An Open Letter to Occupiers and LibertariansSubmitted by thewhitewhale on Tue, 10/04/2011 - 08:24
Dear Occupiers, Progressives, Libertarians, etc.,
Greetings and Salutations. I've been reading about your exploits this week in the news. Protests are spreading around the nation, and though largely symbolic right now it must striking a nerve :) (though you wouldn't know it by the lack of media coverage).
But that's about par for the course, isn't it? The Status Quo doesn't want to listen; isn't that part of what this is about?
I admire your efforts to get out and be heard. More over, I encourage you stay out there as long as it takes to be heard.
In that regard, I hope the weather is cooperative and kind to you, because lord knows, the police won't be.
And it is for this reason that I wanted to write to you.
The Occupy! website suggests that this movement seeks to imitate the "Arab Spring".
I'm concerned when I read that friend, because, well, if we're going "Arab Spring" on this, that means we're talking revolution here.
If that's truly the notion, you're gonna need some help.
You see, the crucial strategy that made the "Arab Spring" so successful (for the Egyptians anyway) was non-violence.
Occupy! may not know entirely where it's headed yet, but a few things are clear. First, the longer it continues the more likely the top 1% will use violence to end it. Now is the time to ramp up non-violent rhetoric. Take every opportunity to emphasize the non-violent nature of your presence.
Second, we're going to need to help each other. The second party to that 'we' being libertarians and Ron Paul supporters.
On that second note, what I hope progressives can come to understand about libertarians is that we see that the State can't give anything to anyone without first taking it from someone else through force. Sure, taking from the rich by force seems righteous, particularly in light on the fact that the rich and powerful got that way by using the violent mechanism of the State.
But Violence doesn't make food come out of the ground. Violence doesn't build shelters. Violence doesn't make people more enlightened. Violence doesn't care. How can the solution to any problem be "add more violence"?
Again, if "Arab Spring" is going to be the inspiration here, I want to take the opportunity to suggest that libertarians and progressives can be united against State violence. This includes but is not limited to issues on Corporate War and Crony Capitalism.
I hope that Progressives can find compassion for their Libertarian friends by understanding that Libertarians see even mundane State operations as proceeding only through violence - and it therefore should be as limited as possible.
And I hope Libertarians can find compassion for Progressives who may be attracted by the apparent efficiency of State violence to administrate certain desirable goods and services.
I hope these two groups can find compassion for one another because joining forces can be huge.
Ron Paul's candidacy is potentially game changing because if he were to win it is highly likely that he would tolerate, and encourage in fact, need!, a massive non-violent campaign (like Occupy!) to assist him. He's just one man.
This has incredible potential. But the intention must be made now and it must be unwavering. I hope that we can start weaving non-violence into all of our rhetoric, both as an explicit admission of a tactic, and as an opportunity to connect with others across the political spectrum. We can only join together if we can learn to stop being violent with one another.
I hope we can hear that. Because we need to connect. Connecting through non-violence can be a powerful coalition building tool.
As Jim Morrison said, "They've got the guns, but we've got the numbers." But we need to hear each other first before we get the numbers.
And I wanted to talk to about that too. About how it is we can get together, or more specifically what it is specifically keeping us apart.
It's really no surprise that here again, the crux is violence. Violence, not just in deed, but more insidiously, in thought also. The insidious part is that, violence in the mind, makes us entirely predictable and therefore more controllable.
You see the State is an Authoritarian structure. Authority rules by a game that Marshall Rosenberg affectionately calls, "Who's Right?"
"Who's Right?" is an important game in which the top 1% uses violence to control large groups of people. I mean, there's only so much violence at the disposal of the few at the top of the pyramid.
"Who's Right?" judiciously rations the violence by setting up the following rules of the game: Rule #1) The Authority is always 'Right'. Rule #2) If you're wrong you've got only two choices: submit or rebel.
Take a moment to reflect on this and evaluate if it isn't true. You can see it in all social relationships where Power is at play; where, by virtue of one's position, one's needs are assumed to ecclipse another's.
Chew on that a while. What I want to point out in the meantime is that whether you submit or rebel...you're serving the Authority. How? Well, the submission option is obvious. The rebellion option maybe not as obvious, until one remembers that the ultimate Authority has violence at its disposal.
Might makes Right, remember? Rebellion transforms dissent into the very form the State is most adept at dealing with: open hostility. The minute you pick that option you're already outgunned. I was serious when I told you I was concerned about the police out there.
“Who’s Right” is the thought process by which dissent can be effectively contained without ever threatening the true balance of power. Real societal change, “is not reached…through an assessment of the rights and wrongs of the issues at stake.” [emphasis added]. It is achieved through “an assessment of the absolute and relative power situations of the contending groups.”
These two quotations immediately above are from Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy, a book that looks at the characteristics of successful non-violent revolutions. Sharp outlines that nonviolence opens a new door unavailable to those caught in the submit/rebel paradigm. In assessing the “relative power situations of relative groups,” Sharp reiterates the State’s uncontested advantage in violent conflict, and identifies nonviolent dissent as “the most powerful means available to those struggling for freedom.”
Gene Sharp’s writings were influential in the formation of the Serbian student organization Otpor! (Resistance!) which was instrumental in the removal of Slobodan Milošević from power in Bosnia in 2000. Significantly, the leadership of Otpor guided and trained the ultimately successful April 6th resistance movement in Egypt that removed President Hosnai Mubarek from power in 2011 - from which Occupy! draws as least part of its inspiration.
What always becomes obvious at protest events is that the police aren't there to protect you. They're there to protect the Authority. That much should be plain, and I'd point out that scaling the scenario up doesn't change the dynamic. The State is not there to protect you. It's there to protect the top 1% - the Authority - because they're scared. They're afraid of what will happen to them if all of a sudden, they lose power and are no longer "Right."
What I hope to impress is that this way of thinking - "Who's Right?" - is cultural. We are all trained in it. Even the top 1%. The top 1% is scared. That's why the police are out.
The hard part is that, much as we'd like to, resorting to violence is not going to get us anywhere. We will have to resist the temptation to exact political retribution. We're going to need all the help we can get to resist such a temptation. We're going to need each other.
The first step is to start listening to each other not with the ears we've been trained with. The ears given to us by the Authority, to hear who is 'wrong' and therefore deserves to be punished. We need to start hearing each other based on our needs.
We all have common universal needs: food, shelter, connection. I applaud Occupy! precisely because people are attempting to satisfy their need to be heard. What comes next and how we can support each other is crucial and potentially electric.
It all comes back to the question of how can regular people get what they need without resorting to violence, be it physical, political, or intellectual.
For everyone's sake, I hope we can begin to connect in this regard.