Attention All Left Leaning Peace Loving Liberal Advocates For Change, Justice, Accountability And All The Other Good Stuff We March For, Get Laughed At For And Ignored By The Media For As Simply Nut Cases Out Of Tune With The Controlled Reality Of The Establishment. My challenge to you is simple; do you want to continue playing at being Patriots, singing to the choir in cyber space and enjoying weekend street theater or…
We are supposedly taught to be non-violent, that violence is wrong except in circumstances of self defense or when the state sanctions/authorizes its representatives to kill and maim in its name, be it in uniform, covert actions or execution chambers.
The hypocrisy of “Thou shalt not kill” except for “an eye for eye..” (and that one is always truncated, devoid of the “vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord.)…huummm…”vengeance, not justice. I’ll not belabor that issue as Fundamentalists are notorious for selective Cherry picking of scripture and perverted wild-eyed demagogic interpretation with a certainty of God him/herself.
The inclination for “justified violence” comes easily to the right, for they have self-endowed themselves with the righteous words of scripture, wrapped themselves in the warrior’s cloak of patriotism and armed themselves with the rhetoric of fear and white pride nationalist superiority, the language of mission framed in equal parts of religious racial and national superiority.
Long, popularly attributed to the Sinclair Lewis book “It Can’t Happen Here”: "When Fascism Comes To America, It Will Come Wrapped In The Flag And Carrying A Cross."; one will not find this quote in the text. At best he may have uttered the words in an interview subsequent to its publication, and the possibility exists that he never uttered them and they became associated with his name because he saw and clearly articulated that the struggle in America was befogged by the fact that the worst Fascists were those who disowned the word 'Fascism' and preached enslavement to Capitalism under the style of Constitutional and “Traditional Native American Liberty."
More likely the “quote” has its origins with Huey Long, an astute Southern politician who remarked that if fascism came to America, it would be on a program of "Americanism." Huey Long, known as "the Kingfish," dominated the state of Louisiana from 1928 until his assassination in 1935, at the age of 42. Simultaneously governor and a United States senator, the canny Kingfish uttered a prophecy that haunts me in this political winter of 2010, 75 years after his violent end: "Of course we will have fascism in America but we will call it democracy!"
In their times a good aphorism would define "fascism", but you won't find "fascism" mentioned much in Harper's or The New Republic of that period because it was not much more than an epithet for "a world where we don't have the freedom we want."
If fascism came to America, it wouldn't be fascism, because historical fascism is accompanied by the perceived "revitalizing" of a downtrodden ethnic group and we didn't really have a majority ethnic group. Rather, a government-run dystopia could become reality for quite different reasons. That, Sinclair Lewis addressed in his famed book..
A good aphorism would define what it is that needs protecting. Everyone likes waving crosses and flags. Does that mean it's inherently evil? Aren't the cross and the flag symbols of things we want to protect? Taken on its surface this quote simply means that symbols of Americana are pulled out by politicians when there's no logical reason to defend a position.
Rather than using this quote as a weapon, then, the specific lack of logic should be analyzed.
Our politics began to be contaminated by theocratic zealots with the Reagan revelation, when southern Baptists, Mormons, Pentecostals, and Adventists surged into the Republican Party. The alliance between Wall Street and the Christian right is an old one, but has become explicit only in the past quarter century.
What was called the counter-culture (mine) of the late 1960s and 70s provoked the reaction of the 80s, which is ongoing. This is all obvious enough, but becomes subtler in the context of the religiosity of the country, which truly divides us into two nations. One must be mindful of the facts that, that earlier counter culture, like all sub/counter cultures that have risen from a ripple to a successful tsunami-like wave did so by integrating multiple factions of dissatisfaction and change, (ie, Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, Voter Reform, etc.), behind a common banner anti-war, anti-Vietnam, pro- peace banner.
That counter culture had vitality; it had vigor, while today’s counter culture, if it exists in a form deserving of that label, has neither and is apparently imprisoned in little rooms with no weaponry other than a key board. There comes a time when the word “words” must be refashioned with a one letter shift to become “sword”.
That movement was not cyber orchestrated. It had its words and ultimately it raised its swords.
Yes it was painful and costly. Yes there was tear gas, police batons, bullets, burning buildings and cars, bayonets and knives, Molotov cocktails and flares. Yes there was destruction and death. Such is the nature of true resistance, revolt and revolution. It is not non-violent. John F. Kennedy said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” I suggest to you that we are at that cross road.
Those who are unable or unwilling, either intellectually or wanting only to prepare for the confrontation with words without placing their mortal existence at risk will be forgotten as failures and faux patriots when all is said and done; you shall fall under words of Sam Adams when he said: “Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say 'what should be the reward of such sacrifices?' Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship and plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!”
One of the most devastating errors of our times is the notion that a counter culture can be organized, orchestrated and galvanized in cyber space. The technology lends itself wondrously to political campaigning; a counter culture revolution is not now and never will be a political campaign and those who would believe that are naive fools. Viable counter culture revolutions are popular uprisings, popular emotional responses to conditions that have become intolerable.
They come from the shadows; they come from smoke filled coffee houses and bars; they come from dormitory rooms; they come from back yard discussions and debates, from garage meetings and church basements; they come from those prepared to risk all for an idea asking nothing in return and demanding everything on their agenda. The vitality and commitment, the emotional content and commitment, the personal camaraderie of the mob cannot be fashioned by those sitting behind key boards pontificating and soliciting donations.
The very nature of cyber space organization and advocacy on counter culture action is nonproductive. Even the appearance of being safely tucked away in office asking for donations and selling street theater paraphernalia is cause in and of itself to question the value of any such organization, its value and relevance.
It’s as if there is a Capitalist/Corporate protest movement. Such entities have nothing to do with a national shut down in a national strike. Such entities have nothing to do with steel, fire and humanity in the streets in the reclamation of a nation. They are self-ego-satisfying pretenders…faux patriots of the worst kind.
Sometimes I find myself wondering if the south belatedly has won the civil war, more than a century after its supposed defeat. The leaders of the Republican Party are southern; even the Bushes, despite their Yale and Connecticut tradition, were careful to become Texans and Floridians. Politics, in the United States, perhaps never again can be separated from religion. When so many vote against their own palpable economic interests, and choose "values" instead, then an American malaise has replaced the American dream.
THIS MATTER CALLS FOR SERIOUS SELF-EXAMINATION
THIS MATTER CALLS FOR SERIOUS SELF-EXAMINATION
Self-reflection is not for the squeamish, not for those given to knee-jerk defense of actions and beliefs they have held to be relevant, effective, important, non-violently constructive or hopeful and even though you may not like what you see, truth and self-integrity demands no less. Your first reaction maybe anger; Yes, you may see the last of your belief systems, the one hope and way you have seen as viable and non-violent within “The System” trashed, your heroes besmirched! Why even bother! Who cares?!!! The system has taken everything else, so why not? Why shouldn’t I feel good about making a little noise? Why indeed?
Because you are not making a difference; because all you are doing is making yourself feel good; because you are nothing more than a poor actor in a poorly written cyber space or street theater play that receives no reviews other than that of the choir. What a miserable liberal/progressive sham.
"At a time when more soldiers are committing suicide than are dying in battle, it is well to remember that, no matter how thoroughly indoctrinated the belief in the superiority of an abstraction, there remains within each of us a powerful life-force that can never be fully repressed.
For all those who have engaged me with either Christ or Ghandi as models for resistance; I offer up not the reality of Camus or observations of human nature provided by Jefferson this time.
What Gandhi called Satyagraha – a “Truth-force” or “Soul-force” – remains deep within us as, perhaps, the greatest power at work upon each of us. The state – and the civilization it is helping to bring down – will continue to fight this life-force in every conceivable manner, not simply in the war system, but in efforts to regulate even the most miniscule details of life’s expressions.
When the minds and the spirits of men and women combine to address, with intelligence, what we have done to ourselves – and are doing to our children and grandchildren – we may be able to walk away from our roles as servo-mechanisms to state and corporate power interests, and to discover how to live according to that life-force within each of us. To those unable or unwilling to confront the wickedness implicit in their robotic existences, there will be nothing but unfocused anger and giggling to accompany their trip into the awaiting black-hole.
From An Interview with GHANDI…
“BOURKE-WHITE: But do you really believe you could use non-violence against someone like Hitler?
GANDHI (a thoughtful pause): Not without defeats – and great pain. (He looks at her.) But are there no defeats in this war – no pain? (For a moment the thought hangs, and then Gandhi takes their hands back to the spinning.) What you cannot do is accept injustice. From Hitler – or anyone. You must make the injustice visible – be prepared to die like a soldier to do so.”
He knew all answers were not non-violent!
As you continue your self-examination you are most likely, if you are honest with yourself, that nonviolence is no answer. When you come to this realization I think that think of all the core beliefs that will have been shattered, this is the most painful of all.
"Peter Gelderloos (an excerpt from his book, How Nonviolence Protects the State)
Time and again, people struggling not for some token reform but for complete liberation — the reclamation of control over our own lives and the power to negotiate our own relationships with the people and the world around us — will find that nonviolence does not work, that we face a self-perpetuating power structure that is immune to appeals to conscience and strong enough to plow over the disobedient and uncooperative.
We must reclaim histories of resistance to understand why we have failed in the past and how exactly we achieved the limited successes we did. We must also accept that all social struggles, except those carried out by a completely pacified and thus ineffective people, include a diversity of tactics. more --hattip--"
Why bother going on? Gandhiji was just a special phenomenon for a particular place in time. Now I will really sob next time I see it, for I am truly without hope now.
"Southern group to campaign for poor" by Associated Press |March 19, 2009
ATLANTA - The Southern Christian Leadership Conference hopes to mobilize 50,000 people in the Mississippi Delta this summer in a campaign to draw attention to the poverty of a region where some Americans still live in homes with dirt floors and brown water flows from their faucets.
The effort is much like the one envisioned by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was planning a Poor People's Campaign and march on Washington before he was assassinated in 1968....
And he had ALSO begun to SPEAK OUT against VIETNAM!!! Why does the divisive, war-promoting MSM cover up the man's code of nonviolence while pushing the race issue at every.... never mind, reader.
Passing Through That “ Resignation And Acceptance Phase”.
Nothing is a simple as it seems (that does not, however, make me discard the belief that the nonviolent, noncooperation is one way to affect change and that violence SHOULD BE held in reserve as a SELF-DEFENSE). However, when most people look inside themselves, -- save for the involuntary reaction of emergency – they conclude simply that they will not be able to kill anyone. That conclusion condemns one to be a victim.
These are the types of people, who in their most lucid moments of reality will say: “Though I would never employ violence myself I would never ask that those defending themselves from US or Israeli assaults forswear violence, nor would I stand in the way of an American patriot using it to protect me.” They disgust me.
In the end, Malcolm X said it best:
“I don't even call it violence when it's in self defense; I call it intelligence”. Self defense I must remind those who are prone to denial and the “Great Ostrich Syndrome” does not begin when someone has a gun pointed at you or a bayonet at your throat. When you see one preparing to do you harm you must act, or you are lost.
By William P. Meyers 6/24/09
The ideology of nonviolence has come to play a major role in political struggles in the United States of America and, indeed, in nations around the world. Almost every organization seeking radical change in the USA has been targeted by organizers for the nonviolence movement. Organizations like Earth First!, which originally did not subscribe to the ideology of nonviolence, have since then adopted that ideology or at least its set of rules for protest and civil disobedience. Yet nonviolence activists have put little energy into bringing their creed to establishment, reactionary, or openly violent organizations.
In this essay it will be argued that nonviolence encourages violence by the state and corporations. The ideology of nonviolence creates effects opposite to what it promises. As a result nonviolence ideologists cooperate in the ongoing destruction of the environment, in continued repression of powerless, and in U.S./corporate attacks on people in foreign nations. To minimize violence we must adopt a pragmatic, reality-based method of operation.
I agree that violence, properly defined, is bad. It should, ideally, not be part of how humans deal with each other. I believe that a society should and can be created where no state, economic entity, or religion uses violence against people. In such a society people can achieve their individual and collective goals through voluntary cooperation. But when you scrape the make-up off the face of the ideology of Nonviolence, there you will find, grinning, the very violence it pretends to oppose.
Much of the ability of the corporate state to neutralize its opposition in the USA (and elsewhere) depends on purposeful confusion of the language used to discuss the issues. It is important to distinguish exactly what is meant by violence, not being violent, and the ideology of Nonviolence. Most people have a pretty clear idea of what violence is: hitting people, stabbing them, shooting them, on up to incinerating people with napalm or atomic weapons. Not being violent is simply not causing physical harm to someone. But gray areas abound. What about stabbing an animal? What about allowing someone to starve because they cannot find means to pay for food? What about coercing behavior through the threat of violence? Through the threat of losing a job?
Violence as a dichotomy, with the only choices being Violence or Non-violence, is not a very useful basis for political discussion, unless you want to confuse people. Violence, the word, must be modified and illustrated to be useful for discussion. In this essay violence against animals, plants, and inanimate objects will be distinguished from violence against humans. Violence, unmodified, will always mean direct violence, actual bashing of people, and will be distinguished from the threat of violence, as when laws are passes with violent penalties attached. Also distinguished will be economic violence, as when economic activity leads to physical harm to humans, such as starvation or disease. Other methods of categorizing violence need to be distinguished, such as violent self-defense against violent predation.
The ideology of nonviolence will from this point on be distinguished from ordinary not-being violent by capitalizing it thus: Nonviolence. Most people are not-violent most of the time. Even soldiers and policemen spend more time in a not-violent state than actually committing violent acts. Most social-change activists, including environmentalists, have little or no experience with inflicting violence on other people. Yet the Nonviolence activists target social change activists with their doctrine, rather than teaching it to those policemen, soldiers, politicians and businessmen who do occasionally practice violence.
Nonviolence claims to have found a method to bring violence to an end. The fact that it has not worked at all so far has not deterred the adherents of Nonviolence from marching onward towards their millennium. If only more people would listen to us, our dreams would come true, they say. On the other hand they like to claim that non-violence has a remarkable track-record of success, with the gold-medalists of the Nonviolence Olympics usually being put forward as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Nonviolence ideology states that violence begets violence. Since the goal is a non-violent society, (even if other goals are included such as economic justice, national self-determination, etc.), only nonviolent actions can be used in struggles to change society. Thus one may argue (politely), publish, vote, and assemble in protest. At the extreme edge of Nonviolence ideology lies the Holy Grail: non-violent civil disobedience.
Nonviolence has but one prescription for all social diseases. It prescribes Gandhi-brand aspirin for everything from a headache to terminal cancer. But the social diseases of the real world are complex, not simple.
To gain a proper perspective on what political tools are best used to cure which social diseases you need to be well-informed of the nature of society and of the variety of political tools that are available. It should not surprise anyone that given the complex (and advanced) natures of our social diseases, a one-size fits all political solution is not likely to succeed.
To put this is less colorful terms, to change reality you must know reality. You cannot pretend that aspects of reality do not exist just because there is nowhere to put them in your ideological box. It does not matter whether your ideology is Nonviolence, or Marxism, or Free-Market Capitalism; reality will do what it wants to do. So let us examine some aspects of reality. The goal to keep in mind is the minimization of global violence (the total amount of violence against humans on earth. Preferably including economic violence and even threats of violence).
The failure to oppose violence encourages or allows violence, and the effectiveness of opposition directly correlates with the level of discouragement of violence. But the opposition needed to stop the rape of a woman may vary greatly according to circumstances (particularly, the personality and experience of the rapist). Such situations can be only of metaphorical use in analyzing the opposition needed to stop a sugar corporation from bribing presidents and congressmen to order the US Army to murder 2 million peasants in order to take their land (as happened when the US grabbed the Philippines in 1898).
Since Nonviolence has only one solution to all problems, it can only offer degrees of Nonviolent action for any given situation. For rape I suppose you are supposed to Nonviolently interpose yourself between the rapist and the intended victim. If the rapist has a history of rapes, you can talk to him and tell him about how much better his life would be if he adopted Nonviolence as a way of living. For war against third world peasants you can Up the Level of Nonviolence. You can call for Massive Nonviolent Protest. You can sit in front of a Federal Building for a few minutes before being hauled away by the police, most probably being released after being given a ticket.
I should point out here that I have chosen two examples that I know cause ordinary people and even people who believe in Nonviolence to question its effectiveness. That is to make clear that violence as an automatic solution to social problems is just as out of touch with reality as Nonviolence. But I must emphasize that violence is counter-productive in most situations. Situations that are about to escalate into violence can often be diffused by wise intervention, by talking or physically placing oneself between antagonists. In bar-room fights on TV usually once two people start fighting the entire bar crowd starts throwing chairs around, but in reality in most bars friends of the drunken boxers pull them apart until they can calm down.
At all levels of society self-defense discourages aggression, and is a far better principle (when extended to the idea of community defense and defense of Mother Earth) to use as a starting point than Nonviolence. The normal interpretation of self and community defense, arrived at after millennia of experimentation by almost all societies on earth, is that you can use as much violence as is necessary to bring an end to the current attack. Of course, this is a matter of judgment. It is also a favorite plea of hypocrites. The Romans used self-defense as a pretext for their village to conquer and rule a territory extending from England to Judea. The “American People” have self-defended themselves from the villages of Roanoke and Plymouth across this continent to the Pacific and on to Hawaii and the Philippines. Nevertheless, self-defense is not only a right, but a duty. A community that refuses to defend itself against aggression encourages further aggression. Under the rules of Nonviolence aggressors always win. There is nothing to stop them from marching around the world, taking what they want, killing those who are inconvenient, and congratulating themselves.
India and Gandhi
Ideologists of all stripes like to retell history in a manner that tends to leave out details (sometimes huge details) that would bring their ideology into question. Most Americans know almost nothing of the history of the Indian subcontinent and the creation of the Indian nation. The only people with an interest in telling this story in the USA are the Nonviolence political activists. The story is fairly simple as they retell it: Gandhi returned to India after working for civil rights for Indians in South Africa. India was ruled by Great Britain. Gandhi inspired the Indian people to demand independence from Great Britain, using non-violent civil disobedience. The Brits killed some Indians and beat up others, but eventually saw the light and granted India independence. Hence Nonviolence is the solution to all problems.
Reality was much more complex.
When the British first set foot in India in the 1600’s, they came as the East India Company and made a treaty with the dominant power, the Mughal empire, in an alliance against the Portugese. But the Indian continent was not one country. Not only did the Mughal empire embrace several principalities that were in alliance with it, instead of ruled directly, but most of southern India was composed of smaller states opposed to the empire. The Mughals were Moslems, most Indians were not. The Mughal empire more or less collapsed in the 1700’s, but not due to the British.
When Gandhi returned to India at the end of World War I the situation had evolved but had remarkable similarities to that of 1600. The British government ruled India, sort of. There were many semi-independent principalities suffering varying degrees of supervision by the Viceroy. The Indians were divided by language, ethnicity, religion, and caste. The westernized intellectuals had formed the Indian National Congress party in 1885. As early as 1884 the Ilbert bill put Indian judges on the same footing as European judges in Bengal; native Indians took the same exams to enter the civil service as British colonists (but the exam was administered in London; fine if you attended school in Britain, but difficult for the average Indian to take advantage of). Legislative councils with Indian members existed, though they had limited powers. It was clear that in time India would be ruled by the Indians; the Viceroy Curzon promised that before 1900. The problem with transition was not simply that there were British who liked the old system of direct bureaucratic rule and economic exploitation. Indians were not united; many aristocrats and princes favored their old arrangements with the British; and even the Congress party was divided between factions known as Moderates and Extremists. The defeat of a European power, Russia, by the Japanese in 1905 had fired India’s imagination. The Bolshevik revolution and the spread of communism also played an important role in both uniting and dividing Indians between the two world wars.
More reforms were granted by the British between the wars, but independence seemed distant. Gandhi was one of the acknowledged leaders of the Congress party after he led a civil disobedience campaign and then served 6 years in jail for it. Other parties arose and were elected to the councils in different provinces. The Congress party at first refused to stand for election, then ran under the pretext of destroying the reforms from within, in order to force the independence issue. Gandhi, by his writings and actions, showed India how to gain the upper hand over the British. But it worked only because the British believed in their moral superiority. In effect Gandhi challenged the British to prove their moral superiority by withdrawing from India. Gandhi’s ideology of Nonviolence was derived directly from his Jainist religious background. Suffering at the hands of the violent was a means of self-purification and showing merit for a Jainist.
In 1934 Gandhi was defeated. The civil disobedience campaign was called off. Conservatives controlled the British government and remained firmly in control of the reformed India. Gandhi and the Congress Party accepted the gradualist British approach. The 1935 Government of India Act made Dominion status within the empire the accepted goal. Federalism would be the framework for the transition, and parliamentary institutions the form of government. Large parts of the Act were used verbatim when a Constitution was finally written in 1950.
World War II led Gandhi to support Great Britain: “We do not seek independence out of Britain’s ruin.” That is, the great Saint himself endorsed Indian soldiers killing Japanese and German soldiers for a good cause. This hardly squares with the ideology of Nonviolence. The British government offered the Congress Party immediate reforms and independence immediately after the war in order to retain their loyalty. They rejected the offer. Gandhi changed his mind midstream and started the “Quit India,” campaign, which was regarded as treasonous by the British. Meanwhile the Moslems demanded that Pakistan be created as a country independent of India as well as Britain, an idea firmly rejected by Gandhi and Nehru. So when the war ended and the British wanted to hand over power to the Indians, they could not because the Indians were already fighting among themselves. Finally, in 1947, the British declared they were withdrawing in 1948. Gandhi and Nehru fell out with each other. Gandhi wanted to force the Moslems to be part of Hindu India; Nehru decided to allow the creation of Pakistan and concentrate on the Congress Party having full power to run the rest of India.
See how complex it was? This short version can only begin to show the complexity of a historical event that lasted over a century, had millions of players, and ended in one of the most violent tragedies of modern times, the Hindu versus Moslem massacres of the late 1940’s. It leaves out the role of hundreds of small political parties and groups, including armed guerilla movements. But it does show that the ideology of Nonviolence played only a supporting role in the independence of India. Gandhi probably genuinely believed in Nonviolence at some points in his life, but he used it as a stage prop, and felt free to use and condone other tactics when he thought that advantageous.
Martin Luther King, Nonviolence, and the National Guard
So, on to the United States, a place where moral smugness takes second seat to no one, not even the British. And low and behold, the Nonviolent activists parade out another Saint, one Martin Luther King. A good man, in my book, but not someone who ended Jim Crow through Nonviolence.
Jim Crow (racism) was itself a complex social phenomena, composed ultimately of social beliefs, customs, violent tactics, and laws that evolved over a long period of time. The end of Jim Crow (and it isn’t totally over yet) came about as a result of a complex set of individual decisions made by real human beings. Black Americans had fought back against various aspects of Jim Crow ever since the era of Reconstruction. Many had simply fled the southern version, finding the northern version easier to put up with.
Martin Luther King certainly played a prominent role in opposition to segregation. But so did the Black Muslims and Black Panthers, the Communist Party USA and the proliferation of other Leninist, Anarchist and New Left groups. Individual acts of defiance, most of them forgotten by everyone but their actual participants, were probably even more important, as were the acts of communal self-defense we usually refer to as race riots. Black veterans had used their military skills after every war they had fought in to attempt to assert their rights; the large number of black veterans returning from Vietnam were a very real danger to the government, given the explosive social mixture of the times.
However much credit you may want to assign to various groups or types of action for their effectiveness of ending racial discrimination during the 1960’s, it is simply factually inaccurate to give the leading role to the ideology of Nonviolence. The leading role went to the National Guard, a group backed up by the Army, Navy, and Marines; if necessary by nuclear weapons. When Presidents of the United States decided to send in the National Guard to desegregate schools in southern states, the racists had little choice but to back down.
Whether the President, Congress or Supreme Court (in passing and enforcing civil rights laws) did it out of the goodness of their hearts, or because they feared a violent revolution that would overthrow the government, or because some marchers took oaths of nonviolence, in the end it was violence and the threat of violence that ended segregation. The same National Guard that walked black children into public schools was a part of a military establishment murdering civilian women and children at Vietnam at the same time, so don’t worry that I’m giving them undue praise. I am simply describing a complex reality as accurately as possible.
In sum, the situation in which Martin Luther King played a major role showed that violence does not always beget violence. The National Guard, an instrument of violence, was used to end an ongoing tide of violence, Jim Crow. As a related example, which I won’t present in detail here, the Black Panthers, by buying shotguns and using them, caused a major drop in the level of violence the Oakland Police were using against blacks. Gandhi was willing to go to jail for his beliefs; the Panthers were willing to die, if necessary, to defend their community. And many were murdered by the police, FBI, and Cointelpro.
Eco-sabotage and Other Grey Areas
If Nonviolence activists were content to preach their gospel to the military, the police, the capitalists and other violent and oppressive groups, I would not need to write this essay. They focus their efforts, however, on purifying groups that are working for social change. In no case I know of have they targeted a violent group and convinced it to not be violent. Instead they target groups that are already not violent and imbue them with a set of rules that reduce their effectiveness. In at least one instance, the White Train movement of the early 1980s, it was later revealed that one of the Nonviolence activists was actually an undercover agent for the Portland police. This kindly looking, white-haired man delighted in explaining how almost any action designed to stop the White Train (carrying nuclear warheads) was violent, and hence how the only usable tactic was silently witnessing the passing of the train. His tactics for manipulating the groups involved were indistinguishable from the tactics used by Nonviolence activists to turn Earth First! in the period from 1988 to 1991 from being a revolutionary group that was genuinely wild and dangerous to the corporations raping the earth into a toothless poodle competing with the Sierra Club for strokes from society’s masters.
While they may walk into a non-Nonviolence group and declare that they are now making the rules and telling everyone what to think (even Leninists seem relatively non-arrogant compared to most of the leaders of the Nonviolence movement), Nonviolence activists, usually focus their tactics on grey areas. Often the grey areas include the question of excluding (violently, if necessary!) groups and individuals that have decided against taking Nonviolence oaths from taking part in decision making, civil disobedience, and even protest.
However, a clearer example of the effects of Nonviolence is how they attack the question of sabotage. This question arose with regard to Earth First!, which included sabotage within the range of tactics used during the 1980’s.
Sabotage was a way of life in Earth First! circles in 1989. Sure, much of it was petty, more a matter of making the participants feel empowered than effectively stopping earth-rape. But it was a part of our lives; I was there, I saw it and did it, I do not regret it. Perhaps starting earlier, but certainly well underway by 1988, there was an influx of federal agents (and perhaps private agents hired by public relations firms) into Earth First! Coincidently, or maybe not, Nonviolence activists who did not subscribe to the Earth First! credo, “No compromise in defense of mother earth,” also started appearing and arguing against sabotage and other Earth First! tactics that they considered violent, like running. Yes, running, but if I used that as an extended example most people would think I was writing satire rather than a serious essay.
According to Nonviolence activists sabotage is a form of violence. It feeds the cycle of violence by giving the sabotaged entities an excuse for their own violence. They confuse the issue by saying that the actions of physical tools (like swinging a sledgehammer) is the same as violence against persons. Next thing we know they’ll be prohibiting dancing because people swing their arms and hips to dance.
Without a doubt sabotage is illegal. But legality has little to do with violence or its minimization. Many not-violent activities are illegal, and many violent activities ranging from hockey to US troops shooting unarmed peasant children in the Third World are not illegal.
Without a doubt, in fact by definition, sabotage violates property rights. But since the Nonviolence activists are not generally members of the Libertarian Party, you would think they would not be that concerned with protecting corporate and government owned property (it is very rare that eco-sabotage harms the property of individual real persons).
In fact, when questioned, Nonviolence activists consider sabotage violent for one of two reasons: they are really police agents charged with protecting corporate property, or they think violence to non-animate physical objects is the same thing as violence to human beings.
I submit that building a house with a hammer and nails is not a violent act. I reject the idea that sabotage is a violent act. I do not believe that even if it does sometimes result in violent reprisals by violent corporations that the correct way to determine a course of action that may save Mother Earth is by failing to act because our opponents have a history of violence.
Consider a US invasion of a Third World country (I’ll generalize). Army troops are charged with murdering peasants who are trying to take back their land stolen by US corporations that are growing Monsanto-brand genetically engineered opium poppies to make heroin to sell in America’s ghettos to raise money for the CIA to help it help US companies grab more peasant land. A woman who has been forced into prostitution by the soldiers, after her captors have fallen asleep, sabotages their guns so they will have to wait a few days while they get shiny new guns to kill more peasants. Clearly the woman has, at least temporarily, lessened the cycle of violence. But Nonviolence activists cannot be wrong, so there must be something wrong with my example. Is sabotaging weapons violent or Nonviolent or not-violent? Dance on the head of that pin, if you will. And if you are sane, and conclude damaging weapons used to murder people is not violence, then what of the next gray area: damaging machines that are being used to destroy our earth?
Fallback Nonviolence arguing position: Nonviolence is a universal truth, but maybe the Third World is different than the US where we have free speech and democracy and a big middle class and respect for property rights. And please don’t come to the next meeting, and you can’t be in our affinity group, and you can’t speak from stage at any rally we are able to control.
By 1993 Earth First! had adopted Nonviolence as a principle superior to “No compromise in defense of mother earth.” The mental gymnastics required for this are: violence is destroying mother earth, so she can only be saved by Nonviolence, therefore we must not compromise Nonviolence in our defense of mother earth.
Elections, Courts, and Violence
Losing momentum as it became just another eco-protest group (one with much more radical theories, sometimes referred to as Deep Ecology) in practice, Earth First!, with the approval of its new set of Nonviolence leaders, entered into alliances with groups using law suits to defend the environment.
That is not bad strategy, in some ways, but it’s a bizarre application of Nonviolence, if you think about it.
(But then Nonviolence requires a great deal of Nonthinking.)What are courts, police, and government but instruments of violence? Consider a victory, any of a number of cases in which a judge has ruled in environmentalists’ favor and issued an injunction against timber harvesting. What does an injunction mean? It means that you do what the judge says, or the armed might of the government will force you to do it, using means that can not possibly be rationalized as not-violent, much less Nonviolent.
The only way out of this conundrum for the Nonviolence apostles is to pretend that government is not violent. And it usually is not violent to the bourgeois gentlehommes who make up the ruling class. These men and women are realists, they aren’t going to shoot it out with the government. If the rare honest judge enforces the Endangered Species Act, these men can wait until their money can buy elections and representatives and judges to gut the Act. I don’t object to winning a stay for the forests through litigation; I object to Nonviolence activists labeling sabotage as violence and court orders as Nonviolence. But then Gandhi was a lawyer, and what rational person can fathom a system created by a Jainist lawyer? A system that says that if the forests must suffer to end the cycle of violence, so be it?
Declawing the Revolution From Within
The ideology of Nonviolence is not merely mistaken in attempting to apply one solution to fix all problems. It is an ideology used by our police state to make opposition to the violent policies of our government ineffective. The police use Nonviolence as a method of controlling potentially troublesome social change groups. Many of the Nonviolence advocates that float around the social change movements are on police payrolls, or should be. Many have been trained by public relations agencies, which spotted the tactic as a very productive one for their corporate clients.
Their tactics are revealing, but simplistic. They accuse anyone they disagree with of being violent. They scare their followers with stories of the terrible fates in store for anyone who brings down the wrath of the police or the middle class voters on their precious Nonviolent affinity groups or their cause. They hold secret meetings among themselves to reach a consensus for “Nonviolence Codes” that would be more accurately called “Do Nothing,” codes. Then they declare an issue to be their turf, and declare that anyone joining in on the issue must accept their dictatorial “consensus” decisions.
They confuse and manipulate people with a bizarre mechanics of consensus. The key rule is that one person may block consensus, that is, if even one person in the group objects to an action, then that action cannot be done. This rule is extremely loaded in the direction of no action at all. Then again, just try to block the pre-determined consensus in favor of Nonviolence. Explain that you understand that the ideology and practice of Nonviolence is in fact a violent ideology because it encourages State and Corporate violence.
Watch the claws and fangs pop out of the Nonviolence folk. They have a lot of pent-up anger, and they would much rather take it out on an honest activist than on the people who are actually destroying the earth and murdering its peasant stewards. Be careful, they’ll probably report you to the police. They probably are the police.
Playing with the Media
One common argument against more militant forms of protest and action is that these will alienate the media and the general public, “upon whose support the ultimate success of our campaign depends.” While this argument is used in many contexts for many political purposes, it is especially used by Nonviolence propagandists to maintain their control of the acts of political (and environmentalist) groups.
Again, a little critical thinking will reveal that Nonviolence, by refusing to look at reality or meaningfully address grey areas, sets its hand firmly in league with Violence. The usual argument is that any violence or destruction of public property will result in negative coverage by the Press, and a negative reaction from Middle Class Americans, who vote in elections and secretly subscribe to the Jainest political principle of Nonviolence.
When you hear people make this argument, you know that their brains have been thoroughly washed.
The Media in America is not one thing, but it is pretty close. It is almost all owned by large, in some cases international, corporations; we’ll ignore the seldom-heard alternative media here, except to say that it needs to be supported and expanded. The Corporate Media is Violence, because it is Money. It constantly promotes violence against the powerless and those who have resources that corporations want to grab as their own. It glorifies war; look at how it covered the War Against Iraq and the War Against Serbia and the War Against the Nicaraguan people. It glorifies violence; flip on the TV and watch Pro Wrestling. Open the newspaper and read about the football and hockey games.
The only times the corporate media is against Violence is when that serves the greater ends of Corporate violence. When a division of US Marines grabs peasant lands in Central America the media cheers; when some oppressed workers in the US grab some canned goods during a riot, that same media deplores violence. When anyone shoots a cop or lawyer the media deplores violence; when the lawyers and cops are doing the shooting and hanging the media cheers.
Of course the media is going to portray Earth First!, ELF, the IWW and all groups that threaten corporate control and domination in any negative way they can. Sure they’ll call them violent at the least excuse. And the Nonviolence Activists will break solidarity with those who are trying to end violence, and join hands with the corporate media denouncing “violent” activities.
Can the media turn the middle class, even the working class, against reformers and revolutionaries? Sure! That’s their job. That’s one of the things their sponsoring corporations pay them for. But it isn’t the violence or Nonviolence of the activists that is being targeted. Nor is it the natural Nonviolence of the people that is being appealed to. People love righteous violence, and with good cause. They applaud it in the movie theaters, they glorify it in patriotic speeches. What must be kept clear is the righteousness of the cause. Nonviolence does not add to (or subtract from) the righteousness of any cause. Willingness to fight and, if unlucky, die for a cause is what adds to its righteousness, in public perception.
People were willing to kill for Racism, but almost no one could be found who was willing to die for racism. Once blacks started arming themselves and had the support (at times) of the National Guard, racists proved themselves to be cowards. They did not care about racism enough to die for it; but the Black Panthers were willing to die to end it. If the Black Panthers had listened to the Nonviolence police and the corporate media, we’d still have Jim Crow today, with its ongoing tide of violence. And the Nonviolence police would be patting themselves on the back, saying “Racism is bad and violent, but at least we did not become like those violent folk.”
Becoming the Enemy
One of the most effective guilt trips borrowed by the Nonviolence police from Jainest religious beliefs is the argument that if you use violence, you will become violent. This cuts two ways: it appeals to the Christian idea of tainting of the soul, and to the pragmatic reality of habitual behavior.
On the metaphysical side, there is the contrary belief that things become their opposite. In the orient this is expressed by the Yin-Yang symbol. Under this belief system one can expect Nonviolence to create or turn into its opposite, Violence. It has a pragmatic reality basis in this case: refusing to defend yourself encourages predation, which in turn can convince a community that they had better become predatory themselves. The ancient Greeks also noted this phenomena, giving it the term enantiodromia, the tendency of a thing to become its opposite.
The real world is much too complex for simplistic metaphysical ideas to offer much in the way of guidance. Consider all of the Japanese soldiers who returned home after World War II. Many had not simply killed men in war, but had murdered civilians as well. Yet after the war Japan became a remarkably non-violent society.
Clearly the peaceful men who went to war did not become compulsive violence freaks because they followed violent orders for a period of time.
But then, they were not in power. If anything encourages violence, it is unrestrained power. The Bolshevik Party in the Soviet Union offers a good example. They were never opposed to violence; once in power they became increasingly violent until the 1950’s. When Stalin died and Khrushchev gained power, he put an end to the violence, with little opposition.
Not only are humans complex in general, but they vary markedly from one individual to the next. Exposure to violence, or chance participation in violence, have little predictive value in determining how violently an individual will act in the future. A mild-mannered father or mother will usually go to any end to defend their children from attack; and they should. Nonviolence activists who refuse to violently defend their own children when necessary are, in my eyes, more inhumanly monstrous than any predator.
In society, politics, and personal relations we are always dealing with multiple variables and complex interactions. It is often difficult to predict what the outcome of a decision will be. The simplification of Nonviolence appeals to people who have been confused by complexity. They act as if chopping some wood for kindling will set them on an inevitable path towards being a habitual ax murderer.
From what I have seen, in the real world subscribing to Nonviolence ideology in a symptom of a dogmatic personality, and history has shown that all dogmas are inherently violent in nature. The Indian Non-violence clique of Gandhi and Nehru had no qualms about sending troops with tanks to end the independence of Junagadh and Hyderabad in 1948 in order to consolidate their control of India.
Minimizing Violence: Organizational Stances
More than a critique of Nonviolence is needed if we are to make an effective defense of Mother Earth and humanity against the predators who run the world’s corporations, governments, and religions. Here, however, the space allowed limits me to critiquing Nonviolence and offer the following suggestions.
By now hopefully it is clear that Nonviolence is not the best way to minimize violence. Neither, of course, is any ideology that glorifies violence.
The correct strategy is to minimize violence while we work towards our other goals. This requires that we both minimize the ability of the military-industrial-governmental complex to use violence, and do that with a minimum of violence ourselves.
However, it should be clear that sabotage is not violence when used to stop violence by institutions.
Sabotage must be revitalized as the basic positive action that can be taken prior to a situation where true radical reform can be created.
Self-defense must be a right we reserve to ourselves. Otherwise we invite violent attacks on ourselves, our families, our organizations, and our communities. Self-defense keeps violent institutions in check. It must be combined with genuine solidarity. We must stand in solidarity with the ecosystems that are under attack, and with our fellow human beings who are under attack. Even the American middle class understands and approves of the right to self-defense.
We must use better judgment than we have in the past. We must use the right tool for each job. We cannot let ourselves be blinded by ideology.
We must use violent means, like voting in elections and filing law suits, when necessary. We must take away the power of corporations to control the government, so that the government can itself be reformed and eventually abolished in favor of voluntary community cooperation.
The path forward is not easy, but drop the load of dogma called Nonviolence off your back, and you have a lot better chance of getting where you want to go.
Not all groups or individuals must act in the same way or on the same issues. Respect your brother and sister activists’s work, but don’t let them stop you from doing what you know you have to do.
Model Resolutions Against Violence and Non-violence
Many groups may want to make it clear that, as a group, they are not going to use violence as a tool. I agree that for many groups that is a reasonable thing to do, but usually at that point some Nonviolence activists get the group to tie their hands with the cords of a not-well thought out Nonviolence Code.
I suggest something like the following resolution or bylaw be adopted in those situations:
“We are resolved that our group will not use or instigate violence against human beings as a means to achieve its ends. However, we recognize the right of people to self-defense and community defense.”
If a group really understands how Nonviolence has violent consequences, it might adopt a resolution such as:
“Whereas our group is against violent attacks upon individuals and violent attacks upon the environment, and wants to minimize such violence as quickly as possible and abolish it as soon as possible, it is resolved that we reject the ideology of Nonviolence, which encourages violence by unjust institutions.”
John Cory's powerful essay published on Reader Supported News on March 06, 2010, drew such an overwhelming response from our readership, so many heartfelt comments, that we felt we should give everyone the opportunity to endorse Cory's words and let the Democratic Party have the benefit of our leadership.
We, the undersigned, agree with the words of author John Cory, and want it to be known that we demand that the Democratic Party act on, and in the spirit of, the mandate provided by our endorsements herein.
I Am Angry
06 March 2010
I am angry.
I'm tired of pundits and know-nothing media gasbags. I'm tired of snarky "inside politics" programming. I am sick of the bigotry and hatred of "birthers" and faux patriotic cranks and their GOP puppet masters. And I'm really pissed at the Democratic Party that confuses having a plate of limp noodles with having a spine.
I'm going to vomit if I hear the word "bipartisanship" one more time.
It was "bipartisanship" that gave us this activist conservative Supreme Court. A Supreme Court that says money is free speech and corporations are persons except when real people try to hold them accountable for their greed and poisonous ways.
"Bipartisanship" gave us the Patriot Act and FISA and illegal wiretaps and two wars and "free speech zones" and "no fly" lists. God bless bipartisan America.
I get nauseated every time the Senate explains how it takes a super majority to do anything for the American people. Tell you what Senate Bozos, if it takes 60 votes to pass legislation than it should take 60% of the popular vote to get you elected.
When some Tea Party crank says, "I want my country back," I respond, "No madam, you want your country backward."
When a deficit-mongering politician says, "How do we pay for this?" Why not ask, "What did you Republicans do with the surplus we Democrats left you?"
When a compassionate conservative says, "Healthcare reform is socialism," why not answer, "No, sir it is the moral and American way to care for people."
Yes, I can hear it now: "You are naïve and simplistic. These are complicated matters and require sophisticated solutions. Democrats are a big tent and strive for balance. But Republicans block our path at every turn. We are thinking and considering new ways to work in harmony with everyone."
The only thing you get with "harmony" is a Barbershop Quartet.
Democrats stop being Republican Lite. Stop whining about that mean GOP and their nasty messaging. Grow a pair, get a message, get a bumper sticker and hang it out there. Get some strong vivid talking points.
G-O-P = Greed Over People.
Greed Kills - jobs, people and the economy.
Terrorism is Viagra for Republicans: The more fear - the more excited they get.
When a soldier dies for America, who dares ask if they were gay or straight?
Don't act so shocked, Democratic Party. Have you looked around lately?
You're losing the young vote that showed up to elect Obama. You're losing those old enough to remember real Democrats. Why? Because you don't talk to them any more than you talk to me. You talk at me. You talk around me. You talk down to me. You talk about me. You don't talk with me. And you don't inspire and you don't champion and without that you are nothing more than an arbitrator of compromise and abdication.
You are facing a bully. Deal with it!
Republicans want the country backwards. They champion superstition over science because it entrenches ignorance and bigotry and captures the easily frightened.
Republicans treat the Constitution the way they treat the Bible, with selective interpretation and selective application to others while exempting themselves from judgment and accountability.
Republicans preach the gospel of fear because fear is darkness and darkness covers their theft of civil liberties and Constitutional principles.
For thirty years the Republican Party has claimed the mantel of law and order but now quake in dread of the American judicial system when putting terrorists on trial. How criminal is that?
Torture is illegal. Period. John Wayne and Jack Bauer were not our Founding Fathers - only in the make-believe world of Republican drugstore-patriots.
DADT needs to be repealed. Now. It is unconscionable, immoral, and disgusting.
Empathy, compassion and equality are not pejoratives. They are American values proven again and again throughout our history.
Republicans believe that bake-sales and cookies for chemotherapy best determine the value of life and healthcare because life is a pre-existing condition and the "free market" should not have to take on such a high risk - after all, no one gets out alive, so why should the corporation be left holding the bag? Unless of course the price is right.
Republicans believe that government should keep its hands off healthcare but should put its hands inside a woman's body.
Republicans believe in small government - small enough to hold the "right" people and small enough to be owned and operated by the "right" people. And who are the "right" people? Them. Not you.
Democratic Party, DNC, DLCC, DSCC or whatever your acronym - I have only one question for you: Really?
You can't win against these guys? You can't get your message out against these guys? You can't give America leadership against these guys?
We, the undersigned, agree with the words of author John Cory, and want it to be known that we demand that the Democratic Party act on, and in the spirit of, the mandate provided by our endorsements herein.
Time for a U.S. Revolution – Fifteen Reasons
By Bill Quigley
March 08, 2010 "Information Clearing House"- - It is time for a revolution. Government does not work for regular people. It appears to work quite well for big corporations, banks, insurance companies, military contractors, lobbyists, and for the rich and powerful. But it does not work for people.
The 1776 Declaration of Independence stated that when a long train of abuses by those in power evidence a design to reduce the rights of people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is the peoples right, in fact their duty to engage in a revolution.
Martin Luther King, Jr., said forty three years ago next month that it was time for a radical revolution of values in the United States. He preached “a true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.” It is clearer than ever that now is the time for radical change.
Look at what our current system has brought us and ask if it is time for a revolution?
Over 2.8 million people lost their homes in 2009 to foreclosure or bank repossessions – nearly 8000 each day – higher numbers than the last two years when millions of others also lost their homes.
At the same time, the government bailed out Bank of America, Citigroup, AIG, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the auto industry and enacted the troubled asset (TARP) program with $1.7 trillion of our money.
Wall Street then awarded itself over $20 billion in bonuses in 2009 alone, an average bonus on top of pay of $123,000.
At the same time, over 17 million people are jobless right now. Millions more are working part-time when they want and need to be working full-time.
Yet the current system allows one single U.S. Senator to stop unemployment and Medicare benefits being paid to millions.
There are now 35 registered lobbyists in Washington DC for every single member of the Senate and House of Representatives, at last count 13,739 in 2009. There are eight lobbyists for every member of Congress working on the health care fiasco alone.
At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that corporations now have a constitutional right to interfere with elections by pouring money into races.
The Department of Justice gave a get out of jail free card to its own lawyers who authorized illegal torture.
At the same time another department of government, the Pentagon, is prosecuting Navy SEALS for punching an Iraqi suspect.
The US is not only involved in senseless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the U.S. now maintains 700 military bases world-wide and another 6000 in the US and our territories. Young men and women join the military to protect the U.S. and to get college tuition and healthcare coverage and killed and maimed in elective wars and being the world’s police. Wonder whose assets they are protecting and serving?
In fact, the U.S. spends $700 billion directly on military per year, half the military spending of the entire world – much more than Europe, China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, and Venezuela - combined.
The government and private companies have dramatically increased surveillance of people through cameras on public streets and private places, airport searches, phone intercepts, access to personal computers, and compilation of records from credit card purchases, computer views of sites, and travel.
The number of people in jails and prisons in the U.S. has risen sevenfold since 1970 to over 2.3 million. The US puts a higher percentage of our people in jail than any other country in the world.
The tea party people are mad at the Republicans, who they accuse of selling them out to big businesses.
Democrats are working their way past depression to anger because their party, despite majorities in the House and Senate, has not made significant advances for immigrants, or women, or unions, or African Americans, or environmentalists, or gays and lesbians, or civil libertarians, or people dedicated to health care, or human rights, or jobs or housing or economic justice. Democrats also think their party is selling out to big business.
Forty three years ago next month, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached in Riverside Church in New York City that “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” He went on to condemn the Vietnam War and the system which created it and the other injustices clearly apparent. “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing oriented” society to a “person oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
It is time.
Calling All Rebels
By Chris Hedges (about the author) Page 1 of 2 page(s)
For OpEdNews: Chris Hedges - Writer
There are no constraints left to halt America's slide into a totalitarian capitalism. Electoral politics are a sham. The media have been debased and defanged by corporate owners. The working class has been impoverished and is now being plunged into profound despair. The legal system has been corrupted to serve corporate interests. Popular institutions, from labor unions to political parties, have been destroyed or emasculated by corporate power. And any form of protest, no matter how tepid, is blocked by an internal security apparatus that is starting to rival that of the East German secret police. The mounting anger and hatred, coursing through the bloodstream of the body politic, make violence and counter-violence inevitable. Brace yourself. The American empire is over. And the descent is going to be horrifying.
Those singled out as internal enemies will include people of color, immigrants, gays, intellectuals, feminists, Jews, Muslims, union leaders and those defined as "liberals." They will be condemned as anti-American and blamed for our decline. The economic collapse, which remains mysterious and enigmatic to most Americans, will be pinned by demagogues and hatemongers on these hapless scapegoats. And the random acts of violence, which are already leaping up around the fringes of American society, will justify harsh measures of internal control that will snuff out the final vestiges of our democracy. The corporate forces that destroyed the country will use the information systems they control to mask their culpability. The old game of blaming the weak and the marginal, a staple of despotic regimes, will empower the dark undercurrents of sadism and violence within American society and deflect attention from the corporate vampires that have drained the blood of the country.
"We are going to be poorer," David Cay Johnston told me. Johnston was the tax reporter of The New York Times for 13 years and has written on how the corporate state rigged the system against us. He is the author of "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense and Stick You With the Bill," a book about hidden subsidies, rigged markets and corporate socialism. "Health care is going to eat up more and more of our income. We are going to have less and less for other things. We are going to have some huge disasters sooner or later caused by our failure to invest. Dams and bridges will break. Buildings will collapse. There are water mains that are 25 to 50 feet wide. There will be huge infrastructure disasters. Our intellectual resources are in decline. We are failing to educate young people and instill in them rigor. We are going to continue to pour money into the military. I think it is possible, I do not say it is probable, that we will have a revolution, a civil war that will see the end of the United States of America."
"If we see the end of this country it will come from the right and our failure to provide people with the basic necessities of life," said Johnston. "Revolutions occur when young men see the present as worse than the unknown future. We are not there. But it will not take a lot to get there. The politicians running for office who are denigrating the government, who are saying there are traitors in Congress, who say we do not need the IRS, this when no government in the history of the world has existed without a tax enforcement agency, are sowing the seeds for the destruction of the country. A lot of the people on the right hate the United States of America. They would say they hate the people they are arrayed against. But the whole idea of the United States is that we criticize the government. We remake it to serve our interests. They do not want that kind of society. They reject, as Aristotle said, the idea that democracy is to rule and to be ruled in turns. They see a world where they are right and that is it. If we do not want to do it their way we should be vanquished. This is not the idea on which the United States was founded."
It is hard to see how this can be prevented. The engines of social reform are dead. Liberal apologists, who long ago should have abandoned the Democratic Party, continue to make pathetic appeals to a tone-deaf corporate state and Barack Obama while the working and middle class are ruthlessly stripped of rights, income and jobs. Liberals self-righteously condemn imperial wars and the looting of the U.S. Treasury by Wall Street but not the Democrats who are responsible. And the longer the liberal class dithers and speaks in the bloodless language of policies and programs, the more hated and irrelevant it becomes. No one has discredited American liberalism more than liberals themselves. And I do not hold out any hope for their reform. We have entered an age in which, as William Butler Yeats wrote, "the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity."
"If we end up with violence in the streets on a large scale, not random riots, but insurrection and things break down, there will be a coup d'état from the right," Johnston said. "We have already had an economic coup d'état. It will not take much to go further."
How do we resist? How, if this descent is inevitable, as I believe it is, do we fight back? Why should we resist at all? Why not give in to cynicism and despair? Why not carve out as comfortable a niche as possible within the embrace of the corporate state and spend our lives attempting to satiate our private needs? The power elite, including most of those who graduate from our top universities and our liberal and intellectual classes, have sold out for personal comfort. Why not us?
The French moral philosopher Albert Camus argued that we are separated from each other. Our lives are meaningless. We cannot influence fate. We will all die and our individual being will be obliterated. And yet Camus wrote that "one of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt. It is a constant confrontation between man and his obscurity. It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it."
"A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object," Camus warned. "But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object."
The rebel, for Camus, stands with the oppressed--the unemployed workers being thrust into impoverishment and misery by the corporate state, the Palestinians in Gaza, the civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the disappeared who are held in our global black sites, the poor in our inner cities and depressed rural communities, immigrants and those locked away in our prison system. And to stand with them does not mean to collaborate with parties, such as the Democrats, who can mouth the words of justice while carrying out acts of oppression. It means open and direct defiance.
The power structure and its liberal apologists dismiss the rebel as impractical and see the rebel's outsider stance as counterproductive. They condemn the rebel for expressing anger at injustice. The elites and their apologists call for calm and patience. They use the hypocritical language of spirituality, compromise, generosity and compassion to argue that the only alternative is to accept and work with the systems of power. The rebel, however, is beholden to a moral commitment that makes it impossible to stand with the power elite. The rebel refuses to be bought off with foundation grants, invitations to the White House, television appearances, book contracts, academic appointments or empty rhetoric. The rebel is not concerned with self-promotion or public opinion. The rebel knows that, as Augustine wrote, hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage--anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. The rebel is aware that virtue is not rewarded. The act of rebellion defines itself.
"You do not become a "dissident' just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career," Vaclav Havel said when he battled the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. "You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society. ... The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public. He offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin--and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost."
Those in power have disarmed the liberal class. They do not argue that the current system is just or good, because they cannot, but they have convinced liberals that there is no alternative. But we are not slaves. We have a choice. We can refuse to be either a victim or an executioner. We have the moral capacity to say no, to refuse to cooperate. Any boycott or demonstration, any occupation or sit-in, any strike, any act of obstruction or sabotage, any refusal to pay taxes, any fast, any popular movement and any act of civil disobedience ignites the soul of the rebel and exposes the dead hand of authority. "There is beauty and there are the humiliated," Camus wrote. "Whatever difficulties the enterprise may present, I should like never to be unfaithful either to the second or the first.
"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop," Mario Savio said in 1964. "And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."
The capacity to exercise moral autonomy, the capacity to refuse to cooperate, offers us the only route left to personal freedom and a life with meaning. Rebellion is its own justification. Those of us who come out of the religious left have no quarrel with Camus. Camus is right about the absurdity of existence, right about finding worth in the act of rebellion rather than some bizarre dream of an afterlife or Sunday School fantasy that God rewards the just and the good. "Oh my soul," the ancient Greek poet Pindar wrote, "do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible."
We differ with Camus only in that we have faith that rebellion is not ultimately meaningless. Rebellion allows us to be free and independent human beings, but rebellion also chips away, however imperceptibly, at the edifice of the oppressor and sustains the dim flames of hope and love. And in moments of profound human despair these flames are never insignificant. They keep alive the capacity to be human.
We must become, as Camus said, so absolutely free that "existence is an act of rebellion."
Those who do not rebel in our age of totalitarian capitalism and who convince themselves that there is no alternative to collaboration are complicit in their own enslavement.
They Commit Spiritual And Moral Suicide.