. I am going to set down a trace of the orrery, so that what happens after this will have indelible record. I am writing this letter to you. I have made a careful search for comets, of which I have found none, but will make another. After this, I will ring the tower bell, and it will attract those who are supposed to hear it. Also the homunculus is on a count from this time, so please do not give another instruction, as he is easily confused.
Miraculous Korana that gave birth to us is silent, and it is incumbent that you, meaning me, make all efforts. My head is weary, and I will sleep again after ringing the bell. It is impossible for me to believe that I have taken all necessary steps, so concentrate carefully and rouse what is left of our, meaning my, brain, to the tasks that will further effectuate what is needed.
Jehanjir Al-Akbar, Astrologer
After this he then slowly walked down a small spiral stair through a hole in the floor, and there inside a room of seven windows, that can only be seen out of, not into, there is a vast inverted half sphere, made of bluish porcelain, and a large hammer with that to strike it. It has been a very long time since he could lift the hammer, and so he carefully made a set of gears that would allow him to loose the power in a spring, a spring wound by a waterwheel that catches the occasional rain, and stores the trickling of it. It is rare for him to ring the bell more than once in an ordinary lifetime, and so, this is enough. He has many times thought to improve the mechanism, but a windmill's constant moving would distract him, and as well the spirits of the air, and it is a very long way to the stream itself, as it is behind the rocks, and through the small wood nearby. It would be a great deal of work to erect a second waterwheel, and he had only dallies with plans for it. Too many other things to do with his time, and his limited energy. Ah, to be old again, he thought. Perhaps two hundred would be perfect. But that was a long time ago.
He gently looses the lever, wrapped in polished leather, and warm to his touch, he can feel the small homunculi scatter from it, used, as they are, to sitting and resting, so rarely is it used. There is an observable, though barely observable, darkening of the air, and a flickering of the lantern, as they rush either away from the gears, or about their appointed tasks of turning the coil of the spring into movement. The hammer, wrapped in silk, strikes the bell, and there is not a sound. Not a sound, but a sense, that something has happened. Something wondrous and dreadful all at once. At the same time there is trepidation that shakes the bowels, and a moment of elan. He draws breath, stands up straight, and then straighter, for it is the property of this bell, to give vigor to those the sound is meant for, in proportion to the danger. He is not merely aged, nor even old, he feels young again. The sensation is so striking that he cannot believe. it.
And so, he walks back upstairs, takes out a mirror, polished of platinum and looks into it. Staring back is firm and full flesh, though a bit lined with cares. He is not the ancient astrologer any more, but a man of perhaps, fifty years of age, with only the slightest of gray at his temples, and a short smartly clipped, and still mostly black salt and pepper beard. His cheeks are not hollowed out, though he is still markedly thin. He looks down and sees hands that are still subtle and strong, not claws of arthritis that they were moments before.
This effect sweeps across him, and his mind is shaking in terror, even as his body feels a health and youth that is long forgotten past forgetting. His muscles are tense, but inside he rattles, and shakes, and he runs to the privy because his insides cannot contain his last meal. He does not know which end will rebel first, and spends several minutes vomiting out from his mouth, and then feeling as if his intestines are ready to drop out of his body and down into the abyss. He is about to call for his valet, but realizes that while he is spattered with the consequences of his illness, he is also easily hale enough to clean up his own mess, and thus forgo both the humiliation, and the requirement of explaining what has happened.
Thus he deftly steals his way up to the day bed that is on the roof observatory, made of scarlet velvet and embroidered with gold thread in floral designs, and takes out his spare set of clothes that is laid there, and doffs the hose, undertunic, robe, and sandals. He looks at himself in the mirror, and then takes a turban that normally rests on a hook beside his desk. It has been a long time since he could wear it, even the linen would be too heavy, let alone the ruby set in the center of the forehead, whose pin is made of almost unbreakable metal, a sliver of the mattock of a titan. He nestles it smartly on his head, and stares at himself in the mirror.
Truly, he thinks, we are utterly doomed. Never has the bell given such youth. He knows that it will only last as long as the emergency, but he is certain that this is a portent that he is destined to die young. The bell has peeled away centuries, he thinks, that means destiny has taken away whatever years I have left. It is a pity that part of his deal with death, was that he would never again cast his own horoscope. But then, he mused, perhaps it is better to meet ones end unknowing, the way a virgin never knows what awaits her in the marriage bed. Or a groom the morning after.
Or a mortal, enthused by the spirit of a son, does not know what it will mean to watch as his body couples with a mortal woman who is similarly possessed by a sister's spirit, and what violent upheavals in spirit and flesh are possible when sun and sphere truly align. That night is burned upon his brain, and the energy it gave him sustains him still.
He sets about his work with haste, fixing the myriad problems that have accumulated with the orrery, and his telescopes, and every other piece of equipment. He knows he will need all of them. He then waits and looks out in every direction, hoping to see some trace of coming aid. He swings a small refractor around, and spies across the horizon, which is blocked in many places by stands of firs, but that also looks out over the sea that surrounds his island. It is open water now, because not long before Eowilonwey was dancing with Eorl, the big, bright, yellow sun of High Summer. Thus, right now, while she is taking a chaste and formal turn with Tir, the sphere is still warm with the near embrace that she and Eorl shared. It was a bumpy ride, but the glow was still upon the world.
Just then a meteorite glowed and continued to fall, and he knew almost after the first instant this was meant for him. The bolt grew brighter and closer, and finally floated to a stop. He might have been terrified, except there was a deep and mortal calm upon him, all fear having been wrenched out of his gut. Then it hovered, and in the blue-white glow, he could see a figure like a man, only 3 meters tall, wearing a light white robe, and extending white feathered wings. Around his waist a simple belt that seemed made merely of rope, but was, on second inspection, wound of polished stones, which none the less retained a flexibility. He could see the ripples in marble, and the flecks of mica in the feldspar.
And the spirits face was stern and noble, the spirits flesh was like a dark opal, with eyes like quicksilver, seeming to flow. There was fire that sparked from his wings, and he held a trumpet. And it spoke unto him.
“Fear not. I am sent unto thee by one who loves you.”
“It is a little late for fearing not dread angel. Who has sent you? I know of no one who loves me.”
“She asks not to be named but it is she who told me to come to you, as the only mortal man who might aid her in her hour of need.”
“I was born on Korana, do you have word of what events have unfolded there?”
“I can only tell you that it is dire, she knew not else.”
“Is this all?”
“No, I have more, from another source, one whose name is not known to you, or to most in this, the prison of the Seven and Seven.”
“An outer god?”
“If you will.”
“Then pour forth what you have, so that your knowledge might become my wisdom.”
“It is so: this is an event that marks a turning in the tide.”
“What have mortal men to do with this? We are beneath ants to even the spirits of power and excellence here. My lords and you lord, are much beyond even the mightiest.”
“And so it is, and thus I come and speak to thee.”
“Why not the dragons of the aether, whose wings are miles long?”
“They would be sense as soon as they fluttered breath of wing.”
“Why not the djinn of many faces, whose reach can stretch from sphere to her moons and turn them?”
“There weighty steps would creak should they even move.”
“Why not the daemons of the abyss, who belch and then consume whole comets?”
“Their stench would poison the aether.”
“So the great spirits who I have not named, would they also be as this?”
“The wyrms and all the others would be to evident in their presence or their absence.”
“Why not homunculi? Are there no nymphs or maenads, triads, or satyrs? What of the million unborn souls whose task it is to run the cosmos?”
“They have no freewill, and can only fleck the flecks of foam from the ocean of time. They cannot wish away what is willed.”
“And of lesser incarnate beings? Would they not be more perfect spies?”
“Only the middle races will do, those who are less, are too little, but those who are even a shade more, are too much. Though, of course, humans are not alone in this, it is they who straddle the perfect balance.”
“But what could I do, or even an army, or all the fleets in all the spheres do?”
“You are commanded thus: voyage to Korana, and make report of what you find there.”
“But you just came from hence, surely your perfect senses know more than I could know.”
“Even now Korana is descending into a shroud of darkened ether, that would drive an angel mad to stare at it.”
“And how could I voyage there?”
“You rang the bell, it sluiced me here to speak to you, and it also calls the aid of others who will be your companions in this geas.”
“And not you?”
“No, I am fading, my time of times is done, and I, as spirit unborn, will vanish as the dew.”
“You gave your existence for this?”
“For my lady, and for the sister that she serves, I do so gladly and with a bright heart, hoping, perhaps, that I will return to the slumber and be allowed to be born in mortal case.”
“It is rare that your kind is this allowed?”
“Rare, but not so rare as gold, nor as common as silver is to you.”
“Is there nothing more?”
The angel pulled forth a bone casing for a scroll, and handed it to Jehanjir.
“This will aid you, but do not open it on any sphere, but only beyond the orbit of any moon.”
“I thank you and take these your gifts. I wish you well in all your hopes.”
With this the glowing orb vanished, leaving only Jehanjir under the sky.
He waited for his eyes to readjust to the darkness, and then set down the sum of the conversation. He was half way through, when he chanced to look up from his writing. He could hear a faint whirring sound, and he realized it was the Sparrow, wending its way through the sky towards him. He checked with the homunculus, it has been 1/360 of a sidereal year exactly, since he sent it out. He mentally calculated, that this meant it could have covered half the outer globe. He watched as it came gliding to a stop, and alit on the top of its wicker cage. Its wings stopped, and it stood there for a moment. But then it exploded, with springs and gears and all the workings scattering in all directions, and only then was there a man sitting on the stool where the now crushed cage once sat.
He was extremely tall, though not gigantic, and just barely slender rather than lanky, and wore his 60 years lightly. He was dressed, not in robes, but in pantaloons and a leather jerkin, a fine rapier hanging from a belt. A broad-brimmed hat much of his chiseled features, and this was intentional, as with many of his art, he had sacrificed an eye for a sight into the spirit realm, and disguised this disformity. In his hand was a globe, and from his belt hung the tools of his trade, either naked or in pouches. He blinked, and then looked at the hale figure before him. It was hard to tell his origin among the worlds: his face looked like an amalgam of many times and places, and was slightly, though noticeably, asymmetrical, with long hollowness that made many people feel they had just looked at a cut of meat rather than a steak. His skin could have been tanned, or merely the color of coffee with cream by nature, it was impossible to say whether he lived outdoors or indoors, since he had a roughness about him, but it was not a coarse worn sensation.
“I see the spirit of Jehanjir, but not the body? I did not know you had access to such a glamour.”
“No illusion, but real. The porcelain bell was rung, and this is the result. I am transformed to a younger man. Summoner, meet me as I was when the worlds were younger, when there were two fewer moons, and many fewer fallen souls. What I would like to know, is how you got here.”
The slender man stood up, and looked around, and then examined Jehanjir. His own hair was stringy, and one could tell from careful observation that he was almost bald, but allowed what remained to grow to his shoulders falling in rather stringy waves.
“That was simple, though at some cost to the bird. I wound it with one hand, and set the gears, but with the other I imprisoned myself in a small shell, and when I was sucked in, the bird was free to fly. I had already whispered the counter spell to the bird, and so, it arrived before you, and delivered an almost soundless message: me, in a bottle, as it were.”
“Ingenious. Fiendishly so, old friend.”
They embraced, but as they pulled back the Summoner spoke:
“In my work, it is unhealthy to compare oneself to fiends. They hear well, but listen poorly.”
“Fair enough then, may any fiend listening take it as a compliment to their legendary acumen, and not your comparing yourself to them.”
There was a rumble from the ground, obviously, a fiend had been listening, and the entire tower trembled.
“How could the bell have done this?”
“It is the great bell made on the sphere of Tianxian, in the great castle of Baojing. A whole city of bones were ground to make it.”
“How could a thing built of such slaughter be good?”
“You do not know the tale? I thought I had told you.”
“No, you did not.”
“The city was slaughtered, but their souls still bound to their bodies. By giving their bones in sacrifice, the departed gained great spiritual wealth for their afterlife, rather than underneath as imprisoned ghouls. By sacrificing, and giving the greater necromancer Jain-Lo Wang the power to defeat the evil, they went on. The bell rings with the might of a city of the dead. It is a greater artifact than any I have.”
“I say again, I am merely clever, it is you who are ingenious.”
“This tower, and this bell, are not of my workmanship.”
“But it is you who have the means to control them.”
“Perhaps I have a turn or two that bends things to my will.”
“A turn or two. So, the bell cares nothing for me, I am as aged as ever, and feeling it in my bones. I, unlike you, have never been enthused, and if I were, I doubt I would have had your courage to then bet death on a single turn of the cards. What am I here for?”
“I need you to summon some spirit from the ether who might be able to tell us more of Koran’s falling silent. We need to mount an expedition and report on what we find.”
“We? I am not to leave this sphere without permission from Eowilonwey herself, and she's not speaking to me.”
“I mean we in the broader sense.”
“You mean, 'we, not you.' Oh for the nuances of an older tongue.”
“We can use the Elder, my friend, if you have improved your use of it since last we met.”
“A turn or two with some older spirits has done me some good.” He winked and smiled.
His friend gently slipped to a language that was before languages, and they conversed in that high speech that was used to lay the course of the cosmos. It is a slow and ponderous tongue, exact beyond exact, and it took them the better part of a day to decide how best to proceed. Jehanjir would cast a horoscope, and select from those who he had cast at their birth, while the summoner would call forth an ether nymph he knew, and ask for a boon of knowledge. In return for what, he did not say, but nymphs have voracious appetites, and of many kinds.
After some time of casting, Jehanjir grumbled.
“I thought I would be going on this expedition, however, it is clear I am not.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I am able to cast the course of part of it, which means that I am not involved in the voyage.”
“Perhaps you are to remain here.”
“So, it seems. And what of your efforts?”
“I am ready any time, in contrast to most of my ilk, I carry all I need, and lithe gossamer skill substitutes for weight ingredients.” And by ilk he meant exactly that: summoners cease to use their name, and are called merely 'Summoner' ever after.
Jehanjir nodded, and Summoner took out a small fine-grained powder, he traced off a lazy magic circle, that was none the less closer than others could make even with a compass, and inscribed in it a pentagram. The summoning pentangle thus formed he used the grains to write a series of complex characters around the outside, and then traced around this another circle. With a flourish he tossed out a spark – a wholly natural one from a bit of phosphorus – and the entire inscribed circle burst up into flames. For a moment, it seemed to vanish, but then, very slowly a greenish glow began to fade into appearance, it grew steadily, until it was as bright as a gas lantern. The glow pulsated from barely perceptible to bright at an irregular interval after that.
Just as slowly a figure began to form in the center, it was like a man, but much taller and squashed in by the sides of the circle uncomfortably, much as if it had been poured into a tall glass.
The face was grotesque on its own terms: much like a comedy mask filled out with flesh and given huge teeth, with a bulbous nose and large grimacing cheeks. At top the bald head were horns that were the color of ivory, as were the claws on the feet and hands. In fact, there were four hands, pressed against the sides of the circle. The body was immensely muscled, and the skin was a blood ochre red. Squashed against the circle was a pair of oversized testicles and a large penis that had a distinct hook at its fleshy end. Heat and moisture exuded off of the spirit, and a mist flowed off the circle as a result, forming itself into a cloud over the entire observatory, and filling the air with a thick fog that spilled out over the edges of the observatory.
The spirit spoke, its bass voice resonant with scorn.
“Until you get a life, I have certain, privileges, Zireal.”
“Or you get an afterlife.”
“I'm sure you'll be happy to arrange that, but, I think you know, at the moment my spiritual balance is quite positive, my life, consisting as it does, of making preter-life difficult for nasty, naughty, spirits like yourself.”
It grimaced and bucked against the sides of the circle.
“Must this be so uncomfortable?”
“I think we both remember what you can do given even the smallest freedom of movement.”
There was a deep tiger growl in response.
“Make this quick.”
“In a hurry, as usual.” The Summoner sighed.
“Make this quick.”
“Korana has gone silent. I am going to ask you how this has affected your tasks.”
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Violent revolution involves the use of force directly against civilians who are not functionaries of government, and the deployment of force against force in conflict not associated with demonstration. The battle is the demonstration. The dividing line is seldom unclear for long, when the signs are swept away, and there is melee, popular revolution has disintegrated into civil war, or an attempted coup has collapsed in its attempt to deliver a short sharp blow, and has become a war.
There are, however, two distinct families of violent revolution: uprising, and war. An uprising uses violence to grease the wheels of change, and in this resembles a series of micro-coups. In this form of revolution, low level functionaries and front line enforces of the regime are targeted: police officers, judges, tax collectors, customs officials, and all of the other people who stand in the way of the rebels view of what should be their free activity or rightful property.
Within the kinds of wars of revolution, there are three further types: one is the war of independence, when one body of forces are arrayed against another body which is directed from outside of the political unit, the second is the conflict for control of the same government, and the third is a war of liberation, which has elements both of a war of independence, in that the opposition becomes constructed as an occupier and as foreign, and of a civil war, in that it is fought by brother against brother, carrying with it the exacting horror of internecine, as well as intestine, conflict.
There are many demonstrations, but few popular revolutions, there are many coups, but few lead to revolution. But, almost unavoidably civil war brings with it a new order. Unlike the word revolution, which is of Renaissance provenance, the term civil war is from antiquity. While the distinction between a civil war, and all of the other internal conflicts grows murky in many circumstances, it's intrinsic quality, that there are two sources of sovevereignty, allows it to be distinguished from wars of succession.
Violent revolution then is complex, because once invoked, violent forces shape more than they are shaped. This comes from the nature of violence, and especially of extended violence. The new order must come to terms with the reality of logistics even before it has the mandate and power to formally levy taxes, create courts, pass general laws, and in other senses act as a state. It becomes a state in flight, rather than coming to both the burdens and powers of a state only after it has disposed of the old state.
An uprising is a revolution that proceeds by the violent replacement of the front line functionaries of the old order with new ones. The classic example is the 1774-76 period in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where tar and feathering, murder, beatings, and threats, were used to chase out the magistrates of the royal government, and install instead local officials. The uprising resembles, and sometimes begins as, a popular revolution, it also is in constant threat of sliding into more generalized violence, including genocide, ethnic cleansing, and civil war. However, its original aims are generally more limited: to supplant the hierarchy, often without supplanting the actual order, it is a struggle of people.
Where is the dividing line? Again, the question is whether the forces pursuing change are able to invert the flow of power by uprising alone. If they are not, then the revolution was an uprising, even if it must pursue civil war to maintain power. The relatively few revolutions which require more than a coup, but less than a civil war, shows how small the odds of disposing of abusive officials violently, without also having to dipose of those who appoint them, and the means of their appointment. No state can long stand if it allows a consistent pattern of removing its apparatchiks, even if, from time to time, it allows signature individuals to be removed without harsh repercussions.
The other reality of uprising is that it exposes weakening in the ruling order, and hence opportunity for either a coup, or a popular revolution. One thing, as they say, leads to another. Uprising, then, because it is to a great extent a temporary solution, is anarchic. It is difficult to have a society other than a criminal one, where the normal means of succession to a post is by violence, hence, violent uprising is self-limiting, until it proposes an orer to supplant the old one, it's future is limited. Uprisings are frequent features in dictatorial or despotic systems, where there is no other means of removing officers, nobles, or officials, and a frequent pattern before a war of independence has taken on coherent political form.
However, uprisings frequently lead to a de facto state of independence, with areas where the government's writ ceases to function. This is associated with long running guerilla movements, and with failed states, and is a feature of ongoing civil war. Localized uprisings against existing arrangements are seen in American history in the early 19th century, two of the most prominent examples are the Anti-Rent Wars, in upstate New York against old grants of rents, and Bleeding Kansas, including the activities of John Brown.
Uprisings then, are like micro-revolutions, or localized revolutions, where there is an adherence to the protection afforded by the national unit, or the belief that the national unit provides no such protection worthy of mention, but without a larger sense of state formation. This makes it more frequent in places and times where the state is dysfunctional.
One type of uprising in the last half of the 20th century, is exemplified by the Maoist uprising, where the removal of state control over a locality by making it too expensive or difficult to maintain control. This includes the Shining Path guerillas in Peru, the Nepal Civil War, and non-maoist examples of drug based insurrections. The uprising then, often rests on their being a subsistence or single commodity export economy – blood diamonds, drugs, high value minerals such as gold, which would in due course, be taxed or coöpted by the state, or by those with favors from it.
Hence, peasant uprisings, slave rebellions, and other forms of rebellion are common, but their acting as the blow that creates a revolution, is far rarer. Indeed, the record of the last generation has been the reverse: that violent separatist movements must either turn to seeking a more explicit political or military mandate, or be defeated, as the Irish Republican Army, the ETA guerillas from the Basque region, and the end of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka demonstrate.
The war of independence is distinguished by the expression of, or creation of, a national division between those taking up arms and those directing the state order. Often, very often, there are nationals on both sides. What is, in English, called the Sepoy Rebellion, or the Indian Rebellion, was a series of uprisings and wars of independence. Many Anglo-English speakers have come to refer to this 1857-58 conflict as the “First War of Indian Independence.” While neither term is wholly accurate, the term War of Independence is far more accurate, than the diminutive idea of rebellion. In fact, as is often the case, there were two revolutions in collision: the old order had fallen, and even though the armed rebellion did not cast off the yoke of British colonialism, that yoke was only maintained by federalizing the political structure and creating the Raj, converting it into an imperial administration.
Wars of independence have come in waves, including recently the collapse of 19th century imperialism in Asia and Africa. The post-colonial collapse of European empires in the wake of World War II provides a vast array of examples of the variety of violent revolution. Notably, how long the violence can go on. In the Sudan, the co-dominion agreement between Egyp and the United Kingdom was to grant independence to the entire administrative unit of the Sudan, which contained a primarily Islamic northern area, and a Christian and Animist south, tensions over the decision began even before independence on 1 January 1956, and a guerrilla movement took root in the early 1950's in the south and it boiled over into rebellion in the defense forces in 1955. Even with the suppression of overt mutiny this denied the regime in Khartoum control over the south. This continued for years with the “Anyanya” army gradually coalescing out of resistance of former army officers, and new recruits from civilians in Southern Sudan: uprising, had become civil war, as the guerrilla army took the field and began overtly contesting control of the South. This phase continued until what amounted to an armistice in 1972. When fighting began again in the 1980's it metastasized through the entire country, a war of separation, had become a civil war. The entire conflict ended only with a peace agreement in 2005, and a vote on independence for the south in 2011. However, it is unclear whether even this will be enough.
Thus in one country a war of independence spawned an uprising, then a war of separation, then a civil war, and the process continued over the course of over 65 years.
Such long periods of conflict are not abnormal historically. One of the first modern examples of a war of independence is the Eighty Years War between the Dutch and their Spanish Hapsburg overlords, which began in 1568 and was only concluded as part of the larger European peace in 1648.
The view of the war of separation, independence, or revolution of same as a long process, stands in contrast to the image of such wars as short, decisive and heroic. The older view was cast, to no small extent, by the American Revolution, and by the collapse of the Spanish Empire in the New World, as well as by a particular reading of how Europe was reconstructed along nationalist lines in the late 19th century, and in spasms at the end of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.
This heroic narrative de-emphasizes the long periods of armed instability, and emphasizes the rapidity that once a rebellion reaches political and military organization often achieves its ends, while the contemporary view emphasizes the long disruption of ordinary life that is involved.
This leads to an important division between theorist of revolution from the early modern period, and contemporary social organization.
The modern state arose out of the need to create centralized capital, and its ability to wage war was from the ability to rapidly raise and mobilize manpower. This stood in sharp contrast to the highly craft and practiced armies of the late feudal period: the base of their power came from shock cavalry and massed bowyers, both of which took years to produce. The new army that rose out of what is now called a “military revolution” was based on rapid to train, equip and raise forces, first of “pike and shot” which took large squares of men and waddled them across a battlefield, and cavalry that shot and sword, rather than lance, armed. This in turn was dramatically altered by the introduction of faster firing arms, culminating with the flintlock.
This mobilization army then led to a mobilization theory, not just of armies, but of politics. The democratic election is a demonstration of mobilization: to raise an army of voters on a given day, directed to a single purpose. Mobilization theory then can be said to rest in the idea that a mandate is not merely counting of supporters, but the ability to activate them to an end. Hence mobilization equipped theorists, such as Crane Brinton, Vladimir Lenin, Thomas Jefferson, and even Edmund Burke, radically disagreed on virtually everything, but agreed on the central point that small armed groups of violence were unable to produce change.
In distinction to this were the theorists of the Vanguardism as revolution. These were almost never democratically inclined, but instead argued that only a minority could produce the necessary change in to propel a state or nation into the future. The premire example of this is Che Guevara. Marx and Lenin had both stated the need for a vanguard party, as had Adolph Hilter. However, the difference between a mobilizationist view, and the vanguard view, is seen in the contrast between Lenin, and Hitler. For Hilter, and for others, the mass will never be conscious or capable of leadership, whether for intellectual, religious, or racial reasons. This idea is not without precedent in antiquity, Plato's Republic is ruled by philosophers who are by their nature different from those that they rule for and over.
The mobilization view in the post-war era has given way to the consumer theory. In the consumer theory it is not the creation of capital that supports a military, in a model made explicit by mercantilism and then as capitalist ideas of Smith, but that the support of capital by demand represents the state itself.
In the mobilization view, previous struggles represent a backdrop, origin, or source to the final flexing of mobilization, in the consumerist view, these disruptions of the ordinary course of life are a continuous deprivation, and represent the failure of both the established order and its counter-orders to create the conditions of stability. This shift in view, from heroic mobilization in the face of crisis, to the belief that stability represents the normative moment, also attends a shift in what is seen as the model of revolution. For the mobilizationist view, armed revolution is revolution. Of the four examples in Brinton's The Anatomy of a Revolution all are armed struggles of the most violent kind: the English Civil War, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution.
The consumerist view in fact has more in common with the “whig” narrative of revolution espoused by Burke: that revolution was an upwelling of propertied and generally privileged people against abuses of the central state, not in the creation of a new kind of order, as he famously declared in the Reflections on the Revolution in France, the wild air is a short phase which should settle out. The consumerist view then makes the popular revolution its central model: it is the expression of the consumers of government against the producers of government, not a mobilization of a popular will.
Thus the mobilizationist took demonstrations, protests, and other expressions of popular discontent as either a warning for reform, or as a prelude to violence, and presented political revolution as the prescription to avoid the disease. The consumerist sees popular revolution as a more democratic moment than an election. The conflict between these two views is on display even today.
As examples have shown failed surgical violence often is the spark for popular action: either because it is the last visible act of the older order failing to resolve itself, or because it is the last act of the old order attempting to prevent a process of revolution. Beyond such narrowly focused ranges lies the long slog of civil war, which often only resolves after decades.
How to distinguish between the long phases of uprising, and the almost always shorter periods of civil war? The answers lies in the difference between guerrilla activity, where opponents of the regime do not take the field, do not tend to wear uniforms, do not answer to a central command or authority on coordination of activities, and do not hold territory. A good example is how the American Revolution's character with the election of George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, followed shortly by the Battle of Bunker Hill, about which it is de rigeur to note that the main part of the battle occurred on Breed's Hill. On 17 April 1775, what had been an uprising, was shown to be a war of independence.
In recent years, as one would expect, civil war as the edge of revolution has been less successful than popular revolutions, the signature examples of such revolution are in Yugoslavia, the Congo and the Lakes Region in Africa, Chechenya, and Eritrea and the Sudan. These examples are often filled with crimes against humanity: massacre of hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands - mass atrocities including organized rape of targeted populations. The long disruption leads to warlordism, and progressive failure to develop. In this, the power of a world in the lock of a centralized resource flow, particularly oil, and a centralized capital and capital knowledge flow, the possibilities for local development without access to external capital are far smaller than they were in the early 19th century, when charcoal, iron, and other fundamental resources were in sufficient supply in a far wider range of places, thus allowing for the sinews of the basic industrialized mass mobilization war.
Or to put it another way, there are few places in the world, where one cannot build a musket or breach loading rifle, but few places in the world where one can build an advanced micro-electronic device, to power a modern aircraft or tank, with oil. Hence the long death struggle nature of civil wars in the Post World War II period: the ability to import weapons sufficient to cause disruption is easy: the world is awash in automatic weapons, but it is far harder to lay hands on air power.
The recent civil war in Libya provides an instructive example: infantry to infantry, the rebels were able to master, and defeat, the forces of the regime consistently, however, without outside air support, the regime was able to contain, and then push back the rebels. Tanks and helicopters are the great regime levers that crush dissent, but they have much lesser utility in controlling minds, and hence are able to burn revolt back to the uprising stage, but not below it, while the rebels, armed with modern means of production and dissemination of information, including internal combustion engines, phones, and faxes, have a difficult time overwhelming military weaponry with paramilitary means, even though they are able to produce the presence of a new state in the minds of their adherents.
This is a point that will rise again when reaching the effect of digital inter networking in the second division of this field guide.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
This is the classic coup d'etat: a direct attack on those who are said to be in power, and their immediate functionaries. In almost all revolutions, this particular act is threatened, or required for the consolidation of power, but it is less often the moment of transition of power itself. Louis XVI was long out of power before he mounted the scaffold in France, as was Augusto Pinochet long out of power before he was in the hands of the law. The Shah fled before his apparatus was struck at, in January of 1979. And so on.
Conversely there are many coups, there will be many more, but few are revolutionary, and, in fact, the reverse: in most coups the action is by those who have some fraction of access to power, in order to avert popular or economic forces. It is the ultimate vote of no confidence by a party against a leader, in order to avoid one on the streets.
Thus direct and popular revolution are more often side by side than might be supposed. For example, Iran's Islamic Republic took power by removing the Shah's functionaries by force, after popular revolution had forced the government into paralysis.
In the Philippines in February of 1986 Juan Ponce Enrile rallied army troops to attempt to remove President Ferdinand Marcos in a violent coup, they were driven back, however, this began the cascade of defections that would lead to the successful popular revolution, the "People Power Revolution." The course then of the Philippines was an attempt at revolution at the ballot box, then a constitutional counter-coup, namely election fraud to prevent Marcos from losing, which sparked an unsuccessful direct coup, and this exploded in to the popular coup that did, in fact, topple the regime. It was thus a popular revolution, because this is the moment when power was transformed, but it was not the unmixed non-violent revolution which is often presented: instead the leadership of Marcos' inner circle had lost faith in his ability to rule, and saw the depth of discontent. In a state that had assassinated Benny Aquino, the father of the Corazin
However, far more often, a coup is similar to the actions of the August Putsch, that ran from 19-21 August of 1991 against Mikhail Gorbachev. In December of 1990, several key KGB leaders under Vladimir Kryuchkov, began demanding that the policies of Gorbachev be rolled back, and the powers of the police state be unleashed against dissident elements. In a story line very similar in its beginnings to the ouster of Nikita Khrushchev, the decision was made to remove the leader if he would not cooperate with a crack down, at a meeting on the 17th of August.
On 18 August Gorabechv was confronted with the demand that he crackdown and withdraw a proposed treaty, and he maintains that he refused the ultimatum, and this is the account that makes the most sense in the wake of what happened next: the conspirators launched a direct coup attempt on 19 August. The tanks were readied on 20 August, but in the end, they could not be ordered to roll over fellow Russians. The break up of the Soviet Union began only days later, as Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and began planning the transition. Soviet states began declaring independence. It was among the most dramatic three days in world history, and broadcast on television.
This relationship between direct and popular revolution: with one often leading, or attempting to forestall, the other, is repeated many times, and for the same reason. There is a constellation of revolution, a moment when the individual who hold power, as well as the means by which they hold power, are seen as incompatible with remaining in power: there is no acceptable step which both holds and uses the powers available. Others see this weakness, and act, both from within and without. The direct coup, like the constitutional coup attempt, such as the Argentine Congress' attempt to pick a new President in December of 2001, is often to counter what is seen as oncoming popular revolution. The work of popular revolution is done by breaking the morale of the leadership, and hence, the direct coup attempt as counter-revolution is one response to a demoralization: remove the perceived weak link.
On the other hand, as the examples show, direct coup attempts are often the front wave of popular revolution, or the means by which popular revolution is directed away from its original attempt. As with Iran, popular revolution is in favor of those ready to take power, and thus to be successful to its aims, must continue until those who step forward are acceptable.
There is an analogy: as political revolution is to constitutional revolution, so popular revolution is to direct revolution. Direct revolution and constitutional revolution are far more often normal politics, but by abnormal means.
What of direct revolutions? Have their been clear cut cases recently?
One clear cut case is in 1979, when in the Central African Republic, French paratroopers were used to oust the President, General Jean-Bédel Bokassa, in favor of the man he had deposed: David Dacko. However, Dacko had previously been the head of a one party state, with himself as the only candidate for President, in the new Central African order, there were multi-party elections, the first of which was won by Dacko himself. Then Dacko was overthrown a second time, but his successor continued to have to face multi-party elections, and was defeated when running for his third term. While a messy process, it is clearly revolution, and the key moment was clearly the intervention of France in order to first assert their man in power, but also to assert that there would be a new order. The phrase "revolution from above" is often used to describe revolutions which do not fit some preconceived notion of what revolution should be, but this offers a clear example of it, since it was an external power that backed by force the preference for a new order in the Central African Republic, but a new order it was, and essentially remains: with a French veto over the results of elections, and coups being used to remove Presidents who have lost their ability to govern.
Direct revolutions then, like popular revolutions are a varied lot: they range from bloodless palace coups, where the leader is told that he no longer leads, to bloody and messy pogroms where the new regime comes in with the heads of the old spiked on bayonets. Direct revolution is the threat that popular revolution holds within it: no popular revolution prevails without the assertion that the leadership has broken the law, and that if in power, it will lay the hands of the law on that leadership. Direct revolution, however, is far less common than direct counter-revolution, that is, the attempt to shuffle power, in the belief by the elites that popular discontent is a failure of will. In this it shares that feature with constitutional counter-revolution: the use of state apparatus to thwart a change in power, whether political or popular, and daring those who have won an election, or won the streets, to actually enforce that power.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
It is 19 Diciembro 2001 and the banging of pots came down in shatters like rain, at any hour of the day or not, their downburst might come, in square, or remote bario. Cacerolada was the lady that called out, screeching a hymn of protest. Buenes Aires December of 2001 was a nation a fire in the southern summer. While America was marching towards its war of choice in Iraq, Argentina was killing the neo-liberal order from the other end, it had given up all choice by instituting a dollar board and other economic policies designed to force export discipline and fiscal sobriety. Inflation, as in hyper-inflation was a fat bloated fear in the dreams of everyone, including the government.
People milled about in the broad avenues, surrounding cars and knifing the tires of those carrying people in suits. Soon, cabs would only take wealthy fares on long round abouts or at odd hours, or charged.
How did this storm start in December of 2001, and loom into January? The immediate cause came on November 29th, there was a day of decision, as all over the country, tens of thousands staged a massive run on the banks. Millions of Pesos, still theoretically pegged to the dollar were demanded, and dollar accounts that were left were emptied. The banks The bank accounts were frozen under the corral rules. No one but the rich could withdraw money, no one but the connected could spirit it out of the country. Because of the peg, the central bank could not simply print enough money to tide everything over.
For months the unemployed had been wandering the streets shouting for jobs and welfare. They were the picketeers, not just in the capital, but in major cities everywhere. In Rosario, the high December summer was broken with looting. They were in the streets now every day, brawling with police, being arrested, and being let back out again, because the jails could not afford even to feed them.
This was Argentina's popular revolution. There were deaths, and there were fights, but there was not the movement of organized military violence, nor was the violence sufficient to do more than announce the resolve of the public.
The hallmark of a popular revolution is the creation of mass action that halts the normal course of business, and presents a real or implied threat against the persons of the leadership, causing them to flee. The popular coup's strike at the center of power, is that power relies on the multiplication of action, and the popular demonstration accomplishes two attacks on power: first, it is intended to be a blow to the morale and time of the leadership: the must deal with nothing else. Second, it cuts the lines by which decisions made by one group are multiplied. Popular revolution then, rests on the disruption of the channels through which power is transmitted, and a disruption of the centers from which power is born.
The birth of popular revolution, as revolution, is quite old, and so, the myth of popular revolution is rooted in deep history. Even Hugo Chavez cites the creation of Magna Carta.
Popular revolution is also mythic, and enhanced, by it's connection with that element called "the people," that polyvalenced noun which is the root of identity.
In truth people are trained to popular revolution: mass gatherings, mass action, economic and physical, is part of the daily life of most societies. People are called to worship, line up for the openings of movies or release of new products, gather for concerts and parades. The muscles remember the requirement of gathering in large groups and submerging one's individuality into a mass. Popular revolution then, relies on the necessity of the mass to any society, and directs it against those who sit at the center of transmission, and seek to displace the message that the center is obeyed by the million limbs of the social squid.
Popular revolutions are elevated because they are also, in a very deep sense, the most conservative: they disrupt temporarily, but do not destroy permanently, the infrastructure of society. They may burn down a few buildings, trample some grass, or leave undelivered a wave of food, but the do not tear apart the relationships of people, nor the objects which they own.
Every demonstration dreams dreams, of being a popular revolution, as much as any team takes the field dreaming of being champions of their league: it is the exhilaration of participation and triumph, of being alpha for a day, that courses through the veins of those who, in jubiliation, take to the streets, in anger take to the streets. The primal blood is raised, and those who participate feel it. This is the opposite of the blow to elite moral at which popular revolution aims: to feel good, about being small.
In our own time popular revolution is also infused with the ideology of bottom up-ism, that leadership is no more self-empowered than is a plumber. This idea, of the bottom up dictation to power, is not so new, Burke excoriates it in his famous remark:
Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
Edmund Burke Speech to the Electors of Bristol 3 November 1774
But this very tendency, to desire to elevate a flattering clown to office, is not so easily destroyed. Indeed, the advent of consumerism, where corporations propose products, while consumers dispose, creates an artificial presumption by those who consume, that they are smarter than those who produce. This ideology is writ in every time an individual dismissively critiques some product, as if the people who made it were stupid. The disproof of the ideology of the "smart mammals" against the large dinosaurs is also vividly on display: if the people at the top are so stupid, why have they gotten virtually all the income gains over the last generation? The whole frame of smart mammals is scientifically inaccurate: mammals spent more millions of years underfoot of the dinosaurs, than they have ruling the world. If you are a mammal under dinosaurs, then your strategy is really to wait for a huge asteroid to hit the world, and then survive it.
The same is true with popular revolution. It is an adage that power is more often lost, than won. Popular revolution strikes an elite which has lost power internally, it has lost its morale, and its ability to translate its vision of society into a working reality. The popular revolution rests on the failure of elites, because successful governments do not tend to generate the number of enemies that causes popular revolution. This failure is either general, or it is specific. The French Revolution contained a period of popular coup. The government of France was not unsuccessful on its own measure, but it concentrated discontent in Paris. The old monarchy had many friends, but unfortunately for it, its enemies were all, in a very real sense, a stones throw away, as the laboring class of Paris. It's friends were scattered, and its enemies were all close. Monarchists would win elections even into the Third Republic, almost a century later, but they were never to win the barricades, only coöpt them.
Thus while publics dream of a "velvet revolution," what they are really talking about is elections by other means, elections that cut through the mechanisms of democracy, through the compromises that elites make with other elites, through the cloud of the electorate and the elect, to the people and the public. They dream of a "people powered" revolution, because it serves the dual interests of a class that identifies itself as working for others, to accumulate goods. It elevates labor, and the products of capital that labor desires to own.
Popular revolution is at its most powerful, when striking against an occupation, or government whose interests lies in the interests abroad, a government that serves other masters than its own population.
The break up of the Soviet Union offered a clear and almost clinical demonstration of the removal of a repressive force, and how popular revolution follows almost logically from it. The states of the Soviet Empire's "near abroad" had long since lost any illusions as to the nature of the Soviet system, and as to the nature of their place in it. While in some countries, particularly Albania, Romania and Yugoslavia, an independent dictatorship had taken root which had either broken from Moscow, or was capable of sustaining itself in power without Moscow, the key states of Poland, the People's Democratic Republic of Germany, Czechoslovakia, as well as the Baltic Republics occupied by Russia, had little internal constituency for Soviet rule.
The lesson of all of these revolutions is that a popular revolution, since it does not have an internal ecology of power, is always a revolution in favor of those ready to take power. Lech Walesa was not a man out of nowhere. He organized boycotts in 1968, strikes in 1970, in 1980, long since out of work from official factories, he scaled the fence of the Gdansk shipyards, and organized the strike. In 1983, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Far from being a man out of nowhere, a simple person that the mob elevated, he was a long time campaigner, a long time organizer, a long time politician. He spent years under secret police surveillance, and was constantly pushed out of work. The reality is a far more compelling figure, than the image of a nobody who became somebody in an instant. Thus, when the elections came, his "People's Committee" won all of the lower house seats, and all but one of the upper house seats, one of the most astonishing sweeps in electoral history anywhere.
This then is the iron law of popular revolution: It must continue until those who step forward are acceptable. It took several rounds in Argentina, it took only one in the Czech Republic.
American anti-pathy towards the regime in Tehran is mutual. The Iranian Revolution however, was an example of popular coup on the road to violent revolution, and it continued until the Shah had, in fact fled. The final Islamic regime, however, relied on organized military force to secure its hold on power – popular revolution had given way to a coup d'etat in favor of the most organized political force. Whether it would have won by continued demonstration, is not known, and largely academic, because the removal of the old regime was accomplished by popular action.
This demonstrates the difference between the myth and reality of popular revolution. The myth is that it is "non-violent." If one means strictly that there is no organized military violence, then perhaps this is the case, however, in general only the most decrepit regime will yield to absolutely non-violent demonstrations. Instead, most regimes fight back, and fight back strongly. If they can crackdown, and remove the locus of infection they will. Even if thousands die. The amount of violence in popular revolutions is then airbrushed out, or popular revolutions that are halted are airbrushed out of the mythology: Tiananamen, is not spelt or spoken by the priests of pure non-violence, and yet it was less violent than Tahrir Square was. Far less.
It is not that such popular revolutions do not occur: however, they are almost always predicated on violent struggles to establish leadership and existence. Poland? Consider how many people died in strikes leading up to 1988, 30 in 1970 alone. Czech Republic? Consider the 72 dead in the Prague Spring. The non-violent flank of successful popular revolutions prevails not by policing away violent opposition, but by interposing itself as the least unreasonable alternative.
Consider the overthrow of the Aparthied Regime in the Union of South Africa. Nelson Mandela was hardly non-violent, in fact, the ANC had ready its own police and military apparatus, repeatedly clashed with other groups in the movement, and removed by assassination opposition. In 1990 the New York Times ran an op-ed that asked "Why won't Nelson Mandela renounce violence?"
The answer was, of course, because Mandela was interested first and foremost in securing liberation for his people, for his nation, and in his time. He was not willing to condemn millions of people to suffer for years longer under a repressive and imperial regime, whose tendrils reached out into what is now Namibia and Zimbabwe, and beyond into the Congo, rather than scoring some academic point on how revolution ought to be conducted. He was the least violent alternative who could take power.
And this is part of the nature of successful popular revolution: behind it stands the abyss of violent revolution, of street battles, or military battles, of riots and looting, of burning, lynching, and terror unleashed, of lawlessness in the true sense that there is no orderly conduct of daily life. Popular revolution brings the course of business to a halt, but it is a promised pause before returning to it. The street demonstration, the strike, is then, not merely a wave that crashes against power, but a damn that holds back the rootless and nameless anarchic result of a government that has not merely lost the consent of the governed, but of a social order that people no longer respect.
This distinction is in the mind. The popular revolution asserts that there is an order, but that the leadership have violated that moral order. The violent revolution asserts that there is no moral order, and that a new one must be established by the traumatic baptism of the entire population. Popular revolution prevails precisely because the very adherents of the regime's power, those that must carry out its apparatus, realize they live in a house made of dry wood, and that beyond the banners, lie those with gasoline and matches, and no qualms about using them.
This is why popular revolutions often fail: their members are often as afraid of change, as they are adherents of it. Popular revolutions, as in Iran in 1979, as in France in 1789, are often overtaken by the violent crest behind them, but without that crest, there is no reason for power to concede. The popular revolution is the most delicate of revolutions, because unlike political revolution, violence is present, and often in the same places, as popular discontent. The politician elected on a wave to right a country before violence overtakes it, as FDR promised to do, has months or years. The leaders of popular revolution often have weeks or days, before the forces of organized violence, upon whose presence they rely, overwhelm them in turn.
The same forces that work in favor of popular revolution to evict occupation, work against it as a tool for reforming the established order. Under occupation, a small number use force to hold a larger number. In an established society, however, there is a large constituency for the status quo. It may well have to use excessive or unlawful violence to uphold its power, but it has nowhere to flee to. The occupier merely needs to be convinced to return home, and the popular revolution has to convince the public that they will be in possession of the country afterwards, and hence, unleashing larger that minimal violence will rebound against them. In the case of the status quo within a country, those who would lose a popular revolution, have no place to go.
Hence, popular revolution has to be divided into two kinds of popular coup: that which is a statement to the occupiers that the public will not cooperate, which approaches with minimalization of violence, lest it break the glass that it would drink from, and that which convinces an internal elite to yield, which must bare its teeth. First the students demonstrate, and the leaders ignore, then the unemployed demonstrate, and the leaders sneer. Then the hardened workers come, with their spanners and their trucks, and march, gasoline in hand on the Presidential palace. Then the guards run, and the leaders fly to some safe haven, and revolution is accomplished.
The successful popular revolutionary is the vaccine that arrives days before the plague, the fire truck that arrives minutes before the fire reaches the next house. The failed popular revolution exists in that bubble where the leadership share the consciousness of the public, or in the words of Isiah Berlin, they are sheep rallying for vegetarianism.