Happy Sunday! As soon as I get a little time I’ll start livening up the blog with polar bear videos and the like, but for now I’ll continue to examine Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part One: Power and Struggle, and connect it to our need to stop climate change.
Sharp: “Obedience is not inevitable…The most powerful ruler receives only the habitual obedience of the bulk of his subjects…People are generally law abiding, except when ‘unmoored by catastrophic events or by social convulsions’. At any point in a given society there are limits within which a ruler must stay if his commands are to be obeyed.”
Think of the “ruler” here as the fossil fuel corporations, and how, by funding climate denial and using their political influence for twenty years to stop action against climate change, they have strayed beyond those limits.
Sharp: “Obedience is essentially voluntary…although highly influenced by various social forces…The will or opinion of the individual is not constant and may change in response to new influences, events, and forces.”
Sharp: “In certain situations the subject may even conclude that it is in his self-interest to disobey a regime – especially if he foresees its collapse. The degree of his lack of self-confidence also varies and may be influenced by changes in the attitudes of other subjects.”
The biggest hurdle we face is not the fossil fuel industry, it’s actually getting everybody riled up enough to stand up to that industry. Once that happens, the fossil fuel industry will be on the run in a hurry. But what will it take to make that happen?
Sharp: “Even in sanctions, there is a role for an act of will, for choice. The sanction must be feared and its consequences be seen as more undesirable than the consequences of obedience.”
I think this could be a huge motivating factor, because nothing’s worse than the consequences of climate change. Nothing. So what are we waiting for?
Sharp: “Gandhi, on the basis of his efforts to produce large-scale disobedience and voluntary acceptance of imposed sanctions, observed that feelings must be very intense to make possible the acceptance of such sacrifice.”
So our challenge is to find how to arouse those intense feelings. I know we Pissed-Off Polar Bears feel them, but few others do, even within the climate movement. We have one great ally that will really get people’s attention: Mother Nature. With the incredibly mild December we are having, it’s virtually certain we’ll face another scorching summer.