The idea of picking up a well-hit ground ball and accurately firing it to first base doesn’t get a ball to first base. It’s the act of picking up the ball and firing it that does the job. Learning to do that well takes years of practice. It’s a very long process. And even then, perfect execution of that practice is hardly guaranteed. Ask RedSox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
This analogy is what I though of while reading Russell Brand’s article on revolution and watching clips of his conversations around that same article. I enjoyed the essay. I enjoyed the essay overall.** Brand is an intelligent comedian in the vein of Eddie Izzard (whom he mentions in the piece) and is highly entertaining. He’s also clearly moved regarding issues of human flourishing.
The ideas in Brand’s essay, while hardly being novel or new, are as generous and attractive as they ever are; compassion, equality… justice. These are almost universally valued ideas. But just like there is a huge difference between the idea of playing shortstop and actually playing shortstop much less playing shortstop well, these ideas are ghosts until they are practiced… until they are embodied.
And there’s this frustrating “problem” that comes with bodies; bodily change happens slowly – much slower than a change of minds. In fact, even once I’ve settled on a new line of thought about health, it can take “the rest of me” quite a while to actualize the decision I’ve made to act differently. The pace of real, sustained change among whole groups of people is even slower. Painfully so.
“The planet is being destroyed.” Brand said during an interview. “We are creating an underclass and exploiting poor people all over the world. And the legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political powers.”
He then goes on to make the actual call for revolution:
To genuinely make a difference, we must become different; make the tiny, longitudinal shift. Meditate, direct our love indiscriminately … Revolt in whatever way we want, with the spontaneity of the London rioters, with the certainty and willingness to die of religious fundamentalists or with the twinkling mischief of the trickster. We should include everyone, judging no one, without harming anyone.
It’s an inspired call. But he unfortunately loses me with his next line:
The Agricultural Revolution took thousands of years, the Industrial Revolution took hundreds of years, the Technological Revolution took tens, the Spiritual Revolution has come and we have only an instant to act.
I do wish it were the case that Justice was swift in It’s arrival if not immediate. But that’s simply not been my experience. In fact, I’ve often noted that change that happens in a flash tends to last about as long. The work of (or toward) Justice, Equality, Fairness etc… is often awe-inspiring, moving and thrilling. But at least as often it is also disappointing, paralyzing and heartbreaking, even if it’s just the pace of things that makes it so.
A decade ago, when I started partnering with Compassion International, I would tell people that more than 30,000 kids died every day from hunger-related causes. That was true then. But when I refer to that ratio today, I say that it’s closer to 18,000. That’s still (clearly) 18,000 kids too many, but it’s (also clearly) far better than 30,000 or even 40,000, which was the case through much of the 1990s.
Brand calls the needed change a Spiritual Revolution. And I know full well that he has a somewhat different framework than do I for what “Spiritual” means. Yet if I’ve learned anything about the ostensibly “Spiritual” facet of human life, it’s that change happens at roughly the same rate in spiritual matters as it does in physical matters. It’s a slower process than any of us, and particularly the excitable among us, would like.
Dr. King is often quoted as having said “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I think that beautiful line works in a different order as well. “The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, but it is long.”
** I do have one fundamental difference with Brand. While I agree that the political system is ‘broken’ in many ways, there is no way in which the political system is more broken than in the absence and non-participation of voters.
Read bills and measures,
learn who your state and local candidates are,