The nonviolent resistance movement needs to reach the youth
I wrote the following in response to a young observer's reaction to the call to action a friend and I put out, "We Need A Nonviolent Revolution: Resist in March":
It is essential to reach younger folks as the movement for peace and social justice moves into a more protracted and serious phase. Many younger folks are jumping for joy at the idealism and hope of the Obama campaign, but as Malachy and I stated the answers to the tragedies and disarray in this country and the multitude of horrors our government has inflicted on others, does not lie with continuing to be deferential to the powers that be. We must go far, far beyond simply voting.
While I am glad to see the idealism alive, I wonder if it's not at least partially misplaced. I firmly believe that the hope lies within the people. The people of good conscience, who will not swallow the
lies and soak up the fearmongering dished out by not only the politicians but a corporately controlled media.
Ben makes some good points, and I would also like to point out that on March 12th and 19th a couple hundred students will be taking part in the actions in D.C. (www.ourspringbreak.org). Perhaps they are trying to harvest their own "organic memories" of nonviolent direct action. Perhaps the war and military occupation will not be stopped at that
moment, but I believe the movement will have grown. And, I think Ben and I would agree, the movement needs to continue to grow and be supported in order to ultimately be successful.
It took years of struggle for Vietnam to be ended -- and that was before my time. My introduction to nonviolent civil resistance (which is different from nonviolent civil disobedience -- see below) was
during the anti-apartheid movement of the mid-80s when I was a teenager. It was during this time that I went to weekly protests in front of the South African Embassy, we were mourning the death of
Steven Biko and other great leaders like him -- and demanding the release from prison of Nelson Mandela. I saw the mayor, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and many others being arrested for simply walking to the door of the South African Embassy (our permitted spot was about a block away). I am convinced worldwide pressure certainly helped in the dismantling of the Apartheid State.
While it is true that many students today can't remember a time when nonviolent direct action resulted in change, that does not mean that positive change can't be had through these types of actions. While nonviolent civil disobedience in the times of Gandhi and Rosa Parks was extremely successful, this does not mean that human nature has changed that much from 1947, or 1957, or even 1967 during Vietnam. We are still all the same species, capable of great love and great hate.
While some maybe highly cynical of our actions, we must continue. In fact, we have little choice. And ultimately if enough people believe in their own power -- rather than waiting for the next election, they will be successful. Recent success stories have included the nonviolent revolution in Bolivia
From a Reason Magazine article:
"Nonviolent resistance, Schock reminds us, is not the same thing as "passive resistance." It's a set of tactics, not a politically correct lifestyle; it's aimed not at persuading leaders to change their
policies, but at making it impossible to enforce those policies. Gene Sharp has been cataloging those tactics for decades, listing 198 of them in 1973's three-volume study The Politics of Nonviolent Action
and citing several more since then. They fall into three general categories: methods of protest and public persuasion (e.g., a march), of organized noncooperation (e.g., a tax strike), and of "nonviolent intervention" (e.g., a land occupation). Contrary to the conventional wisdom, such methods have frequently worked under repressive dictatorships as well as under relatively benign systems; many times they've succeeded where guerilla tactics have failed. In 23 of those31 rebellions, from Bolivia to Bulgaria and from Mongolia to Mali, the uprising contributed directly to regime change.
And that statistic understates what has happened, since it focuses on the most visible sort of success. More substantial changes can occur without the government formally changing hands. Of the recent turbulence in Latin America, the most interesting event may be the revolt of the Bolivian Indians. They were the backbone of the protests
that drove President Sanchez de Lozada out of power in 2003, and of the more recent turmoil as well, but that's not what I'm referring to here. I'm referring to the fact that about a fifth of the country's
population now lives in villages that run their own affairs, outside of the capital's control. This power was not ceded to them. They simply took it."
The article also states that the number of nonviolent revolutions worldwide actually increased during the last portion of the 20th century. Here's the URL: http://www.reason.com/news/show/34036.html
I do think that fear is a motivator for people not wishing to risk arrest. But Ben is absolutely right, it's not the only one. My hope is that folks will come together in solidarity and begin to working
toward a more just and peaceful future, it's time to stop doubting our own power to act collectively.
And about the difference between civil disobedience and civil resistance: Civil disobedience is about specifically breaking unjust laws in order to highlight them and draw greater criticism of their
inhumane and immoral nature. Civil resistance, and the other hand, is usually aimed at a wider set of governmental policies/practices. It's never about breaking the law with nonviolent civil resistance, rather we are trying to highlight the crimes committed by the government, thereby holding up what many have referred to as higher laws -- whether they be "God's laws," or international laws such as Nuremberg and the Geneva Conventions. So laws maybe broken during nonviolent civil resistance, but that is never the primary goal.
Ie: Resisting Jim Crow or Boston tea party or even war tax resistance -- nonviolent civil disobedience.
374 of us on September 26, 2005 calling for an end to the Iraq War or the popular uprising in Bolivia this decade -- nonviolent civil resistance.
I look forward to many more conversations about the power of nonviolent direct action. And I think we are all students, as Joy put it.