The Role of Individual in the Development Process, part 3

Exploring the framework for a “Balanced Development” model


Ramses Rashidi

©2008 Center for Balanced Development (


In the last two articles we talked about the implications of the roles of the “conformist” and the “monk” in a social setting. Here, we’re going to take a look at the role of the “revolutionary” in the development process and how it affects the overall picture.


The Revolutionary

One of the most common human traits is “reaction”. Someone says or does something and we react to it. Sometimes the reaction is positive and we approve of the action. However, sometimes the reaction is a negative where we don’t like what we see or hear. Here, we could ignore the action and play the role of the “monk” or we could put up with the situation like a good “conformist”. Yet there are those that would rise and try to change the situation. This is where a revolutionary persona is born and a revolution is set in motion. As revolutionaries, we could be working on our personal lives and how we do things. We could be creating new technology to change the way we deal with our natural habitat. We might be writing about a different way of thinking in terms of social affairs and politics or we could even be theorizing about a new economic model. Whatever form it takes, revolution is about radical change. Actually, the word “revolution” comes from Latin word “revolutio” which means, “a turnaround”.


The turnaround could be as subdued as changing our habits, or as violent as picking up guns and trying to change the government in power. Throughout history, revolutionaries have changed the way we live. Some of these have been emperors and kings. Others have been warriors and fighters. Some have been philosophers, scientists and artists. In the modern times, however, when we think of revolutionaries, pictures of Lenin, Mao Zedong, Ché Guevara, and Fidel Castro come to mind. These revolutionaries in the 20th century have made a significant mark on history in their attempts to establish “communism” in Russia, China and Cuba. Going back a few hundred years, we might think of the founding fathers of America in their struggle for independence and their desire to establish a united system of government.


Fighting Injustice and Initiating Reform

When it comes to social cause, the revolutionary rises to fight injustice and inequality. At times the resistance itself could bring about a form of injustice to the masses that get caught up in the crossfire. Often, the goal of the revolution to create a more just society becomes more important than the lives of people who they are trying to protect. The revolutionary is focused to change the status-quo regardless of the cost. At times it’s difficult to tell the difference between personal ambition and dedication to society. Throughout history, armed resistance has claimed the lives of millions of people and has caused massive displacement of refugees who must leave their homes in search of safety and security. We have also seen that peaceful resistance can be just as effective as armed resistance, if not more. Gandhi led the people of India in peaceful protests to gain independence from the British rule. The East European non-violent revolution in the late 80s’s proved successful through mass strikes and peaceful demonstrations.


The Revolutionary Doctrines

Revolutionaries thrive on and are driven by doctrines. By far the most famous revolutionary doctrine that emerged in the 19th century, with its effects still being felt in the 21st century, has been communism. The ideals of communism in terms of equality and struggle of the working class resonates with the masses until lack of motivation and economic stagnation start to emerge as issues that need to be dealt with. Capitalism as a doctrine seems to have survived the test of time. However, we are finding that the over-emphasis on individualism is taking its toll on the social structure and particularly, the break-up of the family unit. Revolutionary religious doctrines also seem to be doomed to failure, as the antiquated dogmas and traditions cannot meet the demands of current social and economic conditions. Here, perhaps the idea of a political revolution can be summed up in the words of Mao Zedong: “Revolution is not a dinner party, nor an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery; it cannot be advanced softly, carefully, considerately, respectfully, politely, plainly and modestly. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”


Industrial Revolution and the Age of Information
There are also technological revolutionaries. The industrial revolution was spearheaded by a whole new brand of ambitious entrepreneurs. Their approach was subtle and gradual but nevertheless they revolutionized our lifestyle. The invention and mass production of light bulb, automobile, telephone, airplane, gadgets, machinery and things that we use in our daily lives have been truly profound. The information technology revolution and the young revolutionaries that have made it possible, is yet another dimension in the unfolding saga of human civilization. It has enabled us to increase our productivity to ever-increasing heights. Indeed, the speed of change has been so fast that modern history constantly breeds new revolutionaries. Radical technological change and advancement have caused social and environmental issues that need to be studied and reflected upon as they threaten our very existence.


The Characteristics of a Revolutionary

Revolutionaries are usually a child of their environment. Conditions give rise to the individual’s thoughts and the quest for action and achievement. In this process, the revolutionary is taking great risk. In the case of the creative individual, the revolutionary could be fighting the popular mindset and might be stigmatized by society. In the case of the scientist, the revolutionary has to prove the theory in action. As to the political ideologist fighting the establishment, the realization that one’s life is in danger at all times, most likely has a profound impact on the mind and emotions of the individual. The revolutionary’s intense belief in his/her cause often produces a charismatic appeal that attracts and inspires the masses. In private, however, the revolutionary lives in a lonely world. Nobody can be trusted. Life is uncertain and full of twists and turns. At times it all seems like a great gamble where everything can be lost in the blink of an eye. Yet  interesting enough, history shows that when revolutionaries persist and don’t give up, the vision is achieved.


The Impact of Revolution on Development                       

No revolution happens without side-effects. Often times, the revolution creates a period of frenzy and euphoria followed by a reality-check. Whether it’s a technological revolution or a political one, there is much loss for every bit that’s gained. The revolutionary only sees one thing ­­–– success. The concept of balance does not play a major role in the mindset of the revolutionary. The drastic change often benefits a select few, while the majority stay where they were, or they may even find themselves in a worse condition. Everything goes into a state of transition and imbalance. The revolutionary, driven by a vision, often fails to see the big picture. This social disconnect easily lead to damage and fragmented progress. It takes a long time to resume a balanced economic development process. It takes even longer to achieve balance in the social structure and the nurturing of human potential.


In the next articles we will continue to examine the role of the individual in the development process.


Ramses Rashidi ( is the founder and director of Center for Balanced Development.

The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and services to foster global balance in social, personal, ecological and economic development.