Anyone who has read Dr. King’s “Letters From The Birmingham Jail” must be as impressed and inspired as I am by this man’s quest for dignity and honor. His eloquence and mindfulness is unsurpassed by some of the greatest Greek philosophers, and the courage which he displays in his writing matches that of Daniel in the proverbial lion’s den.
Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography is also another example how people all over the world have come to know the power of the sound of truth in their own voice. The sound of justice and wisdom is undeniable and this kind of naked truth strikes at the very foundations of the institutions that control the wealth of nations and wage international wars for profit. If you have not read the writings of MLK or Gandhi, I suggest you do that as soon as possible. These men were not perfect, but they obviously sacrificed a great deal for the larger cause of justice and freedom.
Dr. King and Gandhi spoke of the strength of love in the face of adversity. One of the messages of any powerful movement is that together we find strength while separated we are weak and ineffectual. It is that struggle within all social justice movements which is the greatest challenge to organizing for change. People of many diverse backgrounds must be able to join together in some kind of harmony, or at least in a kind of mutual solidarity.
The voices of the many can not be ignored forever. Those who lord over us are given their powerful positions only by us, the people. If these leaders are not held accountable to the people, then we can usually expect some kind of messy chaotic disaster. These are the circumstances which human nature will inevitably create when folks are given an unbounded license to plunder and pillage. That is precisely why it is imperative that we as the people speak out when our leaders deceive us or misrepresent our interests. I believe it was a combination of these forces which brought about the birth of the Occupy Wall Street groups.
It is often institutional violence that serves as the spark for a populist uprising. When people feel oppressed and abused, they fight back. But in order to control the high ground, and retain legitimacy from an ethical point of view, any movement for justice must within itself demonstrate equality and non-violence. Any other path leads not only to a loss of public support, it also leads to outright hypocrisy.
A movement for justice can’t morally oppose state violence without first endorsing peace as its goal. Otherwise, the fight against the state becomes nothing but a battle to replace one form of violence with another. The large majority of participants and supporters of the occupy movement believe that mob violence is just as unethical as government or corporate violence. To oppose violence, one must first endorse peace!
I am not suggesting that we take a fruitless journey of passive resistance that fails to bring about any change. We have many examples of non-violent struggles for freedom that have been historically victorious. Gandhi’s movement for independence is just one case in point. I would argue that if it were not for the sacrifices made by US civil rights activists, we would not be able to enjoy some of the freedoms we take for granted every day. We should remember that police used attack dogs and fire hoses on people standing up for their rights in the US.
We have had a great history of non-violent civil disobedience movements from around the world including the examples of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Anna Hazare, Tawakkal Karman, etc. They have all been courageous campaigners for freedom and justice, and all of them have suffered and sacrificed for their beliefs. No one could ever call any one of them a coward, and yet each one stood for peace even while facing official state oppression and violence.
Today there is a grand uprising taking place all over the globe. From Tunisia to Syria folks are rising up against dictators and military regimes. In the United State the Occupy Wall Street movement has resonated with many Americans who feel that the mythical “American Dream” is over. They blame “banksters” and corrupt politicians who have sold them out to the big corporations that now control the government and our electoral system.
So far, the occupiers have had to face only so-called “non-lethal” weaponry from local police departments, such as pepper spray, stun and flash grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas. The uprising in the US is perhaps less of a revolution and more of a populist reaction to the corporate takeovers. I am opposed to the use of any type of violence used by police against peaceful protesters. Fortunately, the occupy movement in the US is not facing an army using live weapons.
In that sense, the protesters in the US are far safer and much more privileged than many of the people who are involved in uprisings in other countries. And, unlike some demonstrators in Greece and Italy, Occupy Wall Street activists have embraced a non-violent stance, preferring to commit civil disobedience and occupying public places or foreclosed buildings.
The importance of this commitment to the peaceful transformation of society is precisely why the Occupy Wall Street movement has gained such widespread appeal among the American public. Even suburban soccer moms and small business owners can relate to a movement which is trying to stand up for the little guy. If the movement were to turn to using violent means to reach its goals, the power of the campaign for social justice would be immediately diminished until it became nothing but a small group of radicals easily swept up by the government. Besides being unethical, if people gave up their commitment to non-violence, they would give the authorities the justification they need to crackdown and suppress them, and the movement would become nothing but a sad example of useless, wasted martyrdom.
The evidence of the existence of a hyper-surveillance regime has already been presented in the pubic media. A series of articles in the Washington Post - “Top Secret America” showed why US residents should be alarmed. The National Defense Authorization Act is just the latest example of how our constitutional rights are being taken away by agencies of the US government and by private corporations. The USA Patriot Act was just the beginning of a wide reaching effort to police society in almost every way. The private security and intelligence industries have been booming since George W. Bush inhabited the White House. Billions of dollars have been spent and scores of government agencies and private corporations are now involved in the collecting of data on American citizens. Nobody knows exactly how much is being spent on these programs because the information is kept secret.
My point is, the surveillance/security police state is poised and ready to utilize its vast resources against any perceived threats to US national security. Under this incredibly well funded and largely unaccountable regime, domestic activist groups are sure to become targets of infiltration and surveillance by various corporate and government entities. Much of this activity is unmonitored by any publicly accountable agency. In truth, no one really knows who’s spying on whom any more…
That is another reason why occupiers must maintain a commitment to peaceful protests. If they were to become targets of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, etc. the movement could be wiped out completely by various tactics, including the use of infiltrators and agitators.
Programs like COINTELPRO are not just a distant memory from the past. Some of the more frightening provisions of the USA Patriot Act and other bills could be used to round up participants of the occupy movement, justified by the violent acts of a few radical or subversive individuals who could use the movement as a cover for their own destructive tactics.
Some of the current participants of the Occupy Wall Street movement seem to hold a rather naive view of these policing agencies in the US. They are perhaps not fully aware of the potential threats to both their precious movement and to their own personal liberty posed by potential actions from US government agencies. My assumption is that the government is already conducting surveillance on any group whose participants may have had physical confrontations with police or who may have damaged property.
The failure of the members of this movement to realize exactly what they are up against could spell ruin for them if they are not very careful. My guess is that the occupy groups are being watched very closely by police and by the FBI. We already know that SWAT teams have been used to raid occupy groups and that police in Seattle admitted they had undercover officers in the crowd taking photos and videotaping the Occupy Seattle protesters during the West coast port actions on December 12th.
So far, the American public has been mostly intolerant of heavy-handed tactics by police. But if even a handful of folks aligning themselves with the occupy movement choose to act violently, it could call the curtains down on the rest of the movement. If they lose the public’s support, law enforcement agencies will feel they have permission to repress the movement in the name of public safety.
I never want to see the Occupy Wall Street movement decay into acts of mob violence. I do not want to see it taken over by radical groups bent on destruction. This populist uprising has given a great breath of fresh air to the American people and to the world. It has inspired many Americans to believe for the first time that as a people we can actually change our society. It is the duty of those who started the occupy movement to keep it alive and healthy. An entire generation is counting on it to succeed.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has forever changed the US cultural dialogue. It has taken on the privileged few who benefit from a system that exploits others. It has spoken truth to power at a time when most people are afraid to speak out against what we all recognize as mass corruption on Wall Street and in our government. We can’t afford to lose this mass movement if we ever want to be able to hold our leaders accountable.
For once the little guy in America is beginning to have a voice. Whether it’s the unemployed truck driver in Omaha or the disabled veteran in New York City, the people who really matter are starting to speak their truth to power. We must not allow a few agitators to deliver us into the hands of the waiting police. People who are violently opposed to authority often bring down the hammer of that authority on everyone.
Despite what some young inexperienced activists might claim, this is not a revolution happening in the United States. There are no guns, no currently active internment camps and no charges of treason or subversion. This is because the political parties here are much more adept at co-opting people’s anti-government and anti-corporate anger.
The majority of people are not out in the streets manning the barricades. Most of the population still feels either hopeful or powerless enough not to try to challenge the status quo directly. For many years there has been a plague of political apathy in America. A minority of the people who are eligible to vote in the US actually choose to exercise that right. The fact is, many of them are now relying on a small contingents of wide-eyed activists to keep the rebellion going long enough for it to become an effective influence on changing national policy.
Because of this continued reliance upon the grassroots street activists to show the way, it is very important that they set the best example possible. If the movement says it wants a peaceful world and thereby an end to individual and institutional violence against minorities, women, the LGBT community, disabled persons, the poor, children, animals, the environment, etc, then it must take a pro-active step to promote non-violence, to show that the world can be changed through peaceful means.
I urge every occupy group to endorse and embrace non-violence as a tool for social change. If the world is going to learn the right lessons from this movement for social justice, then the participants in that movement have to recognize their ethical responsibility to practice transparency and peaceful political action.
We, the people, are the government! If we are going to change the system then we must replace our elected representatives with people who will actually represent the 99%. It is my personal opinion that we will not be able to replace the present corrupt government and financial system until we agree to stop wasting our votes by dividing them between the two corporate parties – the Republicans and Democrats (or as I like to refer to them - Demopublicans and the Republicrats). But since the current “winner take all” electoral system does not allow for viable third party candidates, our work is going to be long and difficult.
It is not, however, a completely impossible mission. We have seen unexpected massive changes in many nations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. A global wave of populist sentiment is on the rise, sweeping many undemocratic regimes away with its massive force. Uprisings in Europe are also leading the people to a more assertive role when dealing with their financial and political leadership.
When people are suffering, they fight for survival even against the most outlandish odds. In solidarity they become one person out of many. Once their voices become unified, the small group of elites who run the institutions are often in for the battle of their lives. People power has showed itself to be much more powerful than military weapons and police many times in our planet’s history. It is the proverbial hero’s quest, the battle against titans and the universal conflict between good and evil played out in city streets and on computer and i phone screens.
This is a movement to change society – to transform its institutions and its systems of economic and political control. We may differ on how this can be accomplished, but we must not let our differences divide us and make us weak. The old ideas of class, race, gender, culture, religion or political affiliations are no longer relevant.
We are one. We are the people.
It is not “us” against “them.”
This is our society.
It is actually us against ourselves…
Si se puede!