Warriors or Monks: What is to be done?
Why did the Southern Oregon Campaign for the Siskiyous fail this summer, and what can we do to win?
I have had many people North and South ask what went wrong with the campaign to protect the Siskiyous. So much community support, yet so little gain, they quandar, looking confused. I have contemplated this question and have decided I would provide one answer from one humble citizen. Of course, it would take a book to take this question on in sufficient detail, but herein, I want to consider one aspect, one thread of our failing.
Dogma, rather than honest intellectual dialogue and pragmatic response to circumstances, seems to guide many of the major actors.
Actors within the Southern Oregon Forest Defense movement have debated ad nausea passive vs. confrontational methods of resistance. This debate has been drowning in dogma and ideology to the point of destructive nonsense in speech and behavior. For example, one self proclaimed "Buddhist", speaks of non-violence, while violently silencing the speech of others, resorting to public chastisement and social out casting of those who may be so bold as to call "her friend" the F.S. agent Pam Bode a "rapists" or liar. While many are alienated from the movement, self-appointed police of speech and attitude pat themselves on the back. While justifiably angry and potentially active citizens are disempowered and any chance we have at stopping logging is undermined, these snobs celebrate their membership in the ruling click and the appearance of their mugs on film. We are left with media driven watered down ineffective actions, less public support than we had at the start of the season, and a movement that has literally fallen apart.
It is time for a new campaign--a campaign that is not bogged down with the baggage of classism, dogma, and ego--a campaign that is less concerned with popularity, and solely concerned with saving trees. This new campaign must be grounded in open, honest, non-hierarchical dialogue, not dogma and gurus. In that spirit I turn to take on this issue of passive resistance, vs. confrontational action once again. In order to clear away the rubble and begin fresh with a new approach and a new understanding, it is time we take a new look at the major issue that seems to divide us, and defeat us, leaving dogma and ideology behind and thinking pragmatically.
Our culturally conditioned leanings towards ideologue think leads us to argue that one way or the other is superior; however, in reality methodology is more often than not, a matter of pragmatics, not principle, of context and circumstance, not universal rules and moral laws. Some of you already know this, for others I will elaborate. First, however, I must clarify one point; this issue is not one of violence vs. non-violence, as is often our misunderstanding. Much of the problem is rather shallow conceptions of violence, but I will save that for another day. Here and now let me say simply, that violence is not the issue. Violence can be non-confrontational, passive resistance like setting yourself on fire. Non-violence can be very confrontational, like occupations, or deconstructing equipment. The issue as it has philosophically manifest itself here in Southern Oregon goes something like this, passive resistance has been defined as no lockdowns, no Pods, no tree sits, no occupations, no confrontational language or attitudes. Approved methods include rallies and non-confrontational CD (such as sitting in the street, without any sort of lock down). This is a "friendly perspective"; we are here to educate those who do wrong. This view presumes once educated people will do the right thing; it presumes people are basically good and only do evil when they fail to understand all the implications of their actions. The Confrontational approach embraces lockdowns, pods, occupations, sits, extraction resisting contraptions, and at times monkey wrenching. Confrontational language and direct charges against decision makers and lackeys in the F.S. hierarchy is embraced in accordance with an "enemy perspective", that is we are here to stand in opposition to the greed and violence of others. This perspective presumes people in power know what they are doing and do it anyway as they see profits in so doing. While this view does not make a presumption about human nature itself, it does accept the premise that some people are not good, they are narrowly self-interested, greedy, and violent, by social design or nature is not a question central to the perspective. While one can argue back and forth all day from these two perspectives, pragmatism, as I have said before, should guide our actions, not ideology. Thus let us turn to consider the two perspectives from a pragmatic view that values effectiveness and sustainability over ideology.
Pragmatically, critics of passive resistance argue that:
1. rallies are easily ignored,
2. and non-lockdown/pod CDs requires a critical mass (enough folks to overwhelm the local courts)
3. And passive resistance CD requires a significant level of solidarity and sacrifice from that critical mass. Folks must be willing to not bail, not plea, and refuse fines and restitution to maximize the impact of this method on the system. This can leave a person in jail for weeks (up to two months) and/or tie a person up in court appearances for over a year. This is a very time consumptive method, and requires cooperation and solidarity between many people.
This method will not be effective in the absence of solidarity unless the numbers are absolutely phenomenal. We had enough arrests to make this method effective only given solidarity. Down here solidarity seems to be a dirty word; many do not even want to hear the word spoken. Given the lack of population, and of solidarity, passive resistance alone will not work.
Where the passive resistance method requires significant solidarity and sacrifices by many, the confrontational method requires less solidarity, and sacrifices by fewer people. Those sacrifices may be greater or less than the sacrifices of PR. Risks are certainly greater.
Critics of confrontational resistance argue that:
1. The masses are alienated from such actions.
2. That media and education are lacking,
3. And that the sacrifices and risks to the individual are great.
The first is both true and false. The masses do seem to be alienated from more confrontational actions like long term occupations and tree sits, but only for a time. When law enforcement escalates in extraction attempts other acts of abuse, or the confrontational actions win, the public tends to become less critical and more involved. The second criticism is false. Today, folks need more drastic actions before they bother to put the effort into seeking any sort of info on the subject. While media and education are not the focus, the buzz created by more drastic actions tends to get folks talking, which can lead to reading and thinking. The third critic is true; there is no way around the potential risks and sacrifices to the individual. This is why we should all stand together in solidarity. The real question is, what choice is left to us, when solidarity and/or mass numbers are not achievable? Quite, let the greedy have the old trees? Or, plan more confrontational actions? "WHAT IS TO BE DONE?"
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