The revolt of imagination

light_in_the_morning_woodsWe have already experienced the Revolution. The plot was simple: bad meanies in charge, so people power unites and overthrows. Now a new order in which everyone is accepted and we can stop arbitrarily denying each other things. It’s like a plush pink bed: everything is good, everyone is good, we are all in peace and harmony.

The Revolution plays itself out a million times during your lifetime.

First, there was the original, which we don’t talk about because it happened in France and they still insist on speaking French, eating French food, and looking French. If they got with the program, they’d look and speak just like us, but with French bread.

Next, there are the movies. Nearly every movie that involves a challenge beyond the personal (“divorced 30-something gets over her hang-ups and learns to love roller derby”) follows the Revolutionary format: bad meanies are bad, people power is good, we unite and get together, in the end everyone joins hands on stage and sings.

Then, there’s the politics. There are civil rights struggles for every conceivable group. Fat basement-dwellers with body odor? Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. When we waddle out of our basements and overthrow the meanies, a new era of freedom, peace and harmony (etc) will be upon us (etc).

Then there’s foreign policy. Why do we want the people of Nosepickistan dead? They don’t support the Revolution. They put their women in garbage bags, no one can vote, the shopping is bad, you can’t get porn on cable TV and the idiot heathens don’t even allow alcohol. Send in the bombers, bring them democracy, soon they’ll be as Big Mac as we are.

Even worse, there’s the news cycle. A tragedy happens; it is sad. Then we feel outraged because, how could this tragedy sneak up on us while we were busy shopping/voting? It’s not fair. It’s not nice. Someone better pay. Find the meanie, gather up the people power, and we’re going to buzz together like bees in a hive until we make it change and depose those meanies.

There is always a bad guy. How do you find the bad guy? Who is in control? Unless that person is busy giving out welfare payments to the poor and helping the drunk and violent, that person is the bad meanie. Set phasers for kill. If something has gone wrong, someone is to blame. They must be replaced — with people power.

The Revolution is addictive. It never ends. It is always there, if you need some reason to forget your troubles. Mortality, low social status, misery, self-hatred, self-pity, self-doubt? Never fear: you have a new identity as a soldier of the Revolution! When you crush the meanies, the Crowd will roar with approval.

If it didn’t, the answer is simple. The meanies control the minds of the masses, who must be liberated. So get your educated buttocks on down to the ‘hood or the trailer park and start educating those poor backward people who need to know better like you do. Feel good about your life yet? You will.

The Revolution brings with it an Ideology. This Ideology is “in theory” political, but really it invades all areas of life. You re-shape yourself as a soldier of the Revolution, and that replaces religion, culture, even most socialization, and personal philosophy. Now you have all the answers.

We’ve had the revolution of discontent for centuries, where some were mad that others had more. We have seen what it brings, which is perpetual Revolution as our society cannibalizes itself. We’re looking for bad guys under every bed, and the only defense is to join the Revolution and hope it doesn’t turn on you. Often, a forlorn hope.

Now let’s try the Revolt of Imagination.

All of our post-Revolution social systems view life as a question of material redistribution. Some have more, so we’re mad, so we’re going to take what they have and, to prevent other people from revolting against us, we’re going to give it all away. Except that we’ll all get government jobs and get paid several equal salaries for our efforts.

The Revolt of Imagination is an entirely different animal. In it, we view life as an experience which is meant to be joyful. We view human time as valuable and believe that this time should be made significant and pleasant. We reject the idea that material distribution is the cause of our problems. The cause is actually our loss of direction.

Material redistribution creates a number of problems:

  • Reduces the urge to excel. People enjoy overcoming challenges and achieving greater heights. This is necessary to feel that we are in control of our own lives and that we’re growing. Otherwise, we feel stagnant and pointless. When you reduce rewards, people do not strive. They do the minimum or less. And hate themselves for it.
  • Destroys social standards. This has been sold to you under the brand name “pluralism.” Pluralism makes even the dirtiest surfaces shine! The idea is that instead of agreeing on social values, we have no social values, and we all get along because otherwise the cops will beat us with nightsticks. Sound stable? Of course not.
  • Forces reckless competition on us all. We’re all equal — great! — now what? The answer is that you’re all just meat for the machine, and the way you keep from being dragged beneath the wheel of progress is to commute, work, work, work and then shop and work some more. If you won’t, we’ll find someone who will. If we can’t, we’ll import them. Your only purpose is to go to a job and buy stuff.
  • Removes the existential. The worst aspect of material redistribution is that it makes us think solely in terms of stuff. The goal isn’t happiness, but having a full life. There is more to life than work and shopping (and voting). When we deny this, it makes people miserable and they take revenge through petty acts of sabotage, cruelty, obliviousness and vandalism.

The original Revolution presupposed that material equality would remove conflict and make people happy. The intervening two centuries show us that this is not the case. Equality led to more competition, more alienated, and greater misery, while removing other things we enjoyed.

We need a revolt of Imagination. In this, our goal is to find meaningful ways to spend our day-to-day time. Every minute is sacred, and we should waste none of it on activities that frustrate or demean us. Work should be gotten out of the way, not wallowed in. We should reward those who get it done quickest and then move on. We can reclaim our time from the machine, and stop basing our identities on our job titles and credit cards.

Even more, we can escape this same old tired routine of Revolution. It doesn’t work; that wouldn’t matter, except that it also isn’t fun. Like heroin addiction, it always sends us coming back for more. The last dose was great… for a while… then the craving began. What if we’re just losers? Don’t think that, soldier: attack!

The ultimate result of the Revolution was to enslave us to the egomania not of a few bad meanies, but by turning everyone into a bad meanie. Now we are all tyrants in our personal lives, refusing to work with each other, and raging against the emptiness. Another Revolution won’t help this.

Our only salvation lies in refusing to keep playing the game. Demand a Revolt of Imagination. Overthrow the idea that material redistribution is the path to the good life. Bring back the joy of experience, of existential discovery, of challenge and conquest. Give life meaning again. It’s the only adventure left.


  1. Owl says:

    The only adventure indeed.

    I enjoy it every time you do a good job highlighting the similarities of most fringe right wing movements (WN, NWO conspiracy theorists etc) to OWS and French revolutionaries.

    “Life doesn’t suck because we’re broken, mediocre little lumps of flesh who have no idea how to keep our homes free of clutter much less how to fill life with meaning, beauty and joy, it sucks because of those evil, dastardly nobles/bankers/Jews/illuminati/immigrants! All we have to do is gang up and destroy them and life will be utopic, like it should be!”

    It’s insidious because so many people are caught up in the same version of this narrative and not only do not realize it, but wouldn’t realize it if you tried to point it out – they’d have no idea what to replace it with.

    Their options are to stare directly into the void and duke it out with the same existential issues that fought Socrates and Plato to a draw, or else just crucify a scapegoat. As most people have stunted minds and bankrupt intellectual honesty, the choice is obvious – sharpen the guillotine!

    What’s worse I think is that most people fundamentally think that life has no intrinsic meaning, and that the only meaning they will find is the meaning they create – that is, they believe that if they do not butcher scapegoats to pass the time, their lives will be in vain: when everyone in their generation is old, they will look over at the next hospital bed and realize that they missed out on so much Epicurean indulgence of bloodlust and wasted their time staring out into emptiness.

    I think it’s sad, because I think most people are wrong: there is an objective, intrinsic meaning to life. I don’t even believe there is any “void” for a would-be philosopher to stare into when questioning the meaning of life – I believe when they stare into the “abyss” of all things nonhuman, the Divine stares right back at them.

    1. The right wing is ill to its core because so many of its most outspoken voices are in fact covert leftists.

      George W. Bush: “we’re fighting to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq”. That’s a liberal idea.

      WNs: white people should be equal too, because we’re victims. Also a liberal concept.

      New Right: capitalism is bad because we aren’t all equal, and we should join together into a Eurosiberian project for equality. Very leftist.

      How do we show these people the error of their ways, or show the voters so they exclude them?

  2. “We need a revolt of Imagination. In this, our goal is to find meaningful ways to spend our day-to-day time. Every minute is sacred, and we should waste none of it on activities that frustrate or demean us. Work should be gotten out of the way, not wallowed in. We should reward those who get it done quickest and then move on. We can reclaim our time from the machine, and stop basing our identities on our job titles and credit cards.”

    What does this look like, as a day to day lifestyle?

    How will we pay for it?

    What must we give up?

    1. Owl says:

      You’re supposed to figure it out yourself.

      If somebody TELLS you how to answer that open ended system, you and millions of others will eventually disagree with their idea and (surprise!) have a big revolution to depose the person who spoon fed you the answer.

      Be a philosopher and think!

      1. Ted Swanson says:

        Exactly. That’s what the imagination is for. YOU fill in the blanks.

  3. Loretek says:

    This is so on point that I will admit that it is how I felt without knowing it. As an extremely logic oriented person I have noticed everything you pointed out in the world and I have been preaching the idea that we have lost our honor, and asking what happened to our spirit (non-religious). What happened to the only goal in life were to live it and to strengthen your family name? Somehow honor and vigor were replaced with status and well.. not status. I have attributed our current social environment to what I call “feel-for-yous” that seem to be running things now a days , but they are your “soldiers” they take up arms for things that should have no meaning to them, because the issues do not effect them. Instead of working to better their own life, they find the first issue that touches them (almost always due to some social media IV drip of theirs) and dedicate their lives, closing all doors to reason.

    All this leads to the wrong politicians getting elected due to a single “feel-for-you” issue, and rash actions taken against things without proper thought. The current gun control schemes anyone?

    I leave this comment because your article has been a sort of yin to my yang. After growing up a bit and opening my eyes to the world all these things started to flood in and I began to get very angry at the world and how stupid people were being; I say stupid because the whole thing is a bit comical. I started preaching for a revolution of sorts, pointing out all the insignificant battles over issues and how illogical everything is, and how we needed to do this or that.

    I realize after reading what you have written that it is something more simple than that, more human. The issue is not HOW we are doing things, it is WHY. How did our culture go from gung-ho discovery and advancement, we are basically monkeys and we launched ourselves into space for goodness sake! No room in the budget anymore for that kind of fun I guess, gotta help the helpless. When did we let moral issues get in the way of scientific discovery? Why after 100 years of the most awe-inspiring advancements in every field are we left dwindling in 2013 waiting for the slightly smaller Iphone? When I think of where we could be in medicine now if we weren’t hindered by feel-for-you people who have all but halted stem cell research I feel sick.

    I will join your new revolt! I will preach simple human experience and push to inspire a thirst for advancement and “conquest” of our existence! Together we can turn the tide of this sorry, depressed, bickering populous we were born into. Lets not let the swingin’ 20′s be the golden age of human existence, we have learned so much and advanced so far in such a short time things like nationalism and terrorism should not exist. If we had kept advancing through the late 90′s instead of succumbing to blind nationalism and world revolution we would be in a completely different world, likely navigating it in 100% sustainable vehicles. All logic says our culture should be in a state of nirvana not a bunch of monkeys fighting over chicken scratch. If aliens were watching they would be laughing at us. We pretend to be civilized but really we have lost our humanity.

    1. Even if we can’t have religion, we do need some kind of spirit, goal or values. Our society seems bigoted against those.

      1. Loretek says:

        You are right! We need something. I would not call myself a religious person, but I do think religion is a natural manifestation of our humanity that cannot be denied its presence. There is a reason it has existed throughout history. So many people today, especially of my generation, want to outright deny religion and thus throw themselves into a purely social reality. That or associate with a pre-existing one to keep from being identified as a “meanie”. If one where to deny only man-made organized religion and instead relish in their own spirit, then they would soon find all the familiar emotions of faith. It is simply realizing that anything is possible and that one cannot pretend to know the answers to the biggest questions. Once you let go of fear you will start to realize religion was a tie string so all the questions could be bagged up and hidden away in your head.

        Openly accept these things as pure mystery and lead a moral life, and you will feel increasingly free. Not only that but you will start to see the spirit in everyone else.

        Our spirit needs something to believe less it self corrupts, but we do not have to believe in God, Allah, or even ourselves. We need to believe others, in humanity, who in turn believe in you. That is where true strength seems to lie.

  4. Meow Mix says:

    Hands down one of your best articles Brett! It’s simple, clear, and comical. Anyone can understand it and easily digest it’s otherwise nuanced premise. I’m copying it to my computer.

  5. Elijah says:

    I imagine the next stage of humanity will be a total mechanization of life. Liberals claim to preserve nature, but a fundamental aspect of progress is the progressive mechanical control of every aspect of life. The “protection” of nature will be a front/excuse to control it in sanctuaries or bureaucratized areas designated for preservation. There will be nowhere for humans who do not desire to participate in the machine to go, we are all parts and slaves to the machine. Therefore also the need for equality: interchangeable cogs and units. No room for independent and organic life.

    1. We have protected your nature by sealing ten acres of it in this greenhouse. You can visit it on weekends. There will be a gift shop and photo booth. Now that we have taken care of that, let’s pave the rest and make a bigger parking lot. RVs welcome. Folding money only.

      1. Ted Swanson says:

        I’m reminded of the concept of a “Nature Preserve” or “Wildlife Preserve.” See, you are in nature now, the sign says so.

  6. [...] scratch the surface and the phony posturing becomes clear, revealing traits we see in every revolution and call for “rights” to be recognized. Claiming to have suffered perceived prejudice [...]

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