Revolution

The more it changes
The more it stays the same,
And the hand just rearranges
The players in the game.

Al Stewart - Nostradamus
 

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss.

Pete Townsend - Won’t Get Fooled Again
 

Cast back into the depths of history
And try to fathom how it all began;
The cause of unrest is no mystery,
It knows no borders, follows no set plan
Except Man’s inhumanity to Man.
And so often, the demagogues who claim
To free us from our tyrants, share their aim.

Retrace the weft spun, by its tortuous thread
To antiquity where this tangled skein
Baptised the tribes in rivers deepest red,
And slew the innocents from Rome to Spain,
The cry went up then as it does again
That such base deeds are done for liberty,
Equality, and aye, fraternity.

In envy of the privilege of kings
The self-appointed champions of the poor
Spread insurrection in the palace wings,
And disaffection to the common law.
To him who owns little, be given more,
Whilst he who usurps all shall feel the hate
And face the “justice” of the Third Estate!

The Bastille stormed, the mob assumes control,
The King wears the tricolour in his hat,
Yet how soon they forget their professed goal:
How vacuous this New Age Democrat!
Slowly, surely, the Terror is begat,
In four years the King, nine months more the Queen
Are offered up to Madame Guillotine.

Yet still the scum of Paris screams for blood,
The hydra-headed snake that’s never pleased
Chews up accused men like a cow its cud,
Spits out their torsos, then, although diseased,
Continues gorging when, still unappeased
It stumbles away bloated to its shelf
And rabidly starts to devour itself.

The Phoenix from the ashes of this fire
(Branded by some the Corsican upstart)
Resolves to take the wretched nation higher,
If not in body, then at least in heart;
Sing out loud and long: Viva Bonaparte!
But does plunging a nation into war
Ever ease the oppression of the poor?

The cry: A là lantern! rings out again,
But to the East and in a different tongue,
These terrorists, even more inhumane
Seize power through the barrel of the gun;
Another grandiloquent lie is spun:
’Twas not gangsters who’d been exiled afar,
But the common man who brought down the Tsar.

The revolution here is far, far worse,
But few escape to tell the world its tale,
As clever propagandists veil the curse:
Torture, mass murder, crimes beyond the pale,
Famine on an unprecedented scale
Are censored or rewritten to the shame
Of every child born with a Russian name.

Sixty years on: look to the Middle East,
The might of Islam overthrows the Shah,
A different poison, but the self-same beast
As that which killed the King and then the Tsar,
Whatever name they go by now, they are
Strange liberators of their countrymen
Who practice by the sword, preach by the pen.

How many languish in Iranian gaols?
How many died by some imam’s decree?
How many hope and pray the régime fails
After these ten years of theocracy?
Those who remember him ask how would he
Have governed us this past decade instead:
Would quite so many of our sons be dead?

Uhuru is the cry in many a tongue,
The Imperialist ruler retreats,
Imposed customs shrugged off by old and young,
The Union Jack is burned in the streets;
Emerging everywhere are new élites
Who are welcomed with open arms: Rejoice!
For they are our brothers: one blood, one voice!

Throughout Africa where the British ruled,
Once stable, prosperous nations are bled,
The people never realise they’ve been fooled
Until they see the sword above their head,
Their neighbours disappear, they want for bread:
Only then does it dawn that they helped speed
Their country’s ruin, and still they’re not freed.

Could it be all rebellions are corrupt,
That each is controlled by some hidden hand?
That no uprising can or will erupt
Without being meticulously planned
By forces which desire to free the land
Of one despot simply to fill his place
With, for now, a more acceptable face?

But no, the truth is much simpler than that,
There is no great, worldwide conspiracy,
Every man is at heart an autocrat
Who knows the way the world was meant to be;
’Tis those who serve his ends are truly free.
The high ideals the aspirant acquires
Give way, with Power, to his true desires.

Few are the revolutions to succeed,
For how can mass murder beget reform?
The purge becomes a perennial need,
Liquidating class enemies the norm,
All who in the slightest way don’t conform
Are rooted out until the new régime
Becomes, like the old one, a frightful dream.

Look now toward the Southern Cape where change
Is in the wind, the writing on the wall,
The Western media demand Estrange
Apartheid that Pretoria will fall.
History cries out: who will heed its call
That those who remove tyranny by force
Become oppressors themselves in due course?

In which direction then does progress lie?
Questions, questions! All so easy to ask.
The only certain thing is that to cry
Death to those who oppress our race and class...
Solves nothing - wise men let this madness pass.
Does spilling blood lead to fraternity?
Or gaoling those we hate, bring liberty?

There are no easy answers, and the path
To freedom is a long and winding one,
Hunger, suffering, many a bloodbath
Will be the lot of men before it’s won,
In fact, the journey has hardly begun,
But revolution reaps no lasting gains:
The vicious circle breaks no bondsman’s chains.

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