Who are the people?


In his defence following the first attempt to overthrow the government in Cuba, Fidel Castro, while talking about the people limits his definition to those who, for lack of a better word, are oppressed, the lowly paid and in a way those who believe they have nothing to lose but everything to gain if the regime should be changed.

Michelet and other French historians while talking of the revolution, refer only to the revolutionaries. They exclude the rich classes.

The same thing is seen in the case of Kenya. When the people are talked about, a certain group are excluded.

My question then is, who are the people?

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

30 thoughts on “Who are the people?

  1. renudepride says:

    In my humble opinion, they are the ones who seek either a drastic change or a redress for real or imagined wrongs or sufferings. Those who toil without the benefits of the established or wealthy classes. Naked hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • basenjibrian says:

      Renus: I have a serious problem with this. Many of the recent bombers and shooters in the United States are young white men whose “wrong” consists of the fact they no longer have unrestricted access to women or have to share the country with other races and creeds. Men who are angry because other working class people in other places have “stolen their jobs” and vote for bombing campaigns and republican presidents in revenge because their children no longer have the privilege of dying at age 40 of black lung disease after digging coal that poisons the planet.

      I am also less willing to write off entirely the established or wealthy classes. A surgeon who spent 10 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours in residencies should charge only a pittance or else be slaughtered as a “enemy of the people”? Is this rational?

      The wealthy businessman often screws his or her customer, to be sure. But the only class which should be more subject to suspicion in my humble opinion is the intellectual revolutionary who has never really done anything non-political but whose parties and committees have committed horrible crimes in the interest of an always vaguely defined “people”.

      I am suspicious of those who speak for vaguely defined “the people”. “Met the new boss, same as the old boss”.

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    • makagutu says:

      In this case, basically the oppressed

      Liked by 1 person

      • renudepride says:

        And the downtrodden!

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        • basenjibrian says:

          Renus and Maka: Everyone can claim to be oppressed in some manner. That’s life, and that’s complex human societies.

          Even this statement is not helpful and has led to horrible crimes. The Khmer Rouge slaughtered everyone who had a pair of glasses because they were obviously city dwellers and middle class and said Enemies of the People were obviously oppressors. Millions were killed in a purifying spasm of fire aimed at bringing The People to absolute power. Of course, the leadership cadres were more equal than others, but hey, all for the glorious revolution, no?

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  2. “People” needs to include everyone affected by change, else the new regime is already creating the dissenting class of persons on day one. This isn’t effective in rhetoric, though, as a means of inciting people to revolution. Revolution and violence need to be against something just as much as it is for something else.

    Liked by 4 people

    • makagutu says:

      That is the ideal. Consider however a situation where there is a revolt against the monarchy and noble classes, do they also count in the people while they are the source of the revolt?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ostensibly, one could hold ruling elites responsible after a change in government. Nobility would still count as having equal rights under the law, but it wouldn’t absolve them of personal liability for actions they took while in power. The operative issue would be whether any acts were illegal under the law.

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  3. john zande says:

    I agree with Sirius.

    Liked by 2 people

    • makagutu says:

      When the Brazilians rose against the military dictatorship, were they and their families considered among the collective known as the people?

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      • basenjibrian says:

        Who in the military should be eliminated as class or national enemies? The foot soldiers? Only the officers? Which ranks?

        What about those who, like most human beings, went along to get along? I am skeptical.

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        • makagutu says:

          Part of the reason I asked this question arose from an earlier discussion with you where you raised this same problem.
          So yes, what becomes of the foot soldiers who are neutral, neither supporting the revolutionaries nor the dictatorship

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      • john zande says:

        I guess. But from what I know (which isn’t much), there wasn’t really an uprising per say. Protests simply convinced the generals to take a step back. To be honest, i’m not really even sure how, exactly, they came to power.

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  4. Tish Farrell says:

    You do ask us hard questions. Usually in such revolts the nobility were terminated without the option to be considered ‘people’. The Maoist approach also involved forced re-education and public shaming. I’m thinking that you can only have everyone being ‘the people’ in small scale communities where there are no factions, politicians or formal leadership structures – eg Aborigines, San, Inuit, Batwa and other hunting/herding societies that are egalitarian and non-acquisitive in nature. In fact their name for themselves as an ethnic group often translates as ‘the people’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Tish, i try to ask not so hard questions.
      I have seen in discussions in many circles around many commentators say the people should do this or that but it does seem to me some portion of the population is excluded from the collective.
      Also, in the fight for independence, those who collaborated were not regarded as people.

      Liked by 1 person

      • basenjibrian says:

        I have read that in the American Revolution, 1/3 of the population was pro-Independence, 1/3 anti, and 1/3 indifferent*. So…it was as much a civil war as a revolution.

        * The African American slaves were not considered “people”, so they didn’t count. Given that the slaveholding Southern aristocracy led much of the revolution, I am guessing the slaves were not all that enamored with the American Revolution.

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        • makagutu says:

          I have heard of this too and it is part of what informs the way your elections are done, that is, the president is chosen by a college and not popular vote.

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      • Tish Farrell says:

        Exactly. So how do you overcome factionalism/vested interests of specific groups – whatever form it takes. I think the nation state is too unwieldy an entity to have united people with all interests embraced and represented, though we would like to think it could.

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  5. nasimolo says:

    I think most times the “people” refers to the oppressed, as used by Paulo Freire.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good question. I’ve got to think on this.

    Like

  7. Semantics, and nasimolo is correct on the usage. In hierarchical societies, the elite few rule over the many “people.” However, there is an obvious inconsistency between the true definition of the word and how it is used in this context. Furthermore, in today’s polarized societies where populism is delineated along ideological lines, a better term would be helpful.

    Liked by 3 people

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