We all talk longingly for the days of the revolution, a mythical time where unicorns will reemerge from their cocoons and Elvis will fuse with Tupac and Jimi Hendrix to become our lord and savior. It’s a phrase anarchists use on a frequent basis; “after the revolution, [insert bold claim that is inherent within the soul of all human beings].” Our brethren no doubt make bold claims about human nature and societal relationships. What happens when the revolution begins, whether we are ready or not? Will our claims culminate in their correctness?
With this in mind, this week Anarcho-Pop looks at NBC’s Revolution, fresh off the chopping block in its first season. The show revolves around Charlotte “Charlie” Matheson, a girl who has grown up for the majority of her life in a world deprived of electricity. You see, fifteen years prior, all of the lights went out. Vehicles stopped functioning. Computers and phones instantly became obsolete. Governments crumble. The show teleports the viewers to different times, both when electricity initially disappears and then back to the “present” fifteen years after the fact. It remains unknown to viewers (at least through the second episode) why the power went out, though viewers are teased that Charlie’s father, Ben, has pertinent information on a hidden thumb drive. Revolution presents a dystopian future with a return to feudalism, all in a weekly hour packed full of scenarios that leave us with more questions than we have answers.
What’s there for the average person?
The show was created by Eric Kripke, whose previous claim to fame was the CW’s Supernatural, and is produced by J.J. Abrams, the man behind Lost, Alias, and the film Super 8. These two men have done incredibly well with very unusual types of shows, giving the duo a solid bit of credibility going into this project. This makes up for a cast of perhaps lesser-known actors, including Twilight’s Billy Burke and Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchell.
The show itself follows Lost fashion, remaining thoroughly plot driven and leaving viewers at the end of each episode wanting more. The antagonist throughout the series so far has been the Monroe Republic, a quasi-feudal state created by Sebastian Monroe shortly after initial power outage. It is currently unknown how Monroe gained power through such a large area (it is unclear what the boundaries are, but the show has currently stayed around Illinois and Indiana), but when he learns that there are people who may have information on why electricity no longer works, he sends men to capture the “rebels”.
Ben Matheson is one of these individuals, and when Captain Thomas Neville of the Republic attempts to apprehend the suspect, Danny Matheson, Ben’s son and Charlie’s younger brother, attempts to intervene. The scene leaves us with Ben shot and Danny captured in his place. As Charlie returns from wandering the woods after an earlier fight with her father, she finds her world in disarray. Ben begins to fade, but before he dies, he pleads with Charlie to find her uncle, Miles, a man that can help her bring back Danny. This search has been the focus of the plot thus far.
What’s there for anarchists?
Revolution provides anarchists with an opportunity to comment on theories we believe in within the context pop-culture. The show follows a Hobbesian mindset, with a war of all against all playing a central theme thus far, with certain caveats. The Matheson family lives in what seems to be a small agrarian community based on mutual aid (it’s unclear if they use currency or how they trade). The “strong, central government” is pretty much despised, even though the show implies that the Monroe Republic leaves communities autonomous aside from taxes they procure and the confiscation of firearms, the former reminding me personally of the Aztec empire in central Mexico.
The show, through only two episodes, has offered up the thought that strangers absolutely cannot be trusted, while creating characters that seem to at least question that theory. What intrigues me about Revolution is that a massive change in culture occurs outside of any type of social movement, thereby allowing for true “spontaneous order” to take place. But social anarchists that I have read and spoken to have been pretty adamant that this is not the type of setting that anarchism can flourish; the state and capitalism both fall within a short amount of time, without any type of proper transition.
Here’s my question: What setting does our “revolution” take place, and is it really something within our control? We live in a world that currently has thousands of various cultures, and we live in an age of globalization. Revolution only takes place in the Midwest, with the furthest point being Fort Chatsworth, GA. One can only imagine what is taking place both in other “advanced” societies, as well as third world countries that would not be affected in such a massive way.
Anarchists are among the greatest dreamers on our planet, and I am completely infatuated with an egalitarian society that sheds hierarchy while promoting the individual uniqueness of its inhabitants. What Revolution challenges us with is one type of cultural clash in a particular situation. Within our own community, we seem to allow our differences to define us more than our similarities. How in the hell are we supposed to persuade people in our towns and countries? I simply don’t have an answer, and there doesn’t seem to be a magic answer that I have found.
Some will say that theory isn’t as important as practice, and I certainly find that notion appealing. However, as the United States has shown us throughout the 20th century, alternative societies become quick targets for power structures to manipulate and spread misinformation about. We need not only look at Latin America, both after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and the Pink Tide occurring today. Look at how Hugo Chavez is portrayed by our media, which has resonated with a vast majority of the American public! And Chavez, preferable as he is to Obama and Romney, still leaves very much to desire for anarchists. Imagine a burgeoning Anarchist region, let’s say in the Northwest. Do we really believe that, as soon as they find the community a considerable threat, they will find a subversive way to undermine everything? Cuba was only able to allow their socialist experiment to continue because of the Cuban Missile Crisis’ aftermath. What type of ally could a single anarchist society procure to help stave off the biggest bully in modern history?
These questions to not dissuade me from anarchism, and I hope they haven’t for you. For readers, you’ve probably heard variations of these objections for years. From a pop-culture perspective, Revolution provides us with an opportunity to inject our ideas within the confines of a particular scenario. If you have time, please watch this show on Monday nights. Allow yourself to connect with something the general populace has embraced, and perhaps we can find an opening to start a conversation that non-anarchists would normally brush off before it ever begins.