Today marks day 11 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part One: Power and Struggle, Chapter 2, applying it to the movement to save the world from man-made global warming. As you can see I’m moving ahead to chapter 2. Here’s the thing about these books: they’re huge! The three volumes of this book alone are nearly 850 pages. When I started reading I perused the table of contents and thought “I’ll need this, not that, etc.”, but I kept reading, and ended up so grateful that I’d read it all You really do need to read it all to get properly steeped in nonviolent struggle. There’s so much to know, and all of it will help everyone who wants to help this movement save our life-support system!
Sharp: “Subjects may disobey laws they reject. Workers may halt work, which may paralyze the economy. The bureaucracy may refuse to carry out instructions. Soldiers and police may become lax in inflicting repression…When all these events happen simultaneously, the man who has been ‘ruler’ becomes just another man…The ruler’s military equipment may remain intact, his soldiers uninjured, cities unscathed, the factories and transport systems in full operational capacity, an the government buildings undamaged. But everything is changed…When people refuse their cooperation, withhold their help, and persist in their disobedience and defiance, they are denying their opponent the basic human assistance and cooperation which any…heirarchical system requires. If they do this in sufficient numbers for long enough, that…heirarchical system will no longer have power. This is the basic political assumption of nonviolent action.”
Our opponents are the fossil fuel industry and their allies in our government, media, and society. These people are forcing inaction on climate change and basically putting everyone in the world’s future in grave danger. They’ve done a magnificent job of marginalizing people who want to do something about this before it’s too late. That must stop, so we must be really, really smart about how we do this. Nonviolence by itself won’t do it, there needs to be a grand strategy, and ultimately most of society must be on board. Big challenge, but if you read your Gene Sharp, it all becomes doable!
Sharp: “Nonviolent…actionists conduct the conflict by doing – or refusing to do – certain things without using physical violence…Nonviolent action is not passive. It is not inaction. It is action that is nonviolent…Whatever the scale of the conflict, nonviolent action is a technique by which people who reject passivity and submission, and who see struggle as essential.”
If you have done nothing more to stop global warming than changing your light bulbs, you’ve been pretty damned passive, haven’t you? In the meantime nothing has been done about climate change. Struggle, my friends, is essential.
Sharp: “Conciliation and appeals are likely to consist of rational or emotional verbal efforts to bring about an oppenent’s agreement to do something, while nonviolent action is not verbal – it consists of social, economic, and political activity of special types…Nonviolent action is so different from…milder peaceful responses to conflicts that several writers have pointed to the general similarities of nonviolent action to military war. Nonviolent action is a means of combat, as is war. It involves the matching of forces and the waging of ‘battles’, requires wise strategy and tactics, and demands of its ‘soldiers’ courage, discipline, and sacrifice.”
So you can see how, by Sharp’s reckoning, nonviolent action is a means of last-resort, only to be used when all other means have been exhausted. We’ve been trying to stop “The Greenhouse Effect” and “Global Warming”, and “Climate Change” for three decades now. I’d say all other means have been exhausted.
Sharp: “Nonviolent action must not be confused with anarchism.”
This country’s history is full of extraordinary acts of nonviolence, from the Tea Boycott at our nation’s founding to the Abolitionist Movement to the Women’s Suffrage Movement to the Civil Rights Movement to Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. They recognized the need to go to extraordinary lengths to make a more perfect union.
For love of country, for love of the planet earth, we need to make some noise.