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Crowds and Revolutions versus the Bonds That Endure

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The only hope for creating real social change globally is when we as individuals create solid bonds of empathy and legal equality across racial, ethnic, religious and class divisions. That is the only way to make real revolutions in history. Any idea that promotes those bonds, any actions that put those bonds into practice, are the ingredients of a better future.

Media, however, tends to focus us on the sensationalism and emotions of crowds and mass demonstrations. Media raises up our hopes every few months about the latest revolution, then reality dashes those hopes, due the folly of the crowds or the weakness of their cause, and this turns us into cynics against our will. I will not be manipulated anymore by the lure of crowds on television. I am not impressed anymore by the emotional bonding and euphoria created by revolutionary crowds. Finished, done, my enthusiasm squashed after years of promising rallies in central squares whose intent and hopes smashed headlong into reality. From China's Tiananmen Square to Iran's Haft-e-Tir Square and Vali Asr Square, to Egypt's Tahrir Square, to many more, I have seen bursts of democratic euphoria, defiance and courage by millions of people. From Israel's Kings of Israel Square with Rabin to America's National Mall with Martin Luther King we saw rallies led by two extraordinary men only then marked for death, one marked within minutes. Libya's Martyr's Square, Syria's 3/15/11 Damascus street rallies, Kiev's mass protests.

I love to see people organize for change. I live it, I breathe it, because so many positive changes in history were immortalized by the crowd. But the crowd itself? Not impressed. By the thousands they poured onto the streets of Moscow, 1917. Not such good results. Twenty million dead at the hands of Stalin's purges by the time the dust settled on a new society that wasn't so new after all in its capacity for torture and murder. By the hundreds of thousands they poured into the Nuremberg Rallies in Germany in the 1930s -- Catastrophic results, 40 million dead within a decade of those glorious mass mobilizations. Worse still, the big rallies of London, when The Beatles were still just little bugs, where the massive crowds gathered to witness drawing and quartering, disemboweling a human being to the delirious delight of the crowds mesmerized by the screaming pain of dying human beings.

What a relief to go from the delirium at disembowelment to delirium with how cute Paul McCartney is. But the crowd is not to be trusted. It only knows enthusiasm, not direction, not vision, not a moral compass. We went as civilizations from one kind of crowd delirium to a better one only by building solid, unbreakable emotional and legal bonds between every citizen, no matter how strange or foreign. Bonds that were so strong that most of us now get physically sick just imagining a festival of sadism in the heart of civilized London.

Emotional and legal bonds between everyone. That's the ticket. It is the ticket for Syria, for Ukraine, and whatever other catastrophic political earthquake looms across the planet. If Syrians want their country back, they are going to have to build bonds between all minorities, so much so that no tyrant, no neighboring state, can manipulate them into auto-genocide. Every decent intelligent Syrian knows this, and some are risking their lives every day for its realization. If Ukrainians want to push out Putin they are going to have to embrace every Russian in their country and build something new together. It does not matter how those Russians got there, or who was exiled. There is no other way. It is the individual relationships of empathy and equality across boundaries that change history, and the legalization of those relationships in a system of law that cement those changes in stone. This what each of us is called upon to do.