Don’t be misled by the title of this piece. I want a revolution today just as much as the next gal. We need a revolution in the way this big ol’ world is run. The thing is, most people just aren’t ready for it. Meaningful revolutionary change only happens when the majority make it happen. It can’t be done by a handful; it has to mushroom forth, from the ground up, with people the world over tearing down these walls of greed and building a new house made of justice.

The reform-versus-revolution split permeates the debate about where to go next. Some say we need to shatter the whole system and start from scratch. Others say that asking for too much all at once won’t get us anywhere, and we should shoot for reforms along the way.

Taking from both approaches, I believe we need to build our revolution with radical increments that revolutionize society step by step. We need an incrementolution.

This option avoids the top-down — sometimes destructive — nature of revolutions. At the same time, it is radically different from reform, which usually does nothing to alter the balance of power. In some cases, reforms can be counterproductive. Incrementolution is about fundamentally challenging power each step of the way. It is about building a system that works.

Sometimes I sense that people are getting impatient: “Hey, we’ve been protesting all over the place, and capitalism still hasn’t fallen apart!”

The value of incrementolution is that it recognizes true revolution to be evolutionary in nature: it takes time to educate, activate, mobilize, build alternatives and to incrementally revolutionize the world as we know it. But this kind of change will alter the very nature of our current sick system — not simply attack its symptoms. As long as each step is radical in nature, the movement will continue to go in a good direction, and it’ll bring more people with it along the way than trying to topple tyranny today would.

Recently, I’ve been learning about some of the more successful social movements in history. I have been particularly struck by the movements led by India’s Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King in the United States. These movements had such organizational capacity: they were disciplined; they got things done. They didn’t simply protest injustice, they challenged it, and changed the world in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good protest, and have been going to them since I was a kid. Big protests — or even small, creative ones — can be very powerful magnets for change. What can a good protest can do? On December 1, 1999 (after massive protests in Seattle) people the world over woke up and asked: “What the hell is the World Trade Organization?”

Yet protest is only one part of making change happen. It can be effective, but putting too much time into organizing the next demo distracts us from the real work at hand. I am only thirty-four, and I am already tired of going downtown to protest this or that with fifty, 100 or 200 others. What’s the point? I want to change the system, not just wave a placard. We need to move from protest to resistance. To paraphrase Subcomandante Marcos, we need to stop just saying no and begin building our yeses.

Gandhi and King resisted in this way. Gandhi set out on a march to the sea to protest the British salt tax. By the end of the march, thousands had joined him to defy British control of this vital resource. He encouraged Indians to spin their own cotton to overtly challenge British domination of the textile industry. These symbolic, non-violent acts exposed the greed of the colonizers and led the way to political (if not economic) liberation.

Activists in the Civil Rights movement didn’t just protest segregation; they actively resisted it. They went into segregated restaurants and demanded their right to be served. This physical defiance served to expose injustice and led to radical reforms across the U.S. — and the world.

Both movements sought to shame injustice. One of the most powerful tools was their steadfast belief in non-violent direct action. They showed that, though it takes immense strength to peacefully resist, non-violence exposes the truth. It gives us the moral high ground. It makes fundamental change possible.

A more modern example is the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil. Members don’t just write letters demanding change to an unjust land-tenure system. They take over idle property, settle thousands of families and build sustainable, vibrant communities in the process.

Throughout history, there are inspiring examples of people taking control of their lives through radical, incremental change of this nature.

The one thing about these movements is that they have had concrete goals: decolonization, equal rights, land for the landless: these goals allowed people to pursue one objective after another: they started in one restaurant, then moved on to others. They sat where they wanted on the bus. Each step of the way, they increased their demands for what was rightfully theirs.

It gets a bit more difficult when your target is globalization, but we can find our own concrete points of resistance where we can both challenge and change the system.

To move forward, it helps to remember that we are in the driver’s seat. We can look back and wonder how a mere 100,000 British troops were able to control a population of over 300-million people in India. Gandhi claimed that in order to be free, Indians needed to withdraw their consent to British domination.

Today, we are colonized by an ideology, by the free market, by greed. To be free, people the world over need to withdraw consent to the view that the market knows best. Someday, we will look back and ask: How could a few thousand super elite control nearly 6-billion of us?

Part Two:Concrete Steps to Incromentolution

Jessie Smith works at the Real Alternatives Information Network (RAIN) in Vancouver, British Columbia.