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Door Pieter Derks
The word ‘revolution’ has been suffering some severe devaluation in the past decades. That’s because of the ad-men. We have seen the word too often being combined with words like ‘shaving’ or ‘car-technology’. Buy our product, it’s a revolution in brushing your teeth! Sounds great. But once you buy it, turns out it’s still toothpaste, you still have to put it on a toothbrush, and the revolutionary part exists in little invisible ingredients that should have an effect on your breath, smile and/or the whiteness of your teeth, but seem to do so without you ever noticing the difference. No wonder people get skeptical when they hear politicians talk about revolution.
But the ad-men keep using revolution as a way to sell things, because of one simple reason: it sells. We love the idea. The outcome isn’t even important; we just love it when things get turned upside down every once in a while. We love it so much, you can just put the word ‘change’ on a poster and get elected president of the United States of America. It’s like looking forward to a new house, or a new girlfriend: you think of all the things you’ll do better this time, the great chance this is to make a fresh start and build something from scratch just the way you like it. The only problem is we’re not that good in finishing revolutions. I moved three years ago, to a house that I knew for sure would be perfect and beautiful - but I still have to paint the bathroom door and unpack the last few boxes.
I would be a very lousy revolutionary. If I would try to change a regime the way I changed my house, I would get rid of the old government with great enthusiasm, make a few easy changes that would not take too much of an effort, and then just leave things as they were, thinking: yeah, democracy, would be nice to have that working someday. But let’s have dinner first!
I am exactly the kind of person the toothpaste-marketeers are after. And I guess most of us are. The French revolution, always the benchmark when it comes to revolutions, was a great way to get rid of the king and his cake-baking wife, but eventually led to chaos, Terror and Napoleon. Just because after the revolution most French were too lazy to take over control, and thought: well, why don’t we let that little guy try to govern. He has got a bit of a temper, but come on, a guy his size should not be able to get us in too much trouble. And besides, he seems to have a heart problem, given the way he keeps on feeling his chest with his right hand, so he probably won’t survive for too long anyway.
If you look at it from that point of view, history is just a continuing series of failed revolutions. A revolution that leads to a steady and reliable government that succeeds in making everyone happy, thát would be a revolution in revolutions. Especially if it would refresh your breath at the same time. Let’s hope some marketeer will make it happen someday. For me, it’s just a little too much of an effort.
Pieter Derks, is stand-up comedian and guest columnist for Idee.
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Dit artikel verscheen in idee nr. 6 2012: Trust in people’s own power