Happy Revolution Day

Read the Declaration of Independence (I republish it here every year).

The founders were not always patriots. They began as traitors, risking everything to sever their ties with the government that was supposed to keep them safe but that broke that promise and stole their freedom.

America didn't become independent in the first week of July of 1776. The founders didn't, with a stroke of the pen, create a free nation; rather, they formalized a revolution, and pledged to that revolution their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. It took seven more years for the states to become independent.

Thomas Jefferson knew that the course of governments is toward greater authority and tyranny. That governments become destructive to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was a fact acknowledged in the Declaration without fanfare. Whenever—not "if" or even "when"—it happens,

it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Government's advance toward tyranny can be slowed by resistance—that's our day job—but it can only be reversed by revolution.

Is it time now for another revolution? As Norm Pattis notes, "We now have our own lords, and they are no longer distant." We have standing armies (police forces, with more firepower than an 18th-century army) among us; the right to trial by jury is under fire. Meanwhile, corporate overlords effectively—through their power to spend—choose and control our representatives so that they can have the keys the public till. We battle the combined forces of government and corporation for the minds of our children, whom they would turn into complacent compliant consumers.

Religions monopolize thought, corporations monopolize wealth, and governments monopolize force. When any two of them combine, the threat to freedom increases exponentially. James Madison could never have imagined the concentration of wealth and power that the modern corporation represents; if he had, the Bill of Rights could have insulated government from corporate control.

So is it time now for another revolution? Revolution requires critical mass: the instigators of the revolution of 1776 were the elite, but they were backed by the masses. Most Americans today are complacent compliant consumers; they haven't the foggiest idea what freedom means. If they had some clue, the politician who, in a televised debate, said . . .

We have to fight for our freedoms, also, economic and our national security freedoms.

. . . would have been laughed off the stage and forced to retire in humiliation from public life. As long as the American people are cornfed, fat, and happy with their economic and national security freedoms, the government-corporate complex will be safe from revolution.

And yet . . .

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

The time may not be right for revolution now; that does not mean that it never will be. And until the day arrives when we must refresh the tree of liberty, it's our job to keep the spirit of 1776—the spirit not of independence but of revolution—alive.

Preserve the spirit of resistance. Celebrate independence in September; celebrate revolution today.


4 responses to “Happy Revolution Day”

  1. Bear in mind the dark side of rebellion: in a way, it is the enemy of freedom. Rebellions draw everyone in, with or without choice. It’s impossible to remain neutral and apart in a rebellion.

    That’s not to say that rebellion is never appropriate, but it’s not just a shining beacon of liberty.

  2. We have been long overdue for a revolution, by any objective standard. But, as both you and Jefferson point out, there is considerable inertia amongst the populace. So long as it is tolerable, people will tolerate it. And government has used every weapon in its arsenal to ensure that the greatest number had a stake in continuing the status quo. However, it appears that the effectiveness of those weapons has declined sharply. The unifying effects of a foreign enemy? Threadbare, at best. The self-interest in continuing government benefits? Unsustainable, in light of the current deficits. And the state of the economy, with around 8 million jobs disappeared, has left many with little left to lose, and those who do have something are feeling very insecure about it. Kristofferson may have been more right than he knew when he said that “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

    Maybe the powers that be can pull it out again. But maybe, just maybe, we’ve hit that point in history where enough people are willing to tear down the power structure. That doesn’t mean that what would come after would be necessarily better–that’s always a crapshoot. But it’s a start.

  3. If government is the monopolization of force, isn’t a revolution very similar? Even the writers of the Declaration acknowledged that government was necessary, and that revolution was only justifiable after incredible efforts to write the wrongs from within the system.

    There may well come a time when American political apathy decreases. But at that time it would be wrong for speakers to lead the nation directly into revolution. For a revolution to be righteous, it would have to be preceeded, at a minimum, by a period of active participation by citizens.

    “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.”

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