July 2nd, 2020

The never-ending cycle of power exchange

It occurs to me that I often write about messages which I see in graffiti scattered throughout my wanderings. Although I abhor most graffiti because it usually consists simply of some person's name or a stylized logo of their "street name" which they were vain enough to think needed to be plastered all over the city, occasionally graffiti contains real messages, and as such represents a sort of "voice of the people" which unheard people otherwise might not have. While this doesn't give people the right to broadcast their message anywhere they see fit, it is true that sometimes one sees messages of importance, wisdom, or at least relevance in graffiti. If nothing else, it gives you an idea about what some people are thinking.

So it was with a piece of graffiti I saw recently which said: "Comfort the disturbed. Disturb the comfortable". It became immediately obvious to me that this graffiti represents an infinite loop, and as such, it accurately represents the never-ending cycle of power exchange which is the heart of most political activism. Most political activism is about taking power (bearing in mind that money is a form of power) from people who have it and giving it to the people who don't have it, on the basis that the people who have power are using it to oppress people who don't have power. This has been done many times in many different places and at many different points throughout history, and the result is always the same: The direction of oppression simply flips. The group which now has power uses it to oppress the group which used to have power.

There are many examples which could be cited, but one which is particularly relevant for our present day is probably the takeover of Russia by the Bolsheviks, both because this is relatively recent history and because it so dramatically displays what I'm talking about. Russia had suffered under tsarist oppression for generations, and dreamed of a liberating movement which would take power away from the Russian elite and bring it to "the people". The Bolsheviks rose to power on this message, but as soon as they had seized control, it became immediately obvious that they were bent on being even more oppressive, taking away land which had been owned by families for generations and destroying wealth wherever they could find it because wealth was the enemy of the people.

There is a popular image which exists in the mind of the public that poor people are all humble, wise, and good-natured people who deserve to have wealth, while the people who have wealth are greedy, cruel, and deserving of destruction. In fact, many wealthy people are kind-hearted, generous people, and many poor people are greedy and cruel themselves; their presentation of the wealthy as being such is often just psychological projection, the fallacious attribution to other people of properties which you yourself carry. There is not some angelic underclass of wonderful people who would live good lives if only they had the money to do so; if the poor became wealthy and powerful, they too would simply use that wealth and power to oppress their perceived enemies.

The mechanism of political activism produces a loop of power exchange that just goes on forever. If you "Comfort the disturbed" and "Disturb the comfortable", it is pretty obvious that you will soon need to reverse these motions, because the people who were formerly the disturbed are now comforted, and the people who were formerly the comfortable are now being disturbed. It's like one of those joke cards which has "Please turn this card over to the other side" written on both sides. I don't know whether people actually realize this cyclical nature of their activism (it seems pretty obvious to any thinking person) or whether they just don't care and are willing to accept that their work is pointless, but lately I am inclined to suspect the latter: It really seems to me that people are not actually so stupid as to be unaware of the pointlessly cyclical nature of their work, but rather so addicted to conflict and chaos that they simply want to create it wherever they go, in any way they can. And what better way to create conflict and chaos than to pit all of humanity against itself? Human beings will quite readily fight, oppress, and kill each other, so why not amplify these tendencies so that chaos lovers can get what they want?

One thing will always remain constant: There will never be actual equality in the world because people will always be different from each other in some way, and as long as there are differences between people, there will always be something for people to fight about, and for some group to claim they are being deprived of. The lovers and sowers of chaos have fertile fields to plant and harvest, because humanity really is an endless sea of ignorance, selfishness and destructiveness. And they'll always justify it by claiming that they are doing it "for a good cause".