More notes from reading Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part One: Power and Struggle.
Sharp: “Obedience is the heart of political power…Many people often assume that the issuance of a command and it’s execution…is an entirely one-way relationship…such an assumption is not true…The orchestra, if dissatisfied with the conductor…through deliberate noncooperation and hostile agitation…may get him fired.”
Noncooperation. We cooperate with how the fossil fuel industry shunts action on climate change by not changing our lives. I’m not talking about giving up your car here, that by itself wouldn’t do much. I’m talking about getting involved and standing up to the fossil fuel industry. If multitudes of us rose up against them and said “Enough!”, we could save the planet. I’m talking about forcing them to acknowledge that we humans can no longer use fossil fuels, we need to transform where we get our energy from, which is entirely possible, and it must be done anyway because we’re running out of reserves.
Sharp: “Why do large numbers submit…and obey…even though it is clearly not in their best interests to do so?”
This is the classic climate paradigm. We’re destroying our life-support system, and yet we collectively do nothing to stop it. Sharp has some ideas on why:
Sharp (quoting the philosopher David Hume): “Men ‘never think of departing from that path in which they and their ancestors have constantly trod, and to which they are confined by so many urgent and visible motives’…The ruler’s ‘secret of success’ then becomes the subject’s mind…The degree to which the…regime is identified with the common good will help to determine the degree of loyal obedience.”
People think we need that energy so much they don’t consider the ultimate consequences. And there are viable alternative energy sources that could be deployed on a mass scale. But the Dirty Energy companies and their allies in congress are determined to stop large-scale deployment of these sources (which at this point need a boost from our governments to become viable) because it would hurt their profits.
Sharp: “Economic self-interest may be an…important motive for obedience among a larger percentage of a population.”
Looking at the larger population, this is a major reason why people aren’t devoting everything to this. I wish I could work on this full-time, but I can’t keep up with my bills if I do, so I have to get up at 4 a.m. every day to work on the blog and then other climate-related stuff (I tried doing it after work every day, but I found it was better to devote my time to this early). But at least I’m working on it every day!
What I think this movement needs is people working on it full-time. We’re at a huge disadvantage with the fossil fuel industry here. They can hire people (or perhaps we should call them goons) to work on casting doubt on climate change round-the-clock.
But I bet we could outnumber ‘em. Because there are in fact loads of people who could work on this full-time. Think of all the people out-of-work right now. It sucks to be out of work, but it is an opportunity to spend your time saving the world! For real. Or twenty-somethings, just out of college, who understand the risk poised to their own futures, some have parents who could cover their expenses while they worked on this full-time. Finally, you’ve got retirees, or people who could afford to retire, or take a sabbatical, to work on something more important than anyone’s ever worked on.
There are plenty of excuses why not to devote your best energies to saving the world, but at the end of the day they’re just that: excuses.
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.