By now more and more people are realizing that in the face of government paralysis and dysfunction as the result of influence peddling corruption by an increasingly ruthless corporatist elite, there is a need for direct action by the populace.

However, I argue that many old-time activists are still relying on direct action tactics that have outlived their usefulness.  I'm specifically concerned about the overreliance on civil disobedience tactics that lead to arrests.  The fact that much of the intellectual body of work related to civil disobedience was based on Henry David Thoreau's classic essay Civil Disobedience, ought to tell you something; it was written 1866!

And of course, when it comes to peaceful resistance, including civil disobedience tactics, we look up to intellectual and moral giants like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Those were different times.  We need to continue evolving when it comes to direct action against the increasingly criminal and brutal Corporatist Oligarchy now entrenched in the United States.

My first question when it comes to direct peaceful actions that lead to arrest is: What are you trying to accomplish?  In fact, that should always be the central question when it comes to direct action.

Back in 2011, when the police departments, acting as corporatist goons, were brutalizing Occupy Wall Street activists, I wrote this diary: "Take your hands off me."  It was pretty well received when I wrote it.  From what I wrote, here's what I think is the most important quote:

We should all, collectively, [must] conceptualize the notion that there is no graver offense when it comes to human interaction, than the act of putting your hands on another human being, in aggression.
From that perspective, and again, my question is: Once you engage in civil disobedience with the intention of getting arrested, what is it that you are trying to achieve?

So you engage in the action, then the police puts their hands on you, lift you up, restrains you, drags you away (while you let your body get limped), handcuffs you, puts you inside a patty wagon, and takes you to jail... You may even get pepper-sprayed or  People take photos and videos of it, and post them all over the place.  

Okay, so now what?  What are your expectations?  Do you expect that when the videos of you getting arrested, or getting pepper sprayed in the face, or getting tased go viral on YouTube that somehow that's going to enraged people witnessing the abuse and prompt them to join the movement?

I argue that on the Left there is too much focus on projecting victimhood.  It's almost a fetish.  We put tape over our mouths; we lay down in the middle of a plaza or intersection, or in front of this or that government building, and play dead, symbolizing victims to this or that atrocity.  We show(ed) YouTube videos of young ladies being pepper sprayed in the face, and of bloody faces of college students after being beaten by police baton, and of people being sucker punched by white-shirt NYPD police thugs.

Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power.

- Chris Hedges

What are we trying to achieve by projecting weakness and victimization?  Do you think somebody is going to come to your (our) aid?  Do you think that apathetic citizens can be motivated to take action by showing weakness and victimization?

So on the Left, we reject and abhor anything that shows any hint of cohesiveness, organization, and strategy, while at the same time going out of our way to project weakness, and victimization.

I argue that that's a recipe for derision, for ridicule, for being marginalized.

Contrast that with the high level of organization by the fascistic right wing.  Heck, the teabaggers usually show up at rallies carrying guns!  Imagine that.  No matter how ridiculous we think that is, in their own (sometimes inarticulate) way they're saying, "Don't mess with me or I'm going to fuck you up, and if you don't like this gun, go ahead and try to take it from me!"

It's a simple message; it's visceral; and it project the most primal instinct of violence.

And say what you may about the crazy teabaggers, at least they have been able to accomplish many of their goals (well, the goals of the billionaires who are manipulating them): stop the government from functioning.

Now, and just to be clear... I'm not arguing that we need to act like these knuckle-dragging neanderthals, and strap guns around our waists when we rally in protests or demonstrations.

I'm arguing that it is time we start thinking very carefully about what is it that we are trying to achieve when we engage in direct action.  As a propagandist (for the truth, for justice and equality), I pay attention to optics, to messaging, to perception, to process, to goals, strategies, to short-, mid-, and long-term objectives.

In my mind, I see, I try to visualize, 50,000 people standing strong with their heads high up, full of confidence, at rallies all over this country exercising their constitutional rights of freedom of assembly, while cops-cum-corporate goons have to think twice, or three or four times before even contemplating putting their hands on one single citizen.

When I think about this, I'm trying to come up with ideas about how to achieve this.  How do we get to a point where we can develop unity of purpose, become highly cohesive, organized and strategic, and give zero, and I mean zero excuse to any cop-cum-corporate goon to put a single hand on any of us.

How do we get to the point of being able to project the awesome power of a people united?

Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.

- Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell

And I think about these things because of the understanding that nothing short of overwhelming (and I mean, truly overwhelming) power will be able to force the tiny group of sociopathic oligarchs to release the choke-hold of their parasitic and creepy hands from our collective necks.

And this won't happen until they fear us...

Finally, if for some reason there are readers who don't know what I'm talking about, and don't understand the urgency, I'd ask them (politely) to first turn off the TV, and second, read this article by Chris Hedges: "Rise Up or Die"

“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”

― Thomas Jefferson

Information resources:

Each blue dot on the map below represents a member of a growing nation-wide network of social justice and anti-corruption activists committed to finding the best way forward, peacefully and within the confines of the law  Join us in the effort!

Ray Pensador | Email List | Twitter | Facebook

Your Email has been sent.