Wednesday, January 2, 2013

To Make the Climate Movement Great, We Need to Cast Off Our Fear

Day 2 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Three: The Dynamics of Nonviolent Struggle, applied to the climate movement. Reading Sharp’s books are a prerequisite for anyone who wants to help save our life-support system. Please go to Dr. Sharp’s website, buy these books, and study them.

Sharp:  “Nonviolent action is not a safe means of struggle; there is no such thing.   People are liable to be hurt and to suffer in various ways, including economic loss, physical injury, imprisonment, and even death….There are, of course, risks in passivity.”

         Like, for instance, having the world overheat to the point that rivers run dry and civilization can’t feed itself.

Sharp: “A high degree of courage is required of nonviolent actionists.”

         There are those in the movement who think we can win with “slacktivism”.  That somehow by clicking “like” on a facebook page people are doing their bit to help defeat the forces of industry.   These people are steeped in the old paradigms activists have been using, unsuccessfully, for the past thirty years.  Until people really start putting themselves on the line, this movement will continue to be ineffectual.

Sharp:  “The coward seeks to avoid the conflict and flees from danger, the nonviolent actionist faces the conflict and risks the dangers involved in pursuing it honorably.  ‘Cowardice is impotence worse than violence,’ concluded Gandhi.

“The nonviolent actionist must have confidence in the right and strength of his cause, in his principles, and in his technique of action.”

         That should not be hard, when you’re attempting to save the world.

Gandhi:  “The Government takes advantage of our fear of jails.”

         In America, businesses refrain from hiring people who have any kind of a criminal record.  Think of it, fighting to save the world can give you a “criminal” record.  We cannot be afraid of that! We can not let a system designed to do something else work against our saving the future for everyone, including the very businesses that supposedly won’t be hiring us. 

In his Do the Math tour, Bill McKibben correctly pointed out that older Americans, especially tenured professors, can be the first ones to be arrested, jail fodder, as it were.  But younger Americans can make a great statement by fearlessly being willing to risk jail.  During the Freedom Rides, Mississippi’s jails became flooded with idealistic young people from all over the country who flocked to the state to take on segregation laws, until Mississipi’s system couldn’t handle it anymore and the Freedom Riders won a change in the unjust laws.  During the Otpor struggle, it became a point of pride to be arrested, as it was in Montgomery, Alabama, during the bus boycotts.

Martin Luther King, Jr.:  “Those who had previously trembled before the law were now proud to be arrested for the cause of freedom.”

We can’t be afraid of jail guys, just remember to be nice to the police, we’re fighting for their futures too.

Sharp:  “Gandhi repeatedly emphasized the importance of this inner psychological change from fear and submission to fearlessness and self-respect as a necessary prerequisite of real political freedom… Gandhi wrote: ‘We have to dispel fear from our hearts.’…Also, participation in nonviolent action often seems to lead to a loss of fear….

         “Courage in this technique is not simply a moral virtue; it is a practical requirement…Courage is required if the nonviolent struggle is to…lead to the increasing strength of the nonviolent group and an undermining of the opponent’s power.”

Rachel pointed out in her Save Face or Save the Planet post that the biggest roadblock we in the movement face is simply putting ourselves out there, for the world to see, as very visible activists.  That does take courage. Don’t hide behind “slacktivism”.  Get fearless and get active.


I’m including little snippets, but if we’re going to break the fossil fuel industry’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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