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TaIkin’ Bout a Revolution

July 5, 2023

Don’t ya know
They’re talking about a revolution?
It sounds like a whisper

— Tracy Chapman

Today is the 4th of July, also known as Independence Day in the United States. So it’s a good day to mention that The R-Word’s first birthday will be on Monday, July 10th — just days away.

Independence day in the United States is a thing very much related to revolution. It was a day borne of revolution. But did you know….

During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain in 1776 actually occurred on July 2, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain’s rule.  After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. (Source: Independence Day, Wikipedia)

So, apparently Americans could well be celebrating Independence Day on July 2. But it really doesn’t matter much to me one way or another. I’m not patriotic. (This article partially explains my lack of enthusiasm for the stars and stripes.) And while I loved fireworks as a kid, I’m not particularly fond of them anymore. So July 4th is just another noisy day for me.

The Tenth of July

… was the publication date for my (explicitly) non-manifesto (anti-manifesto?) titled Revolution 2.0, which I suppose was a sort of prose poem celebrating the possibility (as it seemed to me at the time) of a potent and transformative non-violent revolutionary movement — an explicitly eco-cultural revolution. This was the first article in The R-Word.

The R in The R-Word, of course, stands for Revolution. And my intent in beginning The R-Word nearly a year ago was—mainly—to try and spark a conversation about what revolution could mean today, a day in which shooting at people with muskets isn’t going to solve any real problems. But it’s also a day in which voting for representatives, proposing policy changes, writing to congressmen and waving a flag isn’t going to solve any problems either. At least that was my assumption, whether made explicit or implicit in my non-manifesto. My non-manifesto was meant to act as a spark, an initiation into conversation. It was meant to announce the putting up of a virtual big tent in which a conversation about non-violent revolution could occur. I wanted to invite us to re-imagine revolution for the 21st century.

Why call it a ‘revolution’? Why not simply call it a ‘movement’? Toward a taxonomy of kinds of revolution

… was the title of my very short July 15 article.

This paragraph is salient in answering the title question:

“When I thought seriously about what it would mean to amplify our movement/s toward sufficiency or adequacy, I could not help thinking that ours would no longer merely be a social movement. It would have to be a revolution.  A revolution is passionate, intense, deeply engaging and engaged to the point of utter devotion and even plenty of personal sacrifices on the behalf of the revolution.  A revolution has fervor, intensity, devotion, risk…. A revolution means to act swift and with gusto.

That, I thought, was what is required. And I still believe this 100%”

On July 16, roughly a week after the initial un-manifesto, I published Toward a taxonomy of kinds of revolution. It was a very short article, but it had a little meat on its bones. It provided a leaping off place for conversation about revolution (there can be no revolution without conversation about revolution). But no one commented in the comments section below the article, despite the fact that this short article could have served as a fine entry into an imaginative dialogue.

The Energy of a Word

I am a poet. Poets often have a tendency to toss familiar words into unfamiliar contexts, to set them down in strange places in order to liberate some trapped energy in the usual, familiar use of words. We often see such use of language (poetry) as a form of magic. It isn’t a supernatural form of magic, but a natural one. But it’s no less powerful for being natural.

Revolution is a word charged with a lot of energy. And I want to say that it is an apt word for what we’re up to here in The R-Word. (I called it The R-Word because, like the F-Word, folks tend not to want to use that word in polite company. It’s a dangerous word, a word with venom and fireworks, passion and exuberance.) But it’s also a misunderstood word. It’s so commonly and strongly associated with insurrection and violence that it requires a bit of rehabilitation — a bit of magic.

In various places on the web, I’ve explained that I am on a mission to make use of the energy in the r-word. It’s the energy I want. It’s this energy I hope to help liberate.

How to Celebrate The R-Word’s Birthday

Light a candle (just one candle, to mark one year, one trip around the sun).

  1. Assume a prayerful attitude, or just an attitude of reverence toward all of Life.
  2. Spend some quality time with yourself, contemplating the energy in the word, revolution.
  3. Write a poem, a short essay, an article, a letter….
  4. Send it to The R-Word as a submission. Address: jrivermartin at gmail dot com.
  5. Post a comment below.
  6. Raise your voice above a whisper.

Short notes, paragraphs, poems… will be published together in a single article, if folks will send these. Longer pieces will be published as articles, etc., in their respective sections.

Before we can spark a revolution we’re going to have to have a conversation about revolution, the dangerous, explosive word! And ours explodes with flowers and hugs!


Teaser photo credit: Juliescribbles, Creative Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

James R. Martin

I'm an eco-cultural philosopher -- which is a fancy way of saying I am obsessed with trying to understand our human relationship to ecosystems and the biosphere in relation to philosophy of culture.

Tags: building resilient societies, cultural revolution