I titled yesterday’s post From Dictatorship to Democracy, the name of Gene Sharp’s book on principles and methods of non-violent civil resistance. I want to follow that article with this invitation, to suggest methods of civil resistance that apply to the political situation in the United States. I’d like to note two things in connection with this idea:
First, people disagree a lot about whether or not the United States is still a democracy. It is not a tyranny yet, but that doesn’t specify where we are now. Another matter of disagreement is how fast we are travelling away from democratic institutions and toward undemocratic ones. A presupposition here is that the pace of evolution toward tyranny has accelerated a great deal during the last ten years. Consequently, the United States fits in the large and mixed category of countries that are not democratic and also not tyrannies.
Gene Sharp published his initial list of nonviolent methods over twenty years ago. Moreover, the list applies to countries that do not have the technical infrastructure the United States has. Therefore, it does not mention techniques related to the Internet, social networks, cellular communication, and so on. The list needs an update, and it needs application to our current politics. In other words, we need to adapt it to our own purpose, which is to preserve and expand our freedom in the face of a powerful government that works to reduce it.
Right now, we have three sources of practical knowledge for nonviolent civil resistance: (1) the Tea Party movement, (2) the Occupy movement, (3) all the other independent political groups, less organized, who have tried to return the United States to its constitutional roots over the years. People who want to alter or abolish our government should draw on the experience, methods, success stories, errors, and practical knowledge these groups have accumulated.
We need suggestions that counter phrases like work within the system, don’t rock the boat too much, or use ballots, not bullets. Obviously, bullets don’t work when your goal is to establish a working democracy, but at the moment ballots also don’t work. If you seek radical alteration of our governmental institutions, you have to apply methods suited to the task. You have to apply methods and plans that work in the current political context.
So, please begin the discussion in the comments below. We have to start soon.