May 17, 2013

You Say You Want a Peaceful Revolution

I desperately hope that this post proves to be entirely unnecessary. I wish more than anything that some people are already beginning to make plans along the lines I will describe. If they are, this post will be redundant and beside the point. Nothing would make me happier.

Even though I think it's possible that such plans are already afoot, I haven't seen any stories or reports to convince me that is so. (If you have, please let me know immediately.) So here goes.

I'll state at the outset what I would love to see happen: a massive protest on the order of a million or more people descends on Washington, D.C. At the same time, huge crowds of protesters also congregate in other major cities, at least five and hopefully more than ten.

The central peg on which such demonstrations could be structured would be an anti-tax protest movement. From the perspective of such a movement, the unfolding IRS scandal is a gift from heaven. I myself don't consider the IRS story a "scandal," because I regard the behavior about which we are now learning as typical of the State's operations (as I discussed briefly here). I also think what we're learning is only the smallest tip of a gigantic iceberg.

But with regard to the protest movement I'm describing, my particular views about this story are utterly irrelevant. The critical point is that the IRS story is getting a lot of attention -- and a lot of people are deeply, profoundly angry. Another part of the reaction is equally, and perhaps even more critical: people are very angry across the political spectrum. The fury isn't restricted to the left or the right: it encompasses people of every political persuasion.

For those who fervently hope for major changes to the abominable State that rules us, this is the kind of moment to be seized without delay. The peg is not simply an anti-tax protest: everyone will be asked to refuse to file their tax returns next year. It is perfectly understandable that only a very small number of individuals refuse to file tax returns now: the dangers are very great for the man or woman who does so alone. This is more true when the protester has a family, and particularly true when the protester has children who depend on him or her for survival.

But what if millions of Americans declare that they refuse to file future tax returns? Is the government going to pursue all of them? And what if a sizable number of well-known people, including some famous celebrities, join the movement? Would the government threaten all of them? I say: let the bastards try.

A little more than a year ago, I described what such a protest might look like. In that article, the prospect of an attack on Iran was the impetus for the protest -- but this description could apply with equal force to a tax protest:
Even much larger numbers of protesters won't stop the horror that may be coming toward us. Remember what happened in 2002-2003. There were huge protests across the world -- and still the war against Iraq began. So protests that last for a day or less and then disperse aren't sufficient. But what might work is 500,000 or a million people (or even more) descending on Washington, D.C. -- and simply staying. The purpose would be very simple:


Just shut it down. Don't leave. Shut the damned place down completely -- until the U.S. Government disavows any and all plans to attack Iran in the present and foreseeable circumstances. Think of it as Occupy multiplied by a factor of 10,000, or maybe 50,000. And think what might happen if New York, Chicago, San Francisco and several other cities were shut down in the same way. We'd at least get the bastards' attention. It would be a colossal news story.

Oh, that's crazy, you think. That could never happen. Why not? Attacking Iran is crazy. Invading Iraq was crazy. The U.S. Government claiming it has the "right" to assassinate anyone in the world for any reason at all -- or for no reason, just because they feel like it -- is crazy. Most of what's happened in the last ten years is crazy. I see no reason to believe that lunacy is a trait on which the fuckers in the ruling class hold a monopoly. Those of us on the side of peace and life, instead of war and death, are entitled to some craziness, too.
The IRS story is perfect for these purposes, much more perfect than the Benghazi or AP stories. The IRS story gets everyone where they live (or try to): everyone recognizes that if the State can go after Tea Party organizations, the State can go after them.

In that earlier post about such massive protests, I described in some detail an ad that would help to educate people and mobilize them to action. I encouraged others -- especially those with much larger readerships than I have (which is almost everyone) -- to take up the idea, build on it, change it if they wish (maybe you have a much better idea, which would be great!), and get it talked about. No one with a sizable readership did a damned thing.

I've been through this several times before; one major example from my blogging is described in the previous article. I understand why people don't do anything: it takes time; it might bring unwanted government attention to you; perhaps people think it's too fanciful and fantastic. Maybe they simply think it's a lousy idea. Then come up with your own!

But Jesus, what an opportunity lies immediately to hand. You can easily rewrite my Iran ad for the purposes of an anti-tax protest. The tagline of my ad was: "So ... who are the Nazis now?" The answer, which the content of the ad makes inescapable, is that the U.S. government's actions are equivalent to those of the Nazis. Yes, it would be hugely controversial. Yes, it might cause a firestorm.

That's the point.

So rewrite the ad with a different aim. Perhaps the tagline is: "So ... who are the French aristocrats now?" Or: "Who are the Ancient Romans now?" There are doubtless much better ones.

The fact that millions of Americans across the entire political spectrum are furious is, as I said, an incredible gift. I hope it isn't squandered. It doesn't matter in the least that conservatives and liberals (and right-leaning libertarians and radicals on the left) are angry for what might be largely different reasons. From a tactical perspective, you can set all that aside.

Several years ago, I wrote: "In periods of general social dislocation, upheaval and turmoil, possibilities for coalition-building appear that may not exist in other times. We are living through such a period today in many ways." In that essay, from November 2009, I discussed why I thought a coalition between the Tea Party movement and those on the liberal-left side of the spectrum was possible. That article had been intended as the first of a series. I never completed it -- primarily because I finally, reluctantly concluded that the primitive tribalism that dominates our politics in fact made such an alliance impossible.

Perhaps enough has changed at this point to make such a coalition workable. Now those who regularly follow politics know that the U.S. government claims it has the "right" to murder any of us it chooses, wherever we are in the world, for whatever reason it wishes. Tens of millions of Americans continue to suffer enormous economic hardship. Speaking generally, I think it is accurate to say that many more Americans are desperate and fearful today in ways they haven't been, even fairly recently.

Desperation is a profoundly uncomfortable state of affairs for anyone. It opens up possibilities for action that hadn't existed before. And millions of Americans, on both the left and the right (using those terms broadly), see a government that is more and more oppressive and abusive, a government that claims unrestricted power, a government that claims it can destroy any one of us it wants to destroy. The IRS story captures all those elements, and more.

In the earlier post about a new coalition, I described how what appear to be highly unlikely alliances can be forged, using the example of the anti-slavery movement. I wrote:
It is not necessary, and usually it is not even possible, to restrict one's compatriots to those with whom one agrees about all issues, or even a significant subset of issues. One need not and should not expect or demand that those with whom one joins in a particular cause agree with or endorse one's general views. In this case, Clarkson and Wilberforce disagreed on every other then-current issue of importance and controversy.

But they agreed about slavery, and they agreed that it must be ended. That is all one should require and, I stress, that is all that is necessary. As in this case, the goal must be very clearly defined, and the members of the coalition must be fully committed to it. I would go still further: provided the goal is defined in a way that is not subject to compromise and equivocation, even the reasons which inform the participants' commitment to that goal need not be the same. Provided they agree on the goal itself -- as here, that slavery be ended -- that is all that is needed.
Imagine Washington, D.C. shut down entirely for an extended and indeterminate period of time. Imagine New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles and other cities shut down in the same way.

I absolutely reject the argument that it's not possible. History is filled with occurrences that no one predicted, with developments that no one had regarded as at all likely. And the world is full of possibility. The crime most frequently committed by most of humanity is to fail to recognize the fact of those possibilities, a fact sublime in its promise.

Start with a series of ads that are seen and mentioned everywhere: on television, on millions of blogs, Tumblr posts, and tweets. The call to arms can be very simple and direct: NO MORE TAXES -- UNTIL YOU CHANGE! Perhaps it is structured around the no-more-taxes pledge -- and perhaps the day of arrival in Washington, D.C. (and other cities) is Tuesday, April 15, 2014. We have lots of lead time. It could be the story of the century -- and for once, that empty phrase might actually be true.

As a strategic matter, and to encourage as broad a coalition as possible, maybe the call to arms should remain that open-ended: UNTIL YOU CHANGE. I wouldn't presume to suggest a list of demands at any time, either now or months from now. And perhaps such a list isn't needed or advisable; that is how coalitions are splintered. That kind of open-endedness might also be a good idea with regard to the bastards running the government. If millions of people descended on Washington and other cities and actually shut them down indefinitely, if millions of people refused to file tax returns -- well, who knows what the bastards might offer. It might be more than anyone now thinks. In effect, the protesters would be demanding: STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING NOW -- where "what you're doing" refers to the oppressive, abusive, murderous policies of this government. (As I'm writing this, I think one demand that I would hope everyone could agree on would be that the government unequivocally renounce its claim of a "right" to murder anyone and everyone it chooses. But even that demand might be inadvisable.)

Consider this, too: if a series of ads appeared, if it became a huge story, if tens of millions of people signed the NO MORE TAXES pledge (have a central site where all the names appear, including, we hope, lots of famous people and celebrities), if millions of people additionally pledged to go to Washington, and San Francisco, and Chicago on April 15 next year -- and if all that happened by next January or February, the government might offer concessions in what they hope would be a preemptive measure. If they don't offer enough, go ahead with the April 15 protests. Once events are set in motion and gather sufficient force, possibilities will open up that are now unimaginable.

As conditions continue to worsen for many millions of Americans -- and they will, for that is obviously the State's plan -- the pressures on the existing system will grow. In time, they will grow to very dangerous proportions. History, and the logic of the situation, tell us that those pressures will eventually erupt in violence. At a certain point, violence will be inevitable. But we may not be there yet. There may be time for a peaceful revolution.

A lot of people are deeply angry, and torn with anxiety about the future. If those colossal energies are directed toward a specific end, an end which will appeal to millions of Americans, there may still be hope for peaceful change, and even change on an enormous scale.

Don't say it could never happen. Things that could never happen take place all the time, and sometimes on a monumental scale. What I'm describing -- what I hope for -- represents a massive, once in a lifetime event. And it all starts with a conversation you have with a good friend. If you have that conversation, millions of others might have it, too. Get a group together to get some ads made. Start planning for demonstrations next spring.

It can happen. You can make it happen. And as long as I'm able, I will do everything I can to help.

Start talking about it, or about another, perhaps better idea. No one else is coming to save you. And if he says he'll save you, he's the last person you should trust. Obama should have taught you that, if nothing else.

What are you waiting for?