Come the demos, comes the demagogue. Either the people shut their doors in fear, as Londoners did when the Earl of Essex tried to launch an uprising against the aged Elizabeth I…
… or they are abused by clever manipulators. Stalin and his protege Mao only succeeded and endured because the regimes they destroyed were nothing like as ruthless as those they themselves subsequently instituted to ensure that there would be no second revolution.
The mob will always be led, and therefore misled. When the system wanted a referendum on Europe, it fed the people lies through the media to get their assent; when our rulers grudgingly permitted a vote on AV because it was a pet project of their pet partner Clegg, they told us lies through the media to maintain the status quo.
Cyber revolution? People”s voice? Newton”s second law of motion applies to technology in the service of democracy. Look at BGT and the growing suspicion that vote-fixing rumours were actually a PR ploy; look at Ben Douglas” “I am not going to name him… I have no desire to destroy his career” expert “ah well, since the Twitterati have, much against my wishes, outed him…” roasting of James Brown. The pressing of social media into the unwitting employ of private projects is an inevitable adaptive mutation.
It has long been so. In the modern age of picture press and TV, Harold Wilson stubbed out his cigar and grabbed the pipe when he strode out of Number Ten; Tony Blair… let”s move on; sinister rhino Ken Clarke casino ensures he”s always caught with a drink, a smoke (bless BAT) and incongruous shoes. John Major prided himself on being able to talk to the common man in a four-ale bar while slipping us further into the EU, and lecturing us on moral back-to-basics while hiding the fact that he used to slip into Edwina Currie when he was a government whip (in a way, considering what he faced, it makes one proud to be British; hard pounding, gentlemen).
There will be no revolution. The people will not rise up. And thank goodness for that, because what follows after is almost always worse than what came before (I except the American Revolution, but maintain that it is misnamed and was really a colonial revolt with geography and the French on its side. Further, it was officered by English gentlemen who insisted on the rights they would have enjoyed in their increasingly free and democratic parent country).
What we are, if we”re lucky (or unlucky, seeing the personal histories of those involved), is something like the London Corresponding Society, ultimately one of the historical elements influencing structural political change decades after its suppression.
Freeman radicalism is doomed – it would only work for Alexander Selkirk, who had no neighbours – and so is the rigid constitutionalism that harks back to foundation documents long since modified or rescinded by law and custom. It is only the utter stupidity and stiffness of the Stuarts that managed to split the country, with truly devastating effect; the absolutist Celtic kingship model doesn”t work here in the land of the Witan and its descendant, the Privy Council. Long before 1789, our government had learned the lessons of popular revolt and, like Aesop”s reed, saw that survival required a blend of temporising suppleness with enduring roots.
Calling for the right to unrestricted self-intoxication is no rebellion at all, and seems rather to form part of the counter-revolutionary plan of our masters (listen to the black people who say, as a number have said to me, that drugs are a way to keep their children down). Turn on, tune in and drop out of the contest; the poor do not have the recovery resources of their rich, famous and almost law-proof superiors. How well it would suit our masters to syphon tax from more of the self-destructive pleasures of the lower classes, as they did in 1933 when they repealed Prohibition to supply the deficits of the Wall Street Crash. Perhaps, as with the “Noble Experiment”, liberation is not with drugs, but from them; not with chemical re-enslavement, but with the assertion of freedom, even against some of our own impulses. “Just say no” to the Revolution, and the blue-hazed, nose-powdered counter-culture that spawned our strange, cool-chameleon tyrants of today.