Thursday, November 01, 2018

More Daisey: Rebellion Vs. Revolution

I am continuing to listen to Mike Daisey's A People's History, based on the history book of the same name by Howard Zinn, on my long, long commute. Second episode talks about rebellions, revolutions, riots, winners, and losers (spoiler - the winners are the rich white guys. This is something that will come up again and again). Anyway, Daisey has the ability to unlock all sorts of subordinate discussions, and has me going on my own thoughts.

Daisey starts with Zuccotti Park in 2011. Remember it? It was ground zero for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Oh, yeah, that. Camped on land that, by law, was reserved for protest, the Occupy movement was a cogent reply to the absolute mess our corporate masters have put us all in. It was protest and disobedience in its core form. And as such disobedience, it was tolerated for a while, then mercilessly locked down and beaten into submission (spoiler - this is going to happen a lot in this narrative).

From there. he flashes back to Bacon's Rebellion, and here's the difference between a Revolution and Rebellion. If the rebelling side loses, then it was a Rebellion. If they win, it was a Revolution. Rebellions have as examples Shay's, Bacon's, and Whiskey. Revolutions have larger, more impressive names such as Glorious, Russian, and French. And American.

But American comes with an asterisk. Daisey points out that other revolutions have a serious changing of management, usually by the noose, the firing squad, or the guillotine. The American Revolution kept the local elites mostly in charge, and it was the elites who were generally around the table when the decisions were being made.

That's not completely true, but is true enough. Look at the framers of the Declaration of Independence. Adams was not a slaveholder nor a major landholder, but still a lawyer (and inherited 9 1/2 acres from his father). Franklin, the grognard of the group, was a newspaperman. Both good, solid urban professions. The slave/landholder tag definitely applies to Jefferson, though (2.6 square miles of land). So, yeah, it was the elites - literate, philosophical, moneyed, who fired up the passions that sent others to war.

And yeah, there was a departure of Tories from the colonies following the revolution. Some fled back to England. Some went to Canada. Some went to the Caribbean. (back in those days, when the English thought of the Americas, they were thinking of the Southern colonies and the West Indies. They left, and as such fell out of our narrative. But a lot of them stayed with a minimum of fuss.

Lemme give you an example. My brain has been in Philadelphia for the past couple years, for reasons that may or may not yet be revealed. The British took Philly in 1777. We know that from our history books, regardless of origin, because we talk about the privations at Valley Forge. But in Philly, the British were, well, partying it up. Keep the rebels out in the hinterlands, keep the flow of supplies into the city, but otherwise, kick back, drink some madeira, and watch a play. It was the Revolutionary War's Green Zone.

Then, things changed. General Howe was recalled on accusations that he was too soft on the colonials. More importantly, the French entered the war. I cannot stress how important this was to the Revolution. Philly, up the river estuary, could be cut off by the French ships. So the British Army beat feet back to New York City, leaving all those loyal Tories high and dry.

And the remaining Tories were all lined up and shot. Well, no. There were retributions and confiscations, but in general loyalties shifted and those that stood with the enemy were now at best sidelined but better yet part of the revolution. The young ladies sipping drinks with the British officers were now sipping drinks with the Virginia planters. One of them, daughter of a Loyalist to the crown, ended up marrying the British Commandant of the city, Benedict Arnold (and you can surmise how THAT turned out).

The American revolution, as Zinn and Daisey put it, was more of a corporate takeover as opposed to a society makeover. I have a book on the shelf, The Cousin's War, that puts our revolution squarely in the middle of three civil wars among English-speaking people - The English Civil War, the Revolution, and the American Civil War. I don't know if I buy the argument that all these wars were in reality three phases of the same war, as the first led to a dark period of democracy of the type Daisey describes, the second is asterisked with a yeah, kinda sort of thing, and the last is a rebellion - big, impressive, but ultimately failed. If we had more control over the language, that last conflict would have been called the Confederate Rebellion, confining it to the other failures over the years.

But I am getting ahead of myself. These excellent monologues curve, ouroboros-like, and repeat, and there will be another chance to catch them. This chapter gets repeated at 7:30 PM on Saturday. You might want to take a look.

More later,