In political discussions between those with revolutionary inclinations and those with incrementalist inclinations, the debate will often center around whether “the system” is working. The former group tends to believe that things are broken, and we need to more or less start with a clean slate and make things right. Meanwhile the latter group will point to examples of how things have improved and talk about how bad the revolution will be and how unlikely we are to get back to where we are. So you end up with “things are fucked, lets unfuck them” vs “things are going well, lets not break anything.

The issue that doesn’t seem to get talked about enough is that ‘things are much better than they were, and making big sweeping changes is unlikely to bring improvement” does not imply that things are good. From the other side, that fact that things are bad doesn’t imply that there is a radical change that can fix things. It’s totally possible that things used to be horrible, and that after millenia of struggle and sacrifice we’ve created a delicate balance in which things are merely bad. In such a world, both of the groups above would be correct, and yet each could refute the other so long as they share the underlying assumption that there is a state of overall well-being out there that is capable of being reached.

I bring this up partly out of frustration with the discourse, but also partly because I don’t think the incrementalist/pro-establishment crowd can manage to be convincing without the missing mood of “I know you’ve been shit on, and that’s unfair and it sucks, but this is as good as it’s likely to get for the forseeable future, so I can’t endorse your plans for radical change.” This is unlikely to inspire enthusiasm, but I do think it’s more sympathetic. Maybe I’m wrong, but even if I am I’d like for the possibility I lay out here to be addressed in more depth and with more rigor.

This speaks to me

I think the world is bad, used to be worse, and is slowly improving. I think the end-state of incrementalism will be bad, because some of the things that drive badness cannot be incrementally changed.

At the same time, I think the world is nevertheless definitely not ready for a revolution, because almost all revolutions have been terrible and have not improved things, and in every country that has had a revolution, there are today the same drivers of badness as in the countries that did not have a revolution.

It’s all a shit show, but it’s an improving shit show and a revolution will remove much of the good for a merely temporary restraint on the bad.

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