Fighting Injustice

Resist not evil…

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39, King James Version)

According to Wikipedia, Nonresistance (or non-resistance) is a philosophy and strategy for social change that discourages physical resistance to an enemy. It is considered as a subdivision of nonviolence. Practitioners of nonresistance may refuse to retaliate against an opponent or offer any form of self-defense. Perhaps the oldest recorded statement of nonresistance philosophy is that of Socrates around 399 BC. An influential ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates was sentenced to death by the Athenian democracy for teaching his students to question authority and think for themselves. Socrates accepted his fate on reasons of morality and justice, rather than accept help from his supporters to flee Athens and escape execution. There are few if any other accounts of nonresistance which have been so influential throughout the history of the Western world.”

Cropped image from the title page of Uncle Rem...

Wise Uncle Remus (Wikipedia)

Non-resistance or non-engagement with evil is also the moral of “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” from Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings by Joel Chandler Harris.  “The Tar-Baby is a doll made of tar and turpentine used to entrap Br’er Rabbit in the second of the Uncle Remus stories. The more that Br’er Rabbit fights the Tar-Baby, the more entangled he becomes. In modern usage, “tar baby” refers to any “sticky situation” that is only aggravated by additional contact. The only way to solve such a situation is by separation .”[1]

Helplessly stuck in the Tar-Baby, Br’er Rabbit barely escapes doom by begging Br’er Wolf NOT to throw him in dat brier-patch…

But if good men do nothing

What about Edmund Burke‘s famous sentiment that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’? [2]

Certainly that sentiment was shared by such giants of social reform as Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Isn’t civil disobedience a form of resistance? How can one fight evil without resisting it?

Resistance is futile…

One theory of power holds that it is a kind of shared illusion, that power only exists by virtue of voluntary submission on the part of the many. This is the argument of Étienne de La Boétie in the Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (1552):

“I should like merely to understand how it happens that so many men, so many villages, so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him; who is able to harm them only to the extent to which they have the willingness to bear with him; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him.”

The premise seems reasonable, but the inference that a remedy can be sought in popular dissent fails to recognize that humans are herd animals down to the genetic core. In many species, if the alpha leader is removed, a new alpha will emerge from the herd. This often includes changes in the actual physical and physiological characteristics of the new leader.

Not all humans seem to express the herd genes, but there may be little hope of changing the many who do, or enlisting them in popular revolts against authority.

Turning the other cheek

Disobedience isn’t necessarily resistance; and non-resistance (turning the other cheek) isn’t necessarily submission.

Instead of being combative, disobedience can be constructive in a new direction. Instead of being engaging, it can be disengaging.  Disengagement from evil can liberate resources for positive alternatives.

This is the strategy of constructive disengagement or proactive separation which the Tar-Baby story teaches.

Instead of trying to coerce or cajole the Tar-Baby, the Wolf, the King, or any evil jerk to have better manners, we can practice any kind of manners we please down in the Brier-Patch, which ill-mannered predators avoid of their own volition.

That is why I place most of my hopes for peace, justice, and all our other highest ideals in the constructive, proactive creation of Intentional Communities and our own self-reliant economic activity.

To that end I support a general strike and general boycott of the mainstream economy so that the bulk of our labor and our treasure can be concentrated in our own local Brier-Patch communities.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

Objections to “isolationism

One can neither ignore the evils of the world in good conscience nor shut out the effects of climate change, even way down in the Brier-Patch.

But conflating separation and isolation is a straw man. Separation does not depend on isolation; nor does it necessarily intend on it.

Many people think that the best way to seek change is by working “within the system”. Working within the system is what some people are geared for and I have no problem with it, but it is not the only position of power or even necessarily the best one. Separation enables engagement with global issues from a position of strength (self-reliance) rather than weakness (dependence); and by creating positive examples of alternatives, rather than simply by objection or petition. It can also be difficult to effectively criticize or reform a company or a system on which you abjectly depend for your own livelihood, status, security, etc. Often there is both an asymmetry of power and a conflict of self-interest to overcome.

Fringe benefits of self-reliance

Finally, if all else fails, the meek may inherit the earth simply by surviving to emerge from their Brier-Patches to find that the wolves, lions, tigers, and bears have all consumed each other. If anybody is going to survive a collapse of modern civilization it will be sustainable, self-sufficient, intentional communities, eco-villages, cooperative farms, etc. and green collar, worker-owned and consumer-owned economies.

Poor Richard

________________________

Notes:

Br’er Rabbit and the Tar-Baby: “‘Mawnin’!’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee—‘nice wedder dis mawnin’,’ sezee. “Tar-Baby ain’t sayin’ nuthin’, en Brer Fox he lay low.

1. From Wikipedia/Tar Baby: “Br’er Fox constructs a doll out of a lump of tar and dresses it with some clothes. When Br’er Rabbit comes along he addresses the tar “baby” amiably, but receives no response. Br’er Rabbit becomes offended by what he perceives as the Tar Baby’s lack of manners, punches it, and in doing so becomes stuck. The more Br’er Rabbit punches and kicks the tar “baby” out of rage, the worse he gets stuck. Now that Br’er Rabbit is stuck, Br’er Fox ponders how to dispose of him. The helpless, but cunning, Br’er Rabbit pleads, “but do please, Brer Fox, don’t fling me in dat brier-patch,” prompting Fox to do exactly that. As rabbits are at home in thickets, the resourceful Br’er Rabbit escapes.” [The full tale is here.]

2. According to Wikipedia/Edmund Burke,  Burke never made that famous statement. It is a popular aphorism nonetheless, representing the view of many social reformers and activists.

Nonresistance (or non-resistance) is a philosophy and strategy for social change that discourages physical resistance to an enemy. It is considered as a subdivision of nonviolence. Practitioners of nonresistance may refuse to retaliate against an opponent or offer any form of self-defense. In the modern times, this has been used as a tool for social protest. A well known example is the nonviolent resistance movement led by Mohandas Gandhi in the struggle for Indian Independence.Nonresistance (or non-resistance) is a philosophy and strategy for social change that discourages physical resistance to an enemy. It is considered as a subdivision of nonviolence. Practitioners of nonresistance may refuse to retaliate against an opponent or offer any form of self-defense. In the modern times, this has been used as a tool for social protest. A well known example is the nonviolent resistance movement led by Mohandas Gandhi in the struggle for Indian Independence.
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