Monday, December 24, 2012

Power is Based on Consent, Which Can be Withdrawn

Our 8th day of examining Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part One: Power and Struggle, and connecting it to our need to stop climate change:

Sharp: “All government is based on consent…Consent can be withdrawn… Power ‘can never be exercised without…the direct cooperation of large numbers of people and the indirect cooperation of the entire community’…The attitudes and beliefs of the ruler’s agents are especially important here.  Destroy the opinion of the supporting intermediary class that it is in their interest to support the ruler, ‘and the fabric which it is built upon falls to the ground’… The reasons for obedience are variable and may be strengthened or weakened….An army…may be influenced by the opinions and sentiments to the people at large.”

         We need to convince the populace in places like Dallas, Houston, and Wichita, that climate change is a crisis which demands urgent action.  Then, it would follow that the fossil fuel industry’s employees, as well as the legislators who do that industry’s bidding, would begin to be less supportive of the men who are running these corporations.  Sounds impossible, I know, but, again, this region of the country has been crippled by devastating heat and drought for two years now.  The climate is ripe, so to speak.

         But first, of course, we need to convince the population at large that this is an urgent crisis in the first place.  I had two conversations with friends yesterday, people who say we should do something about climate change, but it was obvious that they had no idea how bad this could get, or how soon.  One said that global warming couldn’t be stopped, and that it wouldn’t really impact people’s lives in a noticeable way, and would take several generations.  This appears to be how most people see it.  People really need a dose of the entirely plausible worst-case scenarios, triggered by impossible-to-predict natural feedback loops, to awaken them to what’s at stake here.

Sharp:  “Gandhi…emphasized the importance of a change of will as a prerequisite for a change in patterns of obedience and cooperation….He argued a need for; 1) a psychological change away from passive submission to self-respect and courage; 2) recognition by the subject that his assistance makes the regime possible; and 3) the building of a determination to withdraw cooperation and obedience.  Gandhi felt that these changes could be consciously influenced, and he therefore set out to bring them about.  ‘My speeches,’ he said, ‘are intended to create disaffection as such, that the people might consider it a shame to assist or cooperate.’”

         Of course we have a conundrum here in that anyone who fills up their car’s gas tank is, in a way, cooperating.  We live in a modern society that was planned around the car, so it’s very difficult to get around without one. So we need to push to create great mass transit systems in our cities, and transition to electric vehicles in a hurry.  The fossil fuel industry does not want this, so they have fought it all the way, and will continue to.  We need to shame them, and force these companies and our government to invest the capital needed to transition to cleaner energy.  And fast.

Sharp:  “Changes in the attitudes of workers in factories or of citizens…which result in withdrawal of obedience and cooperation can create extreme difficulties for the system.  It can be disrupted or paralyzed. The sheer difficulties of maintaining the normal working of any political unit when its subjects are bent upon an attitude of defiance and acts of obstruction are sufficient to give any ruler cause for thought.”

Again, we must withdraw our consent.


I’m including little snippets, but if we’re going to break Dirty Energy’s stranglehold you need to read Gene Sharp’s stuff.  Please muster up the $34.85 (plus shipping) and purchase The Politics of Nonviolent Action.  You can order it HERE.

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