The Revolutionaries Next Door

27 Sep

As part of my Hamilton binge, I watched an extra “lotto” skit that Lin-Manual Miranda did with an actor from Les Miserables, whom he joked were “the revolutionaries next door.” Which made me realize something – there are always revolutionaries next door.

What do I mean by that? Next time you see a protest/march/rally, look at the signs people are carrying. Most of them will probably be about the issue involved, but there will be several that will have a… tenuous connection to the issue you’re marching for. So what does that tell you about your group? Not everyone believes the same as you, even at the same rally.

(Side note: If they all have the same signs, it’s not a protest, it’s a photo-op.)

Okay, Marcus, I hear you say, “Duh!” Of course they don’t believe the same as me. No, I mean they don’t believe the same on the same issue. Let’s take the famous Women’s March that happened a couple years ago. All right, we’re all about women’s rights. Which one do you tackle first? Access to birth control? Pay equity? Affordable day care? Parental rights?

The easy answer is “all of them are equally important!” However, you have to use those numbers to push forward on actual change, so you have to pick a topic to start with. Let’s say access to birth control; okay, you’ve just lost Catholic and Fundamentalist Christian women. You might say, “That’s okay, they weren’t with us to begin with.” So now we have to define what “access” means. Does it mean “free?” (meaning “government paid”) Does it mean “employer paid?” Does it mean “insurance paid” or “subsidized?”

Let’s say “government pays,” because that’s probably the majority. Even if you ignore the vast cost of that (157 million women in the US in 2010 x average yearly cost of birth control pills is $400 = $62.8 billion!), does that mean that the government will provide a range of pills? Because not every woman’s body is the same. Then the government will have to create a mechanism for distributing those pills. That costs more money. And pills require a prescription – does that mean doctor’s visits for reproductive health are free?

This is just one example. The closer you are to actually making policy, the less people you have on board. That’s why the first thing that normally happens after a revolution is either a civil war or a purge of your followers. Because you might be able to get on board with the idea that President Bakufu is bad, but you have very different… often radically different visions on how you want to remake the government. So you’ve got only option – kill them.

That’s what made the American revolution such an amazing and unusual experience; we didn’t kill our opponents. We let them stay on. We even let them take power! This didn’t happen in France ten years later (or thirty… or fifty…). You might make an argument for India if you ignore the fact that millions of people decided/were forced to leave your country who might oppose you. Ireland went into a civil war twenty years before.

So when you hear, “I’m ready to fight in the streets,” no you’re not. And don’t fall for those siren cries. They are not on your side.

By the way, my math is flawed – birth control would not include pre- or postmenopausal women, so the cost goes down, but since I didn’t include the bureaucratic cost, I figure it’s still valid. Did I make any other mistakes? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses to “The Revolutionaries Next Door”

  1. Silk Cords September 27, 2020 at 10:52 pm #

    You’re very right on the “they’re not all on your side”. I’d say the best current example is the BLM protests. I genuinely believe that the vast majority of people showing up for those simply want equal rights and safety for all. Antifa sneaks in though along with a few other trouble makers and the protests turn ugly.

    Birth control; that’s a whole separate debate. There is almost nobody in this country that can’t afford $34 a month for a prescription (using your numbers). They simply CHOSE to prioritize other things.

  2. SirNolen September 28, 2020 at 8:47 pm #

    Well, one could argue that the American “Revolution” was really more of a war independence, not a true social revolution. All we really did was replace a King and Parliament with President and Congress – life for the average person on the street didn’t change that much.

    The French Revolution, on the other hand, completely reorganized society. The Russian and Chinese Revolutions went a step farther and totally reoganized the economy as well as society. All three were very, very messy.

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