Today marks day 13 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part One: Power and Struggle, Chapter 2, applying it to the climate movement. Reading Sharp’s books are a prerequisite for anyone who wants to help save our life-support system.
Sharp: “Nonviolent action…is a technique of struggle involving the use of social, economic, and political power, and the matching of forces in conflict.”
It’s hard for some people to envision just how we intend to “match forces” with the richest companies in the world. They have all the money and all the political power. But they’re hugely unpopular and they don’t have a moral leg to stand on. They’re putting everyone’s kids in grave danger, including their own. They ‘re basically f***ing up the planet for every other person and every other business in every country on Earth. And even their own workforce won’t escape the catastrophe that’s coming. So, if we can get all those other people, including their own workforce and their own families, to stand up and say “No more”, we can very handily “match forces” with them. It's about figuring out where they're at a disadvantage and playing to that.
Sharp: “People using nonviolent action do not have to be pacifists or saints; nonviolent action has been predominantly and successfully practiced by ‘ordinary’ people.”
In America the two great nonviolent practitioners we know are Gandhi and Martin Luther King. So it’s easy for people to think you have to be some kind of religious leader to do nonviolence right. Not even. Anyone can do it. Even you!
Sharp: “When efforts to produce voluntary change fail, coercive nonviolent measures may be employed.”
Describes the climate movement’s situation to a “T”. They have tried and tried to do it the usual way for 30 years and no progress has been made. So we’ll have to create scenarios where we can “match forces” with the fossil fuel industry.
Sharp: “In nonviolent action there is no assumption that the opponent will refrain from using violence against the nonviolent actionists; the technique is designed to operate against violence when necessary.”
“Casting off fear” is a big part of nonviolence done right. You’re taking a big chance when you step into this arena. But isn’t it worth it to save the future from an unthinkable disaster? Humans evolved as tribal creatures, and they would do anything to protect their tribe. That’s why people will often risk their necks to save complete strangers from gunfire or oncoming traffic or whatever. It’s hardwired in us.
Those of us who get it, those of us who understand just how bad this is likely to be, need to willing to take great risks in order to save the world from catastrophe.