We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Monday, December 11, 2017
Iran’s 1979 revolution picked up the People’s torch first lit in 1917 Russia
Click here if you wish to access an article (posted on A bird's eye view of the Vineyard) that I believe illustrates a profound insight: no one person can be absolutely knowledgeable about everything or anything, there are no absolutely "authoritative sources", there are no absolute experts, there are no enlightened or superior humans who we all must unquestionably follow, etc. I am sorry for people who believe otherwise, and most people do, as does Ramin Mazaheri, an Iranian-American. I will try to explain why.
First off, I will try to explain why the people did not turn against the Muslim hierarchy in Iran as they did in other places like Russia against the Orthodox Church after the 1917 Revolution, in Spain against the Catholic Church in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-'38, etc; and why the people supported the Catholic church in various places in Latin America starting in the 1950s during the Liberation Theology Movement and its activist expression in Christian base communities, reached its apogee in the 1970s-'80s, and to a diminishing extent since. However, the Vatican barely tolerated this support even though it was so popular throughout Latin America. There is a very simple explanation for this. The people supported their religious organizations when the latter supported them instead of the regime in power which typically occurs.
On my trips to Nicaragua in the 1980s after the Sandinista Revolution I witnessed this firsthand. I met many people affiliated with the Maryknoll order (of the Catholic Church) who performed very important roles in the Nicaraguan government and supporting agencies, particularly in education and social services.
In class-ruled societies that have existed during the last 10,000 years (period of civilization) of the nearly 200,000 years of the existence of humans, most people are indoctrinated to obey, and have faith in, authority figures. All ruling classes (theocracies, military chieftains, feudal rulers, and capitalists), once they take power, realize the necessity of accomplishing this in order to secure their rule. Ruling classes have always immediately recognized that using force to intimidate people into following their exploitative rule is impractical. Thus, an authoritarian orientation among civilized people has always been the case. This simply means that humans since civilization and class rule have always looked to authorities for guidance on what to believe, how to ascertain truth, and from whom to acquire this truth.
Nowadays, the ruling capitalist class culture endows mostly teachers, police, judges and courts, experts, corporate media talking heads, "authoritative sources", church authorities (priests, mullahs, rabbis, etc), etc, with special knowledge about reality. All the latter people are, in turn, supported by ruling capitalist classes. Likewise, capitalists punish any of their appointed authorities if their activities counter the interests of the ruling class. People like Ray Bonner, Phil Donahue, Dan Rather, Jesse Ventura, and many whistleblowers can testify to this.
The Age of Enlightenment (largely in the 18th century) had temporarily challenged these authoritarian notions with its emphasis on seeking truth through reason and evidence, and above all, science with its rigorous methods of obtaining truth. This resulted in the explosive growth of all knowledge about our physical reality ranging from nuclear physics to the farthest reaches of the universe. Soon we humans were able to harness energy to drive machines to make our lives much less burdened by drudgery.
However, this explosive period of knowledge was nipped in the bud by the rise of capitalist classes who saw the wondrous potential that all this knowledge could bring them if the energy, machines, the products of the latter, money, and even knowledge itself could be "owned" by them. The capitalist classes recruited workers and peasants with deceptive promises that they would enjoy "democracy" (read, for example, the "Declaration of Independence") if they joined them to overthrow the rule of the monarchy and aristocracy whose rule was based on their control over land and its inhabitants. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Although ordinary working people were freed from feudal authorities, they soon found themselves at the mercy of their capitalist bosses.
Today all this "enlightenment stuff" is largely forgotten. People are taught to obey, consume, and work hard for their bosses. Oh sure, a small minority of them are allowed to receive advanced training in technology so that capitalists can own and profit from the products of this technology. Still, these scientists and technologists are thoroughly indoctrinated in the virtues of living in capitalist societies. They are induced to identify with capitalist interests (profit and power) by offering them a comfortable life style, many extra privileges that are denied to ordinary workers, and opportunities to associate often with the ruling capitalist class.