When is it a real “revolution”?

Alternate meanings of “revolution” – what do you think? Thanks, Frankie Norstad from the San Francisco Writers Workshop, for access to your photos for my blog!

“Revolution” – my giant Webster’s Unabridged says it means “overthrow of a government, form of government, or social system, with another taking its place.” A friend from the San Francisco Writers Workshop recently reminded me that Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and now Syria–like America in 1776 and France in 1789–were and are “real revolutions.” Where people die, suffer, lose their homes, livelihoods, neighborhood coffee shops, not to mention fathers, mother-in-laws, cousins, goddaughters and favorite politicians.

Neither the so-called 1968 May Revolution, nor the current Occupy Movement, merit the moniker “revolution”! They are, properly speaking “protest movements.”

This is not to deny their value, nor to dismiss them. To the contrary, isn’t a large, effective protest movement the sign of a healthy democracy? Protest movements in the U.S. create change—in the halls of power, as did the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party (make no mistake: the Republican Party today IS the Tea Party); or in the minds and hearts of the general public, which includes political rhetoric and media focus, as with the Occupy Movement.

Occupy looks more like Paris, 1968 in this photo – but in France, the lines of police wore helmets and dark plastic shields, looking more like space aliens – hiding their identities from their victims. (Photo credit: Frankie Norstad)

France in May 1968 was somewhere between a fascist dictatorship and a democracy (shows how tricky these labels can be). The so-called May Revolution resulted in a whole lot of injuries and one death (and that one is not firmly attributed to revolutionary activity). The government used rubber bullets to avoid killing the children of their bourgeoisie—their powerful middle class. Over 50 percent of these folks, even in ’68, supported President de Gaulle. His government was understandably edgy about alienating its major constituency.

The general strike in the spring of 1968 came closest to spurring systemic change, andthere was quite a bit of violence on the site of factory strikes. There were a lot of  successful social experiments going on when factory workers took over places the factory Sud Aviation in Nantes, but still not nearly enough of either change or violence to warrant the term revolution.

There are contingents on both sides – pro-violence and therefore for a violent overthrow of Life-As-We-Know-It in the U.S. or those who prefer to follow the Gandhi-MLK model – persistence, nonviolence. Jericho. And intensity building as we reach out to political conventions, then the electorate, until the awareness and attitudinal change become fully a part of America, 2012. Which camp are you in?

I’m headed for NYC tomorrow, and one of my primary objectives is to learn more firsthand about whatever is going on – always PLENTY – with Occupy Wall Street. I hope I return to the Bay Area having heard more from lots of individuals with all their various opinions.

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