Why revolutions matter. Empire and Revolt.


Romans are who people consider to be imperial, impartial but imperial. Very few empires have had the distinction of outliving others over a period of …. yet most if not all claim that they are one version of Rome or the other. Hence the phrase, “Rome was not built in a day.” Imperial might allows for complete jurisdiction of territory with little oversight by authorities. Thus the phrase, when the cat is away the mice will play. The picture of mice playing conveys mice like behavior in humans, timid, cautious yet abundant in life. When jurisdiction is parlayed further into favor, despotic tyrannies find root. It is hard to distinguish tyrant from emperor when one hand feeds the other. Eventually, the cycle of conquest gives way to revolution which when properly nurtured can bring hope and salvation to those rotting under the heels of despotism and disgrace. Vigilance is a valued necessity for freedom because it distinguishes wrong from right actions. Neither the Emperor nor far flung lackeys are able to bring to fruition what vigilance teaches all of us, to do what is right by others. Without this fundamental acceptance, there can be no way in which to make people believe in the rightness or wrongness of things including people. Law can be established only after vigilance has made its favor known. What can be wrought by people can be equally undone by them. It then becomes a question of incentive, in what ways do people yearn for the chance to be vigilant? A mother perhaps is willing to put her life at risk for the well-being of her children, a politician for the well-being of their party, a doctor for the improvement in their patient, but most of all humans in need of being vigilant to themselves. This is where most of us fall down. It is scary to be vigilant to oneself. At the risk of appearing trite, Eliot’s understanding of the love of J. Alfred Prufrock is appropriate; “We grow old and wear our flannel trousers rolled.” Civilization risks of the right to be vigilant when it is imperially managed. The right of some to judge the actions of all. The act is impossible in the best of circumstances and lends itself to butchery in the worst of them. How people disguise their intention is what captures the imagination, yet here imagination is too feeble to uncover intentions. Thus, the plodding challenge, grab hold of each moment and risk being both its champion and challenger. Dialectic rules when society cares only for the wealthy and arrogant.

When deception masters the world vigilance becomes servitude. In obedience to justice, the innocent and the experienced must change places frequently. The innocent in search of truth pay homage to the experienced even as the experienced learn nuances of right and wrong. The balance of imperial power is shifted toward fate when those in charge cannot accede to the inevitable, change. It is up to individuals free or otherwise to determine whether revolt is the just course of action. Power is never kind to anyone especially those pursuing a narrow and perhaps dangerous path. Denying power its might is one way to hold oneself and another accountable for gift of all, freedom. Empires have done poorly with it because they are unable to rise to the challenge of revolt without which there can be no such entity as “freedom.” If vigilance partners justice then the just must take into account the price of vigilance. Only in such circumstances can freedom be effectively instituted. Unfortunately, the emperor and the revolutionary fall short of paying the price; the emperors because of their inability to understand jurisdiction and revolutionaries because of their inability to discern futures. Mere exchanging of places will not work in this situation. As will it help for the Revolutionary to understand jurisdiction and for the Emperor to discern the future. Napoleon’s victories are legend as are Robespierre’s analytics yet it is not certain that freedom played an integral part in their calculation. For one territory was supreme while for the other moral conviction. Robespierre and Napoleon ended up in prison neither being fully able to fulfill their mandate. Dialectically, separating territory from conviction and conviction from territory can be a way forward to fathom freedom that meets the needs of both vigilance and authority. However, progressives have never accepted the cause of the vigilant and conservatives, the authoritarian. Yet it is this task that individuals are called to perform whenever and wherever freedom is a value that is overused and undervalued. Deciding the outcome separates what an empire is able to achieve, its crumbling or unfolding. Revolution is acceptable when it is tasked with defining the objective of freedom, one that empires can use to draw their own conclusion about fate. Rome is not built in a day and if properly constructed does not have to come apart in a day as well. Emperors and revolutionaries have risked all to change the way in which people approach their lives some with clout and others with autonomy.

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