Revolution is a loaded word today. Many people consider wanting any sort of change a revolution, which is not necessarily true. Change and revolution are not synonyms. This semester has brought up many questions about revolution, such as “who defines it?” “what qualifies something as a revolution?” “what is the difference between revolution and rebellion?”
During Unit 1, we talked about how we today look back on history and see simply numbers, not the individual people. In the context of revolution, this greatly simplifies the course of revolution and diminishes the struggle that the revolutionaries went through by glossing over their opponents. As the saying goes, history is written by the victors. Failed or easily crushed revolutions have faded into oblivion. During our discussion of Locke, we learned about his view on revolution; he believed that if people were subjected to an unjust government, it was their moral duty to rebel against it. We also discussed if true equality is attainable, and the definitions of equality according to different philosophes.
Throughout Unit 2, we were reminded of the idea that not all revolutions have a clear winner. Many revolutions also don’t necessarily have a clear time period during which they occurred, some were just paradigm shifts over time. These paradigms were defined by the perspectives of the scientific communities during this time. Scientists do not question the paradigm in which they work. Scientific revolutions are not as abrupt as political revolutions, which want to change their institutions in ways that they were restricted. Meaningful change, and sometimes revolution, occurs when a crisis happens outside of the current paradigm. We also discussed the importance of translation, because if a word for something doesn’t exist in a specific language, then the native speakers of that language will never think about it. Imagine not having a word for revolution. Would people still rise?
Unit 3 opened with the idea of body autonomy as a form of revolution. Being able to decide for yourself whether or not you have a baby should not be seen as revolutionary, especially in 2019, but sadly this is still the case. Turning out for protests is how we use our bodies as manifestations of revolution; our bodies are making the changes we want to see happen. This unit also raised the questions of moderate voices in a revolution, and who, if anyone, listens to them. Why bother speaking out if you know no one is listening? For history? A legacy? We also discussed the role of photography in revolutions, as photographs evoke feelings more strongly than words do. We talked about photos that make us uneasy or uncomfortable, and how there is no point in feeling uncomfortable if you don’t take any action against it.
During Unit 4 talked a lot about property and its ties to power, which play a major role in revolution as well. Dionysius of Halicarnassus said, “governments are not overthrown by the poor, who have no power, but by the rich-when they are insulted by their inferiors and cannot obtain justice.” I think this quote is applicable when thinking about power and who can afford to make their voice heard above the rest, or who has the legitimacy to gain followers. This unit focused on the Civil Rights Era, and how difficult it was for the black community, the “victims of the American system” says Malcolm X, to make their voices heard. So much power lies in numbers, which is why protesting is so important.