For over two hundred years, the President of the United States has taken the time once per year to deliver an address to Congress about the state of the nation. Sometimes, this was simply a written message that was read to Congress by a messenger. Other times, it has been a speech delivered personally by the President himself. Ever since the term of Franklin D. Roosevelt, this address has become widely known as the “State of the Union” address.
As a social anarchist, I’m not a big fan of Presidents and the disingenuous speeches they give. I am, however, a big fan of addressing public issues of local, regional, national, and international significance. As citizens of an allegedly free and democratic society, I feel that it’s our right — indeed, our duty — to talk about such issues and make our own decisions about them. Therefore, I’ve decided to issue my own State of the Revolution address.
A well-informed person could write an entire book on the subject. Sadly, I must admit that I’m not as well-informed as I’d like to be. Revolution is ideally a global affair, and my knowledge of international affairs is minimal, gleaned mostly from the Daily Show and internet chatrooms. My awareness of national and regional struggles is only slightly more expansive. Therefore, I will keep my thoughts relatively brief and mostly focused on the potential for revolution as I see it in my life, my community, and my region.
First, though, a few words on the international scene.
Globalization continues with each passing day. The question is no longer whether or not humanity will start to function as a single global society, but rather what form that global society will take. Will the world be a place of freedom, independence, and relative harmony, or a place of domination, centralized authority, and perpetual violence? Both tendencies seem to be experiencing a renewed resurgence, so it’s hard to say which way the struggle will go. The fate of the world for the next several hundred years, though, will probably be largely decided by the current and next generation.
I’ve been happy to see a greater focus internationally on global climate change and other environmental crises. The US could learn a lot from the work of other nations on these issues. But then again, the transnational corporations are continuing to become more entrenched in the global economy, surpassing small nations with the vastness of their wealth. And nobody really seems to be paying enough attention to Peak Oil. Sure, there’s the surface dialog about high gas prices, especially in the US and a few other places. But who is really ready to cope with the fact that from approximately this point forward, our oil supply will start to decrease?
Nationally, it’s been heartwarming to watch Bush’s poll numbers plummet — yet disheartening to see that nothing is being done about him, and probably nothing will be. There are mountains of evidence indicating that a sitting President has willfully deceived the American people and lead them into a war of aggression. Where are the massive general strikes? Where is the militant popular movement demanding for him to be impeached and tried for war crimes? Do people not appreciate the depths of his crimes, or are they just not willing or able to act on them?
Regionally and locally, I’ve been excited by a resurgence of environmental and social activism. This new wave of action (or at least the portion of it that I’ve been following) is largely student-led and consists of a wide array of reformist, radical, and revolutionary actions and campaigns. I think that people my age and younger are starting to get tired of being viewed as amoral consumers and starting to get tired of watching their lives and their futures ruined for a cheap buck.
The one fatal flaw of most of this activism, though, is a lack of revolutionary strategy. Reformist groups seek to challenge and petition corporate and government agencies without questioning the very existence of such authoritarian and inhuman institutions. Radical groups go a step further by seeking to oppose and disrupt oppressive institutions, yet often lack a progressive strategy for change and a constructive vision for forms of social organizing to replace the corporations and the centralized governmental bureaucracies. If we don’t get our food/energy/information/etc from the corporations, then where will we get it?
As I see it, then, the biggest challenge facing progressives, radicals, and revolutionaries today is to take all of this renewed dissatisfaction with the likes of Bush and channel it into forms of organizing that are effective, strategic, and revolutionary in nature. That way, we can take all of this energy people have and turn it into a powerful force for positive and lasting change.
We have all of this pent-up frustration over what Bush and the men around him and before him have done to this country and this world. What we need most right now is a way to draw all of this frustration together and channel it into actions and organizations that have a real chance of uprooting the authoritarian power base and sowing the seeds of a more free and democratic society.
I have some serious and specific ideas on how to go about this. For the past few months, I’ve been looking off and on for other people who share an interest in this sort of far-reaching strategic thinking and how to apply it here in Carbondale and throughout Southern Illinois. I encourage all people who are interested in strategic organizing to contact me and share their thoughts.
To be honest, it’s been rough going. But I’ve talked to a few other people about it on a few different occasions, and we all seemed to feel a sense of hope and have our own unique ideas to contribute. Therefore, as harvest time approaches and the students return to town, I’m hoping to see a resurgence in strategic thinking and planning. Really, I’m hoping that other people will get a project like this going and I can just come along for the ride! But either way, my heart lies with this effort to draw people together under the banner of strategic visioning and community organizing, so I will go wherever my heart takes me.
On a personal note, I would say that the State of the Revolution in my own life is looking much better than it has in a long time. For a while there, I was letting my exhaustion, frustration, and depression get the best of me. Now, with the help of a combination of yoga, prayer, and quality time with friends, I’ve seen a significant improvement in my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. This renewed foundation of personal empowerment has started spilling over into a renewed inspiration to take on creative projects and community projects.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a book called Revolution of One. This book outlines a collection of personal practices and community organizations that can help each of us to build our power and reach out from that place of empowerment to do good in our community and our society.
At the time, this approach to revolution was still fairly new to me, and I found myself bogged down in a series of personal challenges before I had the time to fully understand and implement the very strategies that I had just written about. But now, with a bit more experience under my belt and a bit more time for personal healing, I find myself taking to heart the lessons that I first learned while I was writing this book.
At some point in the next week or two, I plan on rereading Revolution of One. It’s a quick read, and it’ll help me to stay on track with this renewal of focus and purpose. Without even thinking about it, I’ve found myself intuitively applying some of the strategies and tactics contained therein with surprisingly good results. Therefore, I intend to reflect on what I’ve learned and shared with others, and what I’ve finally started to benefit from personally. From this kernel of positive personal growth, I can grow once again into the role of community organizing and perhaps even broader regional visioning. Together with other kindred spirits, I can do my part to leave the world in a better state than I found it.
Revolution is a daunting task. A true revolution challenges and transforms all aspects of life, from our innermost thoughts and feelings to the most broad and impersonal institutions of state, national, and international power. But ultimately, revolution starts and finishes with a shift in consciousness: a feeling that something is not quite right in the world; an understanding of how a better world might come into being; and a relentless drive to turn that vision into a reality.
This, then, is the State of the Revolution. The world is still in a sorry state, and our efforts to do something about it lie strewn about us like so many disparate strands of thread. But the fate of the world is in your hands, and in my hands, and in all of our hands. So let’s do whatever we can to honor this feeling inside of ourselves that something is not quite right in the world of today. Let’s work together to clarify and strengthen our understanding of how a better world might come into being. And most of all, let’s embrace our relentless drive to turn our shared visions into a better reality.
In the fires of our passion and the light of our vision, a more free, more cooperative, and more ecological world will be born. Any doubts of this that I may feel from time to time melt away when I look into the eyes of a fellow revolutionary, see the same fire that burns in my own heart, and know that we will not rest until our dreams of a better world have become a reality.