Revolutions Come and Go. Thank You, Dear Lord.

All revolutions fire up, simmer and cool down. Only then do we know if it’s the real thing.

Kenosha WI

All revolutions fire up, simmer and cool down. Only then do we know if it’s the real thing.

A rebellion has a natural tendency to fail eventually. It usually takes the form of a chaotic rivalry among the leadership, failure to inspire new adherents or the existence of a mesmerizing presence like George Washingon for the Americans or Lenin for Russians that recruits fresh followers. Revolutions lacking in these qualities always fail regardless of the merits of their cause. Seeds of dissent erode over time without a compelling life force, and the whole shebang comes toppling down.

The George Floyd 2020 protests and subsequent riots are at the early stage of becoming a global revolution, or they still may turn into a decisive but fleeting moment in history. We do not know, according to my theory below. Stop back in a few months to find out.

In mass actions against an established elite, from Hong Kong to Gilets Jaunes, a fractious mood is submerged until someone, or something sparks a movement. Once the fuse ignites, there is no stopping it. The mob feeds on the size and scope and a sense of self-empowerment that authorities cannot contain. Today, the embers of those two cataclysmic events are swept aside so totally they may reappear only when a museum sponsors a retrospective exhibit.

With revolutions, there are no perpetual motion machines. When mayhem took over Paris, Jauneist protesters became widely unpopular; as Chinese authorities overreacted, new life breathed into Hong Kong. A tale not only of two cities but two revolutions. They make hairpin turns on the slightest provocation.

When it comes to changing the existing order, nothing is more mercurial than a marginalized group (see Phase I below). The generalization of the message is critical. If what emanates is neither consistent nor coherent, it conveys collective anger, not a single voice everyone hears. It is why so many revolutions end chaotically, as did the French Revolution of 1789 when the new ideology of Lafayette got lost in the melee that offended the average French citizen, or like the American Revolution in 1776, they do go on to create a new world order. It comes down to leadership and sympathy.

According to my old history teacher, Norman F. Cantor, we can tell the pattern by looking at the ten stages of revolutionary development. In 2020, we appear to be at stage five or six.

Phase I: Overthrow

Phase II: Spark

Once the revolution begins, the initial cause loses power to unite. People may forget what started the whole thing, and the revolutionaries rely on sloganeering and demagoguery to send the message. The kinship of revolutionaries carries it to a certain level, at which time fear and threats may extend its lifespan until a leader moves it forward.

Phase III: Revenge

Phase IV: Violence

Phase V: Suffering

Phase VI: Muscle

Phase VII: Moderates

Phase VIII: Totalitarians

Phase IX: Disintegration

Phase X: Politics

Professor of Leadership. Extraordinary Lives Project. Author “Be Somebody” (2021); 2019 Telly Award; ex-publisher Forbes