Revolution is a product of old age.
Once, I was quoted an American report that claimed that the single most important data point that leads to revolutions is a bulge in the youthful population. We were talking in the backdrop of the Arab Spring and I was very young myself. At that point, I was preoccupied with thinking that I was old and not young, even when I was barely twenty at the time. The idea of youth fuelling revolutions is a very interesting one. Perhaps, revolutionary zeal is unsustainable without a bundle of youthful human material that you can throw at the meat grinders set up by entrenched powers.
Whether it be the police or military, internal rebellions can hardly crush their material might. But you can easily crush their spirit by sacrificing a substantial bit of human youth, who could be fomented like the tip of a whip, lashing out in all directions - frothing themselves out into a world of glaring injustices. Now, their anger may indeed be justified. But our focus should be on the actors who would find it easier to manipulate this anger and channel it into political action that matters. To take on the citadels of power, a straight fight is hardly desirable. You may want to pull the rug under their feet, and the element of surprise must come from the willingness to sacrifice the maximum number of young people.
History has this bad habit of celebrating those who emerged victorious through revolutions. In reality, most of the outcomes are actually decided by the side that first grew tired of killing young people. Now, I am not vindicating the tyrants who were displaced through these bloody, violent revolutions. They generally keep their teeth firmly clasped to the young meat, but their systems are prone to crack faster. From their ministers to officers to department heads to office clerks - it is far easier to see how their air-conditioned rooms and finely done steak - or a mushroom delicacy that costs many thousand dollars - come from the blood of the young people they call ‘theirs’. These oppressors are more likely to capitulate when both sides are sacrificing same number of (young) human meat in the fight.
However, the same revelation is harder for the ‘side’ that is making revolution. They were the underdogs when the revolution started. They were never invited to the high table. Their commanders theorise about equality because they are the ones who are hurt mostly by inequality. They are very well aware of the amount of young blood they are throwing at the meat grinders of an oppressive state. After all, the guns they hold came through ways known only to them and not the young lot who hold them and fire at the agents of state, who unfortunately look just like them. It is easier when the state looks a bit different due to a change in ethnicity, but the internal organs that their bullets pulverize are hard to ignore. Regularly, they step on a small intestine, gall bladder or a young lad blown into smithereens by a friendly grenade. He/she is more likely to cry reading an intercepted love letter from someone in the enemy line. Warzone is a mix of maimed human limbs, confused minds and loss of collective humanity. We send young people there to make sense of the incredible cruelty/violence over which human societies are built upon.
And who sent them there?
Not just the oppressor state, but also the commanders of the revolution, who knew every bit of what they are doing. This is not a moral evaluation of their decisions - they would most likely say that the violence caused by them is miniscule compared to systemic violence and oppression of the powers they are fighting against. That the sudden blip in the death rates in revolution years will slowly be overcome when Liberty, Equality and Fraternity is achieved and the ‘nation’ attains prosperity. But once the new rule is established, it is only a slow wait till the rot sets in and the next set of revolutionaries are born.
The leaders of the revolution are dressed in camouflage - not just for the battlefield. But also, to cover up their rotten souls which match those of their oppressors. Their youthful appearance and love for life is emphasised in the revolutionary press, with mediocre university dropouts writing paeans about their courage and irreverence towards death. The three-fifth of the paraphernalia of a post-revolutionary society is centred around how they have transcended the fear of death in service of the people. But half of their fables come from the way they held death with their own bare hands. Not their own deaths, but the deaths they caused when they knew every bit of what they were doing. The death of young people and snivels of emptied out families doesn’t reach them when they go around sibilating across the now-empty corridors of power. Revolutions crush only the bodies of the oppressors; they ruin the souls of the contenders. Revolutions beget revolutions. It is not difference in opinion that cause revolutions, it is the lust for power that spawns religions, dangerous philosophies and messiahs that deliver freedom encased in a casket of death.
When their leaders take over the old presidential palace and unceremoniously poke open the Suede leather of old thrones, they smell rotten flesh - not of animals long dead. But of young people they threw towards a merciless state whose character they very well knew. Every night of war was them clasping their soft bellies in makeshift tents, hoping that they are not killed the day after. Days were spent acting fatherly, jovial and courageous in front of young recruits, only to wish for the night to come. Then, they go to their rough beds, masturbating themselves to sleep, dreaming about the beauties of the Capital that they will win after the revolution hits a bull’s eye. One of them is said to have licked the varnish off a perfume-stained letter that a romance-stricken college student sent to him, as the revolution raged and he was hailed as the hero of the people. She was in love with him, unbeknownst of the boys her age (whose ideals she shared), he was sending to be fried in napalm every day.
Those who spawn revolutions are not young people. It is a product of old age. Not because revolutionary preparedness takes years to master. It is because of the bitterness that every leader should possess to coldly calculate death and destruction while plotting for a change of guard in the corridors of power. Young people seldom are equipped with the feeling of loss and permanent envy that push them there. Sure, young people are angry and volatile, but they wouldn’t be able to handle death as a metric that ought to be optimised. A minority of revolutionary leadership is indeed young, but only of age. Their humanity must have been sucked out of them during a difficult childhood. They are old (wo)men in young clothes; and they generally drink and smoke themselves to death when the revolution is finally successful.
But then, in the moonlit streets of serene capitals post revolution, the night lights may suddenly turn blood red with palaces reeking with the stench of millions of young people dead. It is when the revolutionary overlords vomit blue blood. When the clouds clear, ghosts of revolution will crawl out of the forest - singing songs of oppression and the need for blood to avenge the losses and lubricate the wheels of change. There is a revolution, a river of blood and also large fields full of dead young people - and some of them would be born only in the decade to come.