The Anti-Revolution and the Void that Remains
By Doug Bursch
Anti is a revolutionary prefix. When joined with the right name, system, or organization, it can change the course of a nation. Anti topples entrenched regimes and tyrannical dictatorships. Anti unites diverse factions under a shared purpose; a purpose often rooted in anger and frustration. Anti is seldom a solution for the future. Instead, it is a judgement on the past. Anti might not know how to solve our problems, but it knows who the hell caused them. Anti is a cry for punishment, for retribution, for freedom from the oppression of the present. Anti can be chanted and clearly communicated. It is not a complicated treatise or carefully crafted agenda. Anti is a prefix, a prefix to be placed in front of one word. That one word is the problem. Anti is the cure.
In recent years, we’ve seen the power of anti. Anti-government, anti-taxes, anti-Mubarak, anti-Gaddafi, anti-Obama, anti-Osama, anti-Wall Street, anti-unions, anti-mainstream media, anti-healthcare bill, anti-illegal immigration, anti-raising the debt ceiling, anti-ground zero mosque, anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, anti-Mormon, anti-just about anything that stands in our way.
When attached to our enemies, anti is a rallying cry. When attached to our friends, it’s an act of aggression. Anti is a prefix that unites movements through dividing the room. It can be used for tremendous good and horrific evil. It just depends on the origin of the anti.
The antonym of anti is “pro.” To be “pro” is to be for something. Pro is a complicated prefix with limited effectiveness in uniting the masses. Pro certainly works well in defining the shared values of a community. When pro precedes words such as life, choice, peace, and environment, it can bring a sense of united moral purpose. However, pro often suffers in the implementation of those values.
It is one thing to be pro-life, it is another to determine how that value is to be lived out in society. Is pro-life limited to abortion or is it expanded to issues of adoption, foster care, poverty, and the death penalty. Pro works well in the championing of values, but is less sufficient in finding unifying solutions.
Pro seldom brings the same passionate unity as anti. Just look at the Arab Spring for numerous examples. An Egypt united against Mubarak is by no means an Egypt united in Mubarak’s absence.
Occupy Wall Street is another example of the complexities of being for something. It is one thing to unite against economic injustice and inequalities. It is another to come up with a solution. Once platforms are championed and solutions are platformed, the united front turns into a sea of dissension.
This is one of the main reasons I have little hope that sound progressive reforms will ever be implemented into America’s political structure. Progressive reforms usually require a complex solution that relies upon shared community values and shared participation. Conservative, far right reforms usually champion far simpler solutions.
Conservative ideology thrives in its anti-stance. Anti-big government, anti-taxes, anti-centralized government, anti-shared accountability. Conservative ideology in its simplest expression is the belief that individuals and corporations should fend for themselves outside of governmental influence. Conservative ideology usually wins because of its anti-foundations. Progressive ideology usually breaks down because it requires the adoption of government facilitated, shared responsibility solutions.
This same struggle is seen on the right in the divide between fiscal and social conservatives. Although the Republican base still champions social conservative activism. It is difficult to unite the larger conservative populace with anything but an anti-government, anti-regulations stance.
The Bible says there will be many anti-Christs, but only one Messiah. That seems about right. Anti will always be with us in various palatable and less than palatable forms. However, the ability to bring nations together with positive change seems limited to the skill set of a Messiah. How many people will follow that Messiah remains to be seen.
Sometimes the Anti cause is justified. But without Spirit-led vision it quickly turns into Collective Whining.
It’s often justified. However, it is only part of the equation. Something better must take the place of what we stand against. We may all stand together with our belief that the food is bad, but can we work together to come up with a better dish.