Revolution Is Dangerously Overrated

August 1, 2020 Updated: August 2, 2020


While much of the civil unrest that has taken place in recent months appears to have died down throughout the United States, in Portland, Oregon, the protests and riots have been relentless.

This, among other things, has permitted the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to continue receiving media coverage and advance their dangerously misguided calls for revolution, which go much further than demanding police reform and accountability.

The BLM organization is largely seen as spearheading the BLM movement. The organization, that began in 2013 following the death of Trayvon Martin, has chosen a name and slogan that few would disagree with, as it appeals to one’s sense of justice. Their website is also attractive, with its well-crafted videos and seductive language. With whom don’t the terms liberty, justice, and freedom resonate? What heart remains unresponsive to calls for a better world?

As we search for the meaning of life, we also search for something that’s worthy of our devotion. The natural desire to find purpose and satisfaction in a cause that’s greater than one’s self is indeed a powerful force, and it’s precisely this force that revolutionaries attempt to manipulate. The call to battle against the mighty dragon that terrorizes your village certainly has its appeal.

Where one should immediately take pause, however, is when revolution is called for. “Together, we can—and will—transform. This is the revolution. Change is coming,” claims the BLM website.

The video that is associated with these statements displays inspiring images of the many protests that have taken place in various cities; it includes a passionate and inviting voice that calls for change; and it plays music that stimulates one’s sense of urgency.

Another reason for pause is the lack of clarity in BLM’s stated aims. It thinks of itself as the rightful heir of the civil rights movement, even though that movement’s objectives were specific and clear, such as putting an end to lawful segregation and discrimination. With BLM, however, one must content oneself with vague notions of liberation, justice, and freedom, and change for the sake of change.

One of the clear markers of extremism, be it on the political right or the political left, is the tendency to abstain from nuance and to provide simple and all-encompassing explanations for the many troubles that ail the world.

Extremists divide the world into the basic categories of aggressors who have power and victims who don’t, and they then call for the annihilation of the systems and institutions that purportedly keep these power dynamics in place. In this case, calls to “defund the police” and “take back the power” certainly fit the bill.

Moreover, given that the organization’s founders refer to themselves as “trained Marxists,” one can reasonably conclude that their ideas of what constitutes liberty, justice, and freedom, are much different than what may be generally understood.

The world’s troubles are much more complicated than these revolutionaries would have us believe. When attempting to accurately diagnose a problem, the variables to consider are many.

Malevolence, tragedy, and injustice can’t be so easily reduced to structural deficiencies, and to assume that we can simply erect new and better systems and institutions after destroying the ones that took centuries to build, is a dangerously naïve idea. There are very few examples of revolutions ending well. In fact, most of them go sideways, resulting in problems that dwarf those that led to revolution in the first place.

While reform does little to satisfy the passions of youthful rage, does it not remain the wisest and most virtuous path toward change, as it prudently guards and preserves the best elements of the traditions and institutions we’ve inherited from our forebears, while cautiously working toward progress? Does it not acknowledge the difficult nature of building fair, functional, and flexible institutions, as well as the relative ease with which these can be destroyed?

Reform is the path of those who truly desire meaningful and positive change, and it requires cooperation, perseverance, maturity, compromise, and a willingness to engage in profound and meaningful analysis. Clamoring for aimless revolution, however, and change for the mere sake of change, requires none of these things, and it clears the path for regretful destruction.

Kevin Richard is a freelance writer with a professional and educational background in policing and criminal justice. His articles have appeared in various publications, including The Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Sherbrooke Record, La Presse Plus, and HuffPost Québec.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.