It’s not easy to try to think and write about revolutions in the abstract when one is happening right now. So for now I give up trying to be general purpose. I’ll use daily events that strike me as having important consequences for the long-term, for revolutions in general.
What strikes me yesterday and today are the two videos of the pepper spray incident at UC Davis and the one of the chancellor leaving her office walking down a sidewalk lined by almost totally silent students — the silence of shame.
There is great power in these videos and many others of other police over reactions. Somehow this power must be taken into account. I think of the power of the video of Rodney King being beaten by LA police. That seems so long ago. These videos are powerful and meaningful and transmit and IMPLANT so many memes. They go way beyond written words.
Besides the “chancellor walk” video, the pepper spray video really stirred up my feelings. First the pepper spraying itself: The students were sprayed as if they were ants and roaches being sprayed with RAID. Is this how our self-described betters, superiors, masters think of us? The 1%, the mayors, the chancellors, the “leaders” think of us? For many of them we know the answer. They look down on us, they think they are better people than we are, more deserving than us. They believe their wealth proves they are better. We are nuisances, insects to be sprayed into submission.
And all the world can see it now in videos on U tube and on the internet forever. (And securely backed up by the NSA in Utah or wherever).
And then there was displayed for the whole world to see the immense power of the shame meme. “Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you, Shame on you. Shame on You. Shame on You. Shame on you. …” Let every revolutionary note well: This is one of the most powerful ideas we have. Our moral sense. Our feelings of what’s right. Our feelings of fairness and justice. These feelings have been evolved in us because we are social creatures. We live and work together in groups — from loving couples to families, to towns and cities, and corporations, and nations. The 1% believe that all people are always selfish and greedy. They are wrong. Yes some people may be always selfish and greedy. But most people are only sometimes selfish or greedy. The rest of the time they live and work well cooperatively with others. The revolution needs to use this truth, and that is what is happening with all the occupys, all the general assemblies. This meme — that most people most of the time are not selfish and greedy but instead want to cooperate, want to work together, want to help others — this meme must be spread far and wide. The 1%, not recognizing this truth, are destroying their own creations, the corporations, by their encouragement of the selfish greed of the executives and managers. They call it the “agency” problem. It is a lie to say that we cannot live in peace and work together with one another.
You could see it in the faces of some of the police. They were ashamed of what they were doing, of what they had done. This is so powerful. We can defeat them with words. Just words. But powerful words: The universal moral sense of humanity, those fundamental feelings of fairness and generosity, those desires to help and cooperate with others to help make things better for everyone. These are what make us human. Shame them and encourage them to change. Show them how to change. Help them change. Show people by our own examples of how it could be.
“Who’s University? Our University. Who’s University? Our University. … “ I am not an academic, but this got to me. I spent many years studying at and working as a researcher at UCLA. I know why we have Universities. Universities gathered and protected and passed on to us huge amounts of knowledge discovered and produced in antiquity. Euclid, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and many, many more not only Greeks. Universities exist to seek and discover and preserve new truths, new knowledge and pass it all on to succeeding generations of students and to all of humanity. To seek, to work for a University degree should be considered to be one of the most noble things one can do in life. Yet what is our present system doing? It is systematically making it more and more difficult to get a university degree because it can only see a University as one more thing to privatize, one more thing to squeeze out more profits from, and it sees students as potential debt slaves. It is not enough to say education should be free. No, rather, people should be paid, as if it were work, because it is work, to go to school — any school from kindergarten through graduate school — just as researchers and any other people who work are paid. Humanity needs more knowledge about everything. Our societies and cultures need this to continue human progress.
Who’s University? Our University. Humanity’s University.
And our dysfunctional system sprays noxious chemicals on University students as if they were ants and roaches and seeks from them only profits.
We have a lot of work to do. But as the University of California at Davis students said to the police “You can go now.”, we, all of us, the 99% plus the 1%, will someday say to the 1%: “You can go now.”