revolution |ˌrevəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n| noun 1 a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.
I would have join. If my twenties had been during the 60s, or the 80s in Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ecuador, Peru or Colombia, I think I would have joined. To have gone all the way as to take arms, shoot and its eventual consequences, I don’t think so, at least not myself. Yet, my ideology, my fervent desire to “change” things, my revelry, my studiousness of Marxist theory and the idealisation of the ever present omnipotent “other,” the “guilty” bad guys (the rich, the ones in power, the capitalists, blah blah,) versus the goodness of the “people” and the unquestionable belief in Che’s “New Man” (his version of an “evolved” human being based on Marx’s theory) would had had me join some form of subversive movement, even guerilla. At some point in my early twenties I wished I had been born in those times, and questioned my family members who were young students at the height of Latin American revolutionary movements and had missed the opportunity to join by not been at all politicised. I studied Latin American revolutionary history in University, along with Latin American Political Science, focused heavily on left wing movements and graduated convinced they had been right, that their glorious “save the world” fate had been cut short by the CIA and its cruel, inhumane disguised interventions.
I was wrong. I am now thankful I was born when I was born, for the lessons left by the failed revolutions for a Marxist theory admirer like me, are invaluable. And the lessons have a lot to deal with human evolution. This is the thing, Marxist revolutionaries fought (or at least claimed to and/or started fighting based on) the belief that humans can be perfected, that if the government/system were to take a certain path of action, humans would impeccably act for their community. I unquestionably believed in what is better said in the words of Kim Macquarrie:
“…man can be perfected, [he] can be imbued with the spirit of solidarity, of community. And [that] solidarity can somehow transcend one group dominating another”
It meant to be a good person to believe so fervently in the possibility of this type of equality and solidarity.
For us who sought, and maybe still seek revolution as to overthrow a system that is perceived to not having successfully plowed the best of humankind, it is worth to revisit this notion of “equality;” to me the first lesson of failed revolutions. First of all, humans have not figured (or at least I do not know of any) how to equably govern mankind, somehow, an elite is always on top. And the lessons from failed revolutions show just that, even with all the Marxist palette of executed revolutions, all ended up with elites whose members where not exactly too solidarity filled perfected human beings, and on the contrary many committed some of the world’s most infamous brutal atrocities.
On the other hand, equality for me as a mother now is also a mean of injustice. As a female I get pregnant, my body goes through changes and demands from me more attention, more rest. When my child is born, if I am to be a responsible loving mother, consciously raising a child to be freed of inherited hidden mistreatment (what Gutman calls “systematised abuse”) then, I need time to look inside of me, I need to slow down, to rest. Yet, if I am sincerely immersed in my career, in my contribution to society, or simply, if I just can’t afford not not to work, I have to go back to a full time job when my baby is only three months old, and all mothers know babies are too small to be left to the care of others at three months of age. Evolved societies in this aspect, like the Swedish, have taken this into account and have amazing maternity leave (and even paternity leave) laws. Allowing years of time to comfortably stay home to attend babies when they are in the phase of needing a mother’s (and none else can replace her) care and milk. Yet, most of the world doesn’t. On top of that, many of us women, earn less by doing the same job as our male counterparts, and those of us who have reached power positions have often done so by sacrificing our time with our babies. For me, equal opportunities is what should be the norm, for example, a job offering should be opened to anyone whose qualified not mattering their gender, race, age, and/or nationality. Yet, to be equally demanded is a no no. Differences should be taken into account, and when it comes to gender, a woman’s biological capacity to be a mother should matter. We mothers are tired, having to devote full time to a job and also wanting to be present in our children’s childhood, wanting to breastfeed yet many failing to do so as the exhaustion becomes unbearable, nevertheless consciously knowing the life long benefits we are leaving our children without that only breastfeeding can bring.
So yes, I do believe we need a revolution as to “change the social order into a new one,” but not exactly equality all around.
Another lesson brought by time and its failed revolutions is about markets. It is true our Planet’s market economy is based on environmental devastation, it is unjust with human communities along its supply chain, and this is made invisible to the end consumer, who usually reinforces this injustice and environmental destruction through his/her consumer choices notwithstanding good humanity, values, education, because he/she is simply unaware of the effects of the purchase. Yet I believe if the markets and the economic forces set on by our current economic system have had the power to do so much devastation, done responsibly, so too they have the power to reverse it. I believe in the power of conscious markets. Of production systems based on sustainable methods that support livelihoods and conservation of ecosystems, powered by conscious demand from consumers simply not buying any products whose origins are unknown. Markets fuelled by consumers freely choosing to support whichever form of production they see their choice enforces, because I do believe if we could see the impact of our choices, most of us would choose the one enforcing fairness and conservation of the resources that allow our own existence.
Finally, the most important lesson directly regarding what this blog is about is that regarding the notions of human evolution. While a “perfected” “new man” is a very attractive thought, I now believe human evolution lies in the acknowledgement of our intrinsic flaws, fears and misdemeanors. I recently watched a talked by Dan Pallota who I believed illustrated this splendidly. He explains how for him, an evolved humanity is not that where necessarily technological innovation and efficiency abounds, but instead, where each of us is capable of taking our masks off. Where we actively acknowledge each other’s fears, our dreams and unfulfilled dreams, especially our fear of not realising our full potential. Where kindness overflows, and we retreat, slow down, to seeing ourselves so to see others, so to be both human and kind.
I left my thoughts of a Marxist style revolution back in my early twenties, and came to revisit what I think of revolution as I was reminded of the Marxist effect in me when reading the story of Peru’s Shining Path insurrection and its leader, Abimael Guzmán, a story I had missed during my studies. I read Peru’s history of war and terrific violence across it, and the man behind it whose dreams and illusions -the justification for his actions- where precisely the injustices he saw so prevalent in Peruvian society, and the conviction a brighter world was possible. It reminded me of my fervent conviction in a human evolution to a “new” perfected man. I now like to think that if I had been on my twenties during the 80s and joined a subversive group, I soon had figured all this out then, quitting and maybe, just maybe, saving lives in the process.
Virginia Mosquera (Spanish):
Kim Macquarie on Amazon
I believe Marx is flawed, like all human beings, and thus, so is his theory, yet, it is worth while to read it and understand, not only for the fierce ardent influence it had and still has worldwide, but as a tool to see our system through its lens, in order to question and better it.