Ok, I admit this isn’t one of John Lennon’s more coherent tunes, but it does serve to get us into the discussion: “Revolution” is trending again.
Some use the term to describe what’s happening in the U.S. as Donald Trump prepares to take over as President in January. “Revolution” is defined as "a violent overthrow of government," but most people are using the term to mean a radical change in the governing system. The Prez-elect has used the term himself, leading many of his supporters to expect no less in the months ahead.
In the Presidential primaries earlier this year, Bernie Sanders was talking revolution too. His proposed revolution was from the Left, while Trump’s revolution is mostly from the Right, though much of the attention-deficited American electorate seems to have missed the polarity there.
At any rate, those voters from either side who feast on the revolution sauce seem to forget how the US system of government was designed to retard radical change, given the checks and balances built into the government and even into the larger “system.”
The U.S. government, of course, is divided among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Even when one party seems to hold a majority in all those branches—as is predicted to happen soon—there is still considerable dissent within each branch. Even the executive branch has entrenched government agencies (part of what is called “the swamp” in Washington, D.C.) which are often at war with each other.
Add to that a Constitution and Bill of Rights, state and local governments who have their own priorities, and an adversarial press (including radio and TV) that is always ready to pick a fight with any President who wields too much power—and you have a system that resists serious alteration, at least in the short term.
Many of my friends and colleagues decry some of these very checks as obstructions to democracy, yet in a time when we have a POTUS-elect with a distinctly authoritarian bent (who Tweets about stripping citizenship from American-flag burners—a punishment that even murders and pedophiles aren't subjected to) we should thank God (or Krishna or Allah or our lucky stars) for our Founding Fathers’ wisdom and acumen.
Meanwhile the business community—or at least the advertising community—loves revolution as a commercial mantra. For a product to be a breakthrough success it is usually touted as revolutionary, which of course is even cooler than new or improved. (Fittingly, the Beatles’ song, “Revolution,” was a commercial hit as the B-side to “Hey Jude.”)
But beyond product marketing—and the occasional Big Idea business strategy—many corporate leaders get a tad nervous about too much revolution-speak. Radical change can mean a large scale displacement of leadership, which in any field can be inconvenient for those at the top.
By the way, John Lennon admitted in interviews his reservations about a genuine revolution—as this song suggests. Yet he didn’t rule it out, as indicated in his lines: “But if you’re talking about destruction, count me out … in.” A healthy ambivalence often underlay some of his insurrectionist jargon. This was one way to distinguish Lennon from Lenin.