We are indeed seeing history. But we are also seeing something else: the hard reality of protest. I have seen quite a few people who are so enamored
with this right to protest, some have even said they taught it to their children.
Yes, we have a right to protest. Peacefully. But rarely do protests remain peaceful.
There are three basic states of society: complacency, protest, and war. During complacency, people go about their daily lives more or less
contentedly. During protest, people become angry at injustices they see and decide that something must be done to stop those injustices. During war,
they kill each other to stop the injustices. History is a recounting of societies as they move through each of these cycles.
The United States was founded on recognition of this cycle, albeit not always well described. The
Declaration of Independence
did a pretty good job, though:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all
experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which
they are accustomed.
"disposed to suffer"... the state of complacency.
But that document was not written during a period of complacency; it was written during a time of protest. People were angry. People were fed up. The
Declaration of Independence itself could be seen as a protest to the powers of England. And we all know what happened after that: war. During war,
people die... a lot of people die. War is not some game where the two sides line up and try to fight until one says "UNCLE!" War is when two sides
determine that their only reasonable course of action is to kill other people because those other people are oppressing them.
In every single war, those fighting tend to forget that to the other side, they are the oppressors.
Complacency is peace. Complacency is the preferable state of being for most. But there is an inherent difficulty with complacency, and that is human
greed. People who have idle time always find ways to use up their resources to fill that idle time. We have entire industries devoted to providing
fill for idle time: TV, movies, travel, entertainment, games... but all of these industries require some sort of resources from those who use them,
and no one has unlimited resources... so what happens when there are not enough resources to fill the idle time?
Protest happens. That's when people become both desirous of more resources than they are able to produce and demand more from those who they believe
have unlimited resources. People begin to see injustice at every turn. Why should they be forced to not have what they desire, when it looks like
others have it? So protest begins.
Note that protest is not always caused by idle time alone... it is caused by insufficient resources to fill that idle time. High taxes, class
immobility, poverty, unemployment can all create the right conditions for protest, as long as there is enough idle time to be unfilled.
In many ways, protest is a relief valve for society. It is a way to let the anger from years long past to escape. That's why protests are rarely
peaceful: they exist as a pressure relief valve, and there are always those who need more pressure relieved than peaceful means can accomplish. If the
protests go unheard, or if they are shut down by brute force, then war comes. The relief valve failed, and the pressure causes everything to explode.
Unfortunately, Blaine is correct in that there is little an authority can do once protests turn violent, other than to respond with violence. That
sets up a vicious spiral that is the root cause many protests lead to war.
France has gone through this once before: the infamous French Revolution. That was an interesting study in the cycle of complacency - protest - war.
The war in that case did not relieve the injustices seen, so any complacency was extremely short-lived and the remaining anger caused any protest
period to be quite short as well. The revolutionaries accomplished their goal of overthrowing the monarchy, at a high cost in lives, but then became
the new monarchy in the eyes of others. These others then overthrew that monarchy as well and became the monarchy. Wash, rinse, repeat. There were no
victors when all was said and done, unless one counts survival itself as a victory.
I hope we are not seeing another such period in French history.
But more to my point, I hope we are not seeing our own future. Those who claim gleefully how well they protest do not realize the danger they play
with, especially when they themselves have no workable answers. The lessons of history are clear: be extremely careful when you play around with
unreasonable protests, because if you win the coming war, you will then be the next target. That lesson has been forgotten, and it seems that it must
Watch close, those of you who are young. Learn your lessons well. Someday, you will have the opportunity to pass those lessons down to the younger
generation. I pray you will be more successful than my generation apparently was.