Nearly every day I am invited by marketers to learn about some revolutionary new product, things they expect I will want to introduce to our readers, who — it must be assumed by this approach — are eager for that revolution. Just within the confines of the big-issue discussions that comprise my professional activity, there are revolutionary promises attached to 3D printing, the Industrial Internet of Things, collaborative robotics, wearable technology, and unmanned vehicles (e.g., drones.) We’ve already accepted the ‘revolutionary’ status of cloud computing. Next to come, I am told, will be ‘fog computing.’

In these examples, ‘revolution’ seems like the best experience we should hope for. And that assumption is there in the broader marketing that surrounds consumer products, communication technology and devices, entertainment choices, and lately in political

brands. We have two political parties in this country, parties built mainly on people’s social identifications (income, education, geography) and negative associations: it’s one us-versus-them argument after another. In the current cycle, both parties are trying to harness their restive masses, hoping to redirect the crowds’ growing frustration with the lack of improvement or even direction on matters they have been instructed to be angry about for so many election cycles. The parties’ favored candidates are having trouble justifying their electability, and the whole tedious process is described as a ‘revolution’ in U.S. politics.  Honestly, what else should we expect from a population so primed to expect revolutionary results in so many aspects of life? 

But, just for perspective, in Syria there is an actual revolution under way, with rebel forces challenging a dynastic regime, which in its desperation has accepted the sponsorship and military aid from a nation that, historically, is inclined toward aggression. That revolution probably will fail, and yet it will feature all the blood and tragedy that is customary for revolutions.

In the same neighborhood is a revolutionary movement with better prospects, at least because it is so much less cautious about torturing and killing, destroying civil society, and driving people into submission. This is a revolution that lives up to the definition, a movement promising to extinguish that which it opposes and to redirect the course of any civilization within its control. 

Having experienced that revolution, many thousands of people have decided to relocate to Europe. It’s unlikely many will settle themselves for long in Greece, a country that had a narrower sort of revolution this year. Voters rejected the proposition that they should accept a new dose of poverty prescribed for them by economic agents of the European Union. Rejection in the absence of any alternative is at least an intellectual revolution for the Greeks — though the destruction is happening anyhow as a consequence of economic stagnation.

A revolution was averted, narrowly, in the United Kingdom in May. The Scottish National Party lost its electoral claim for authority, which it had promised to use to disestablish the 400-year-old Union. That would have been more of a devolution, changing rules more than circumstances. The sentiment may not be diffused, but we should appreciate the comparative civility with which it has been conducted.

Revolutions are efforts by individuals or groups to force political or social circumstances to change according to their requirements. Historically, the most successful of these forces have been the ones most willing to incite terror, most unreasonable in negotiating their demands, and most indifferent to death and destruction in their pursuit.

Here, we have no revolutions underway, but we do have processes that are meant to keep those in authority from exceeding the limits and propriety of the power they hold. If they were feeling a bit tense about their prospects now, that would be normal.