Revolution can best be seen in light of waves and reflections. Here I examine how revolution fits these categories and what revolution has come to mean:
Revolution is the “tidal wave of human ingenuity that gathers energy invisibly and finally breaks upon us – suddenly, irrevocably, and magnificently” before our eyes.* Somewhere under the water’s surface there is a shift. Plate tectonics break and sway along with the water’s ebb, forcing the wave to form. While only a few feet tall, the wave’s length is infinite. It is bound to build strength in quiet repose, designed to sweep sand, dirt, and gravel along its current. It takes hours to simply become visible, a sight to behold. The wave piles into an immense crashing wall of water as it comes close to hitting the shore, uncoiling its energy, and changing the course of human history forever. The wave ends up being far larger than anything humanity could have prepared for.
Things come and go, just as the waves approach and recede. Revolutions are cyclical in nature, constantly creating impact that changes a society alongside a paradigm shift. However, everything is already here, we just haven’t seen it all yet. Just as a text without a reader is nothing, a revolution without a societal scheme is nothing. Not only are we shocked out of complacency during revolution, but our personal beliefs unfold and become contingent. As Professor Quillen stated, there is a “seriousness and weight to this obligation” for everyone to partake and understand each person’s stance, understanding their struggle. That is what makes us different than animals: we feel, we grasp, we reflect.
And during each revolution we are still broken. Just as the water particles are never stable, neither are our reactions and justifications. These waves of change become a snapshot of time, powerful and preserving human dignity and suffering. As Sontag states, “it is a collective memory.” We become the moral witnesses that must add to the narrative of the ongoing revolution. We capture something unseen before. We become a part of something larger of ourself. A part to a whole. Just as RAF sympathizers state “Ich Bin Ulrike Meinhof,” we state “We are the revolution; we are part of the movement.”
It becomes fundamental to change our man-made laws and creeds to become liberated, to preach and practice, and to become a storyteller who doesn’t feel the need to redefine who is human but instead embrace the difference. As Professor Tamura mentions, it is sometimes best to form an individual identity to add to the narrative rather than follow the orders in an institutional identity. It is truly the individual’s job to be a catalyst for progressive change. Let the faceless be seen and know his or her worth.
In essence, a revolution is merely a wave of human progress. First, it gathers energy from an individual or small group of innovators. The movement starts small and swells as people align with their ideals, coming to realize change is needed. Finally, the revolution occurs after invisible preparation from within society’s view. It is sudden. It is irrevocable. And it is magnificent. It is a revolution.
When we look into the mirror, we see the physical reflection of our Self. We notice the minuscule obscurities, blemishes, and stains imbedded within our striking figure. We see the world that surrounds us, the regressions occurring from behind and the mistakes we make before our naked eyes. Our mentalities morph and perspectives widen so our eyes are no longer blinded, adapting to new images and experiences. Hence, we habitually decide to alter our realties to correct the facades we designed, now striving towards uptoic ideals and actions that are normally out of human reach. The relationships around us reflect back that change: the people who build us up and knock us down, the leaders who move us towards indecency, and the public sphere we stand beside in times of war and peace. We have to internalize and embody what it means to be present in this current moment, living for today and looking beyond the shattered glass to find real truth. In the end, a mirror is only as useful as it’s subject.
Looking at this scenario, the mirror itself becomes a revolution, a translation and reflection of our lives. The way the mirror portrays oneself is not accurate to our own experiences, to what our eyes see and what our hands feel. It is merely an image that we can look as a form of correction or a new steady course towards the future. Revolutions show the ugly, they make people uncomfortable, and are not trapped in a frame. To be present, we sometimes must feel vulnerable. For humanity to be a catalyst for change, they must look past the beauty and reflect upon their existence; for it is truth that goes hand in hand with change.
Revolutions in and of themselves are ubiquitous and invisible as they translate the world we see and create:
- Correct translation requires sameness of meaning.
- Multiple translations fit all relevant evidence.
- So, there is no way to know which translation is correct.
No one revolution is necessarily correct until the results are shown. There is a difference between outcomes. The actions we take have consequences.
For example, Pa-lan-te means “onward,” “go ahead,”and “go for it” in colloquial Spanish. Translations of revolution are also widespread and interpreted in different ways. Words have emotional connotations just as revolutions have diverse beginnings, actions, and responses depending on the viewer or enabler.
How we should reflect on revolution from Lapham:
- Revolution is a person.
- Revolution is a person enlightened.
- Revolution is a person doomed.
- Revolution is a person who despises public opinion.
- Revolution is a person who encourages civil discourse and discussion.
- Revolution is a person with no personal impulses.
- Revolution is a person who sticks with their gut.
“The Law is Reason Free from Passion”‘Whiteness as Property’ from Harris
Revolution is a duality, a mirror, that reflects society and our own deepest desires and needs for change. It is transformative. Our eyes see the reflections and the waves – so keep them open. Nothing will ever be the same.
Be sure to check out Prof. David Robb’s definition primer entitled “On Definitions” for more specific detail as to how I was able to craft my own.