Sunday, June 21, 2009

Children of Revolution

Recent events have forced me to come to terms with an element of my world view that I never truly understood before. Two weeks ago, I was a rather complacent, middle-class, white, male American. I grew up in a land where you could be or do anything you really felt like, just so long as you didn't break too many laws in the process. I grew up in a middle class family, with the understanding that my parents would support me just so long as I didn't do anything too tremendously stupid. I knew my government wasn't paying too much attention, but that on some level they were at the very least passively supporting the people governed. I had a decent education, and learned all about how once upon a time, it wasn't really this way. And that somewhere, dangling off the edge of the map, it wasn't this way there either. "Here there be restrictions on social liberties, and slightly further out, there be monsters." I had a nice happy little something going on, with minimal effort required to keep it in place. The little talking box in the living room would whisper about those far away places, and sometimes show pictures of people who didn't look anything like me, miserable and suffering because they were so far away.

Yet, underlying everything, was this destructive instinct, buried deep. For some reason, I felt an almost instinctive distrust of uniforms, of political hierarchies, and of arbitrary boundaries. I knew that if the government had reason to look my way it was a bad thing, and a thing to be avoided. I heard the stories of great men and women, tilting at windmills and fighting the power, and I felt a kinship. I felt a stirring to go and do likewise.

Then, a shade over a week ago, one of those distant lands dangling off the edge of the map had their little election. I recognized one of the men running for office from my talking box, and I didn't like him. But what of it? That place was literally a world away, and none of my concern. The angry little man no one on my talking box seemed to like won his election in a landslide, and people said it was not so, that he had stolen the election. It was frustrating, but what could I do? I thought one of our politicians did a similar thing recently, and we all just grumbled about it.

But something went wrong. The people didn't grumble. The people rose up, and cried out "Shenanigans!" I heard their call, and something stirred in me. I listened to it, and I realized it didn't sound so different to my own voice. These people, they weren't so different. I am a child of technology, and binary is the same in all languages. Here were people with cell phones, and computers, and all the other gadgetry that defined my life. What is more, they were using those toys, those conveniences to fight back. On the internet, geography means nothing. Language is not a barrier, but rather an inconvenience. These people were fighting with blogs, and torrents, and twitters. I knew these things, and suddenly these weren't just people, these were my kin. These people were brothers and sisters in arms, likewise born children of technology. So I took up the call, used what tools I found close at hand, and threw myself into the fray.

I realize I'm no Iranian. I realize that my contribution is meager at best, and I could very easily just go back to my complacent life, play with all my shiny toys, and leave those people on the other side of the world to take on their own battles. My pathetic internet relay is one of a myriad, and I have no voice that change the world. Something in me would not permit this, though. Something in me screamed out "Fight!" Something in me woke up, and suddenly I was neck deep in someone else's fight. I've been trying to figure it out for days, and I've finally got it.

I am a child of Revolution. I am an American, a land founded on the principle that the people up top don't know better. The motto of my home state is "The Show Me State"; skepticism has been ground into me since day one. I was raised to believe that people should never fear their governments, but that governments should fear their people. I am a child of Don Quixote, windmills are made to be tilted at. Freedom is not a privilege, it is a right. Deep down within all of us, I believe there is a revolutionary that has been carefully groomed and prepared, because there could come a day when it is necessary to stand against the machine. Every young American who learns our history is taught to be a revolutionary, because if we ever forget that, we will lose the very thing this land was created for. We need to revolt against something. Especially now, with complacency rife and government corruption prevalent. It is a dangerous thing to raise children to honor those who questioned authority, and then present them with a ruling power that could very well be unworthy of the authority they have. It stews and simmers in us all, but we are free enough that we simply create fantastical fictions where it is not so, so we can feed our need to revolt. Movies and music, screaming out against the establishment, these things appease our cravings, but they don't remove them completely.

So when I found a gateway to revolution, a chance to finally unleash a lifetime's frustration at repression, it was a non-issue for me. Iranians were no different. If anything, they worship their revolutionaries even more than Americans, so that internal tension must have been even greater. The people who are throwing themselves into this, both Iranian and the web-based community at large, we are all doing what we were bred to do. Social repression, injustice, and violence towards a populace who did nothing to warrant it? It would be harder for us not to fight. My tools are meager, my life mostly safe, and my rage is largely impotent.

But I was raised singing the songs of angry men. I can't help but raise my own voice when I hear the chorus begin again. I support the Sea of Green.

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