Friday, July 18, 2008

Working For as Opposed to Working With

Why are so many revolutions started by intellectuals who impose the belief that life is horrible on people who might not think that way on their own? Is that why so many of the "ground-swell" revolutions don't live up to their initial beliefs and philosophies? Is that why intellectuals who have such grand ideas at the start transform into dictators of the worst sort?

After all, the core group begins with this wonderful idea, one of utopia where all are equal and work together to make a better whole, and then spends years pushing it at people who are satisfied (rightly or wrongly) with their lot. By the time the revolution succeeds, if it does, the intellectuals are so used to shoving the "proper" thoughts into the heads of people who are reluctant, or as often styled, too ignorant, to think these thoughts themselves that they continue to "dictate" what everyone is to think or believe, something that almost always violates the principles those self-same intellectuals were attempting to realize.

I find this connection especially odd when so much of the "intellectual class" believes in pastoralism, returning to the land, to the roots of humanity before we became so wrapped up in technology and workaholicism.

Offhand, the revolutions that come to my mind are the Russian revolution and Marxism realized in ways Marx would not have approved. The Iranian Revolution was started by college students, many of whom probably had some experience in other countries and definitely benefitted from the liberal aspects of Iranian culture. Did they really intend to bring about a restrictive religious regime? What other revolutions came about because of imposed ideals that turned into dictatorships? I know there are others, even though I can't name them at the moment, that demonstrate this same type of pattern.

So, I hope you enjoyed your stray thought for the month, brought to you by the unlikely combination of something Holly Lisle wrote in one of her classes about indoctrinating people into the belief they are victims combined with having reached the portion of Nicholas and Alexandra which recounts the roots of Russian Marxism through the early life of Lenin.

P.S. Yes, I've violated title capitalization rules. But I tried and I just can't decap the two most important words in the title ;).

12 comments:

Mama Rose said...

Mar, really, now--don't ever apologize for deliberately breaking grammar rules. Your title needed those caps and you know it.

As for the essay, it's very thought-provoking. I've never considered that subject in that way before. I want to think about it more before I comment on the content, if I manage to get back here to do so. Swamped life these days.

Linda

Deirdre said...

Interestingly enough I think in some ways *every* revolution has this issue. Even in a military coup generally the folks doing the couping are doing it because they think they can do a better job for the country than the current leadership. Sure, there are people out there who think they would make awesome Dictators and then go about making that happen, but more often than not the thought process involves a better life for everyone.

Jean said...

Excellent subject. We see examples of this whenever we take a back room idea or project and attempt to take it global. The very things that require something to expand beyond the handful of visionaries who concocted it corrupt it in the process.

I'm not sure how much this phenomenon has been studied, but the book Small Giants is devoted to it. I believe the important thing to focus on is how the person or group realizing the vision manage to avoid corrupting it -- in some or many cases, it can't be done. There is a price to pay to avoid the corruption you reference, and I suspect the personality type willing to act on ideas to make them a reality is not typically the type to fore go the transition that corrupts the process.

Hmmm...sounds like an interesting dissertation topic...

Margaret said...

Hi Linda :). That PS was directed at a friend of mine who just recently had a title capitalization "discussion" with me. She doesn't give way on "words that are longer than four letters." Me, I was trained that way :D.

Really, Dee? There aren't people who say, "I want to be a bloody dictator when I grow up?" Yeah, you're probably right that to some degree all change suffers from this issue.

And Jean, same to you on the trouble. I'm not sure I could be strong enough to hold to the vision with the myriad compromises I'd have to make. No worries about me taking over the world any time soon. If you'd like, go ahead and use it for your dissertation. It would make a fascinating read. Only you have to send me a copy when you're done :D.

jodi said...

I've always been fascinated by the subject. Not to get into a "I think it's utopia" discussion, but I've been studying Singapore.

Back when the British Empire abandoned them after WW2 and the country was an absolute mess, Lee Kuan Yew (no, I'm not advocating him, I'm simply amazed he could pull it off)took the country from third world backwater to cleanest, least corrupt government in Asia. Clean water, high health standards, housing for the people, transportation, amusement, education, flush toilets and a powerhouse economy. It's been said to be a socialist democracy with one party in charge, and for most of those years, it was Yuan.

I think, it depends on the person who starts the revolution. A person with that kind of strength of will, incorruptibility, vision for his country and people, and the right people around him--is a one in a billion shot. People might not be happy with Singapore, but when the people on the Singapore Expat boards complain that children are going downtown in the middle of the night, (on public transport) getting drunk (twelve year olds!!) and sleeping it off in the street--it says a lot for their safety and stability.

I think, when he did step down, Yuan was a good example of a benevolent dictatorship, and he did--(wow) give power back to the people, in increments as they showed they could handle it.

Holly said...

My take? The majority of utopian movements assume that the majority of people are too stupid, weak, gullible, or helpless to make intelligent decisions on what they want for their own lives. So they are designed on the premise that in the utopia, some outside force will determine what is best for everyone.

Movements where each individual cannot decide the direction of his own life, no matter how stupidly or thoughtlessly he does it (movements where he is protected from himself, in other words), are movements heading directly toward hideous dictatorships or control by committees of self-appointed elites.

Freedom is the right to make stupid choices as much as it is the right to make smart ones.

Margaret said...

That's interesting about Singapore, Jodi. I didn't know their history but maybe I'll take a look into it now that you've made me curious :).

And Holly, why am I not surprised ;). Though suddenly I find myself comparing political systems with FrontPage and shuddering. Yes, better to be wrong some of the time than never get the chance to figure out what is right.

Jean said...

I'm reading My Year in Iraq, and I can't help thinking of the mess Iraq would be in today (even worse than it is) with what I'm reading about the Governing Council in the first year after Saddam's fall.

(only commenting on the book and what it says -- I don't intend to start or incite a comment riot, because I know there are a myriad of beliefs on that subject)

Margaret said...

Haven't read the book, so I can't comment intelligently. However, I'll point you to another book in the kids' section that might provide an interesting view even though I have only skimmed them. Apparently there's a young Iraqi woman whose blog from about that timeframe was picked up and published.

Jean said...

Sure. What's the title?

Margaret said...

Now if I could have remembered the title, I would have told you already :). I'm pretty sure this is it though: http://www.amazon.com/Baghdad-Burning-Girl-Blog-Iraq/dp/1558614893/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1216673720&sr=8-1

Looked it up at the library and there were too many options. There's a book 2 as well though, which there was in the one the librarian recommended.

Jean said...

Found 'em both. Thanks.