A(n ongoing) discussion.
Maybe we glorify revolution and try to define and understand such an abstract concept better because humans are innately scared of change, but revolutions are – more often than not – perceived as good change, so we cling to it.
I use the term “change” rather than “progress” here intentionally. Unlike progress, change does not denote a strictly linear growth. It leaves space for the people, establishments, ideas, situations, or anything of the like “who came to power after the Revolution [to be] the same [entities] who held power before the Revolution.”¹ It has room for retrograde motion.² “It is becoming always vigilant for the smallest opportunity to make a genuine change in established, outgrown responses.”³ A shift.
Historically, revolutions occur alongside attempts to rearrange existing power structures via “the elimination of a perceived rival.”4 More recently, the term has been deemed “a private good”5 in place of solely a public good, likely due to its deeply rooted political status “not as a lawless upheaval but as a lawful recovery.”6 Representation of revolution in media such as this has the potential to overlook the relentless violence often associated with these endeavors.
My own understanding of revolution does not depend on the essence of violence, and learning about the Siege of Leningrad while in St. Petersburg with my HUMES study group solidified this for me. Rather, I believe the resistance against violence sparks truly revolutionary shifts within individuals. While instinctively reacting to amoralities with more violence is most common, the true revolution is found with the – ironically less romanticized – acts of love.
More raw thoughts on revolution and progress below.
¹ Lewis H Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly, vol. 7 no. 2. (repr., New York: David Rose and the American Agora Foundation, 2014), 19.
² Thomas S Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).
³ Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (repr., Berkeley: Crossing Press, 2007), 140-141.
4 Philip Gourevitch, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families (New York: Picador, 1998), 62.
5 Lapham, Quarterly, 22.
6 Lapham, 18.