We’ve learned, or taught ourselves, that is, to pass on many great and sound ideas. Even very simple and very popular ideas and propositions are cast-off before we’ve had much , if any, chance of even trying the thing on for size. One could say that quickly rejecting ideas, especially ideas that are “revolutionary” in their scope has been chique, the natural response of sophisticated people to anything that might disrupt the serenity of the unchallenged status quo.
Especially well planted in the mainstream political mind is this defeatist, don’t rock-the-boat kind of thinking. Changes to problems in our systems and structures that are popular, in the majority even, often go unaddressed because the solution, no matter how obvious, may seem like some kind of impossible mission. In a state of social depression brought on by the failure to address obvious problems the modern mind can quickly go from skepticism, to cynicism, to pessimism, to complete withdrawal and quite acceptance of the unacceptable. We live, as Thoreau said, “lives of quiet desperation”.
But before we give in total surrender, let’s try to remember that everything that once seemed impossible but is today, the way we’ve always done it, started out as a revolutionary idea followed by a proposition of action, followed by action. Certain human rights, ending the reign of kings, flying to the moon and back are all ideas that once looked like something impossible to achieve and I’m sure that those who first uttered support for those previously un-tried, un-done ideas or events were questioned for being so overly optimistic or maybe just down-right crazy. Still, these once impossible ideas gained ground and succeeded either entirely or at least to some extent, whereas doing nothing, because nothing requires anything of anyone, would have guaranteed failure in human rights, democratization of governments or going into space.
If we allow the skeptics, cynics and pessimists to create a culture where revolutionary ideas that are desperately needed end up in a graveyard of thought, we will never move forward and what cannot move forward will soon begin to roll backwards because our systems, customs and habits, like everything else in nature moves, nothing is static.
Here in the US our political outlook has become such an obvious example of systems that have become by their failure to move forward, almost totally bogged-down, so much so that we are now moving backwards, losing civil and constitutional rights, losing democratic power, of, by and for the people and even losing in our standards of quality of life, our ability to live well that is. Political habits from the power of money in politics, the dominance of two parties, old fashioned, unfair and inadequate election rules and a general lack of accessibility to the people are all very unpopular but to suggest ideas that require actions might lead to solutions to these problems is to, more often than not, be seen as being an unrealistic trouble-maker.
The Sanders movement is an interesting example of how close we can get but how easy it is to turn back when we are faced with that next revolutionary thought or idea that might have made real change possible. The desire to address a host of current political problems was there, the passion and the ability to clearly see what needed fixing was there but when the movement came to the next step, the revolutionary step that is of stepping off of the two party platform and running down the track of independence from the system came around, the movement froze in its tracks, turned back on itself and delivered first Donald Trump and then Joe Biden.
We will never know what might have happened had that movement struck out to explore the world of new possibilities. Sanders might have won, if not in 2016, maybe in 2020. The movement was gaining ground, lots of ground and even had Sanders failed to win the seat, the strength of the structure of our two-party duopoly would have been seriously challenged and Democrats and Republicans would have been forced to rethink their positions. Though we will not know what might have been, one of the saddest of things, we certainly know what is and what is, is a regressive movement within both parties who feel safe now from anything that comes close to resembling revolutionary change. They have the ball and are running with it, backwards. Just what they wanted!
They say that when nothing is ventured, nothing is gained and in our political world this idea surely stands. It stands in fact throughout our lives and throughout our world. A sense of agitation or desperation is not the same as action. One can be agitated and desperate and complacent all at once, in fact it happens all the time. It becomes depression and if we ask anyone who suffers from depression they will tell you that depression consumes a lot of energy, but adding to the sorrow of depression, it is energy that does nothing and goes nowhere. It is energy lost, time that is lost and none of us can afford such a setback as lost time and energy. That kind of thing comes at too much of a cost.
When someone among us calls out for the formation of a new political party, for getting money out of politics by publicly financing elections, for moving into ranked choice voting, open debates, nationalizing energy systems, funding public health, canceling debt, fully and finally establishing civil rights for all Americans, reducing violence, exploring space, healing cancer and so on and so on we would better serve ourselves by getting fully behind those ideas and most importantly those actions inspired by the ideas, that will actually bring those solutions forward.
This is not a time for the timid approach to what may be existential problems. We do not need violence to promote revolutionary ideas but we do need to be bold and brave, we need to cultivate some confidence by winning once in a while. We need to see some success in terms of actually successfully addressing real problems but also as inspiration for tackling other maybe even more complex problems. There are so many ways and areas of interest where we might or must stand-up. We may seize the moment, create the change and live to be glad that we did. We will not know until we try.