Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Mobile vulgus.

"If Hillary gets in, I myself I'm (sic) ready for a revolution because we can't have her in."

The woman who said this to a reporter possibly knows little history, may never have studied the roots of the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution. I’m pretty sure, though, that her comments were energized by an emotion similar to that of the bearers of pitchforks and muskets in earlier sociopolitical upheavals; rage at the consciousness of living under the real or perceived oppression of those whose wealth and power has freed them from the muck and pain of life in the “real world.” A perfect mix of jealousy, frustration, indignation and visceral rage, a brush fire stoked by the winds of mobile vulgus, “‘the fickle crowd,’” [and] from which the English term ‘mob’ originally was derived in the 1680s.”

We have names for it that don’t require a knowledge of Latin: populism is what it’s being called in the news these days: a population seeks to wrest control from corrupt rulers. Populism is a political ideology that holds that virtuous citizens are mistreated by a small circle of elites, who can be overthrown if the people recognize the danger and work together. Populism depicts elites as trampling on the rights, values, and voices of the legitimate people.”

It’s not surprising that those who own power and wealth should fear populist upheaval. Neither is it surprising that the relatively comfortable “middle classes” should fear it; better the devil you know then the devil you don’t, and most of us between the extremes have already contented ourselves with life in relatively warm, fuzzy niches.

What’s happening in America—that would make a lower middle class woman in Alabama use the word “revolution”—doesn’t strike me as unusual given the history of humankind. That democracies have routinely failed to deliver promised fairness and equity is one of the real frustrations of our age. America, Canada, Britain, Germany, etc.—as democratic in their makeup as any country has ever been—have nevertheless developed a socioeconomic layering that wouldn’t have to be! As surely as the ostentatious, privileged lives of France's  Louis the 14th or the Romanov oligarchy of Russia produced a festering that would eventually burst forth in revolution, so the political, economic elites of modern democracies should be more aware that creeping class structuring, escalating privilege can’t possibly weather the storms of time untouched.

The mob that drives revolutions can bear almost any political, social, even religious stamp. What`s happening in the USA is not really reminiscent of the Peasant Revolts of the 16th Century in Germany where economic, religious and social dissatisfaction boiled over simultaneously. (One-third of the estimated 300,000 individuals participating in the uprising were slaughtered by the ruling classes and their armies.) What do the supporters of the changes currently rallying behind Donald Trump have in common? 

What’s the nature of the glue that holds them together? We’re told the current Trumpian phenomenon owes its primary support to angry, white, middle-class men. Is it then little more than a Freudian striking back against feelings of castration and the blaming of this emasculation onto foreigners, ethnic minorities and a conspiracy of economic elites? That wouldn’t explain the masses of screaming women waving “lock her up” protest signs at Trump rallies. Does it have to do with the fact that the opposing candidate is female and that the majority of men are deathly fearful of the “Samson haircut?” and that certain women have never overcome their antagonism to counterparts who manage to gain stature and power in a society where they themselves have neither?

It’s not enough to say that the revolution shaping itself in the USA is the product of ignorance and pettiness, although both are displayed in abundance in every utterance of Donald Trump. The American Doctor Jekyll invented and constructed the Mr. Hyde it’s currently struggling to control. Past policies must always be looked to when current “revolution” threatens.

Will November 8th initiate another violent revolution as some are predicting? Certainly there are pitchforks (read handguns and assault rifles) enough to make mayhem and the shedding of much blood a possibility and even the most squeamish can come to welcome it given the visceral energy that builds in mobilus vulgus movements.

In the German Peasant Wars, the revolutionaries were defeated because they were vastly outgunned technically, but also because they turned out to be battlefield incompetents; mob bravado is normally just that, it dissolves quickly when the mob is scattered and individuals begin to fear for their actual lives.

The last party I’d be loathe to mess with is the American military machine.

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