Monday, April 22, 2013

MungBeing - American Revolution, Part Deux

American Revolution, Part Deux at MungBeing
Published April 2013
American Revolution, Part Deux
by Alison Ross
Ted Rall's screed against American politics (The Anti-American Manifesto) was sure to resonate with someone of my peculiar bias and bile, what with my volcanic vitriol toward our country's duplicitous government. However, it seems Rall's ambitions with his book merit a weightier tome, for his slim-volume rant is practically a toothless tirade - ironic considering how he peppers the pages with railings against the pervasive passivity plaguing the American people. He gets his point across, but in such a meek way that the reader is hardly moved to action - and yet Rall's entire intent with his manifesto is to instigate revolution.

This diatribes in this petite tome aim explicitly to rouse the raging beast within us all - the beast that slumbers, yes, but the one who sleeps with one eye open. If someone would simply prod the inner beast fully awake, we would collectively catapult to action and vanquish the leaders who oppress us on all fronts, especially economically.

"The Anti-American Manifesto" by Ted Rall (front cover)
Nonetheless, Rall does partially redeem his too-tame tone in that he refuses to simply slurp up the Hippie Liberal brand of cookies-and-cream ice cream. Rall is no orthodox peacenik. He makes a clean break with doctrinaire lefty ideology by advocating for violent change rather than peaceful revolution. To a dogmatic pacifist this could be unnerving, but his appeals to logos and pathos in this case are sound. Ethically speaking, his arguments may need some work - but then again, violence is not really ever an ethical option. In extreme circumstances, where leaders ruthlessly exploit the people for egregious gains, physical violence might indeed be the best approach against tyranny - Gandhi and MLK non-violence ethics be damned.

A self-avowed progressive promoting violent revolution is a bold move to make and I applaud Rall's courage in doing so, even if I question the validity of violence. You could even call Rall's assertions brazen, but they do have an intuitive logic which eclipses any concern about his sanity. Rall is lucidly indignant at the appallingly crappy condition of things in the United States.

Rall lays out his arguments against the government very well, but it does help if one is already well-versed about his targets of critique. You cannot plunge blindly into his manifesto, barely cognizant of the sorry state of American political affairs.

That said, it's still unclear as to what Rall wants us to do, and how we are supposed to do it. He seems determined that we must take up arms against our government, but he concedes that he does not want to lead the revolution, and he also fails to provide us with a roadmap as to how to get there. He mentions that revolution is risky and messy, but it would help if he actually took some initiative to show us the way. Sure, maybe revolution cannot truly be planned, like the French Revolution, but we have to start with something, and Rall seems to lack the fortitude, or the erudition, or both, to give us any suggestions. Which is all fine and well as his tome is not a guidebook, but a manifesto. But aren't manifestos supposed to also be definitive about what actions to take? The Surrealist Manifesto, for example - didn't that clearly lay out not only an explanation of what the Surrealists opposed, but the methods by which the Surrealists would oppose it?

Rall's book was published a year before the Occupy movement took root. I was wondering if maybe that was the type of movement Rall was hoping to spark with his manifesto. Upon further investigation, we learn that Rall has indeed been involved in the Occupy Movement from its early days - and yet, predictably, is very vocal about its shortcomings. While he agrees with the aims of the occupiers, he feels that the movement is in disarray, unfocused, and too restrained in its tactics. "The rich and powerful never relinquish their prerogatives voluntarily. Only violence or the credible threat of violence can force them to give up what they stole through violence and corruption," he says in his blog entry, For America’s New Radicals, a Coming-Out Party—and Brutal Cops.

With Anti-American Manifesto, maybe Rall feared censorship or was urged to take his rhetoric down a notch. Either way, it's oxymoronically odd that a book that calls for feral action against the government is so domesticated in making its pleas.

Rall's call to revolution is compelling in its way, but if a reader feels simultaneously reinforced in his or her convictions but impotent as to how to take action, then I say the book only half succeeds.

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