Posts Tagged ‘revolution’

Independent Thinking in Prague

July 13, 2017

In Prague, we find a very long history of people who can detect and identify the manipulative hypocrisies that form within human institutions. From Jan Hus to Franz Kafka to Albert Einstein to Jan Masaryk to Vaclav Havel, and including  many other reformers throughout history, we discover in Prague a long line of independent thinkers who defended the initiatives of the people to conduct their own religious and political affairs without being controlled by powerful institutions such as the Church or the Communist Party.

An early historical example of such a reformer would be Jan Hus, whose life and legacy is depicted in this sculpture in Old Town Square in Prague.

Hus3

In the year 1415  A full century before Martin Luther, Hus criticized  a manipulative system within the dominant political institution of that time, the Catholic Church. Over a millennium of time, potentates within the religious hierarchy had managed to erect barriers whereby believers were denied the freedoms of reading/interpreting the scriptures for themselves. Ecclesiastical prohibitions pertaining to the reading, translating and teaching of the scriptures had led to an institutionalized Church that manipulated people for political/economic purposes, instead of assuring their liberty to read/interpret/preach the scriptures for themselves. Such institutional prohibitions had permitted non-biblical practices such as the selling of indulgences to creep into Church religion.

Jan Hus was declared by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, as it existed in 1415, to be a heretic. The judgement laid upon him ultimately cost him his life, as he was condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake.

In modern times, a reformer named Vaclev Havel suffered similar persecutions from the dominating institution of Czechoslovakia during his time of life, the 1950’s-1980’s. Havel’s ultimate fate, however, was a much happier one than that of his 15th-century forebear reformer.

After a persecuted early life of continual resistance against the cruel machinations of the 20th-century Soviet Communist Party, the writer Vaclav Havel’s role was re-defined in a most favorable way. The people of the Czech Republic elected him as their President after the people rose up in 1989 and overthrew the Communists.

As visitors to this country hoping to understand some of these changes, we visited the Museum of Communism here in Prague yesterday. In viewing that time-line  of artifacts and information, we were able to gain a comprehensive perspective. The museum displays presented a  concise history of communist ideas and dogmas from Marx onward, though Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev. A presentation of this history reveals effects that were destructive, insofar as in they oppressed the proletariat who were supposed to have been the benefactors of communist ideology.  The Soviet controls became more restrictive and controlling as the 20-century years rolled by.

One display I saw included this text about the Communist Party establishing a Secret Police after the coup in 1948.

SecretPolice

Vaclav Havel and many other protesters mounted a lifelong, persistent resistance against these  control-freak obsessions. Their efforts paid off. In 1989,  the reformers were able to lead such a widespread popular movement that they successfully rejected Communist Party control and then established the Czech Republic.

From a display in the Museum of Communism, here’s a capsulized explanation of how that happened:

VelvetRev

And here’s the last photo I snapped from the display at the History of Communism Museum. It’s a pic of Wenceslaus Square, Prague,  in November of 1989 when, the old repressive institutions of the Communist Party began to tumble in the wake of a huge popular democratic/republican demonstration.

Wenc'89

King of Soul

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A deer in the Hungarian headlights

June 18, 2017

Imre Nagy was a politician in post-World War II, Soviet-controlled Hungary. He was a leader in the Communist party, but his interest was not so much in schmoozing within the inner circle of power. Rather, his hope was to provide an impulse for public discussion about the issues that needed to be dealt with in the development of a uniquely Hungarian socialism. Imre advocated a path to collective economic activity that would build upon societal remnants of Hungarian feudal traditions. The retention of certain traditional values and practices could provide an impetus for gradual progress instead of the forced cruelties of the Russian Soviet program. Nagy’s socialism “with a human face” could possibly eliminate, or at least minimize, the violence that would be doubtlessly be imposed  to enforce the dictates of Soviet administration.

The story of Nagy is a tragic saga of a man who tried to steer a safe course between Soviet cruelties and a dangerous impulse toward democratic socialism among the people of his own country.

Nagy

Imre Nagy’s sensitivity to the demands of his people endeared him to the people. They paid attention to him, respected him, actively supported him in a way that was not typical in a communist country.

But his story is a tragedy, because there was a moment in time when Imre Nagy suddenly saw, clearly, the impossibility of his moderate socialist gradualism. Suddenly, in one moment of high drama, his strategies were exposed as being in opposition to the people’s Revolution, even though he was a good Communist.  The revolutionary impulse in Hungary in 1956 was not, you see, the revolution of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. It was a Revolution to dispose of the revolution of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. It was counter-revolution.

But for the diehard hardline Soviet leadership, counter-revolution was NOT a thing to be tolerated. In fact, it must be stopped, by tanks and guns if necessary.

So Nagy’s unexpected reality-check came at a very dangerous point in time. The realization came at a moment when thousands of his fellow Hungarians were gathered at Kossuth Square in Budapest to hear him speak. He had just been appointed Prime Minister by the leaders of the Communist party. The big wheels of the Party were giving him a chance to do the “right thing”–take this populist bull by the horns and wrestle it down into Communist Party compliance.

On that Tuesday night in 1956, the Soviet head honchos, supported by the local Hungarian Party apparatchiks, were hastily putting together a plan to put down the gathering of the people outside of Parliament. They were planning to send in the heavy guns, the tanks, the Soviet soldiers. This huge populist crowd was gathering steam in Budapest; that very same uprising had been inspired, partly, by Imre Nagy’s leadership style and his tolerant message  of democratic socialism. At that moment, thousands of Hungarians were suddenly expecting to receive Nagy’s signal for a New Course from their new, reform-minded Prime Minister.

Janos M. Rainer describes the scene in his 2009 biography of Imre Nagy. With the thronging crowds gathered in from of him, Nagy stood in an open window ready to deliver a message to the people. It was about 9 p.m. The crowd was so large that some people could not hear him, even with the loudspeakers. Rainer writes:

“As Nagy approached the open window, he saw himself confronted with a completely unfamiliar force. (Nagy later said): ‘Only when I perceived the mood in the square did it become clear to me that what was called for was quite different from what I had prepared.’ “

“Comrades!” he began.

Some answered, “We are not comrades!” and “No more comrades!”

Someone said “All of Budapest is here!” “The nation is here.”

The people had gathered there to receive the leadership of a new, fearless Prime Minister to guide their movement into its destiny. They were seriously ready for a change. They were fed up with those guys from Moscow and their lackeys. As far as they could see, Imre Nagy, who stood ready to address them, could be their man of destiny. He had the courage and the independent spirit to rise to the challenge.

But Imre was unable to accept the mantle. He was too good a Communist Party man. According to Soviet doctrine, the Revolution could not happen here and now because the Revolution had already happened.

In 1917, In Russia. According to Communist doctrine, that Bolshevik event would be the model and the inspiration for all revolutions heretofore.

So the next morning the Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and put an end to those Hungarian upstarts thinking they could do something without the Communist Party’s approval. Nagy did nothing to stop it because he knew he couldn’t stop it. He was a realist.

But he was an inspired realist.

And certainly it would not be the people of Hungary (or so the Party leaders thought) who would change the course of the working-out of the worldwide Communist revolution.

Hngr56

But ultimately, in the long run, in the big picture, it was the Hungarian people who did  release the spark that would change communist  history.  As subsequent decades rolled by, the Hungarians’ initiation of resistance did get the job done, with a little help from the Poles and the Czechs, and the Germans.

In 1989, it happened. The people of the European Communist lands overthrew the Soviets, and they did it without a violent revolution.

So maybe Imre Nagy was onto to something all along.

He was, when push came to shove, no revolutionary. He passed the baton on that opportunity. But he did have his place in history.

What a moment that must have been in October 1956 when the people demanded a revolutionary leader, but he was like a deer in their headlights. So he just did what he felt he had to do. He stepped into the background. He took the middle path of moderation. Ultimately, though, the people of Eastern Europe did get the freedom that the Hungarians had been demanding on that fateful night in October of 1956. It just took awhile.

Nagy, their brand new Prime Minister, passed up his chance to become a revolutionary leader like Lenin or Mao.

I probably would have done the same thing.

King of Soul 

“The Press”

January 24, 2017

Our world was forever changed when, about 577 years ago, Johann Gutenberg devised an effective way to reproduce printed documents. His invention enabled the printer man to apply controlled mechanical pressure to an inked image in a manner that facilitated efficient multiple printings.

When the printer man repeatedy applied “the press” (more about this later) to those blank pages, the world was changed forever.

Gutenberg’s innovation enabled printers to print multiple editions of documents and books. Our Library of Congress recently displayed  a centuries-old Bible that was printed by means of the Gutenberg innovation.

BiblMainz

The printing industry progressed rapidly. It wasn’t very long before books and other documents were being churned out all over the world in great numbers.

Books have changed the world.

Our fascination with the stories, literature and information we find in books has revolutionized the way we live. In the late 1800s, the American artist John Frederick Peto painted this image of a pile of books. His picture, recently displayed in our National Gallery of Art, captures the fascination that I find within those printed pages.

BooksPntg

The spread of printing throughout the globe induced an information revolution that has affected the way we think about, and do, just about everything. As people became more and more literate, news of the times we live in became a larger and larger factor in the ways people think about the world. People in the modern world use news and contemporary information  to inform their decisions, and modify their strategies for living life successfully.

TimesLon'37

News became such an obsessive element in our modern life that large institutions were built for the purpose of informing people about what’s happening in our world.

ChiTrib2

Those massive news-spouting institutions now find themselves being cornered into a different role.  The big picture of 21st-century information dispersal is being turned on its ear by an unruly multiplicity of online mini-sources. This development is along the lines of what George Orwell called the “brave new world.”

Actually, it’s the wild, wild West out there. What we have now is like a million Okies hightailing it across the internet prairie, every one of us hell-bound to claim our little stake of the cyber-dirt that’s now being divvied up for the media of the masses.

Or “dictatorship of the proletariat”, if that’s what rings your chimes.

It used to be that “The Press” was all those journalists and editors who gathered and published the news on a daily basis.

But not any more. Our meaning of “the press” is now something else entirely, and I’m not sure how to define or describe it.

But I do surmise that our new understanding of “the press” has something to with that collective pressure applied by reporters on public spokespersons.

Here’s an example. Sean Spicer, the new White House Press Secretary, argues with The Press about how many people showed up for the inauguration.

PressCon

That’s The Press now, and this disconnect between “us” and “them” is the new “news.”

Lastly, as Uncle Walter might have said:

And that’s the way it is, Tuesday, January 24, 2017.

Glass half-Full

The Wisdom of Eldridge Cleaver

April 20, 2016

I am reading the book that Eldridge Cleaver published in 1978, Soul on Fire.

As I am currently writing a novel about the year 1969, my research has followed many paths of discovery about that period of time in which I was a teenager; One of the most influential dissent groups of that period was the Black Panthers. I’m not talking about the Carolina Panthers who lost this year’s super bowl to the team from Denver.

I’m talking about the militant Black Panthers, revolutionary terrorists of the 1960’s, who were infamously lead by a trio of intrepid militants: Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton.

During the course of Eldridge Cleaver’s amazing sojourn through civil rights activism and the minefields of 1960’s black extremism, he had renounced, along with Stokely Carmichael and other leaders, the non-violence that  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had espoused.

Eldridge fled the United States as a fugitive in 1968. In the seven years that followed, he visited the primary communist countries: Cuba, USSR, Peoples’ Republic of China, North Vietnam, North Korea. The young revolutionary, having been driven out of America, sought revolutionary guidance from communist leaders.

Because I’ve got to go to work in a few minutes, I’ll just cut to the chase here. On page 109 of his book, Soul on Fire, Eldridge writes:

“While in overseas exile, I discovered the frequency with which I was lecturing the hard-rock mentality of Communist leaders, reminding them that the world revolution was deeply rooted in the American people. I had heard so much rhetoric in every Communist country about their glorious leaders and their incredible revolutionary spirit that–even to this very angry and disgruntled American–it was absurd and unreal.”

And on page 97:

“I had lived defiantly so long and in such seething hatred of all governments, people in power, people in charge, that when I came under the shelter of Communist powers, I sadly discovered that their corruption was as violent and inhuman as the people the ‘victoriously’ displaced. ‘Up against the wall’ was a trendy slogan of the underground movements around the world–but I later learned that without inner control, a moral perspective, and a spiritual balance that flowed out of Christian love, justice and caring, the Communist promises were to become the largest fraud of all.

“Pig power in America was infuriating–but pig power in the Communist framework was awesome and unaccountable. No protection by outbursts in the press and electronic media–the Reds owned it. No shelter under the benevolent protection of a historic constitution–the Marxists held the book and they tore out the pages that sheltered you. No counterweight from religious and church organizations–they were invisible and silent.

“My adult education began in prison and was ruefully completed in the prison that is called Marxist liberation, ‘power to the people’: that was meant for the party in control, writing the script, and enforcing the rules. I did mean it deeply when I said seven years later that I would rather be in prison in America than free somewhere else.”

And prison in American he did do, when Eldridge Cleaver returned from exile. He did his time, was released in 1976, and lived free, free indeed, until his death in 1998.

King of Soul

From Gutenberg and Luther to Zuckerberg, Gates and Jobs

April 3, 2016

TimesChange

About 500 years ago, the new technology of the printing press enabled a religious revolution in the Christian church. The Catholic power structure was subsequently torn apart by the spreading of new Scriptural doctrines that were brought forth by Protestant leaders such as Luther and Calvin.

About 250 years ago, as that printing press technology was maturing, the political world was similarly torn apart by the rapid spreading of new political ideas.  The old monarchic empires of Europe–most notably the British and the French–lost control of their institutions. Emerging democratic and republican movements rendered the old power structures irrelevant and replaced them with new, fledgeling governments. The American Revolution and the French Revolution changed the world forever.

Now those revolutionary movements of the 1700s have themselves produced worn-out overdeveloped institutions which have become cumbersome and must therefore be replaced or radically downsized

I’m talking about our old political parties and our old media institutions. And who knows– even the government itself?

Like the 16th-century revolutionary advent of the printing press, we are witnessing an emerging 21st-century revolution in communications technology: the Internet. This changes everything about how we organize ourselves as different interest groups and cultural movements.

We will also endure a revolution in government institutions.

The powers-that-be, now morphing as powers-that-used-to-be, include not only the government itself but also the media behemoths and two political parties of the old order.

ABC, CBS, NBC appear to be going the way of the buffalo. Like IBM in the 1990s, morphing under assaults at the Gates of Redmond and the Jobs of Cupertino, the fates of these media giants will be determined by whether their leadership can change with the times.

And the old behemoth newspaper dailies–same thing. They gotta roll with the punches. Jeff Bezos bought the WashPo. What does that tell you?

But where this stuff is really hitting the fan now is in the political parties.

Bernie and Donald are tearing the old political landscape apart.

The old tags of Democrat and Republican are becoming irrelevant.

Our new identities slice right through both of those bloated institutions. Bernie and Donald are beneficiaries of this creeping political anarchy.

How can I identify these changes in a way that is descriptive without being simplistic?

Like it or not, the Democrats are now all basically socialists. But they are split between:

Occupiers and Mandarins.

Republicans are now all basically reactionaries (against Democrats). They are split between:

Trumpians and Conservatives.

Although this writer is a registered Republican, that association may be coming to an end. If the Trumpians take the booty in Cleveland, I’ll be looking to find a new American party. It’s dangerous, but I’ve read about some old guys from two centuries ago who took awfully risky chances when they signed a Declaration against King George III and then wrote a Constitution to boot.

Here’s the beginning of my declaration, and the old Constitution will do just fine with maybe just a few updates. And this radical centrist is looking for some way to extend the American Experiment, without it falling apart.

People doing their thing on the Internet cast a plethora of disparate forces that are fragmenting our nation. The new political arrangements will have to reflect these changes or we’re toast when the jihadis figure out how to penetrate whatever remains of our moral fortitude.

Glass half-Full

What’s a year anyway?

December 31, 2015

What’s in a year anyway?

a revolution to some better day?

A year by any other name would smell as sweet

as any minute on this NewYear street.

Earth zips ’round the sun one more time;

every minute some fool commits a crime.

This planet never gets to the center of things;

it’s all bound up in orbital strings.

Mother earth spins, burning

as Father sky is yearning.

Buds come, flowers grow,

blooms die, seeds go

to the ground:                                          0

World goes round.

What else is new?

And what will we do

when east meets west

and worst trumps best?

So what’s in a year anyway?

A week, a month, a moment, a day?

A year by any other name would smell as sweet

as any minute on this NewYear street.

Alas! What light from yonder window breaks?

It is the east; the world awaits.

Another year, another fear!

An older man sheds a younger tear.

Cry, thou beloved world!

Fly, here’s another year unfurled;

mayhem runs rampant in the streets:

while terror o’ertakes,  reason retreats!

Is there any hope for all this mess?

Could be, would be my guess.

But we might as well,

you know–what the hell–

try and catch the wind,

lest the best gets crucified again.

Rise, rise above it all!

Glass half-Full

Deliver us from evil

July 19, 2014

We read about it in a book:

La guillotine Revolution;

how it fell so quick,

and king’s blood splattered Paris stones.

Anarchy was loosed upon the world.

 

Then we read about it in the news:

that hammer/sickle Revolution,

heavy like a brick

when czar’s blood splattered Russian stones.

Anarchy was hurled upon the world.

 

Then we heard it on the radio:

blitzkrieg of  rabid Evolution,

emblazoned in that weird swastik

when innocent blood splattered kristallnacht stones.

Anarchy goose-stepped upon the world.

 

We even saw it on TV

that same forever-spreading evolutionary Revolution,

manifesting every slick human trick

while tactical blood splattered o’er strategic zones.

Anarchy was broadcast upon the world.

 

Now we encounter it in the ‘net,

that old new Revoluti scimitari;

it slits across us quick,

while new astonished blood spills on ancient stones.

Jihadi anarchy is hurled upon the world.

 

Let this be a warning to yah.

Prepare to meet our Maker Jah,

whose sacrificial blood spilt on Jerusalem brick

while atonement shone bright and thick.

Then a banner of Deliverance was unfurled;

now Mercy is hurled upon the Revolutionary world,

if ye will have it.

Selah.

 

Smoke

Train Wreck?

September 21, 2013

Recently, the Speaker of US House of Representatives, John Boehner, called the Affordable Health Care Act a “train wreck.”

If the new law wasn’t a train wreck already, after yesterday’s proposed defunding (239-180 vote) in the House, it is now.

It is a defundsive derailment. This is, like,  Congressional terrorism, y’all.

But then so was the Declaration of Independence. This kind of conflummucks has happened before. There’s nothing new under the sun; that’s what the Bible says. (I don’t know what the shariia rendering would be.)

I think the Republicans don’t like a government takeover of health insurance because they think taxes will go sky-high in order to pay for it, and methinks this is true. This situation is a little like colonists in Boston, back in 1775, who resented paying taxes to their absentee King, George III. So they had a Tea Party in Boston Harbor. Remember that from 5th grade history?

Americans are still expressing their freedom with tea Party tactics, but nowadays their celebrations are all over the map, farflung from Boston, in places like  Peoria, or I suppose, Macon, Pocatello or Bakersfield.

On the other hand, or, the other side of the Aisle, as they say in Washington, maybe the Dems have been caught up in a little revolutionary activity of their own. I seem to remember that back in spring of ’09 or ’10, whenever it was that Affordable Health Care Act was passed by Congress, it was some “Reconciliation” hijinks somewhere between the House and the Senate that got the Demmie legislation rammed through to become law.

I think you could have  also called that Congressional terrorism–an earlier version, and also, btw, a Democratic version.

So our two Parties are both using legislative pyrotechnics to enforce their polarizing definitions  of revolution on behalf of We the People.

Fighting fire with fire.

One fire is ignited by the bumbling, frictionary heat of government control; the other is the street-level heat that we will all feel when the lower economic half of our population is wandering in ‘n out of hospital emergency rooms with no way to get medical treatment.

I think probably either way it is a train wreck.

It is then we will rediscover the truth, as spoken by somebody– maybe it was Tip O’neill or one of the Taft boys– that all politics is local.

Communities will just have to decide for themselves how they’re going to hash this stuff out. Each hamlet, town, city, or state (if they can manage some pragmatic caregiving on that level) must find some kind of consensus about how to handle all those po’ folk who keep draggin into the local Meds with gunshot wounds, bloody noses and/or cancer or deetees or dependencies or whatever the cases might be. I think my nurse wife agrees with this.

The way I see it, it’s either back to local medicine man stuff, or back to the future–as Orwell would say, 1984. One way or the other, we gotta keep this nation on the rails somehow, and reasonably healthy.

 

Glass Chimera

The Bubble of Twit

February 3, 2013

The tweeter man he

fill the world with monitored

relevance

he wear no shoeshine

he suck hot electrons from

the net he live and breathe

exexististential immediacy

m-my g-generation

foment revolution from afar

watch bleary-eyed all hours

of the night

with the evidence-based idea that homo sapiens

can evolve beyond original

sin                 cosine

just because desperadoes from afar

throw rocks from behind

barricades

perpetually

in the Square

every other generation or so

but hey, he be on top of it

he be occupyin

he wear no shoeshine

but he wear vicarious révolucion

on his bleedin sleeve, until

the clenched fist

the curved sword or

stock glock

shut em down

good luck wi dat.

But hey what beast creeps up

gehenna road

smarter than yo average phone

in hand

what beast? i tell ya

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Egalit’e

April 24, 2011

When the noble ideal of egalit’e among men leads to state-enforced egalitarianism it degenerates to tyranny. This historical truth is seen in the bitter collateral damage of the French revolution and the Russian revolution.

The proper function of government in regard to equality is to protect equal opportunity, not to impose an institutional egalitarianism. Where Marxism went wrong, and degenerated utimately to Stalinism, was in force-feeding societal equality to all citizens. Likewise, among the Chinese, the reign of Maoism following their 1949 revolution degenerated to oppressive governmental structures from which the people are still striving to free themselves. The Russians too.

The earlier revolution, the one that happened here in America, presented equality as a God-given attribute of the human race. That has made quite a difference in the playing-out of it.  Jefferson, Franklin, and the many leaders who followed them were breaking new ground on an undeveloped contintent. That has also made quite a difference in the flowering of American equal opportunity among men and women.

The French revolutionary model, established soon after the American one, was encumbered from its inception with the weight of millenia of societal baggage, heaped upon the people mostly by the Church in Rome. When French republicans succeeded in freeing themselves from the bondage of the ancien regime, their progress was quite different from the wild and wooly American experience.

About a century later, Marx took a remnant of that French egalite principle and ran with it; it later developed as historical Marxism. Under the brutally communist hands of Josef Stalin, it enslaved and murdered millions of Russians and east Europeans.

Thus the revolutionary ideal in old Europe developed quite differently than the American experiment.  Our working out of it emphasized equal opportunity instead of enforced equality. That had a lot to do with our continent-wide abundance of undeveloped land. This is the heart of American exceptionalism; Such swift and wide incubation of democratic conditions will never happen again in the history of this world.

But these days, the old Western debate of democratic republicanism vs. authoritarianism is being rendered irrelevant due to the forceful power of Islam.

What was previously a philosphical debate, then a multi-faceted political division and military wars, has now retrograded to a more fundamental debate among homo sapiens: a religious struggle.

The Protestan Reformation, and the humanistic Enlightenment that accompanied it, eclipsed a millenial Roman Catholic domination of European culture and its institutions.  One result was a vast power vacuum. The revolutionary ideals that bloomed as political movements thereaftere drifted further and further from their religious moorings, and back toward archival Greek philosophic underpinnings.

Now western revolutionary zeal, having wrested itself from authoritarian Catholicism, has bankrupted itself of spiritual stamina. Its wantonly amoral end now renders us culturally weak as compared to the  heavy legalistic hand of Islamic fundamentalism.

So we in the post-European world will be playing catch-up ball to recover a principled spiritual heritage. This is a situation analagous to that in which Churchill and the British were struggling to prepare their defense against the onslaught of Nazism and Fascism in the late 1930s.

Oh what a dear price the people of Britain and their Allies paid. Never had so few sacrificed so much for so many, said Mr. Churchill, about the hardly-won defeat over authoritarian tyrrany in Europe.

Our generations probably face  similar upheavals in the years ahead.

I know not what course others may take. I take my refuge, and my inspiration in the One who, having decided not to participate in the prolonged skirmish, chose instead to spread his arms and allow the powers of this world to crucify his body so that spiritual rebirth could begin for all mankind.

Resurrection is better than insurrection.