The 3 Rs in a nutshell: Repression, Revolution, Reform

Cleaning the Augean Stables

Some basics that commonsense objective observers of human history should know by now:

Chaos is at the natural state of things. Entropy decrees it.
Mankind imposes order and structure on chaos which is how civilizations arise. Energy, which in politics translates to power, is needed to maintain this order.

In a stable system, there is a balance of structure (order) and freedom (chaos). However, a stable system also needs to be able adapt to outside and inside change. This is usually the tricky part. One common failure is that instead of focusing on the system adapting, the power-holders, being human, accrete power.

Repression is what happens when power accretes unchecked. More and more power is spent maintaining the power structure. The power structure becomes rigid and top-heavy and a burden. People start to chafe. They want more freedom.

At this point there are two options: Revolution or Reform.

Revolution is violent, and therefore exciting, “glorious”, and adrenaline-packed. It is black & white – us against them, and triggers our tribal instincts for war. It has the element of revenge, always an excellent motivator. Once it has been initiated, it doesn’t require much higher thinking. It is all or nothing, which means it excuses glorifies, any action for the cause.

The ultimate problem with revolution is that when it succeeds, it usually fails. Revolution tries to sweep away the existing structure, thereby creating extreme chaos. The revolutionaries, having won, then scramble to impose order on this chaos. To be effective, the order imposed must be likewise extreme. The revolutionary government quickly becomes as, if not more, rigid and authoritarian than the government it replaced.

Revolution returns you to your original problem. It’s a vicious cycle.

Reform, on the other hand, is boring. It requires analysis, attention to detail, projections about future effects of current actions. It is also uncomfortable for all side because it requires self-examination and demands accountability. More than that it frequently requires allowing other points of view to co-exist. It requires dogged persistence and unfailing optimism in the face of deeply entrenched obstacles and inevitable setbacks. It’s damned hard to do.

Given all that, Reform is actually the only thing that can break the Repression-Revolution cycle.

If you want excitement, aux les barricades. But if you want to actually fix what’s wrong and improve lives, choose reform.


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