Every Revolutionary Ends Up Oppressor or Heretic–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON
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For those of you who aspire to being a revolutionary, or wake up one day and learn that you are revolutionary, this Albert Camus quote is for you. Camus presages the results of revolutionary means by pointing out that all revolutionaries either end up as oppressors or heretics. I don’t know about you but I’m a proud member of the national heretics society. In terms of means and ends, I believe that this quote speaks to the issue of violence versus nonviolence. Violent revolutionaries may change or even upgrade the oppressors, but ultimately, they do not defeat oppression, just other oppressors. I believe that violence is inherently oppressive. Now, I am willing to argue what constitutes violence, particularly since I define violence and nonviolence quite broadly. In fact, it may be better to say that I believe that oppression is violence and that nonviolence is liberation. In the end, I see violence is reinforcing the status quo, the powers that be. Thus, violence is not really revolutionary, even though it may bring a lot of outward change. To be truly revolutionary I believe that there must be an inward change that is consistent with any outward change. I think that this is where the heretics come in. Most people will settle for an outward world that advantages themselves, even if it means disadvantaging others. For violent revolutionaries, this typically means disadvantaging one’s defeated foes as some sort of punishment or retributive justice. This is generally accepted as a practical reality, the conventional wisdom and practice of our world. I believe that this type of approach is extremely dangerous since history seems to prove that the turning of the tables simply means new oppressors. However, if one wishes to overthrow conventional wisdom, it is likely necessary to practice unconventional wisdom. If the endgame is equality, an egalitarian society for all of its members, then treating former oppressors punitively becomes a poor foundation for egalitarianism. I think that this gets to the heretical nature of nonviolence. Nonviolence is a way of life, not just a tactic or a means. It means and the ends are inextricably intertwined. More simply put, the means determine the ends. How could it be otherwise? I find it quite ironic that hard-nosed revolutionaries advocating violence somehow think that violence will lead to nonviolence, or perhaps more depressingly, cynically accept that violence is unavoidable. Perhaps Camus recognized the intractable nature of the struggle between violence and nonviolence, thus he laid out the dichotomy of either becoming an oppressor or becoming a heretic. I find myself attracted to the iconoclastic, because it seems the most apt attitude to create revolutionary change. This may be simply tied to the definition of what revolution is: a paradigm shift from the status quo, a change in the nature of the powers that be. You can’t defeat the status quo by the means of the status quo. You can’t defeat the powers that be, by simply wielding authority over others in some better fashion. I think the point is that we should not even be wielding authority over others, and this never quite seems fashionable. As long as people want to lord over one another, then nonviolence will be unfashionable. So, join the unfashionable heretics. Be free to ignore conventional wisdom when it seeks to enslave us, and when it asks us to enslave others. Be free, because being free is the best way to teach others about being free. Be the change. This is a revolutionary.