Civil Disobedience Prevents Substantial Change from Occurring in this Country
The effectiveness of civil disobedience...
Civil disobedience holds absolutely no practical value in terms of an effective social and political change strategy in the United States. By teaching civil disobedience, one is instructing people how to be submissive to the state, how to be lambs to the slaughter. Please do not trust revisionist history. Gandhi's civil disobedience campaigns did not on their own compel the British to evacuate India. It was a combination of the political atmosphere of the British being drawn into multiple international conflicts along with the sizable armed and violent independence movement in India. The second primary icon typically praised for successful civil disobedience campaigns is Martin Luther King, Jr. True, "his" desegregation and enfranchisement campaigns did achieve some progress, but the visible advancement of the civil rights movement came only after the addition of the black power contingency which forced the federal government to identify King as the less threatening of two opponents.
Civil disobedience holds as a necessity the classic belief in nonviolence, that if the applicant performs an act of self suffering, she/he will win the opponent over with love and "soul force." The opponent is allegedly supposed to be able to see the errors in her/his own ways and voluntarily change. This voluntary change, it is argued, will create lasting results - a typical solution to the circle of violence theory.
The problem with civil disobedience is that it requires the opponent to have a healthy, working conscience for any significant change to occur. Only a healthy and working conscience would allow someone to see the evils in her/his own actions and voluntarily change. Yet, I would argue the overwhelming majority of those performing large scale acts of injustice in the United States do not have this healthy conscience. If they did, would severe and conscious acts of injustice be performed in the first place? If our Commander in Chief had a healthy and working conscience would he have thrust the U.S. into a war in Afghanistan and Iraq? Would he be leaving U.S. troops there only to be picked off one by one in a guerilla war? Would automobile manufacturers such as Ford continue to pump out larger gas guzzling vehicles such as the excursion if the corporation's executives had healthy and working consciences? Would companies continue to use sweat shop labor overseas or chop down old growth forests, or engage in genetic engineering if the executives had healthy and working consciences? The mere act of injustice in these annd countless other examples demonstrates that these individuals to not have a healthy and working conscience. Otherwise they would not be engaging in these acts in the first place. To believe that an individual without a healthy and working conscience could be effected by a civil disobedience campaign demonstrates a lack of understanding of the civil disobedience strategy.
Certainly, there are a few varied goals for any civil disobedience campaign. One goal may just be to create media attention about your given "issue." If your civil disobedience campaign action is unique and lengthy, perhaps you may get yourself on the evening news, but as a former public relations representative I would suggest that most often the soundbites aired from these actions are specifically chosen by corporate media to discredit your cause. Additionally, there are other methods of acquiring attention for your cause without resorting to media stunts that only serve to get your group members arrested and, often times, injured.
A second goal of a civil disobedience campaign may be to use nonviolence to compel the opponent into changing their unjust acts. One way many argue this can be accomplished is by using self suffering to appeal to a third party that will, in turn, place the needed pressure on the original opponent to change. For example, if the anti-war movement in the United States engaged in large-scale civil disobedience campaigns against the U.S. government, the government would respond with an increasing degree of repression. This repression, it is argued, would be visible to the international community and some third party - so outraged by the treatment of the anti-war demonstrators, would place the needed pressure on the U.S. government to stop its unjust war policies. The obvious problem with this scenerio is that in the international community, the U.S. government does not listen and respond to anyone - not the U.N., not any European or Asian power, no one. Therefore this particular nonviolence goal is not only impractical but arguable impossible.
A third common goal of a civil disobedience campaign is to directly compel the opponent into changing their unjust acts. Addressed earlier in this essay, this approach relies upon the belief that the opponent has a healthy and working conscience. Clearly, one who is engaged in overt, horrific atrocities does not have this most crucial necessity.
The only other goal of a civil disobedience campaign that is frequently asserted is that people just feel they need to take a stand against injustice. They want to lay their bodies on the line as a personal act of protest and defiance against an injustice and its creator. Yet, this approach is ineffective at best and suicide in the worst case scenerio. The prison industrial complex in the United States has no problem growing and it is far too simple for the state to pick up a morally righteous protester and lock them away. This does nothing to realistically disrupt the protested act of injustice or its creator. Additionally, this morally righteous strategy holds little in the way of practicality while having substantial religious undertones. Just as the "good Jews" in ghettos and deaths camps in Nazi controlled Eastern Europe felt that they could do nothing and somehow the higher power would save them, many civil disobedience practitioners believe that as long as they "take a stand" nonviolently goodness will prevail. Of course, the failure of the Jewish response was horrifically demonstrated in the near completion of the Final Solution program and it took the politically violent actions of the Allied forces to finally close the camps. The higher power belief, as applied to the civil disobedience pratitioner in the United States, is just as hopeless.
I write these comments on this beautiful Thursday morning not to initiate another furious (and likely troll instigated) debate over strategies, but to share some of my knowledge and understanding. I, myself, used to be sold on the civil disobedience and nonviolence religion. I used to teach nonviolence and civil disobedience workshops and classes across the country. Additionally, I was so compelled by the ideology that I took part in a dozen or so nonviolent civil disobedience actions. After my experiences, after years of research on nonviolence ideology and civil disobedience strategy as well as history, I seriously question the value of civil disobedience and its potential to actually confront the murderous and diseased U.S. government. I do believe the practice of civil disobedience is another deterrent preventing substantial change from occurring in this country. Enjoy this weather.
In building a revolutionary consciousness...
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article