What is a revolution?

In the Humanities class, we were tasked to answer this difficult question and define it. I struggled to define revolution as humans give words meaning every day and change it. Therefore, whatever I said could be a revolution. Although no single definition can ever encompass what a revolution truly is, I am finally able to define it after the year-long course. We’ve learned so much from all eight units that I can finally begin to give my own definition with the help of scholars.

With the help of the Humanities program and the material we learned, I’ve come to an agreement on what a revolution could be. I break my definition of revolution up as it has some components in order for it to be a revolution.

I started crafting my definition through the units that we had this past year. The reason I note that a revolution has some form of change is that with the change, it alludes to the idea that some progress has been made. In Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail he stated, “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.” [1] Humans deciding to create a revolution need to work hard and be willing to put the extra step forward. If not, then a revolution will not occur. Tifani once mentioned that it is hard to be happy because of everything that is constantly occurring around us. [2] We are continuously working to achieve happiness and therefore we are continually working towards a revolution. A revolution is a continual process that stems from the past.

Another component of the revolution is time. The beauty of time cannot be stressed enough. Through the passage of time something occurs, whether that be a changed of ideas or downfall of some power. In Lapham’s Quarterly, he mentions that “it is the turning of the seasons and the cyclical motion.” [3] A revolution embodies this in the sense that it contains a turning of the social, political, or economic aspects of society. It is a cyclical motion because although a revolution is reached “it never lightened the burden of tyranny, they have only shifted it to another shoulder” [4] Therefore, once the oppressed are heard and are no longer oppressed the person who is not in power becomes oppressed and vice-versa. It is this constant cyclical pattern. Once the minority is no longer the minority but the majority then the majority becomes the minority and creates this cyclical pattern of inequality within the minority or majority.

Therefore, the phallic culture in Greece is a revolution because a change of ideas has occurred in contemporary Greece concerning homosexuality. The ideas of pederasty are no more and Greece has become more homophobic. This shift of ideology from the past to present demonstrates the downfall of social order. Even though there is a celebration in Greece celebrating the god of fertility – Dionysus. This does not correlate to the acceptance of homosexuality. In fact, homosexual people are still targeted despite in the past they were accepted. Hence, a shift of ideas has occurred and allowed Greece to undergo a revolution. Lapham stated that a revolution is when “the defined end of an old order and brings about the birth of a new world” [5] The acceptable homosexual relations ended and in doing so a new order of homophobia came to be and hence propelled a revolution. You may read further to the Greek revolution I researched.

A revolution occurs when the following are met in partial or full:

  1. Some form of change is present whether that be economical, political, or social change
  2. Progress towards shifting the ideas of society
  3. Stemming from the past or past ideas that posed problems
  4. Cyclical patterns of minority/majority groups present. A group is always losing or gaining something. This idea of inequality is present

Therefore, a revolution embodies all four of these aspects or partial of them with the end result in it bringing forth some change and inequality.

Attached is a photo from Dr. Robb’s lecture:

[1] Rieder, Jonathan. Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation. (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013), 174.

[2] Tifani Panek, Group Discussion, March 6, 2018.

[3] Lewis H. Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly Revolutions (New York, NY: American Agora Foundation, 2014), 25.

[4] Lapham, 21.

[5] Lapham, 32.