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What ever happened to revolutions?

By Jackson Murphy
web posted January 6, 2003

The world was suddenly given a large middle finger from the leader of North Korea and it got me to wondering why it is that a backward nation on the road to nowhere hadn't had a good old fashion revolution. Actually it was this pithy line from blogger Juan Gato that got me thinking: "You know, I'd feel a lot better about the world if I could find some 'rebel' group out there actually fighting for liberty rather than for the privilege of stamping everyone under their particular boot."

Where are the good revolutions against tyranny? It wasn't just North Korea either; we have Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia (seriously could it be any worse?), and Canada (yes Canada). It isn't just sad despotic regimes either; it is religions, institutions, and regions. So where are the revolutionaries, the good guys?

Maybe the idea of revolution is passé. We have had so many: scientific, industrial, green, technological, conservative, Reagan, American, Raelian Clone-a-lution (well not so much), and French. Aghast, yes even our fearless friends the French had one. Sure the United States could militarily spark revolutions here and there, okay everywhere, but at the end of the day countries and regions, in this case those in the axis of evil or the Islamic civilization are going to have to reform themselves even if we start the ball rolling with a few strategically placed bombs.

It is not like there haven't been any revolutions in the past, say, fifty years. There have been plenty. It's just that most of them aren't any damned good. Worse, many of them don't march towards freedom. Some of them have regrettable names. Quebec had the unfortunately named 'Quiet Revolution' failing to note the irony of being quiet while supposedly trying to make noise. Sure some of them like the 'Velvet Revolution' in Czechoslovakia worked out-and having a playwright as leader was pretty cool. Heck, velvet is way cool.

But there hasn't been a really good revolution in years. And certainly not in any place that truly counts either-or truly needed one. Revolutions lately have been mostly bad. They are often Islamic, radical, radically Islamic, Islamist, fundamentalist, or all of the above. Revolutions are usually about breaking stuff or joining stuff. Places like Iran or Sudan are about joining fundamentalist Islam and then, surprise, trying to break stuff.

Part of this dilemma is what counts as being a "revolutionary" these days. It involves balaclavas and smashing windows at McDonald's or The Gap and debating the merits of 'globalization' while wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt (preferably made by hand with hemp). When you are smashing the windows of a place that sells a burger for less than $2 what exactly is revolutionary?

In Iran, mostly underreported in the "mainstream" press, there are the makings of a great revolution. Last fall in National Review Online Michael Ledeen described the situation: "Iranians are certainly worse off, freedom has been restricted even more (some 86 publications have been shut down in the past two years — including one newspaper that hadn't even begun publishing — scores of journalists, editors, and publishers have been arrested, and hundreds of students and teachers have been beaten, incarcerated, tortured and killed)."

And yet, the Iranian protest movement continues on. Now this is a revolution in the making that you can get behind. The narrative in this story is not welcome in the press. I would guess that it has something to do with the end game. That an Iran post-revolution would involve much more Americana-Brittany Spears, Eminem, and Coke-than is deemed worthwhile by the staff of places like The Nation.

What is so exciting about the situation in Iran is that the new generation of Iranians get it. If you follow closely to one of the standard talking points of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman you'll get something like this: the young Iranians have had enough of Islam to know that they want less of it; and enough of a taste of western goodies to know that they want more of that.

"Where this Third Generation wants to go is already apparent. While some of them are religious conservatives, most are not. They are young, restless, modern-looking, and often unemployed, because there are not enough good jobs. They are connected to the world via the Internet or satellite dishes-and they like what they see. They want the good life, a good job, more individual freedom and more connections with the outside world-and they are increasingly angry that they don't have those things," wrote Friedman last June.

What stops most revolutions is fear. The Soviet Union lasted for a long time mostly because it liberally employed the ruthless apparatus of a police state, and as the friends and family members went missing, the people turned to vodka rather than revolution. But even that was fleeting. Eventually things reach a critical mass-modern information technology feeds a constant stream of 'the grass is greener over here.' Even in places like Iran there is a point where more brutality or oppression basically stop working.

We fear other revolutions in places like Saudi Arabia. The logic goes that upon a revolution things will be worse! Ah yes, instead of just paying terrorists and spreading radical Islam, they could really put their hearts into it full time. Fair point, but sooner or later ideology, for example radical terrorist Islam, won't put bread on the table-the baker blew himself up in the good fight. Jobs in a 'Radical Islamo-terrorland' are worse than dishwashing at Denny's -- and more final. When the people realize that siding with Osama isn't good for them, they'll reevaluate Western ideas.

If a useless leader like Yasir Arafat can convince young people that the only tool for a better Palestinian future is homicide bombing, surely some joker can convince them about the tools of liberty and freedom, of free markets and democracy. Can't they?

If Iraq is big enough for Saddam to hide his weapons and big enough for the United Nations weapons inspectors to look hopelessly incompetent for not finding them, then you would think a revolution under the cover of no fly zones could get off the ground. I guess we'll have to push the entire axis of evil over the edge to prompt revolutions in three nations whose people desperately need a change. Viva the revolution!

Jackson Murphy is a commentator from Vancouver, Canada. He is the editor of "Dispatches" a website that serves up political commentary 24-7. You can contact him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

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