Whatever It Takes: Beyond Nonviolence

With the US legislature stripping the energy bill of most of the things we need and with the failure to agree to tough action on climate change in Bali, I think we need to start reviewing our tactics.

As Daniel Quinn writes in his book, Beyond Civilization, “Old minds think: If it didn’t work last year, let’s do MORE of it this year. New minds think: If it didn’t work last year, let’s do something ELSE this year.”

These are words to contemplate as we head into a 2008 without any significant action taken by the US government (to say nothing of other countries) on climate change. We are in critical battle for this planet, and we need to think seriously about doing whatever it takes to stop the actions which are destroying the land and seas (e.g. just the other day BP announced that they are going to commit the biggest global warming crime in history) and contributing to snowballing (or, more appropriately, snow-melting) climate collapse. Are petitions, lobby days, call-ins, protests, and nonviolent civil disobedience enough?

To start off, I invite you to watch the following video for serious consideration. The question (rather humorously) posed is: What if the rebels in Star Wars adopted the tactics of environmentalists? (Note: I am referring only to the opening nine minutes of the video, you don’t have to watch the full two hours if you do not want to. Also, the first forty seconds may offend your sensibilities with the language, but I encourage you to press through it.)

Just recently in the news, the Cross River Gorillas, the most endangered subspecies of gorilla in the world with less than 300 surviving members, were observed fighting back against human encroachment on their habitat for the first time. These Great Apes know what’s at stake — their home. Do we?

in good heart,
Evan

32 Responses to “Whatever It Takes: Beyond Nonviolence”


  1. 1 jessejenkins Dec 16th, 2007 at 3:49 am

    What’s beyond nonviolence? If you’re hinting that violence is what lies “beyond nonviolence” than you’re sorrily mistaken. Nonviolence is beyond violence. However frustrated we are, we should remember that. Nonviolence takes far more courage than violence.

  2. 2 R Margolis Dec 16th, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    In just a few years, the movements have caused the Bush administration to call climate change both serious and human caused. Most social movements take much longer. The apparent slow pace is partially because of both the scale of the problem (80% of world energy is fossil fueled) and the debates over the substitutes (can’t be sequestration, can’t be solar, can’t be nuclear, can’t be wind, etc). Previous movements had a more united plan (e.g., civil rights wanted to end the Jim Crow Laws).

  3. 3 wildeyes Dec 16th, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Jesse,

    i was a long time and ardent pacifist and am well aware of the arguments for nonviolence. but I am concerned about this notion that nonviolence takes more courage. I will not argue whether that it is true or not true, but i don’t really think it matters which is more courageous. i think it matters about what’s happening and how we can best stop that. during the time i was a pacifist i was very concerned (and always theoretically, i might add) about my personal morality in things. if i got into a violent situation, say where one person was beating another, i would want to do everything to stop it except compromise my own sense of personal morality. i found this to be

    As to what I am hinting at, I am implying that we open ourselves fully to the situation at hand and be prepared to take it on in a variety of ways. Property damage and violence may play a role. That doesn’t mean everyone has to take on these tactics, but we should support those who choose that route in their work.

    R Margolis,

    I am not sure those are victories, especially when they don’t translate into action. A transition in rhetoric, perhaps, but if nothing is done, it’s empty speech. I would also add that one of the reasons that the Civil Rights movement succeeded (and then only partially considering structures of racism and classism still exist) is that they disrupted the daily grind of segregation — lunch-counter sit-ins blocked business as usual. my fear is that in this movement, many good-hearted people look to the past for models for action and see Gandhi and then the Civil Rights movement and then think that merely fasting or merely getting arrested somewhere will effect change. but we have here a different kind of beast and it’s not enough to just mimic past successes thinking that they’ll work again. if we want to disrupt the emissions of greenhouse gases, we need think about that kind of disruption can occur.

  4. 4 wildeyes Dec 16th, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    (oops, i hit submit too early!)

    the sentence which begins: “i found this to be” (end of first paragraph) is meant to read:
    i found that this pattern of thought took any situation and always transformed into an issue that was about me. i became the locus, rather than the larger whole. i am reminded of dietrich bonhoeffer, a staunch pacifist who, during world war II got involved in the plot to kill hitler.

  5. 5 Simmons Dec 16th, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    The environmentalist movement is not exactly non violent; at least not in the way Gandhi’s movement was. There’s no dictatorship beating us down for protesting climate change.

    And just as jessejenkins pointed out, nonviolence is beyond violence. If we were to use violence, it would make us look like the bad guys.

  6. 6 sparki Dec 16th, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Before we start talking about “beyond non-violence” or whatever it is you are proposing, answer this–when exactly has NV Civil Disobedience been used in mass to stop the wheels of the fossil fuel industry in the US, and the politicians that love them?

    Groups like RAN, Greenpeace and Rising Tide are able to get small groups of people out for direct actions, No War No Warming turned out a couple of hundred with about 60 people being carried off by police, but before you throw out the strategies/tactics of NVDA why no work towards getting hundreds and thousands out into the streets, the halls of congress, the corporate suites, in front of the bulldozers etc etc.?

    Seabrook, NH in the late 70’s was the site of mass direct action which sparked the nuclear freeze movement in the US which led to end of a big nuclear plant build out for a long time. Seattle in 1999 was the site of a mass direct action against the WTO, which put the WTO into a great crisis (never been able to make any agreements, not meeting this year even though they are schedule to) and invigorated the global justice movement.

    Before you talk about moving past non-violence, why not start using it in mass?

  7. 7 wildeyes Dec 16th, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Simmons,

    I am not quite sure what you mean by saying that “the environmentalist movement is not exactly non violent… There’s no dictatorship beating us down for protesting climate change.” I don’t quite understand what you’re saying. Could you clarify?

    I also do not quite understand how one can say nonviolence is beyond violence? By suggesting not limiting ourselves to so-called “nonviolent” tactics, we are putting a dogmatic barrier on what we will and will not do. By suggesting that tactics could taken on so-called “violent methods” (though I would not count things like property damage in that category, though for many that sounds violent) is not to make a mutually exclusive divide between “nonviolent” and “violent” tactics, but to include all in a strategy (a both/and situation).

    to all,
    I am curious about your reactions to the video posted. What are your thoughts?

    in good heart,
    Evan

  8. 8 Alex Krogh-Grabbe Dec 16th, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Evan,

    I agree on the point that we must not be stuck in any one way of thinking, and must instead operate on whatever course of action is most effective at securing the changes that are necessary. The answer to what courses of action are most effective must of course be concluded situationally, but I believe there are trends we must consider. People tend not to respond well to violence against them or violence against an entity that they might consider blameless. Remember also that people’s opinions are strongly influenced by media, and media strongly tends to portray instances of small-scale violence as “Violent person/people=bad” and “Victim=good”. Do we want to make, say, auto companies look good, to take the example of certain ELF direct actions in the past? I think not.

    What DOES tend to be effective is meeting people where they are conceptually and framing the issues in ways that affect what is important to them. If we can do this right, we’ll get not only a greater majority of the public on our side, but policymakers as well. When policymakers (not just politicians, but CEOs and the like as well) are on our side, real change will happen.

    In terms of protests, there has to be an appropriate mix of anger and of nonviolence. Actions like the RAN banner outside Bank of America HQ are great, because they get a message out to a large number of people, and don’t really obstruct anyone’s life. People who are despondent in their jobs may feel positively about obstructive protests, but people who have hope of making a lot of money (executives et al; decision-makers) will respond best to two things: 1. being shown the message in a way that’s persistent but doesn’t get in their way of making money, and 2. being shown that doing things that are good for the environment will help them make more money.

    Essentially, you’re right, that an ineffective history of our movement means that we have to look toward methods that are more effective. But I disagree that such methods involved being violent, at least given the current cultural situation. The current cultural situation will necessarily change over time, though, so it’s possible that violence might be in order someday. But, I would argue, not now. There are better ways to get what we need.

  9. 9 hamza Dec 17th, 2007 at 1:15 am

    hi
    I am 22 y.o youth from Maldives..i work on the National Climate Change Strategy Project funded by GEF. There is a lot of Non violent Environmental activism going on here. Now we are getting ready for another action as well. Ia lso am a active member of the youth NGO called S.O.S here.
    If interested to know more read my blog or contact me.
    thank you
    Hamza Khaleel

  10. 10 R Margolis Dec 17th, 2007 at 2:36 am

    Actually Gandhi did cause major economic disruptions (though non-violent) to get the British out of India. Still, my point is that the climate movement does not agree on a set of solutions, so how can folks know what you are actually advocating? When regular folks hear about large carbon reductions they are fearful over the disruptions and how they will make it through.

    By the way, I did look at some of the video. Jared Diamond once wrote an article called “The Golden Age That Never Was”. This showed that even pastoral and small village based peoples caused significant environmental damage. What we need are civilizations that better use technology, not a return to nature that will destroy the planet more quickly.

  11. 11 Mark HC Dec 17th, 2007 at 2:45 am

    We ought to be clear of the difference between active non-violence and passivism. Non-violence certainly need not be passive, and now is not the time for passive resistance. But more so, I’d argue that there is practically never a situation where violence resistance will bring better outcomes than better (more creative) non-violent-active movement.

    Most people follow the crowd most of the time (in fact most leaders follow the crowd in most aspects of their live, other than in the own fields of interest). It takes committed leaders to change the direction of the crowd. Violence scares people and sends them to the barricades to defend what is theirs (this tactic is used regularly by the corporate-government complex to prompt the crowd into predictable quarters). We need different leadership that challenges people without creating a predominantly defensive reaction.

    There are heroes among us doing such already. There are more waiting to act. It takes doing things different in our own lives to connect with these heroes and grow the movement. Once started change and snowball at unexpected speed (non-linear, like climate change).

  12. 12 Ryan Dec 17th, 2007 at 4:22 am

    I agree that in many if not most cases non-violence takes more courage than violence. Environmental, labor, and other political actors have left themselves vulnerable to the chemical weapons and beatings designed to inflict pain, suffering, and silence on them in Seattle and other places around the world. The courage and conviction this shows and the way it exposes the brutality and irrationality of the current system is part of the tactic’s effectiveness.

    However, it is also true that brutality and irrationality are part and parcel of capitalism and that is not going to change until the fundamental social relationships which make up the system do. I agree we need to be focused on what is going to be effective, not simply what is most courageous. It is my understanding that Ghandi also sent a letter to the British people to resist the fascists non-violently because although they might control their bodies, their minds and hearts would still be free. Although perhaps in some ways very courageous, this would probably not have worked out very well, especially for certain groups of people.

    That said, I agree with sparki. Amy pointed out in previous and incredibly fantastic post the problems inherent in the capitalist world-system capitalism also provides us with common interests and a common enemy around which the majority of people have a material stake in rallying. Our strength and our hope comes not ONLY from being able to stop particular injustices and destructions we oppose but the power to build what we want in their place. As Amy alludes to, the source of these problems is structural within our society. The labor movement has born the bloody brunt of many lessons on our government’s superiority in the application of violence and its ability to spin violence on the part of those resisting oppression to justify further oppression. However, many of its (grantedly limited) successes have been through large scale civil disobedience which stopped the gears of the system. I agree we need to be doing more to physically/concretely put a stop to business as usual. But we need to be clear about what we are trying to obstruct.

    Because these problems are structural it is misleading to talk of convincing individual CEOs or changes in the Bush Administration’s rhetoric as measures of success.Influence perhaps, but not success. Sociologist Michael Goldman’s book Imperial Nature documents changes in the rhetoric used by the World Bank in order to continue the same ecological and social exploitation as before. The tendencies of the capitalist marketplace (a sort of treadmill of production) compel investment in not only profitable ventures but the most profitable, regardless of how individual corporate actors may feel about it. A recent article in Business Week presents an excellent example of this phenomenon and a pretty revealing indictment by a former golden boy of the Rocky Mountain Institute . Success is ultimately measured in real material changes- which have not been forthcoming.

    In many cases, violence may seem tempting because the problems are so urgent and dire, and for communities around the world facing threats to their health and lives justified self-defense. Similarly nuclear power appeals to some who fail to see the injustice in what occurs to communities near where fuel is mined and processed (I saw a presentation this summer at the International Symposium on Society and Resource Management including uncovered DOE documents describing the Mormons and indians near one such site in Utah as expendable populations in unflinching terms) and waste disposed. Or make connections between our current preparations to attack Iran and how material aspects of nuclear power as a solution to global warming reinforces inequalities around the world in ways which other technologies may not. Private interests are not going to invest in the most sustainable and socially just technologies- public investment in these technologies is important an important first step but democratic control over their application is as well. For profit utilities (and antidemocratic parastatal ones like TVA) need to be one of the first industries to go.

    Current opposition to meaningful actions to address climate change gains strength by seeking to divide the movement on class lines. The goal is to pit the working class and poor (who form the core of the environmental justice movement) against the middle class of traditional environmentalism by promising that they will be the ones who will suffer its effects. By including the redistribution of wealth and power as part of the plan to tackle climate change we can counter this tactic while allowing for diversity and creativity in local solutions.

    Solidarity Forever,
    Ryan

  13. 13 Ryan Dec 17th, 2007 at 4:25 am

    P.S. For a good sympathetic critique of whats missing from Diamond’s analysis (mainly the social relations which employ technology) see York, Richard and Philip Mancus. 2007. “Diamond in the Rough: Reflections on Guns, Germs, and Steel.” Human Ecology Review 14(2): 157-162.

  14. 14 wildeyes Dec 17th, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Alex and sparki,

    thank you for your thoughtful comments. i wholeheartedly agree that mass civil disobedience would be a great thing and that we shouldn’t just start taking up arms and violent tactics at a whim because the powers-that-be have shown with ALF/ELFers that they have no problem locking people up for years for minor crimes committed by those motivated by ecological considerations.

    I think I need to clarify something as well. In saying “Beyond Nonviolence,” I do not want to say that we should abandon tactics which are not violent wholesale, but to include it in a larger mix of tactics. Don’t get me wrong, I love what groups like RAN did in Charlotte and what Rising Tide has done in Australia and Asheville and Charlotte. A number of people have brought up Seattle and the WTO in ’99, but there are stories from those protests about pacifist protesters helping the police in preventing members of the Black Bloc from smashing windows of corporate chains like McDonalds and Starbucks. This seems to be unnecessary infighting. I am not trying to give a mandate about how we should all abandon tactics which are not violent, but just to give a broader perspective that allows them in the mix by those who choose to use them.

    R Margolis,

    Jared Diamond also wrote an article entitled “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” (http://www.mnforsustain.org/food_ag_worst_mistake_diamond_j.htm), which is about how the move to agriculture has caused significant changes to human life that largely aren’t good. Also, are you meaning to imply that humans are inherently destructive?

    I am not sure why a “return to nature” will destroy the planet more quickly than current industrial society (presuming the implied assumption that it is human nature to destroy our habitat, which i would strongly question)? i am not sure how that claim can even be made. Would you like to try to defend it?

    And Gandhi did some wonderful things in India, and I admire him greatly, but do you remember what asked the Jews to do during the Holocaust. He told them to commit Mass Suicide. In my mind, This is not an option.

    Hamza,

    Thank you for your work. I hope that your upcoming action goes well!

    Mark HC,

    As to your suggestion that there is never a time where violent resistance will provide more effective results than so-called “non-violence” (perhaps I should explain why there is no such thing as nonviolence in this society), there are numerous instances where this has not been the case. Let’s take the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Those who resisted in the uprising had a higher survival rate than the Jews who went along first with yellow stars, then with trips on packed train cars, then with forced labor in concentration camps, then with “showers.”

    There is a more contemporary example with the Zapatistas in southern Mexico. They were being pushed off their land again and again and again and were faced with the possibility of extinction through starvation and cultural erasure (read genocide). They chose to fight back, taking over towns and villages on the morning of January 1, 1994. They have been in rebellion ever since and have set up their own system of governance, indigenous education system, and health care (these are all young). Now, of course, part of their success was that they were backed by millions of Mexicans who took to the streets when the Mexican government tried to squash the uprising. But the fact still remains that their violent resistance did and has been effective, though, illustrating my point about a movement including lots of kinds of tactics — it is all necessary.

    Ryan,

    Thank you for your analysis. I agree that the system of capitalist production inherently takes on a role of profit over say, people and the planet, and seeks to divide people along class lines. I think perhaps it’s the nature of systems of power to try to perpetuate themselves by dividing resistance along any lines possible.

    to all,

    I am glad this is generating thoughtful discussion. I do hope that you sense it to be fruitful…

    in good heart,
    Evan

  15. 15 meegee Dec 17th, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    wildeyes,

    thanks for this post. i think i feel where you’re coming from. I personally engage in only so-called nonviolent activism because of the context of my work and the limited degree of self-risk i’m comfortable with (which is a privilege, i might add.)

    I think it’s important that folks take another look at the violence/non-violence discussion. A lot of folks conisder themselves non-violent and advocate for only so-called non-violent activism because they see it as being the most effective methodology within the context of their work. That’s fine, the discussion should be one about what’s effective rather than what philosophy is superior.

    Let’s take the claim that “nonviolence” is superior to violence as a way to combat oppression out of the familiar fighting-climate-change context. let’s put it in the context of a rape attempt. is it wrong for the individual assaulted to physically fight off his/her attacker? should this indididual not physically resist and just let it happen? would ohysically fighting off an attacker in this context be more likely to deter future rape attempts or would it somehow contribute to a cycle of violence and encourage more rape attempts?

    or is it o.k. if it’s in self-defense? can we compare the immediate need to defend oneself in a sexual assault situation to the need for a community to defend itself against strip mining or the construction of a nuclear power plant or whatever else?

    another point, world war II. no violent resistance to the Nazis. What happens? Or do we accept the violence sanctioned by the United States Government but not the violence of everyday people to defend themselves?

    My point in all this, is just to encourage discussion on violence and “nonviolence” as a discussion of what’s effective rather than which methodology is morally or intellectually superior.

    great post. great discussion.

    willie

    Blue Ridge Earth First!
    http://www.blueridgeEF.org
    http://www.myspace.com/herestothelonghaul

  16. 16 beendownthisroad Dec 17th, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    For those interested in this debate, check out the excellent film ‘Breaking the Spell’ chronicling the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, http://cascadiainanarchy.blogspot.com/2006/10/breaking-spell-1999.html

    It shows the massive marches of ‘Teamsters and Turtles’ and huge rallies, as well as as radical street protests, both non-violent civil disobedience and property destruction, led by college students, regular people, and ‘black bloc’ anarchists. For those who remember these times, it really wasn’t until people physically shut down streets with their bodies and were attacked by police, as well as smashed windows of corporate businesses representing unjust globalization, that the US and the World turned their eyes to the WTO and the anti-globalization movement. This movie tells the story of the ‘black bloc’ among other things, responsible for taking the protests to the next level and ‘breaking the spell’ for enough time to finally wake up the media, elected leaders, and the public to the ills of ‘free’ market globalization.

    This post is not meant as advocacy for particular tactics, just food for thought.

  17. 17 Cascadia Brian Dec 17th, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    Evan,

    My concerns with your proposal are more strategic than philosophical.

    The comparison to global warming in the US today with Chiapss (Zapatistas) and the Warsaw Ghetto just isn’t very compelling.

    Those uprising bear little cultural or economic resemblance to the US at this time, nor is the hardships from global warming (deadly toxic pollution and deadly extreme weather events caused by our own consumptive energy systems) easily translated to the conditions in the Warsaw ghetto or in Chiapas (boot in your face oppression of thousands of people based on their ethnicity or culture by military police).

    Just because something is effective in one place, doesn’t mean it’s effective elsewhere. I just don’t think an increase in property destruction – let alone violence – is going to do anything to change anyone’s minds and there is no doubt that physical violence in particular frightens people and severely polarizes movements of all sorts.

    I think large scale civil disobedience, campus going on strikes (like in the 60’s), and serious grassroots organizing can shake the system just as effectively as property destruction or violence, and with a lot less wild cards. And the risks: let’s not forget that dozen of good environmental activists are doing serious time in jail right now for property destruction (see http://greenscare.org/) and thousands of hours of time — and lots of money – is being spent many, many more good activists just to support them. I applaud their commitment to the cause, but honestly I just wish those people were out here with us, still fighting the good fight.

    Bottom line, more “hard core” tactics doesn’t necessarily lead to more results. And commitment to the cause must be measured in how of our time and our hearts we put into it, not how the the jail sentence will be. There are so many problems a line of thinking like that I don’t even know where to start. I know your not saying this, but these are common arguments for taking more “radical” actions….and while were on the topic being “radical” has everything to do about your analysis and not much to do with tactics in my book. It’s dangerous to conflate the two.

    I just don’t think property destruction or violence will be useful in the US context, at least without some MAJOR, PRIOR shift in the culture here…which I don’t see happening in the time frame we have to slow global warming.

    ~Brian
    http://www.risingtidenorthamerica.org

  18. 18 wildeyes Dec 17th, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    Brian,

    thank you for your reply. i think there is a lot of good stuff in your post.

    i brought up the warsaw ghetto uprising and the zapatistas in response to Mark HC’s suggestion that violence has never “worked.” i think there’s a kind of mental block people unnecessarily create about violence, and i partly wanted to tackle that. but i’m not sure how dissimilar they are to the present situation. in both, it was resistance against the tides of genocide. here we have resistance against the tides of ecocide which permeate this country and culture. but i could get long winded about the depth of the ecological problem with this culture, so maybe i’ll save that for another time.

    but, at the same time, i fully understand with your concern about my post. i think there are dangers in it. i don’t want to spur people into making short-sighted decisions that are more radical just because they’re frustrated. i don’t want to see more folks put away for four and seven and twenty-two years because of acts of property damage.

    my concern with tactics is that i continue to see in activist circles a repetition of things that simply aren’t working. for example, every year in georgia thousands of protesters come out to protest the School of the Americas (http://www.soaw.org) and many of them “cross the line” (trespass onto military base property) and get arrested. this protest has been going on every year since about 1989 (28 years!) with no victories to speak of. and even if some kind of victory is achieved and the school is shut down, the American Empire will find other ways to do the work of Empire.

    in terms of the climate change movement, i have seen a number of comments on this blog about keeping faith in the process and trying to keep positive about the ability of the movement to change policymakers minds or that we really need to address the leaders of the country or that we need to make ecological solutions look economically seductive. these are all necessary, yes, but i don’t think they encapsulate the whole of what’s necessary.

    i guess that’s where a discussion of culture and cultural change begins though. thank you for helping to make the distinction between “more radical tactics” and “effective tactics.” That’s definitely a good one to make, and one to keep in mind this coming year.

    in good heart,
    Evan

  19. 19 Cascadia Brian Dec 17th, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    On the video…since you asked for feedback…

    Jenson’s analysis of the world and of environmental issues is spot on: we have so much to be outraged about that we should be willing to do whatever it takes.

    My point of disagreement with Jenson is precisely what I said earlier: “radical” has everything to do about your analysis and not much less to do with tactics. (For an example on the other end of the spectrum, Rising Tide has had disagreements with groups like Greenpeace for “framing” what is radical in the public eye on the policy front in their use of more “radical” tactics to push for changes that are more modest than the Sierra Club’s proposals)

    As Jenson says, uur outrage should — must — mean “doing whatever it takes”, but I don’t see how “doing what it takes” = violence.

    Simply put, Star Wars is a movie, and this is real life. If stopping the fossil fuel empire was as easy as, well, blowing up the death star, our world would be a much different place. “Doing whatever it takes” just isn’t as simple as an 80’s sci-fi movie.

    We need to have serious conversations about what are the most effective strategies, and we should be open to all things “radical” in those conversations. And we certainly can be much more
    thoughtful about our messages, pushing for a more radical analysis (as I’ve alluded to elsewhere on this blog, eg http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/2007/12/13/climate-justice-or-carbonacracy/).

    So is violence “radical”, sure, at least in most people’s eyes. Is it justified? probably, considering the violence the fossil fuel empire inflicts upon people ever day.

    But is violence effective? Is it useful in achieving radical goals?

    I just don’t think there is much evidence in the US context to suggest so. Sometimes a good conversation IS as effective as a brick through a window, and sometimes blockading a coal plant is even more so.

    ps

    To clarify what I was saying before, while I agree that violence sometimes has played a part in solving certain things, the difference between today in the US on Climate change and Chiapas / Warsaw is immense: many of the problems we face are dispersed, decentralized ones. Problems of consumerism, apathy, blind resource colonalism, alienation from the earth, attachment to our comfort levels can not be blamed on the “evil empire” alone.

    Climate change is at least in part a problem of all our culture and lifestyle (at least here in the developed countries). While they are ultimately equal in their oppressive force, these more decentralized “root causes” of climate change are very different causal forces of oppression than the direct oppression of the fascists in Germany or the Mexican paramilitaries in Chiapas. Yes the enemy is the fossil fuel empire, but in a very real sense it is also each of us.

  20. 20 R Margolis Dec 18th, 2007 at 1:16 am

    Yes I have read the Diamond article on agriculture. I would argue, however, that for our current large populations that a technological civilization can accommodate them better than a stone age one. For example, advanced food growing techniques such as hydroponics use less water and land than organic farming while producing higher per acre yields. Six or seven billion people cannot live on earth by hunting and gathering as there was prior to agriculture. We need better technology not less.

    As for Gandhi, he certainly wasn’t perfect. However, his use of non-violence went beyond protests and marches.

  21. 21 wildeyes Dec 18th, 2007 at 1:21 am

    R Margolis,

    Overpopulation?

  22. 22 R Margolis Dec 18th, 2007 at 1:41 am

    Even if you stabilize population, you will still need a high-tech civilization with your constant or decreasing population. I think we are already past the point of returning to the state of nature with a low enough population

  23. 23 wildeyes Dec 18th, 2007 at 2:56 am

    meegee and beendownthisroad,

    thank you for your posts!

    R Margolis,

    how is high-tech “sustainable”?

  24. 24 R Margolis Dec 18th, 2007 at 3:46 am

    If you mean sustainable as in it can go on forever, I am not sure anything can do that. I would argue that a high technology society can go on for thousands of years if it watches the land it uses and the health of the public and environment. It will require higher technology to get away from carbon not less.

  25. 25 Eric Blevins Dec 18th, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    “Nonviolence takes far more courage than violence.”

    This statement makes no sense whatsoever. Let’s say you’re walking down a city sidewalk and you walk past an alley where you see a woman being raped by a man much bigger than you. Does it take more courage to keep walking or to go try to physically force the man off of her?

    Let’s say a forest is being clearcut beside your home. Does it take more courage to start a petition against the loggers or to go on the logging site and destroy some of the killing machines? Keep in mind that I’m not asking what is more effective, but what takes more courage.

    It takes far more courage to fight the killers than to use tactics that the system responsible for the killing deems acceptable. If you won’t fight against the destruction/rape of the earth and the poisoning of your body and the bodies of those you love, what will you fight for?

  26. 26 Alex Krogh-Grabbe Dec 19th, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Evan,

    I believe you’re misconstruing the kind of nonviolent action that is being advocated for here. The appropriate analogy is not to walking past the rape scene; that’s the same as not doing anything. The appropriate analogy is to rushing in and demanding that the rapist get off of the woman, and standing your ground even when he pulls a knife or something on you. You will note that in the analogical instance of physically trying to fight the rapist, you’re likely gonna get the shit kicked out of you as well.

    It’s an interesting philosophical issues as to which of violence and non-violence is more courageous. Courage is defined as the ability to face danger with confidence and resolution, without submitting to fear. Both violent and nonviolent action certainly both involve confidence and resolution, and the best kind of each certainly involve a suppression of fear. I think there are few issues to consider: 1. Which kind of action involves greater danger, 2. Which action is more resistant of fear, and 3. Which one involves more confidence and resolution.

    1. In both actions, you’re likely to be arrested, though perhaps you risk a longer sentence and a greater likelihood of arrest in violent action. In terms of physical danger to one’s person, I’d say both are equal. In violent action against people, you may be more likely to be fought back against, but in nonviolent action you have no way of protecting yourself if you are assaulted. So, clearly both involve a certain amount of danger, and the level depends on the specific situation.

    2. Clearly both actions involve resistance to fear. Any clear statement involving threat of danger involves resistance of fear. It’s hard to differentiate between the two on this count, but it seems to me that one would be more fearful if one wasn’t actively fighting back physically than if one were doing so. And again, of course, this question depends on the individual situation and the level of experience of the protester. A more experienced nonviolent protester will probably be less fearful than an inexperienced violent protester, and vice versa.

    3. Again, clearly both involve confidence and resolution. It seems to me, though, (and I could be misunderstanding violent action) that violent protest is more hidden, perhaps acting at night to avoid detection, whereas nonviolent action is ALWAYS visible and in-your-face, because otherwise nonviolence would be pointless (hunger strikes wouldn’t work if you didn’t tell anyone, nor would chaining yourself to a tree work if you only did it at night). I think it takes more confidence and resolution to do something out in the open with everyone watching than it does to do it secretively, even if the secret action holds graver legal danger.

    So, I must conclude that which type of action is more courageous totally depends on the situation and the people and threats involved, though generally they involve about equal courage.

    So I think the issue is not really about courage (I mean, I don’t really care if your action is courageous or not), but instead whether it accomplishes what needs to be accomplished. And it is my understanding and observation that working within the system gets the long-term job done much better than violent action, which may get the desired short-term solution but does little for the long-term.

    Conservatives and oil addicts tend to look more at the short term than the long term. Isn’t that one of the points we criticize them on? Wouldn’t it be rather hypocritical and silly to do the same?

  27. 27 Alex Krogh-Grabbe Dec 19th, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    I mean Eric, sorry; I didn’t change it from my previous comment.

  28. 28 Alexander M. Tinker Dec 19th, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    The myth of non-violence succeeding…

    Indian independence. Ostensibly spearheaded by Gandi. In fact, the British empire was over-extended and being defeated militarily. There were numerous riots. And in the end, India just got neo-colonized.

    The civil rights movement. We all hear about MLK, but what about the BPP and violent race riots?

    The Vietnam war. Was it peaceful protest at home? The US was being defeated militarily. If not for the violent resistance of the Viet Cong, there would have been no peace. Not only was the US losing militarily, but its own soldiers were killing their officers… Additionally, there were violent movements domestically – dozens of bombings of military installations – ROTC, recruitment centers.

    The last chapter in the myth is the movement against the Iraq war. Before the US invaded, there was a larger world-wide nonviolent demonstration than ever beofre. MILLIONS in the streets. Didn’t make a drop of a difference…

    It’s important we’re very clear what is meant by violence.

    For me, violence is an action which knowingly harms a living thing. In this light, everything contributing to global warmign is violence. Using power that comes from coal is violence, driving a car is violent, flying all over the globe is violent.

    Property destruction is not violent. In fact, it may be an act of peace if that property is used for violent ends – i.e. police cars, military recruitment centers, coal plants, banks that hold accounts for weapons contractors and environmental rapists, etc.

    We musn’t use tactics that violate our own principles, but we must support a diversity of tactics in this movement. Unless there is a threat to the powers that be, no progressive movement will ever achieve anything.

  29. 29 Alex Krogh-Grabbe Dec 20th, 2007 at 5:05 am

    Alexander (troublesome; we have the same name…),

    We certainly have to have a diversity of tactics; that’s not in question. You have to be careful, though, of defining violence differently from how it is perceived publicly. I think most people would consider property destruction violent, even though it doesn’t physically harm a living thing. Similarly, most people would consider driving or flying violent. I understand where you’re coming from on all those assessments, but defining your terms differently from those we need on our side gets us nowhere. In fact, acting on these unconventional definitions may be less effective in achieving change than working through the system.

    I personally believe that the most effective avenue for creating positive environmental change is through the political and business arenas. That is where power lies, and those with power must be influenced to make better decisions. Will property destruction thus influence them? I don’t think so.

    -Alex

  30. 30 Barry Bright Jan 7th, 2008 at 10:17 am

    …”everything contributing to global warmign is violence. Using power that comes from coal is violence, driving a car is violent, flying all over the globe is violent.”

    You freaks really are nutbars.

    I’ve been telling people for years that as soon as the pacified communists among us, many of them wearing the mantle of ‘environmentalist,’ felt pushed into a corner they would return to their violent amoral ways. The GW propaganda has been so ‘successful’ because of the traitors within who work in the mainstream news media and in various NGOs whose expensive non-grassroots commercials run continuously to brainwash an ignorant public.

    I have one message for you eco-commies: “My grass is green, and stay the hell off of it!”
    http://www.willowtown.com/promo/links.htm

    (It was taken down twice, so I added this the last time I posted):
    Gee, for some reason this keeps disappearing off your web page. You must have a malfunction. Like the general “Liberal” hatred of reality and disrespect for the ‘freedom of speech’ of anyone who doesn’t stupidly go along with your garbage.

  1. 1 Violence Begats Violence « It’s Getting Hot In Here Trackback on Dec 18th, 2007 at 4:37 am
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