French Revolution

Revolution is inherently a very noble concept as it is based on three very important  understandings for promoting improvement of human society. Firstly, there is a recognition that there is something basically wrong with the way human society is organized and functions at present, leading to avoidable large-scale distress and potential of this increasing even more in future.

Next , something needs to be done urgently to change the existing affairs in basic ways so that distress is reduced widely and on longer-term basis, and this can be achieved best  by identifying the basic, root causes of distress, removing/steadily reducing the basic causes of distress (as distinct from just reducing the symptoms of distress).

Thirdly, it is possible and desirable to make or create such change and to be involved in this, no matter in how small and humble a way.

The path of revolution is different from that of others who just try to do good things  to reduce distress in  random ways, or anyway without bothering much about the basic causes of distress. Those who work in a random way are also welcome to contribute as long as they do not increase the causes of distress in other ways. While in many contexts their contribution too may be good and noble, but clearly they are not revolutionaries.

An essential characteristic of revolutionaries is that they strive to go to the root causes of all avoidable distress, try to the best of their ability and in cooperation with like-minded people to identify and understand these causes, try to find ways of reducing or removing these causes and try to support this thinking with some action, no matter how small. This is at the back of their mind all the time even though they make may be doing routine things as and when needed. In the various aspects of their own life they try to take decisions, to the best of their ability,  which will help to reduce the causes of distress, no matter in how small a way.

All people who try to live in accordance with this thinking are revolutionaries, or at least potential revolutionaries. There is something inherently good and noble about being concerned about the distress of all others as well and of trying to be involved consistently in reducing this in basic ways, being always conscious about this wider role of humanity and striving to live up to it. There should be respect for all those who try to live in this way.

It is another matter, however, that some of those who consider themselves to revolutionaries, or even leaders of revolutionaries, may make serious mistakes and thereby create a lot of problems  for others as well as for themselves. Let us not forget that sometimes colossal distress has been inflicted in the name of revolutions as the leaders who captured the revolutions either made serious mistakes in their analysis, or acted in highly selfish and ruthless ways.

So the way forward is to devise ways in which the possibilities of such serious mistakes can be avoided or minimized. An important way of ensuring this is that wherever and whenever possible revolutionaries  should now choose the path of non-violence and transparency, whereas earlier revolutionaries often chose the path of violence and secrecy.

In the present-day world at least, it is likely that revolutionary ideas and actions will be able to progress much more along the path of non-violence and transparency. This makes it possible to reach out to more people and to involve more people in consultations, to obtain expert guidance when needed, to conduct and assign/obtain more research, and to create much greater space for self-corrective mechanisms. This strengthens democracy and peace, and makes it possible for more people to be involved over longer terms, with less personal risk to themselves and their families. This makes it possible to make more solidarity connections at not just the national but also international levels.

The path of non-violence does not mean a negation of self-defense measures and precautions. In fact with growing unity and solidarity of revolutionaries all over the world, revolutionaries are likely to have more security compared to several revolutionaries in history. The path of revolution requires much caution, consultation and study.

While the need for revolutionary thinking and life was there earlier also, in the present times of 21st century this is much greater keeping in view the survival threat that looms menacingly ahead of humanity and all  forms of life. This survival threat implies that now more basic changes in how humanity lives and thinks are required with much more urgency than before.   Hence there is now more compelling need for revolutionary thinking and activity, and for more people to join the path of revolution, with all the care and caution and thoughtfulness that this demands.

When does a revolution take place? An individual becomes a revolutionary when she ( or he) starts believing firmly in the need to bring basic changes in society to reduce avoidable distress now and on longer-term basis, also removing/reducing causes of this distress, and  bringing personal life in harmony with this thinking. A society becomes revolutionary when most individuals become revolutionaries  and learn to cooperate with which others to take forward the revolution.

One clarification is needed before concluding—what exactly is meant by reducing all avoidable distress of others. Here we mean reducing all avoidable distress of not just present generation but, looking ahead to the extent possible, reducing distress of future generations as well. Secondly, we mean reducing distress not just of humanity but of other life-forms as well. Hence the revolutionary thinks of reducing distress in a  holistic sense.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth for Children.


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