June 29, 2010
|We can see the emergence of precedents aimed at stifling street activism.|
World tyranny is accelerating at a pace not seen since Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Mussolini converged on the world stage. Their regimes were history’s prime examples, but there have been countless other dictators who have flourished, leading to the unfortunate conclusion that dictatorships are the rule, not the exception. Central to these power structures has been secrecy, intimidation, and the outlawing of basic human rights such as free speech, the right to peaceably assemble, the eradication of individuality in deference to the State, and extrajudicial arrests of their own citizens. The G8 and G20 Summits now represent a traveling tyranny that is emulating history’s most infamous. Activists would then be wise to consult history when developing an effective strategy to combat the increasing dehumanization.
Having landed most recently in Toronto, Canada, we can see the emergence of precedents aimed at stifling street activism. We have secret laws where judges rule in favor of the State, total lockdown, and torture. The arrest and torture of Charlie Veitch from The Love Police, and the denial of entry into Canada for We Are Change activist, Luke Rudkowski, marks a new phase of hot, stomping tyranny to supplant the cold, creeping variety that has been on display for at least the last 10 years. We saw it emerge full force in Pittsburgh and it has now reached new levels of inhumanity. Veitch is the epitome of a peaceful street activist who declares the sovereign nature of his humanity when confronting authority. He films everything, knows his rights, and states them firmly yet politely.
It is just this type of activism that I encouraged in my October, 2009 article “Resistance is NOT Futile: The Rise of Resistance Journalism.” I spoke about knowing your Constitutional rights, stating them firmly, and putting authority in a position of violating your civil rights in a way that no court of law could endorse. However, in just the last 8 months since that article was posted, the laws of free speech and to peaceably assemble have been all but eradicated, and Constitutional protection is no longer available for those defined within the expanding label of “terrorist.” In fact, much of what I had suggested in my original article is now bound to get someone arrested without recourse. Even filming police can carry a sentence — in your own home! We see evidence of overt Fascism in The Gulf, as Coast Guard officers have become enforcers for British Petroleum, instead of protectors of the citizens affected by the tragedy. Winding up in jail doesn’t make someone very effective, nor is it wise council to encourage an endeavor that is bound to fail. Activism in the age of tyranny and terror must be cunning, wise, discrete, but still unflagging. I think it is time to look at the only form of activism that has consistently worked under the type of blatant tyranny we now face on a global scale: total non-cooperation.
In a brilliant 1996 lecture by Gene Sharp, Senior Scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution, titled, “Facing Dictatorships Realistically: Thoughts on Developing a Plan for Liberation,” addressing a conference on non-violent struggle in Cuba, he lists the power sources of tyranny:
• Authority (or legitimacy, belief in the right of some group or person to lead and give orders).
• Human resources (who and how many people obey and assist the power holder).
• Skills and knowledge (what kind and to what degree these are available to the power-holder).
• Intangible factors (religious, emotional, and belief systems).
• Material resources (economic, financial, transportation, and communications).
• Sanctions (or punishments, violent or nonviolent).
These power sources, Sharp suggests, are given authority by “pillars of support,” which include:
• Religious and moral leaders.
• All sections of the population in the case of human resources — people who cooperate, obey, and assist the regime.
• Specialists with particular abilities and capacities in the case of skills and knowledge.
• Acceptance of the pattern of submission and of beliefs which lead to obedience and help in the case of intangible factors.
• Cooperation in the functioning of the financial economic, transportation, and communications system in the case of material factors.
• Fear and submission in face of threatened punishments by the regime, and obedience by the police and military of orders to inflict repression on those who disobey or refuse to cooperate.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
The act of intelligent, well-planned, non-cooperation — and encouraging the pillars of support not to cooperate with what is tantamount to their own enslavement — historically has been more effective than physically engaging the police state on their own terms. It is tempting to react in the same manner that has brought on the oppression by fighting violence with violence. Contrariwise, it might seem futile to face an onslaught that seems to attack from all sides at once, as we are assailed militarily, in our media, and even in our food and water. The modern activist has to be more an artist than a battlefield warrior: the aim is to starve the sources of power from which the tyranny derives its muscle. This can be done; indeed has been done repeatedly throughout history. Free humanity prevails when it stops being reactive, and instead develops its own course of action. Invariably, that course of action first takes place by developing a mindset of defiance. Sharp recounts exactly what has worked in the past to disintegrate oppression and restore the rights of humanity:
• Massive shut-downs of the society, general strikes, mass stay-at-homes, defiant marches, loss of control of the economy, transportation system, and communications, slow-downs and defiance by the civil service and police, disguised disobedience or outright mutiny by the military, or other activities will increasingly undermine the dictators’ own organization and related institutions.
• When the religious and moral leaders in the society denounce the regime as illegitimate.
• When the masses of the people are disobeying orders and noncooperating with the dictatorship.
• When journalists and broadcasters are defying censorship and issuing their own publications and programs.
• When the transportation system operates only according to the needs of the democratic forces.
• When the civil servants are ignoring the dictatorship’s policies and orders.
• When the police refuse to arrest democratic resisters.
• When the army has gone on strike.
We should not delude ourselves; we are some distance from actualizing the above points, but these guidelines and goals need to be established first if we are to coordinate our activism effectively to resist the quickening that is taking place. Let us then focus on the pillars of support that give sustenance to the growing global dictatorship (our friends, our community leaders, our families), and starve this creature out of existence.
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