Meditations on Revolution
I struggle to understand precisely what freedom is, because it seems to me to be wholly contradictory. Its participants confront and subject themselves to the highest tyranny, and suffer war, torture, persecution and even death.
From Che Guevara to Jesus Christ, freedom appears to be beset by martyrdom, suffering and persecution. To make oneself free is to sacrifice, and yet people do it.
This is the paradox of freedom. The real, tangible and materially lived freedom of history has been a thing enjoyed by tyranny. By nobles, slave owners, usurers and merchants. They are the ones who may govern their schedule, and furnish their existence with luxuries. The freedom of the ordinary people appears to be first and foremost marked by a duty to others.
If we simply sought to liberate ourselves, and find our own freedom, then we would follow the example of Machiavelli or Mussolini, these were free men, capable of following any want presented by their passions and desire. But we do not want that, it becomes inherently cannibalistic.
It seems as though whether it is the freedom of the poor, or the freedom of the rich, its wages are paid in suffering. For the poor, they suffer on behalf of others, for the rich, others suffer on behalf of them. Regardless of position, there is suffering.
And yet, there are also things beyond this suffering. The suffering is a price to pay, and the offer it is paid for is what is, in my opinion, the beautiful mystery of the human condition.
There are two kinds of love I believe. There is selfish love, which is entirely encompassed in ones own passions and desires, where the love serves as a utility of emotion. Where it becomes a motion of blind euphoria for its own practitioner.
This kind of love is lucid, pragmatic, self serving and ultimately abusive. As long as the affection exists, even inauthentically, then the object of such a love ceases to matter. They do not need to feel happy, or fulfilled, or cared for, they simply need to play their part to induce this emotion.
In fact, the other does not need any feelings of love at all, any substitution will do, even fear. The fear of the concubine at the imperial court, or the fear of a slave in Jefferson’s plantation. A twisted arrangement in which love is merely a syncretic ceremony made for the pursuit of endorphins and oxytocin. A love which is parasitic, that turns the object of such a love into a living bauble of spiritual vanity.
But then you have the other kind of love, which is far more authentic and far more bittersweet, where it is not defined by one’s pursuit of happiness or euphoria, but rather the opposite; It is defined by one’s willingness to suffer and sacrifice and give to the other without any strings attached. To surrender one’s labours and dedications to pure discretion.
Where each day is lived as though it was the very last, where nothing is taken for granted and yet everything is given.
And that is the love a revolutionary has for her people. The love that a Bolshevik has for her republic. A love which is expressed through sacrifice, duty and devotion, a Benedictine love in which you are bound to a vow of a higher order. This order that we refer to in some ironic sense as freedom.
I think the only authentic notion of freedom, in a characteristic which is emancipatory, determined and fulfilling, comes from within this condition. Wherein a revolutionary builds a prison of their own making, barred by honour and guarded by duty. Where the servant is not coerced by the tip of a mercenary’s sword, but rather by the tear in a beggar’s eye.
But make no mistake, it is still to surrender, to give oneself to a purpose. To become an agent of the people, and a steward to the will of the people. The thorny crown is a perfect symbol for such a freedom. The crown of gold bleeds the people, the crown of thorns bleeds its bearer.
And it is only through the vales of such blood, that we may see clearly what it truly means to love one another. As we are not emancipated from vulgar oppression, from systems or states, but rather from that strange thing which stirs us in the face of injustice and outrage, that makes us tremble in the face of cruelty.
That natural indignance that every worker feels upon witnessing the violence of wealth in its many forms. From hunger, to orphanage, to war, to poverty, to disease. To quell such malpractice by standing on the shoreline between the tempest and all the things hued by its growing shadow.
This I believe is when we are truly free, because it liberates us from the fatefulness of subjugation. As our rulers demand us to be servile, insignificant, obedient and small, to live in the background of importance.
By stepping into the no man’s land where saints are baptised by such vales, we break each and every one of our chains. We become ourselves, realised fully by courage, selflessness and compassion, and by our willingness to be swept away by the cold and unforgiving waters that covet the people we love.