‘Revolution’ is a very positive word that has been increasingly used in a negative sense as well. So it is important to be clear about how this word is used here in a very positive sense. When the problems of any system increase, normally it should be possible to resolve these or reduce these within the system. However when the problems become overwhelming and are seen to be spiraling almost out of control, causing very heavy avoidable harm and distress that can increase further at a very fast pace, then there is need for deeper systemic changes and changing the existing systems in significant ways. There is need for not just action to reduce distress but also for action to remove the causes of distress and destruction. This is how the need for revolution and the process of peaceful revolution should be understood in the present context.
By Bharat Dogra
While several countries need revolution and the entire world taken together as a unit also needs revolutionary changes, one country which most needs a peaceful revolution is the USA. The reason why this country needs revolution more than almost any other country is that the way in which this country has been run in recent decades has led to enormous avoidable distress and dangers within the county and even higher distress and dangers in many other countries, including very distant lands. No other country is so powerful and has such a wide reach as to impact the rest of the planet to the extent the USA does. It is for these reasons that a peaceful revolution is most needed in the USA, even though there may be several other countries which have been governed equally badly or even in worse ways by their ruling regimes.
The USA is a country very well endowed with natural resources and emerged from the special circumstances of the second world war in a highly favorable position to be the leading economic and political power of the world, having acquired also the additional advantage, an exorbitant privilege it has been called, of its currency being the world’s reserve currency with worldwide acceptance. These conditions created excellent circumstances for quickly achieving the well-being and prosperity of all citizens of USA, and yet the situation today, as revealed in several studies and surveys, is that roughly the bottom half of the population is struggling to meet its basic needs and does not have the financial capacity to meet relatively small emergencies. Those living in more extreme poverty, in conditions of homelessness or under the threat of evictions, are also increasing. This is caused to a significant extent by very high levels of economic inequalities—the bottom 50% of the population has only 1.5% of wealth. Levels of social discrimination and even racism are high, with people of color, particularly African Americans registering much higher levels of distress and deprivation at various levels. Despite some outer manifestations of gender equality, women suffer higher distress, deprivation and violence at several levels. Transgender people also suffer high levels of discrimination and distress.
There is a crisis of mental health, with such high levels of distress, stress and self-harm among children and adolescents that leading child health agencies have asked for declaring an emergency relating to this. Overall levels of violence, crime and self-harm are all exceptionally high too, while the incarceration rate here is the highest reported in the world, many times higher than countries at similar levels of development.
Many European countries emerged from the Second World War in a highly destroyed state, and if levels of human deprivation and distress there are today much lower than those of the USA, then there must be something seriously wrong with USA governance. In fact polls reveal very high levels of alienation and dissatisfaction among people. Elections have been increasingly problematic, and there are protests against diminishing civil liberties. Media has increasingly hesitated to report serious policy failures, and failed to reflect genuine problems and aspirations of people. Health and food (as well as farming) systems have been increasingly exposed to many serious hazards which in turn are linked to big business domination. The military industrial complex dominated by five big companies has been exerting a very heavy influence for aggressive policies, reflecting a wider strong trend towards prioritizing big business interests over welfare interests. This is also one of the main reasons leading to an escalating environmental crisis in which the fossil fuel giants, the arms industry and big agribusiness companies have played an important role. Those pushing hazardous and harmful products, highly destructive weapons and ecologically harmful technologies have manipulated to get an increasing share of the economy and thereby gain a higher influence on policy.
This has led also to highly destructive external impacts with the USA being the leading force of the maximum number of wars in the post Second World War years, wars (including civil wars) which have claimed close to ten million human lives. There have been a very large number of serious injuries and permanent disabilities as well. The displacement caused by these wars has surpassed that of the Second World War. The USA has also been the leading force behind the maximum number of coups against democratic governments in the world and in the assassination/ attempted assassination of popular leaders of several countries, including such great men as Patrice Lumumba and Salvador Allende who were a source of great hope for millions of people in their countries. The USA based corporates and billionaires have played a very important role in the worldwide spread of several harmful and hazardous technologies and products, an important example being the spread of GM crops. The USA has been the most important force behind a neo-colonial system of exploiting countries of the Global South on the basis of policies relating to trade, debt, investment, patents, currency, agriculture etc.
A point is reached when the need for systemic change becomes loud and clear, a point reached when a nation’s leader with great pride proclaims victory at a time and a place (for example Bush declaring victory soon after the Iraq invasion) when what has happened actually is the entirely avoidable death and destruction of thousands of innocent people with many more to come, mostly people of Iraq but also several US soldiers.
Keeping in view all these factors, while significant systemic changes are needed in the USA for reducing immense internal distress and intolerably high risks/hazards and their causes within the USA, similarly such changes are needed for reducing high levels of distress and dangers/risks/hazards and their causes at world levels. Above all such change is needed also for resolving the world level survival crisis which threatens to disrupt the life nurturing conditions of our planet.
Therefore beyond the domination of the USA political scene by election cycles in which such most important issues are largely missing, a big and peaceful mobilization of all people of the USA who truly value peace, justice, equality, fraternity, liberty, democracy and environment protection is needed. The existing movements for peace, non-violence, equality, justice, gender justice, democracy, civil liberties, human rights, true democracy and sincere spirituality can all contribute much to this, but they also must learn to integrate their objectives with those of each other, to work more in co-operation with each other and to patiently evolve a common program of a peaceful revolution. The aim of this peaceful revolution should be to secure the true and sustainable well-being of all people of the USA without any discrimination as well as protection of environment in such a way that they are at peace among themselves and at peace with the rest of the world, a situation where there is no need and push for forever wars or for exploitative policies towards other countries, and where defense is assigned the rightful place of just self-defense and never of avoidable wars. In addition the peaceful revolution should help to bring the USA to the forefront of an important and sincere role in resolving the survival crisis.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, A Day in 2071, Protecting Earth for Children and Earth without Borders.