(George Lakey, Nation Of Change, 3 Aug 2012)
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I see no signs of a revolutionary situation in Norway. Students of revolution keep an eye on the perceived legitimacy of a nation’s leadership, and Norwegians are enormously confident that their little ship in a big global sea is being steered well. . . . The United Kingdom is a different story. The legitimacy of the nation’s leadership is definitely in trouble. The mass media shout the stories of the irresponsibility of the 1 percent and the politicians they corrupt. The government is a coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and is enthusiastic about enforcing austerity, running down the National Health Service and education system, forcing English university students to pay more for what used to be free education and opening new coal mines. Homelessness is already up by an estimated twenty-five percent. . . . One way that government’s hold on to their legitimacy is to have an opposition party that holds out hope that, if it is elected, things will dramatically improve. That used to work in the U.K., as in the U.S. . . . While students of revolution need to pay attention to trends in legitimacy, another key question is this: Can the present leadership solve the biggest problems facing society? . . . Arguably the biggest problem is climate change. While the British 1 percent is allowing some sensible policies, like electrifying the railways and increasing wind farms, there is no sign that it has the will really to take the necessary steps. When you add together declining legitimacy, the inability to address climate change and the absence of a hopeful alternative within the institutional framework, you have conditions for the opening of a revolutionary situation over the next 10 years in the U.K. . . . . . . How about the U.S.? . . . I see the same trends, though less advanced, in the United States. Even someone relying on news from the corporate-owned media gets plenty of reasons to give up on the leadership of the 1 percent. Six years ago Warren Buffett told The New York Timesthat “class war” in the U.S. was started by his class — “the rich class” — and it was winning. . . . The polls reflect huge disappointment with “the direction the country is going in” . . . Not only is legitimacy declining, but also it’s also clear that the 1 percent has no game plan for dealing with climate change. At least in the U.K. the political parties agree it is a serious problem, but in the U.S. one party actually denies it. It’s doubtful that the seas will fail to rise without Republican permission. . . . The role that climate change will play in creating a revolutionary situation is worth thinking about. The question isn’t whether masses of people are at this moment worried about climate change — they’re not. But what happens when people connect the dots about extreme weather, increased food prices and increased costs for public transportation? Are parents who have to choose between heating their houses and feeding their children going to believe that the country’s leadership is doing okay, while their children’s schooling is being flushed down the toilet and medical costs continue to inflate? . . . Notice that all these real-life issues are traceable to the work of the 1 percent. Tracing such connections is our job — we can’t count on the mass media to do it — and nonviolent direct action campaigns can help make them apparent to people. And, in a sense, our task has never been easier. When has the 1 percent ever been so transparently the central cause of so many crises erupting together? . . . The main challenge is to give up assuming that the future will look a lot like the world does now, with activists muddling through their various struggles in isolation. Who in Tunisia would have predicted in 2010 that their dictator would be overthrown in a year? In April of 1968, a London Times reporter wrote that the French public was apathetic and wondered why, given their problems, they seemed so apolitical. A month later the students were at the barricades on the Left Bank and over 10 million workers were striking and occupying their workplaces. . . . We now know that the Egyptian society also seemed quiet on the surface in the beginning of 2011, but that Egyptian activists had been preparing for at least nine years for the day when they could make their move. . . . As activists, we dance with history, and there’s no telling just when history will increase the pace of the dance. Instead of trying to guess by looking at today’s level of activity, it makes more sense to increase our thoughtfulness as we prepare for tomorrow. We need to consider rigorously — that is, strategically — whether protesting one-off summits like the G8 actually prepares for revolution or, as I believe, is a waste of time that could be better used for building actual campaigns. . . . History opens the door. It is our choice whether to prepare and go through it.