Saturday, January 14, 2012

Non-Violent 99

I want to take a look at Occupy Wall Street briefly. It’s fallen out of the news cycle and everyone seems to be questioning what happened to it.

What I want to focus on is something off about such a potent populist movement. The Stranger reported this week that the Occupy Seattle movement has faded quickly after the failure of a vote to be a non-violent movement.

Obviously I was not there for the discussion, but it was reported that there was a logic surrounding the down vote that armed uprising may at some point become necessary. I will not deny that charge, but I refuse to affirm it.

Let me put it this way. Real civil protest is successful because of its non-violent philosophy.

If we want to unshackle ourselves from an oppressive terror; it requires a methodical outline of contingencies. Gandhi started and succeeded in a complete non-violent revolution against one of the most powerful forces in the world. Despite an oligarchic rule and an economic engine that represented a huge portion of the UK’s wealth, Gandhi was able to get the ruling elites to acquiesce to his demands.

Violence is always possible; we are humans after all. Our history is full of armed uprisings and massacres; millions have died just to taste freedom.

And in America we have that freedom so many others crave. We can speak openly, we can protest, we can vote, we can gather, we can do all the things guaranteed to us by the first amendment.

A movement that can purge itself of hatred and the conviction that harming another human being is necessary to make a point is one worth standing up for.

It’s hard to believe that a modern democracy would listen to its people or its demands. Yet that is fundamentally what we believe. Despite what people call ‘realities’ a democratic people have the power to enforce the change they want non-violently.

To believe otherwise; to believe that our constitutional right to free speech must be somehow set aside because our elected officials are somehow illegitimate is to poison the well for everyone. If someone is so willing to fight to overthrow their government on the assumption that they are self-righteous enough to buck our democratic traditions then the question that sticks most prominently in my mind is, “what rights would be guaranteed under your system?”

Would a ‘new’ government do a better job of guaranteeing my rights if the revolutionaries had thrown them off in their zealotry? Would my voice count if it were a minority one? The answer is no.

To believe our system has failed is plain wrong. We still enjoy our freedoms and our system of government still works. Ample proof can be provided in how the rhetoric has already shifted to the language of the 99%. Non-violence, in all situations where it is possible; where there is still energy for change and debate, must be exercised and adhered to. Without reason we are just gnashing animals that tear inexpertly at our enemies’ flesh.