Strange revolution

Posted on October 18, 2011


Last night I caught up with some old friends.  It was a precious night in the middle of their travels. They’ve spent the last few months in rural France  (a lifelong dream) and are on their way back home to Australia.  Within seconds of having beers in hand we were talking about world events; and it is no surprise, not just because of what is going on in the world, but because it’s what we talk about whenever we get together.

They are both interesting, compassionate, lively souls who have worked for the broader social good all their lives and I always have a wonderful time with them.  Last night was no exception.  As we drank one said with a mixture of sadness and some wistfulness:  ‘this is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life. And now it’s here.  It’s upon us.’ He meant the the foment that is striking at the heart of the world’s financial and capitalist structures and all that this entails.

How strange to be sitting there with my two friends talking about something that has been s a remote possibility for the last thirty years but nothing more, but that in the minds of some, it was needed and even wanted.  The ’60s released a potent mix of freedom, acquisitiveness, and the right to tear down the social barriers right across the western world.  But there has been another narrative: oil shocks of the 70s and 80s, environmental degradation on an unprecedented scale, the cult of the personality, the hegemony of the brand and of tightly clustered and highly privileged stories of success in every major industry.  The commodification of our lives has moved on apace and before we knew it, every store was a chain store and our lives were being wired in through a network of branding, data-sharing, and internet connectedness that is almost impossible to escape from (here I am writing this through just this wonderful yet frightening channel).

So, the strange revolution that my dear friend daren’t hope for nor turn against, is the terrifying dream/nightmare which could bring this all down, but with it usher in a new age.  Do we have choices about whether this is a gentle revolution?  Whether it is a non-violent one?  Whether it results in a better life for us all?  Or do we succumb to the wave approaching – collapsing currencies, banks defaulting on their debt, people losing their savings, their livelihoods and their homes, and ultimately shortages in the basics of life – food, fuel, goods, and shelter, without any way of buffering against the storm?

This nightmare/saviour scenario is no doubt double-edged.  How strange to be on its edge, living it when it was an isolated narrative for so long.  My friends told me of their experience visiting a resistance museum up in the foothills of the Pyrenees.  It was a small village affair but powerful, bold and authentic.  It was staffed that day by a couple who were both eighty-six – both survivors of the war and both members of the resistance.  My friends had been moved and deeply humbled by meeting these guardians.

Whether good or bad, we need now to understand and forge the next chapter. My friend’s tale just goes to show, we do not have to look too far or too long to find examples of proud survivorship and to learn from them.