Meaningful dissent or ways to revolt peacefully
An undemocratic regime relies on fear and ignorance to keep its population under control. The media serves as the unofficial mouthpiece for the state; its purpose, to spread lies, to omit certain damnable truths, to entertain “the huddled masses” with inane programs of distraction. This strategy ensures that a majority of the public most of the time will be rendered blind to the greater crimes of the power elites. When economic disparity reaches new and ghastly heights, when crimes of bankers and financial institutions can no longer be ignored – even by the mainstream media – fear is utilized by those in power to quash dissent.
First, officials react to the outcries of their constituents by promising investigations and a brand new era of transparency. Ineffective laws are passed with loopholes large enough to enable more of the same criminal behavior that brought about the greatest recession since 1929 . Crops of equally corrupted and corruptible politicians emerge touting the usual prefab slogans: reform, change,hope. The newly elected are all backed by Wall Street money – or they wouldn’t have stood a chance in hell of being elected in the first place.
Years pass…not one banker is jailed. Not one politician is held criminally liable for the economic devastation that swept through the land like a pack of wild tornadoes. Millions have lost their homes to predatory lending practices and the ensuing housing bubble. Jobs are lost as the economy contracts. Wages and benefits are cut. The middle class shrinks. The low-income and poverty brackets explode, engulfing over half of all Americans. Then when the first real stirrings of mass protests shake the very centers of power with the emergence of Occupy Wall Street – it’s put down with brutal force by a security and surveillance state infected by a virus called the NSA, all in the name of “homeland security.”
After direct challenges to authority are crushed, an undemocratic regime relies on apathy to clean-up the remains of any meaningful dissent. Apathy is the final weapon in the state’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Apathy plays on an individual’s self-worth. It’s apathy that instills doubts in the minds of millions who think they are powerless to stop the great corporate machine ensconced behind the opaque walls of secretive government. In the end, it’s apathy that breeds contempt within us for those who are seemingly too naive to realize they’re fighting a losing fight.
It’s apathy that whispers to us that this is just the way it is, there is nothing we can do at all to fight the powers that be. ‘We are powerless.’ ‘We are weak.’ ‘They are just too strong.’ ‘Things will never change.’ ‘Why bother?’ ‘It’s best to stay out of it and live my life to the fullest.’ These are all catch phrases of apathy. These are the afterthoughts of a healthy mind embattled with forces morally reprehensible and ostensibly unbeatable. There is some good news. Apathy is the last line of defense before an undemocratic regime falls.
We are not bound to such a system. A revolt is not only necessary, it’s inevitable.
Anyone reading this piece is capable of doing any one of the following, if not all. I’ve composed a list of five things that most people can do to revolt against the system without having to pick up a weapon. It is intended for those who are learning about activism for the first time. It isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, only a starting point. I also hope it serves as a friendly reminder to those who have drifted away from activist pursuits for one reason or another. So if you’re up to the challenge, take up any one of these steps (or all of them!). Then pass along what you’ve learned to someone else. This is activism at its core, doing and sharing – the antithesis of apathy.
1. Educate Yourself
Read about the issues that concern you. Are you interested in stopping the proliferation of drone warfare? Or the Keystone XL Pipeline? Or how about resistance movements in general, like Occupy Wall Street? What are you passionate about? How can you help? Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your actions must immediately translate into change in society. It doesn’t work that way. Social movements have historically taken years to win major concessions from those who hold power. This is no excuse to wait around, either! Pick an issue that strikes a chord within yourself. You may be surprised where it leads you.
No American book-shelf (or e-reader) should be without the late Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend picking it up and starting your journey from there. Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself an activist, this book is, nevertheless, an activist’s guide to America from 1492 to present. History, as they say, is written by the victors. Zinn’s book is a history told through the eyes of the oppressed.
“My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”
– Howard Zinn
2. Shop Smart & Boycott
If money is the root of all evil, then making sure those who profit off of warfare, sweatshop labor, unsafe foods, etc., do not profit from your own contributions. For instance, moving your money from major (and criminal) banks like Bank of America or Wells Fargo to a local bank or credit union, deprives these companies of capital they would normally use for illegally foreclosing on homeowners.
Switching banks keeps your money in your community where it would go to better use – much better than in the back pocket of some grossly overpaid CEO who would use profits to buy politicians off to buffer himself from the next banking scandal. The Move Your Money campaign has drained tens of millions of dollars from the coffers of major banks in the United States and Great Britain over the past couple of years. Don’t underestimate the power of money. Shop smart, and boycott.
Move your money to local bank or credit union. TooBigHasFailed.com is a wonderful resource.*
Find a shopper’s guide to GMO-free food online.*
Investigate computer and phone companies (or any company for that matter) before purchasing products from them. Apple was recently condemned for utilizing sweatshop labor for their iPhone line. Walmart has perpetually been under scrutiny for unfair labor practices at home and abroad – they also use factories in Bangladesh with unsafe working conditions that have killed hundreds of people. Don’t give these companies your business! Boycott them.
*Go online and find alternatives. There is plenty of good information out there. There are plenty of people willing to help you find the answers.
Protesting as an art form is as diverse as there are protesters willing to participate. You don’t have to live near a major population center where protests are more likely to occur – although if you do, there is nothing quite like joining ranks with large groups of people who are agitating for a cause. Not only can such events be inspiring, but they can sometimes be effective in changing public policy. Also, there are plenty of opportunities to meet other like-minded individuals who will share your enthusiasm for the cause and other issues.
Don’t view protesting strictly as a crowd function. The Internet itself has become another platform for protest. I’ve personally been administering a Facebook page I created nearly two years ago in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’ve helped others set up their pages based around a variety of issues, too. It’s quite easy if you already have an account. When you pair Facebook with Twitter or YouTube, and learn how to use each effectively, you may be surprised how satisfying the feeling is to actually be advocating for a cause. Additionally, you will learn more about your chosen issues from other activists. In the constant hunt for relevant content you will read a lot, converse with people from all over the globe, and likely make some friends and allies along the way.
Lastly, don’t rule out your own talents. Are you a writer, musician, or an artist? Almost any issue out there could benefit from these set of skills. Your job or hobby may also help you determine what you can bring to the table. And if all else fails, it never hurts to expand your horizons and learn something new in order to help yourself and serve your community.
Attend an agreeable protest whenever you can.*
Figure out what you can do to protest on your own time.
4. Form An Affinity Group
Affinity groups are usually comprised of three or more individuals who share a common platform or goal. They can be made up of friends, family, co-workers, or even strangers. The purpose of an affinity group is to do something. That something is up to the group to decide. The purpose is oftentimes political in nature or focused around activism, but it need not be. In a sense, an affinity group is a club. There’s one important distinction to be made for affinity groups in the classical sense: the decision-making is accomplished by way of consensus. There is no leader. No one person is ‘the boss.’ Members work together to form plans of action based around their agreed upon platform. The point is to include everyone in the decision-making and to avoid majority-minority riffs in the group dynamic.
What does consensus really mean? It’s as easy as ordering pizza. When a group of people are working together towards a common goal, they must make decisions not only based on their own desires, but on the needs of the group as well. A vegetarian would shun all meat and might require a portion of the pizza be veg (or even an entirely separate pizza altogether). The point is, everyone works together to order one or more pizzas to satisfy the group.
It’s a back-and-forth process which aims to arrive at a consensus on what needs to be ordered to feed the hungry crew. No leaders are required for this process. People have been practicing consensus unwittingly for ages, and for things a lot more important than ordering pizza. Communities across the globe practice consensus, also known as direct democracy when referring to governance by the people, like the Quaker community in the United States. You can find a lot of good information about consensus as a decision-making process at Wikpedia’s helpful page on “Consensus Decision-Making“.
Why are affinity groups important? Because ideologies need not be the basis for forming an affinity group. They may exist solely to perform a function or a role lacking in a community. An often-sited example is of a new well needed for fresh drinking water in a rural locale. There’s no money in the budget for it. An affinity group may form around this issue and get the job done utilizing their own resources and skills. Maybe the police have been particularly brutal in the way they’ve been handling youths in the neighborhood. An affinity group may form around this issue to monitor the police. Maybe there’s a subsidiary of an evil company like Monsanto in town. An affinity group may form to perform nonviolent direct action against it. Affinity groups don’t always abide by the law.
A great example of this kind of work is performed by anarchists making use of black bloc tactics. Understandably, members of any affinity group would have to decide in advance whether or not their group is to operate within the confines of the law. Most do. Notably, there are individuals of strong conscience who believe that some laws must be broken in order fulfill their goals – many willing to risk arrest and long-term incarceration in their pursuit of nonviolent activism. My hats off to them. We need their daring actions to remind us that true freedom is worth fighting for.
Form or join an affinity group if the opportunity arises. They are the building blocks of pure democracy. Side note: my aunt formed a secret affinity group that meets up once a month. I have no idea what her and her colleagues do! But that is their prerogative. The point is that they get to decide what is meaningful and what they should decide to do in their allotted time together.
5. Get Others Involved
This is what I would like to accomplish having written this piece. Once you fall in love with activism, however deeply that passion may extend, you want to share it with others and offer your support whenever you can. You come to understand that mutual aid and a commitment to solidarity is just as important as what you do in your own time to better the world. Working together is key. Getting others involved is the the holy grail of activism. Don’t get tripped up by ideologies and philosophies to justify what you and others do. Diversity is always a good thing. Don’t let diversity become divisive. The only justification you need for doing good in the world is because you can.