Tuesday, December 25, 2012

“Powers Are No Guarantee of Power”

 Merry Christmas!  It’s a white Christmas in Denver!  Beautiful!  

Today marks day 9 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part One: Power and Struggle, applying it to the movement to save the world from a changing climate.

Sharp: “Noncooperation and disobedience must be widespread and must be maintained… The ruler’s will is thwarted in proportion to the number of disobedient subjects and the degree of his dependence upon them.  The answer to the problem of uncontrolled power may therefore lie in learning how to carry out and maintain such withdrawal despite repression.”

         I don’t think for a second that there will be repression.  I know from my reading that tactical people within the fossil fuel industry have studied nonviolent struggle too.  They have to know that the stupidest thing you can do, at least in a free democracy, is repress the opposition.  More likely they’ll smear the opposition, and make life difficult in covert ways (remember, these guys have a lot of money).

         But noncooperation must indeed be widespread.  These corporations are publicly traded, and in many ways they have to keep a good public face.   But if the problem becomes too big for them, and too many people are springing up here there and everywhere to protest their stonewalling on global warming, they’ll have to change their business model or risk losing their energy empires completely.

         I read somewhere that “We need to quit oil before oil quits us”.  These men are determined to make sure we stay addicted to dirty energy until the last morsel is taken from the earth and spewed back into the sky.  That can’t happen.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: “the great truth that the many, if accordant and resolute, could control the few.”

Sharp: “The classic problem for the man on top of any political system: how to be on top on fact as well as name…It is a problem also for…corporate presidents…’Half of a President’s suggestions, which theoretically carry the weight of orders, can be safely forgotten by a Cabinet member.  And if the President asks about a suggestion a second time, he can be told that it is being investigated.  If he asks a third time, a wise Cabinet officer will give him at least part of what he suggests.  But only occasionally, except about the most important matters, do Presidents ever get around to asking three times’…’Powers are no guarantee of power’”.

President Harry S. Truman (on General Dwight D. ‘Ike’ Eisenhower becoming President):  “He’ll sit here and he’ll say ‘Do this!  Do that!  And nothing will happen.  Poor Ike – it won’t be a bit like the Army.”

Sharp: “Even as late as 1958 President Eisenhower still experienced ‘Shocked surprise that orders did not carry themselves out’ and that the assistance of others had to be deliberately cultivated in order to produce ‘effective power’.”

         The culture must change.  It must become terribly uncool for these companies to keep blocking political solutions on climate change.  This must be felt in their communities, and ultimately within their own workforce.  This can happen a lot sooner than people think.


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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