The Need, Right, and Wisdom of Revolt

Aaron Cosner

There’s much about our present government and culture which merits rebellion.  Revolt — even revolution — at times seems the only option to return to some sort of just, stable, and sane society.  I am not one to advise temerity in philosophy or activism, but I think this quote from G.K. Chesterton is worth consideration. 

A good deal of our present problems are brought about by inappropriate rebellion — rebellion against principles of diplomacy has gotten us preemptive, undeclared war; rebellion against “traditional society” has too often resulted in this voluntary, charitable organization of people being replaced by the welfare state; rebellion against our (admittedly much flawed) Constitution has produced lawlessness at the highest levels of government coupled with draconian controls over average citizens.

So we should rebel to produce real change, but ever keeping in mind the specifics of our revolt:  that we are rebelling against unjust authority which denies liberty by force, not all authority; forced associations, not voluntary gatherings — even those of others we dislike; and handouts paid for with threat of violence, not true charity.  These are just a few examples, but focusing on specifics like these can only (and I’m sounding preachy even to myself now, but bear with me:  This graphic caught my eye and made me think) fine tune our rebellion — making it wiser, more inclusive, and of better service to both our need and right to revolt.


And while I’m on the subject, here are some more noteworthy Chesterton quotes:

  • Socialists are collectivist in their proposals.  But they are Communist in their idealism.  Now there is a real pleasure in sharing.  We have all felt it in the case of nuts off a tree or the National Gallery, or such things.  But it is not the only pleasure nor the only altruistic pleasure, nor (I think) the highest or most human of altruistic pleasures.  I greatly prefer the pleasure of giving and receiving.  Giving is not the same as sharing: giving is even the opposite of sharing.  Sharing is based on the idea that there is no property, or at least no personal property.  But giving a thing to another man is as much based on personal property as keeping it to yourself. (More on this one here.)
  • There is a corollary to the conception of being too proud to fight. It is that the humble have to do most of the fighting.
  • The only defensible war is a war of defense.
  • How quickly revolutions grow old; and, worse still, respectable.
  • Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.
  • When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.
  • Men are ruled, at this minute by the clock, by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern.
  • You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.
  • It is the mark of our whole modern history that the masses are kept quiet with a fight. They are kept quiet by the fight because it is a sham-fight; thus most of us know by this time that the Party System has been popular only in the sense that a football match is popular.
  • I have formed a very clear conception of patriotism. I have generally found it thrust into the foreground by some fellow who has something to hide in the background. I have seen a great deal of patriotism; and I have generally found it the last refuge of the scoundrel.
  • It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.
  • All government is an ugly necessity.
  • It is hard to make government representative when it is also remote.
  • The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.
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