Sojourner's Blog

February 18, 2010

Break Up With Your Big Bank

Filed under: Political Economy — brucehartford @ 1:19 am
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Move Your Money [PDF]

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February 12, 2010

The Rubber Band Theory of History, and The Water Strategy of Social Change

Filed under: Mass Movements — brucehartford @ 8:48 pm
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The way that political change and social advancement is taught in school it often gives the impression that progress is achieved steadily — like going up a ramp — each year society improves, each year is better than the last. And those dead heroes of the distant past who worked and struggled for greater justice and democracy marched bravely forward to inevitable victory. It’s a warm and comforting illusion, but in the real world it’s rarely the case.

American abolitionists fought against slavery for decades, but slavery did not gradually decline year after year until it faded away — rather it was destroyed in the cataclysm of the Civil War. From its inception in 1909, The NAACP struggled decade after decade to win voting rights for Blacks, with little progress to show in the Deep South. SNCC and CORE began combining voter-registration and direct-action in 1961, and year after year — a time that to us “twenty-somethings” seemed interminable — nothing was gained, the number of Blacks registered in the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana barely changed. Then like a sudden bolt of lightening came Freedom Summer in 1964 and a few months later the Selma Voting Rights Campaign, the March to Montgomery, and passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But those flashes of sudden lightening did not occur in a vacuum, they were based on, and grew out of, the years and decades of struggle that preceded them.

The struggles to abolish slavery and win voting rights both illustrate the “Rubber Band Theory of History.” Imagine a block of wood sitting on a table. Attached to it is a long chain of rubber bands. You pull on the rubber bands hoping to move the block, but they just stretch and stretch and the block doesn’t move at all. You pull some more, and stretch the bands tighter, and nothing happens. You pull some more, and then suddenly the block moves so fast that it bangs you in the fingers. Sometimes.

Sometimes it works that way — but sometimes you pour your heart & soul into moving the block, you stretch and stretch the rubber bands, you march, you picket, you go to jail, but the block never moves. You achieve nothing. Which is why activists need to keep in mind Rabbi Tarfon, and the Tao of Social Struggle.

Which brings us to the “Water Strategy of Social Change.” Contrary to the deeply held beliefs of some, there is no instruction manual for achieving political reform (let alone, revolution). There is no easy how-to pamphlet, no simple 12-step program. Social struggle is like water flowing to the sea. If something dams the water, it goes around. If it can’t go around, it goes over, if it can’t go over, it goes under, if it can’t go around or over or under, it eats away at the blockage until it dissolves.

The Water Strategy recognizes that social change is an art, not a science. It’s a Darwinian process — you try something, if it works you reinforce it, if it fails, you try something else. That which succeeds survives and thrives, that which fails become stagnant political backwaters thinly inhabited by sterile dogmatists and irrelevant ideologues.

February 11, 2010

That Darned “Why did you…” Question

Why did you become involved in the Civil Rights Movement?

When I and other Freedom Movement veterans speak to schools, churches, and other groups, we are often asked the “Why did you…” question. It’s a fair and reasonable question, but it always makes me a bit uncomfortable. For one thing, it’s impossible to provide a clear, simple, 60-second answer to a very complex set of motivations. But beyond that, there are deeper problems.

To begin with, as a white activist, what I’m often being asked — either explicitly or implicitly — is why am I as a white person involved in fighting for racial justice? And I suspect that lurking behind that question are two equally invalid assumptions:

  • First, there is the assumption that racism and discrimination was (is) a Black problem that Blacks have to solve. It wasn’t and isn’t — it’s a white problem. Blacks did not deny themselves the right to vote or have a cup of coffee at a lunch counter, nor did they create separate and unequal school systems, or “white-only” jobs, or segregated housing. And they didn’t lynch themselves. Since whites were (are) the source of the problem, whites therefore have to be part of the solution.
  • The second incorrect assumption is that it’s self-evident why Blacks were involved in the Movement, and therefore only whites need to be asked, “Why did you…?” But the truth is that while most Blacks approved of and voiced support for the Movement (unlike most whites), only a small fraction attended a mass meeting, took active part in protests, attempted to register to vote when it was a dangerous act of courage, or even just signed a petition or contributed money to a civil rights organization. And this is not surprising, social scientists tell us that few reform movements ever involve more than 5% of the population in active participation. Yet if only a small portion of Blacks were personally involved, then it is not obvious why those who put their lives and livelihoods on the line did so — and we’re back to the “Why did you?” question.

So, okay, it’s fair and reasonable to ask both Black and white activists the “Why did you?” question, but for me it’s still the wrong question. For me, the more important, and certainly more interesting, question is to ask all those who were adults in the 1960s why they were NOT involved in the Freedom Movement. Some day, I’d like to be in the audience and ask a panel of the “silent majority” who did nothing: “What part of “With liberty and justice for all” did you not understand? Was there something in “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” that you disagreed with?

Overt racists will, of course, loudly defend their belief in white-supremacy — that’s old news.

But what about the millions of living-room liberals, some of whom wrote an occasional check in the privacy of their den, but few of whom spoke up publicly, and fewer still ever raised a picket sign — why didn’t they?

The great “moderate majority” avow their love of American freedoms, how then do they explain their silence of generations as those freedoms were denied to citizens of color? They were certainly not shy about voicing their disapproval of nonviolent protesters asking for those same freedoms — that was a big part of the famous “white backlash” — so how do they square their actions and inactions with their oft-stated principles?

And what about the flag-waving patriots who throw an hysterical fit if someone burns a flag, or dares criticize any action of the American government (the self-appointed leader of the “free world”). How do they justify their utter failure to defend the freedoms they proclaim so fervently (to say nothing of their vigorous hostility to those of us who were demanding justice and equality)?

When are those questions going to be asked?

And while we’re on the subject, the media closely questions political candidates of a certain age about their military service (or lack thereof) during the Vietnam era, but how come they’re never asked what they did to defend freedom during the Civil Rights era?

Copyright © 2008, Bruce Hartford

February 10, 2010

Nonviolence and the Tao of Social Struggle

Holding to nonviolence in the face of violent opposition is not the hardest part of engaging in Nonviolent Resistance. Once there is a will to take up nonviolent direct-action, training and group solidarity can solve the problem of remaining nonviolent when provoked or attacked. The hardest part of Nonviolent Resistance is overcoming apathy, discouragement, and despair. The hardest part of Nonviolent Resistance is committing yourself to take action and resist.

There’s nothing I can do.
I have no power or influence.
You can’t fight City Hall.
One person can’t do anything.
Nothing ever changes, the rich get richer and the poor get children.”

This isn’t a new problem. As recorded in the Talmud, a couple of thousand years ago Rabbi Tarfon (circa 70-135ce) taught:

You are not required to complete the task [of healing the world’s ills], but neither are you free to avoid it.

At that time, their world was in a world of hurt:

The Jewish revolt against Rome had failed.
Jerusalem had fallen, and the city put to the torch.
The Temple of Solomon was destroyed.
Thousands were slaughtered, the gutters ran red with blood.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews & Christians were enslaved.
Tens of thousands were tortured to death in Rome’s coliseum for the  amusement of the mob.

There was enormous despair. Tarfon’s response was:

You are not required to complete the task [of healing the world’s ills], but neither are you free to avoid it.”

Later Talmud commentaries expanded Tarfon’s dictum:

You don’t measure your individual contribution against the totality of the task. You measure your contribution against the totality of your life.

Measured against the pain and injustice that exist in the world, the contribution of any individual — even the greatest individual — is infinitesimally small. You don’t have control over the world, but you do have control over how you lead your life. Healing the world [in Hebrew “Tikkun Olam“] can form:

No part of your life,
or a small part,
or a great part,
or you can dedicate your life to fighting for justice and making the world a better place

That is the choice a Nonviolent Resister has to make.

February 9, 2010

100 Years of Nonviolent Struggle

Those who dispute the effectiveness of Nonviolent Resistance claim that “Nonviolence cannot work in America.” Nonsense. Nonviolent political struggle has been the fundamental engine of social reform throughout our history. Let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane —

Shazam! Through the magic power of imagination (and the historical record) we’ve travelled a century back in time to the year 1910. Let’s look around, what do we see?

Voting Rights:

  • Women are not allow to vote. Women who try to vote are sent to jail.
  • Blacks are denied the right to vote in the South, and face violence and economic retaliation if they try to vote in many areas outside the South.
  • In some states Mexican-Americans are legally prohibited from voting, and where they are (in theory) permitted to vote, they often face violence and economic retaliation.
  • The “Chinese Exclusion” acts prevent Asians of all nationalities from becoming citizens, so they can’t vote either.
  • Native Americans are legally considered to be citizens of “sovereign Indian nations” (meaning the reservations) so they too cannot vote.
  • Many states have poll taxes that limit voting only to the affluent.
  • In the Presidential election of 1910, the majority of American adults (perhaps two-thirds) are denied the right to vote in one way or another.
  • U.S. Senators are not elected by the people, but rather appointed by state legislators and governors. The selling of such offices to the highest bidder is commonplace.

The decades-long Womans Suffrage Movement, the campaign to end the poll tax, electoral reform efforts, and the voting rights campaigns of the 1960s, eventually ended these abuses. All of those successful campaigns were nonviolent.

Lynchings:

  • According to official reports, at least 76 people — most of them Black — are lynched in 1910 (that’s more than six a month). But many lynchings are never reported, so the actual number is unknown.
  • The number of Latinos, Asians, and Indians lynched in California average more than 4 per year between 1850 and 1935. No figures are available for the other Western states, but many lynchings are known to have occurred.
  • Labor leaders and organizers of all races risk being beaten, bushwacked or lynched by those determined to prevent workers from organizing or striking for higher pay.
  • In 1910, Congress again refuses to pass any legislation to limit or outlaw lynchings. Between 1900 and 1950 more than 200 anti-lynching bills are introduced in Congress (an average of 4 per year). All are blocked by racist Southern Democrats and conservative pro-business Republicans. Only rarely are those who foment or participate in a lynching charged with murder or any other crime.
  • The national press pays little attention to lynchings because they’re such a common event in American society. A significant segment of public opinion supports lynching as an effective and necessary means of keeping racial minorities, immigrants, and dangerous radicals in their place.

Today, while Congress has still not passed any anti-lynching legislation, lynchings are rare events widely covered by the mass media, overwhelmingly condemned by the public, and usually prosecuted. These changes in both public attitude and government response are the result of nonviolent political action.

Government in the Bedroom:

  • Under the “Comstock Laws,” the selling or distributing contraceptives in 1910 is a jailable offense in 30 states. It is a Federal crime to provide women with information about contraception through the mail, or to ship contraceptives across state lines. In Connecticut, it is a crime to practice any form of birth-control in the privacy of your own home.
  • Abortion is a felony everywhere, even in cases of rape, incest, or when necessary to save the life of the mother.
  • In 30 of the 48 states, the felony crime of “miscegenation” makes it illegal to marry a person of a different race. (But white men forcing sex on women of color is an accepted custom quaintly referred to in polite society as “paramour rights.”)
  • It is a felony for two men, or two women, to have consensual sexual relations with each other. Urban police departments are active in apprehending and incarcerating such outlaws.

From Margaret Sanger’s nonviolent civil disobediance in defense of a woman’s right to practice birth-control, to the efforts to legalize abortions which led to Roe v Wade, to the anti-racism struggles of the 1960s, to today’s fight against homophobia, inch by inch the government has been forced out of our bedrooms by the strategies and tactics of Nonviolent Resistance (though this struggle continues).

Race and Gender Discrimination:

  • In 1910, most parts of the South require segregation by law and it is common practice in many other regions of the country. Blacks, Latinos, Indians, and Asians, are refused service in restaurants, hotels, public swimming pools, and places of entertainment. Public rest rooms are marked “White Only” even in government buildings. Government services freely available to whites are often denied to people of color. In some areas, hospitals refuse to admit or treat non-whites. Public transportation is “back of the bus” and the “Jim Crow car” at the end of the train.
  • Job discrimination on the bases of race, gender, and in some cases nationality is the norm. For the most part, people of color are restricted to menial, hard-labor, low-paid jobs. The better occupations are explicitly “white.” At various times and places, immigrants of different nationalities also face forms of employment discrimination. Most jobs are culturally-stereotyped as “men’s work” or “women’s work.” “Women’s work” is paid less than “men’s work” — or paid not at all. With rare exceptions, the blue-collar skilled trades and white-collar professions are male-only and white-only. Where both whites and non-whites, or men and women, do perform the same job, whites and males are commonly paid significantly more than women or non-whites. In newspapers across the country job announcements often specify “White Only” and want ads in the Classified sections are frequently divided into four groups — White Male, White Female, Colored Male, and Colored Female.
  • The military is thoroughly segregated. Most police departments are all white, and it is unusual indeed to find a Black or Latino judge (since Indians and Asians can’t be citizens, they can’t be judges either).
  • In the South and some other regions, there are separate and cruelly-unequal school systems for whites and Blacks. Elsewhere, “defacto” school segregation is the norm, with district and assignment boundaries carefully drawn to create all (or overwhelmingly) white and non-white schools. Both north and south, white schools have significantly higher funding, better facilities, and newer textbooks than non-white schools. Except for the historically Black colleges, most institutions of higher learning simply do not admit non-whites, and many don’t admit (or strictly limit) Jews and other “undesirable” whites.
  • In cities across the country, housing segregation is the norm. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and in some areas Jews, are restricted to ethnic ghettos with over-priced, sub-standard tenement housing. In liberal San Francisco, for example, no Latinos are allowed “north of the slot” (Market St), Chinese are limited to Chinatown, Filipinos to Manila Town, Japanese to Japan Town, and the few Blacks can only live in Hunters Point. In middle-class residential neighborhoods across the country, home deeds and rental contracts often contain “restrictive covenants” that make it illegal to sell or rent to anyone of an undesirable race or religion.

Today, racial segregation in public accomodations is a crime punishable by law, as is explicit, overt race and gender-based job discrimination. Even though urban police departments and judicial systems still exhibit obvious race-bias, they are at least integrated. And “open-housing” laws have driven overt, explicit, race-based housing discrimination underground in most areas. Obviously, struggles against these and other kinds of discrimination continue, but what progress has been achieved over the past 100 years has been won through nonviolent action.

Labor:

  • In 1910, the typical blue-collar workday is 10-12 hours with no overtime pay if you have to work longer. For rural labor, the workday is “can-see to can’t see” (up to 16 hours in the heat of summer).
  • Wages for most urban and rural blue-collar and domestic workers are just barely above the starvation level. Your children are likely to suffer from (and in many cases die of) nutrition-deficiency diseases. Workers are housed in rat and roach-infested tenements and shanties.
  • There are no paid vacations or holidays.
  • There is no unemployment insurance, so when Wall Street speculators create a depression or recession, the unemployed go hungry.
  • There are no workplace safety regulations and thousands are maimed and killed on the job every year. There is no Workers Compensation or Disability Insurance, so when you’re maimed on the job you get to beg on the streets for the rest of your life.
  • There is no Social Security, so when you’re too old to work, you have to be supported by your children, and if that option isn’t available, you don’t live long.
  • In 1910, the Supreme Court issues a ruling in the “Danbury Hatters” case that effectively makes it a Federal Anti-Trust crime for a trade union to negotiate or strike for higher pay. This ruling is then used for decades as the legal justification for police (and in some cases military) suppression of unions and strikes.

Today, despite the best efforts of “free market” politicians, there still remains a partial social safety net that was hard won over the past 100 years through the blood, sweat, and tears of struggle. Workers with union jobs can buy homes, own cars, and afford vacation travel. And even non-union wages are far above starvation level. The efforts that won these gains were predominantly nonviolent. Yes, from time to time workers on picket lines did defend themselves against attack by cops, goons, and scabs, but those incidents were the exception not the rule. Despite the fame bestowed on the violent exceptions, 99% of all successful strikes over the past century were nonviolent. And the rare cases where labor attempted offensive violence against people or property that usually led to a decisive defeat. Which is why the militant IWW (the “Wobblies”) issued the following warning to all their members: “Beware the man who advocates violence for he is either mad or a police provocateur.”

Public Health & Safety:

  • The average life expectancy of Americans in 1910 is 50 years (compared with almost 78 years today).
  • In 1910, enforcement the recently passed Food and Drug Act and meat inspection regulations are still being blocked by business lobbies, politicians, and a pro-business Supreme Court. These weak acts attempt to limit the “interstate transport of food which has been 'adulterated,' with ... the addition of fillers of reduced 'quality or strength,' coloring to conceal 'damage or inferiority,' formulation with additives 'injurious to health,' or the use of 'filthy, decomposed, or putrid' substances.
  • Nor is there any effective regulation of drugs and “tonics” that often contain dangerous additives, addictive narcotics, and slow-acting poisons. Efforts to limit the worst abuses are fiercely resisted by whiskey distillers and the patent medicine firms who are the largest newspaper advertisers in the country.
  • Health inspection of restaurants, saloons, boarding-house kitchens, and labor-camp mess halls is non-existent. Efforts at public sanitation are limited. Sewage systems and water treatment facilities are primative.
  • Deficiency diseases such as rickets, scurvy, beri-beri, pellagra, and goiter are wide-spread among both urban and rural poor with hundreds of thousands of children suffering — and often dying — from malnutrition. Public health officials such as Dr. Joseph Goldberger are excoriated by business and political leaders as “dangerous radicals” for claiming that deficiency diseases such as pellagra are caused by poverty and poor diet.
  • There are few public hospitals. If you’re poor and sick or injured your best hope is a pathetically under-funded “charity” hospital where your chances of contracting some infectious disease from other desperately ill patients are about equal to your chances of getting out alive.

As with other social ills addressed over the past 100 years, advances in public health have been made as the result of nonviolent political action — largely by “women’s groups” — who force politicians and courts to protect the many from the ruthless greed of the few.

Enviroment, Public Education, Judicial Reform, Immigrant Rights, and so many other issues, all addressed and affected by nonviolent protest and nonviolent political action. Nonviolent strategies and tactics have been central to every successful social and political movement of the past 100 years. And violent strategies and tactics have not only failed in every instance, they’ve alienated the masses of people who have to be mobilized to effect change. Not only does nonviolence work in America, it’s the only thing that does.

Copyright © Bruce Hartford, 2010. Noncommercial use with attribution is permitted.

February 7, 2010

California Education Issues & Information Resources

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 11:11 pm
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Matrix_of_education_issues

Conf Reg Test

February 4, 2010

Writers on the Information Plantation

Filed under: Political Economy — brucehartford @ 11:18 pm
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[Address by National Writers Union (NWU) Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Hartford to Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) convention, 1997.]

Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations” — Toni Morrison, 1986

In recent years debate has exploded over the role of copyright and intellectual property in cyberspace. Unfortunately, this discussion has been almost exclusively posed as a conflict between publishers/distributors and information consumers. The voice of those who actually create intellectual property has had to struggle to be heard.

The National Writers Union addresses these questions from the following premises:

  1. We do not believe that reading is a crime.
  2. We do believe that writers/creators have a right to earn a living from the fruits of their labor.
  3. We think that society needs independent voices.

When we look at these new information technologies, we see an information revolution as profound and far-reaching as the one triggered by Gutenberg’s printing press. The printing press was not merely a more efficient hand-scribe — it totally transformed the way in which information was created, reproduced, sold, and consumed. It created information markets and formats undreamed of in the medieval quill-pen universe. The printing press brought into being new economic institutions and relationships and altered old ones beyond recognition. We’re now experiencing a similar revolution, but instead of time measured in centuries, it is happening in a decade or less.

Revolution By and For the Rich and Powerful

Normally, we tend to associate the word “revolution” with the have-nots rising up against their oppressors to demand greater freedom and a more equitable sharing wealth and resources. But what we are seeing in today’s information revolution is an economic coup d’etat in which the media and information cartels are ruthlessly moving to corner and control an essential element of world economic and intellectual life.

In a report to their stock-holders a few years ago, Time-Warner predicted that by the year 2000, the vast majority of all information would be disseminated by seven international media conglomerates and that they intended to be one of those seven. Today they are well on their way to achieving that goal.

But this is nothing new. The robber barons of the railroad age tried to do the same thing with transportation, and for a time they succeeded. They used their power to ruthlessly destroy farmers and workers and small businesses until in self defense the people formed granges and unions and business associations to curb that monopoly power. In the immortal words of the great philospoher Yogi Berra, “Dis is deja vu all over again.”

And just as government around the turn of the century aided and abetted the railroad barons, today they play the same role for the information barons. The Clinton administration’s “White Paper on Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure,” for example, ranks right up there with the unilateral transfer of indian lands to the Union Pacific railroad as an example of Washington’s rush to serve the needs of the least needy. Or, as they say inside the beltway: “Might makes right, and campaign contributions win elections.”

A burglar sneaks into your home and a pickpocket robs you by stealth. The media barons and their government assistants work the same way. If they can pass the legislation they want they do so. But if they can’t, they accomplish the same ends through international treaties like WIPO and GATT. Or through bureaucratic revisions of the Uniform Commercial Code.

Information Should be Free

On the other side of the debate, are those who reject the entire concept of intellectual property and advocate that “information should be free,” meaning that there should be no commerce in information and that all forms of knowledge should be distributed and shared without cost or payment.

The problem with that ideal is that information does not spontaneously come into existence. Information — intellectual property — is the product of human labor and the people who create it: writers, artists, photographers, musicians, etc, have a moral and economic right to be fairly paid for their labor.

The fact is that intellectual property is, in a sense, a commodity. And like the farmer who produces food, those of us who labor to produce information and knowledge have a right to make a decent living from our craft. And if we can’t make a living, we can’t continue to do the work.

Information is the Staff of Life

Information is as much a necessity of intellectual and economic life as food is of biologic life. Not only is it morally wrong to deny people the necessities of life, it’s impractical. When people can’t afford to buy food they steal it. And if they have to cut off Marie Antoinette’s head to put bread on the table for their kids they will do it.

Furthermore, despite our culture’s deification of the individual

entrepreneur, the truth is that human advancement is a collective process. It is in the long-term interest of society as a whole to provide educational opportunities to all, rich and poor. Today we benefit from the investments our ancestors made in the education of our parents and grandparents. Today, and even more certainly tomorrow, access to the world’s electronic infosphere will be as essential to education as are schools and libraries.

And as citizens we know that without full access by all to multiple sources of news and information, democracy itself is a myth.

Thus, the National Writers Union is committed to the fight for full access to the new information universe for everyone, regardless of income. As writers we do not support the position of the Microsofts and the Time-Warners who view all forms of copying for any purpose as criminal violations of copyright.

Reading is not a crime

As writers, we do not oppose individuals sharing the information that we created for their personal, private use. End users have long been able to lend books to friends, photocopy cartoons and articles to pass around the water cooler, and quote (and misquote) things we have written and they have read. The fact that the new technologies make it easier to share information does not make such sharing wrong.

What we do oppose is anyone making money from our work without obtaining our permission and without passing along to us a share of the income. Thus, for creators, the crucial dividing line between permissible private use and copyright violation is the division between commerce and personal use.

For example, I do not care if you like my poem and post it on your web site. But if you start selling my work, or selling advertising on a site where my work is displayed, or using my work to promote your income-generating site, then you are engaged in a commercial use of my work and you must obtain my consent and grant me some share of the income.

Much of the current debate has been focused on the technical details of digital copying. There have been fierce arguments, for example, over the copyright implications of the temporary copies stored in computer memory when users view web pages. In our view, this is the wrong approach. With technology changing so fast it is futile to base copyright principles on specific technologies or media. The issue is not whether or not a copy is, or was, created or for how long it exists. The real issue is for what purpose the copy came into existence. If a copy is made for the purpose of private use, it should not be considered a copyright violation. If a copy is made for commercial purposes, then copyright law should apply.

Which brings us to the issue of “fair use.” In the broadest sense, the infosphere — the total sum of humankind’s knowledge and wisdom — is the collective product of all and the birthright of every individual.

All new knowledge, every single piece of new intellectual property, is built on the intellectual foundation of what has gone before. You cannot be a writer, or any other kind of creator, without also being a reader and a researcher.

Copyright has traditionally recognized the concept of “fair use,” allowing authors to legitimately use and quote portions of someone else’s copyrighted work as part of their own creation. The definitions of what is, and is not, permissible fair use are widely known and accepted. The traditional interpretations of the fair use provision of the Copyright Act takes into account the need for an unimpeded flow of information, and at the same time acknowledges the legitimate interests of those who own copyrights. There is no reason or need to change that in the digital age.

Information Super-Highway or Information Plantation?

It’s time to stop touting the mythic “information super-highway” and start examining the “information plantation.”

One of the worst abuses in American economic history was the sharecrop system. To briefly recap, the cropper worked the land all season for no pay. The cropper bore all risk from flood, drought, boll weevils, locusts, and God’s other dangers. At harvest time the cropper had to sell the crop (if there was a crop) to the landowner at whatever price he chose to grant. All downstream benefit and value of that crop than went entirely and exclusively to the master.

Let us look now at the lot of freelance writers. The number of publishers is steadily declining through mergers and monopolization while prices and terms are increasingly being set on an across-the-board basis. An editor assigns a story, this many words on that subject for a minuscule fee, take it or leave it. We do the work, we turn in the manuscript. Maybe the editor accepts it, maybe not. Maybe it’s rejected because a rival publication just ran a similar story, or the editor’s boss had a change of interest, but whatever the reason, we did the work but we don’t get our pittance.

If they do buy the story, they now insist we sell them “all-rights” for the same small fee that they used to pay for First North American Serial Rights (1NASR). In other words, we used to sell them the right to be the first publication in North America to print our story, and we were free to make a little something extra by selling our foreign, anthology, reprint, and electronic rights. Now they not only insist on taking everything and denying us all downstream income, but they word the contracts to grant them all rights to any media or technology that might someday be invented in the future.

Not only are the media cartels coercing us to sell all future rights to our work for no increase in pay, but they are unilaterally seizing and abrogating to themselves electronic and database rights to works we sold them before these new technologies even existed. And that issue is the heart of the Tasini v New York Times lawsuit being supported by the National Writers Union. They claim that they can resell to

electronic databases like Nexis work that we originally sold to them on a 1NASR basis. We say that is a gross and outrageous violation of our copyrights.

What really threatens creators is not personal copying by readers, but the concerted effort on the part of publishers and media conglomerates to force us into this modern form of economic peonage.

To carry the plantation analogy further, one of the darker corners of our economic landscape is the treatment and situation of migrant farm workers. Temporary work, low pay, no rights, no benefits. Now we see that high-tech creators are being forcibly converted from permanent to temporary employees. Not just writers, but engineers, programmers, artists, etc. Sun Microsystems used to hire direct contractors, now they force freelancers to be W2 temps of “payroll agencies.” Microsoft lays off its “content provider” employees and rehires them back as temps. No job security, no rights, no benefits, and of course no union.

As high-tech temps, we face the worst of both worlds. We are treated as employees in terms of restrictions, supervision, and payroll deductions, but we receive no health or vacation benefits, no pension, no paid vacation. Yet we’re treated as contractors in that we are often required to supply own equipment and off-site office, but we are prohibited from writing off our business expenses as tax deductions because we are “employees.”

Now obviously, to literally compare writers and programmers to sharecroppers and migrant farm workers is a gross exaggeration. Hyperbole in its rawest form for the purpose of making a point. Things are nowhere near that bad for us. Yet. But the point is that the time to stand up for economic justice is before the conglomerates drive us into penury and serfdom.

You may think that this is our problem and you have no stake in it, but if professional, self-directed authors, freelance investigative reporters, and independent artists are denied the ability to make a decent living, then the only information and entertainment that will be available to you will be that which is produced by employees working as directed by media conglomerates, corporate PR departments, government agencies, and other institutions that hire talent to speak for them.

A Thousand Flowers or the Voice of Big Brother?

The First Amendment was written to politically guarantee the free flow of ideas and information. There once was a time not so long ago that even small towns had multiple newspapers. Anyone could set up a printing press and if people were interested in reading what you produced you could make a living. Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine were examples of the thinker-writer-publisher-printers that the First Amendment was written to protect.

But the First Amendment says nothing about economics. As the costs of printing and distributing to national markets increased,

the independent voices were increasingly squeezed out. We all now understand that “Freedom of the press only applies to those who own presses.”

These new media technologies now offer us both a threat and a promise. The promise is that they can bring down the cost of information distribution so low as to make it economically feasible for individuals and small, independent presses to reach audiences large enough to be economically viable. These technologies could restore the original intent of a free press, and nurture a new flowering of intellectual freedom. They can lead to a great flowering of democracy as information flows into the hands of individuals who then participate in the world of ideas and politics.

One of the worst effects of both the rising cost of ink on dead trees and the monopolization of information distribution has been the increasing difficulties faced by those who wish to address some audience more sharply defined than the lowest-common-denominator-mass-market so beloved by corporate marketeers. It is proving almost impossible now to make a living addressing niche audiences such as the African-American community, gay and lesbian audiences, those with ideas at variance from the mass media defined “mainstream,” and other communities defined by culture, interest, occupation, etc. But with its potentially lower costs of distribution, free and open electronic publishing holds out the hope that writers and independent publishers can economically survive outside the Borders-Disney-CBS-TimesWarner cartels.

But if the media monopolists succeed in cornering the information market and making it impossible for independent voices to economically survive, then all these wonderful new technologies will result in nothing more than additional channels for Madison Avenue hucksterism. Cybespace, like mass-market television, will be turned into a vast wasteland of dumbed-down consumerism, homogenized political indoctrination, and “never-offend-anyone-in-Tulsa” mediocrity. And the internet will become nothing more than the digital equivalent of TV shopping channels.

And that, of course, is where organizations like CPSR and the NWU come in. PBS recently ran biographies of “trust buster” Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt the “father of the New Deal.” But there was no mention of the agrarian granges, the Wobblies, the small business associations, and the consumer groups that banded together to fight the monopolists. Teddy did not break the trusts as an act if individual beneficence, he did it because he was forced to by popular pressure. Similarly, the show left the impression that FDR bestowed upon grateful workers the right to form unions as a personal act of magnanimous generosity. But that ain’t the way it happened.

Both Roosevelts supported reforms because people came together and raised hell until the government was forced to take action. And our great-grandparents did eventually curb the power of the railroad and oil barons, and our grandparents did eventually force living wages from big auto and big steel, and our mothers and fathers did break the back of southern segregation. And we can resist the media cartels, and we can open up the information plantation if we come together to organize and fight. But as the old saying goes: “Where the broom doesn’t sweep, the dirt doesn’t move.” We are that broom, and it’s high time we started taking care of the housework.

February 2, 2010

Audacity & Humor — Tactics of Nonviolence

Audacity and humor are more effective tactics for achieving social change than are rage and fury.

According to Gandhi: “The role of a civil protester is to provoke a response, and to keep protesting until there is a response.” In the context of tactical nonviolence, neither the protester’s actions, nor the responses they provoke, are ends in and of themselves. Rather they are a means of building a popular political movement capable of forcing (or resisting) some change.

In the winter of 1963-64, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapters in the SF Bay Area campaigned against racist hiring practices by the Lucky Market chain (now Albertsons). When negotiations with Lucky failed to produce an agreement, CORE began leafletting and then picketing some of the stores to educate customers about job discrimination in general, and Lucky’s policy of hiring only whites for all positions above janitor. Shoppers confronted with a picket line came face-to-face with the issue as activists urged them to boycott Lucky and buy their groceries elsewhere.

CORE Shop-In. Copyright © Howard Harawitz

CORE Shop-In at Lucky Markets, 1963

When there was no response from the Lucky management, CORE mounted “shop-ins” at a few of the stores — a tactic that broke the sacred taboos of private property, but without violence against people. After picketing and leafleting the store for long enough to ensure that everyone inside knew and understood the issue, CORE members entered the market, filled shopping carts with groceries of all kinds, and proceeded to the check-out counter where the merchandise was rung up and bagged by the (all white) clerks and bag boys. When presented with the bill, the CORE activists replied, “We won’t spend our money with a company that practices racism.” Then they walked out leaving the bagged goods behind. Soon the shelves were practically empty and everything was piled up around the check-out stands. Business was halted for hours while the groceries were laboriously unsorted and the shelves restocked.

Consternation ensued. Business had been disrupted, property had been mishandled, ice cream had melted, some cakes had been crushed. The social order of custom and courtesy had been violated. “Innocent shoppers” had been inconvenienced. Pundits and editorials denounced CORE’s “coercive” tactics. But supporters of racial justice countered by raising the long-term economic and social devastation of systemic discrimination, and Lucky’s role in perpetuating a system that was inherently unjust and socially destructive. Lucky had many stores across the Bay Area, only a few were picketed and fewer still had shop-ins, but word-of-mouth and media coverage spread the issue far and wide. And it was impossible to talk about the shop-in without also talking about Lucky’s racist hiring practices. All of which built mass support for the boycott.

CORE had a few hundred activists, and only a portion of them participated in the shop-ins, but those actions caused tens of thousands to view Lucky as a racist company they did not want to do business with. Shortly after the shop-ins, Lucky signed an agreement with CORE to integrate its work force. Other grocery chains followed without requiring direct-action.

In the American South of the 1960s, simply asking for a cup of coffee, carrying a freedom sign, or attempting to register to vote, was enough to provoke a response — in many cases a violent response — from those determined to maintain the Jim Crow system of racial apartheid. But in the North, and in later decades and other struggles, more sophisticated and powerful adversaries learned to ignore small protests. When actions produce no response they appear futile (though, in fact, they may not be). Protesters feel impotent and become discouraged. It becomes harder to build a movement that can affect social change.

When protesters are ignored, they often react with rage. That might be an effective tactic in a family or social situation where expressed anger commands attention and disrupts a valued harmony. But against entrenched power defending its privileged interests, shouting fury is simply a louder form of futility. It may feel good for a moment, and it may energize that fraction of the population who are thrilled by acting out anger in public. But power-elites are impervious to militant slogans, and if rage erupts into violence, the police are ready, willing, able, and eager to quickly suppress it long before it poses any inconvenince to distant rulers safe and secure in their bastions of wealth and privilege.

An unprovoked, aggressive police attack on nonviolent demonstrators builds public sympathy for both the activists and their cause; but when protestors initiate or commit violence (or it can be made to appear as if they have done so), public reaction is quite different. Those already firmly committed to the cause may cheer and applaud, but few potential adherents are won, and many current supporters are alienated. Even violence by just a small fraction of the participants taints everyone, and the cause itself, in the eyes of the public.

Despite our mass culture’s glorification of violence, the overwhelming majority of people — even young people — are frightened and repelled by actual violence. And that which people fear, they come to hate. And what they hate, they oppose. Over the past decades it’s been proven time and again that ultra-militant sects who deliberately use violence to provoke a police response remain small, isolated, ineffective, and ultimately impotent — filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Instead of using rage and violence to provoke a response from adversaries who ignore traditional protests, creative nonviolent resistors use audacity to generate a, “They did what!?” response. In this context, “audacity” means breaking the paradigm of business-as-usual social behavior. Audacity is doing the unexpected. Audacity is violating cultural taboos in ways calculated to provoke a reaction without alienating potential supporters. The Lucky shop-ins were an example of creative audacity.

Like audacity, satire and humor are also techniques of nonviolent direction action. Laughter and ridicule undermine authority and diminish its ability to compell obedience. You can weaken, unbalance, and ultimately overthrow the king quicker by laughing at him than by futilely screaming fury at him.

And as a matter of practical politics, humor of any kind — not just satire — is far more effective than rage:

  • Humor appeals to observers and potential supporters. Fury frightens and alienates them.
  • Humor disarms and confuses adversaries. Rage triggers engrained patterns of defense and counter-rage, stokes resistance, and mobilizes fiercer opposition.
  • Humor is more sustainable than fury. Anger is exhausting. Most people cannot sustain intense rage over long periods of time. But humor is energizing, both in the short-run of a single protest, and in the long-run of an extended campaign.
  • Humor and audacity work hand-in-hand, reinforcing each other. Humor reduces and difuses hostile reaction to broken taboos, and nothing spreads faster by word-of-mouth (or twitter tweets) than tales of audacious humor.

In 1964, after careful investigation and lengthy negotiations, CORE in California launched a state-wide job discrimination campaign against Bank of America (BofA). Cashier, clerk, teller, and desk jobs were for whites only — Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans need not apply. Bank jobs were desirable back then, they were among the few decently-paid, white-collar jobs a person could get without a college degree.

This was before ATMs, a time when few people had credit cards and there was no “cash back” at stores. Friday afternoons were the busy time because everyone had to stand in line to deposit their pay checks and withdraw spending money for the weekend. So every Friday afternoon, leaflets were distributed and picket lines established at BofA branches in locales where CORE had chapters. BofA customers were asked to shift their accounts to other banks (of which there were many).

After a few weeks, we started doing “coin-ins.” We’d set up a picket line and leafleters at a branch, then we’d send in a team of coiners, one for each teller. When it was our turn at the window, we’d hand in a dollar and ask for change. They’d give it to us. “Oh, sorry, no. We want pennies.” We’d get a couple rolls of pennies which we would unwrap and slowly start to count: One…   Two…   Three… Wait! There’s only 99. Here, you count them. The object was to hold up the line as long as possible. The customers waiting behind us had crossed

through the pickets outside, so we felt they needed additional encouragement to take their business elsewhere. A good coiner could hold up a line for 10, 15, 20 minutes. When the managers opened up new windows, we’d send in more coiners.

Some of the tellers and most of those fuming in line behind us were outraged — we were breaking the taboos of courtesy, the taboos of lines, the taboos of efficient business. We were breaking the sacred taboo of reverent worship in the temple of money. But some of the customers and clerks grasped the inherent comedy in the situation, and others were influenced by our deliberately maintained demeanor of good humor. This helped some of them see beyond the immediacy of the moment and understand that the root cause of their inconvenience was BofA’s racist hiring practices.

Then we learned that as a matter of law it was not necessary to use the pre-printed checks supplied by the bank. So long as all the information was there, we could write a check on anything. So we started “cash-ins.” We opened a small checking account, and used magic marker to write $1.00 checks on the back of our “Bank of America Discriminates” and “Stop Racism” picket signs. When we entered with our signs on their long sticks the managers rushed up, “You can’t picket in here! This is private property!Oh, we’re not picketing,” we responded with good cheer, “we’re here to cash a check. See, it’s written out right there.” Again, many were shocked, but even a few of the managers had to laugh. A week or so later we got a call from one, he told us they couldn’t send our cancelled picket signs (checks) back through the mail, did we want to pick them up at the branch? We did.

Although BofA refused to sign a formal agreement with CORE the way Lucky Markets had, they did end race-based job discrimination. Within a year people of all colors were hired into white-collar positions. Other banks followed suit.

That was long ago, but the passage of time has shown that stories of audacity and humor are told, and retold, and remembered, in ways that more conventional protests are not. In 47 years of political activism I’ve been on marches and picket lines uncounted, almost all of which have blurred and disappeared into the musty attic of what’s left of my memory. But I still recall in detail those coin-ins and cash-ins. And what’s true of my feeble memory is true for history as well. To this day, most every child and adult in America can tell you the basic story of the Boston Tea Party — an audacious nonviolent protest back in 1773. Yet the same grade-school teacher and textbook that taught us the Tea Party also taught us the Battle of Saratoga — a crucial (but conventional) military turning point in the Revolutionary War — yet once the classroom test was over, no one but history buffs and professors recall Saratoga at all.

— Copyright © Bruce Hartford, 2009

February 1, 2010

In Memory of Dr. King — A Winter Soldier

[Address to an event honoring Martin Luther King organized by the Gray Panthers in Berkeley, California. January 15, 2005]

Today we are here to commemorate the birthday of Dr. King who was born on Jan 15, 1929. He would have been 77 today.

We should begin by remembering an earlier January — January of 1777 when an ink-stained wretch named Tom Paine huddled by a little fire amid the blood- stained snows of Valley Forge and wrote:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

We, the men & women here in this room, Black and white, red and brown and yellow — We are the Winter Soldiers of the Unfulfilled American Dream.

Dr. King was a Winter Soldier. He was a Winter Soldier, and he was killed in action on April 4, 1968 while supporting a strike of Memphis garbage workers.

We used to joke that were part of a “Freedom Army.” In that context, Dr. King was the general and I was — at best — just a Sergeant. And as with most armies, generals and Sergeants don’t have much personal contact with each other. I was present at a few meetings he participated in, and I drove him a once or twice when his regular driver was not available.

If Dr. King saw me on the street in Selma, he would recognize that I worked for him and he might ask me to do something, but I doubt he recalled my name. So my view of Dr. King was from the rank and file, not from the inner circle. Yet even from a distance, the striking thing about that view is that Dr. King’s private behavior matched his public persona — though he did have a broad sense of humor that rarely came through in his speeches and sermons.

In both his private and public lives, what struck me most about Dr. King was his profoundly humanist vision that united people of all races and creeds. A vision founded in the unkept promise of America: “That we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

What struck me about Dr. King was the depth of his compassion for the suffering of all people, of all races, of all nations. And what struck me about Dr. King was how much he cared for people, not just people in general as an abstract concept, but people as individuals.

What struck me about Dr. King was his humility. He was profoundly uncomfortable with the adulation that he received, but he he used it to move people into action. And he never made money for himself, even the Nobel prize money was put back into the Movement.

Dr. King was often criticized for not being “militant” enough. But what we often forgot, or failed to understand, was that he agonized: over every jailed demonstrator, over every beaten voter, over every martyr’s death. When we were wounded, he bled. Later in life I experienced leaders who casually sent others to the barricades without qualms or doubts, and I realized how lucky I had been to be a Sergeant in Dr. King’s Freedom Army.

It’s not often mentioned, but like all of us, Dr. King made mistakes and had failures. Yet one of the great things about him is that he learned from his mistakes & failures. From the errors he made during the Albany campaign of 1962, came the Birmingham victories of 1963 which played such a key role in eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Out of the defeat in the Chicago struggle to end slums in 1966 came the brilliant concept of the Poor Peoples Campaign in 1968 — an effort to unite people of all races to fight for economic justice. So often we encounter leaders and theoreticians who are so wedded to the correctness of their opinions that they endlessly repeat their failure rather than learn new ideas, new tactics, new strategies. King was not like that. He learned. He grew.

As veterans of the Freedom Movement, one of the issues we are constantly confronting is how the mass media and education system distorts that Movement. The very term “Civil Rights Movement” is a distortion. Most of us dislike that name, prefering instead to use “Freedom Movement” whenever we can. Successful social movements always focus on specific issues as points of attack for much broader goals. The Southern Freedom Movement focused on segregation and voting, but it was much broader than just the limited notion of achieving those two civil rights. The Southern Freedom Movement was really about the overthrow of an entire system of feudal oppression and exploitation that had replaced slavery after the Civil War. Our song and chant was “Freedom Now!” not “civil rights now!”

By defining the Freedom Movement as a “Civil Rights Movement,” the media limits its scope to that of a modest reform within a benevolent broader system. In reality, it was a fundamental attack on the existing political and economic power structure in the South.

Just as the media distorts the Movement as a whole, it distorts Dr. King by freezing him at the moment in time when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. By freezing him at “Black & white together,” and “Judging people by the content of their character rather than color of skin.” Over this holiday, compare in your minds the number of times you see images of King on TV saying those words versus the number of times you see him:

  • Confronting Mayor Daley about urban poverty and racial discrimination in the north.
  • Telling students at Stanford: “It’s much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee a livable income and a good solid job. It’s much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee the right to live in sanitary, decent housing conditions. It is much easier to integrate a public park than it is to make genuine, quality, integrated education a reality. And so today we are struggling for something which says we demand genuine equality.
  • Speaking out against the War in Vietnam, and telling America: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
  • Supporting workers on strike for economic justice.
  • By freezing Dr. King in time, the media conceals one of the profound truths about him which that is that he evolved — that he rapidly evolved.

    I remember when he spoke from the steps of the Alabama state capitol at the end of the Selma to Montgomery March. He said “Though the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends towards justice.” As I think back on it now, I’m astounded at how far his personal political arc traveled in just 13 years. On the day before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in 1955, Dr. King was a socially-conservative, politically-moderate, Baptist preacher in Montgomery, Alabama. On the day he was assasinated in Memphis 13 years later he was a Drum Major of social, economic, and international justice who was shaking the powers of the world. And that’s why they killed him.

    Let’s be clear about one thing, I do not know of a single Movement activist who believes the “lone gunman” lie. We all believe that King’s assassination was engineered by the power elites for two reasons:

    First, because he was uniting poor people across race and ethnic lines around issues of economic justice. And that under his leadership the Poor People’s Campaign threatened to directly challenge the culture of greed and exploitation on which the wealthy elite base their power.

    And second, by opposing the War in Vietnam he was challenging a foreign policy driven by global corporate expansion and the ideology of neo-colonialism in guise of anti-communism.

    Malcom X was killed for the same reasons. When he returned from Hajj in 1964, Malcolm renounced separatism, and said he would work with people of all races. And his first effort was organizing a petition to the UN documenting that the treatment of Black Americans violated the UN Charter and Declaration of Human Rights and demanding that the U.S. be charged with human rights violations.

    When Medgar Evers was assassinated, his widow Myrlie said: “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.” And when Dr. King was killed, it was said that, “You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream.” And that is true. But it is only true if there are Winter Soldiers with the courage and determination to carry on. So let me close by taking note of something we often forget when recalling history.

    Those Winter Soldiers huddled in the snow at Valley Forge did not know they were eventually going to win. At that time, the Redcoats occupied the major cities and dominated the colonies — only a handful villages and hamlets dared wear Liberty Blue. There was no easy promise of quick success. The summer soldiers gave up and went home. The Winter Soldiers held on. And that is the essential definition of a Winter Soldier, one who is continues fighting for justice even in the coldest winter.

    Dr. King called himself as a “Drum Major for Justice.” He was also a Winter Soldier.

    Copyright © Bruce Hartford, 2005

    Two Kinds of Nonviolent Resistance

    Judging by what they show on TV and teach in the schools today, we mythical heroes of the Civil Rights Movement were self-sacrificing saints who loved our enemies and eagerly faced martyrdom with love in our hearts and a song on our lips. Nope. Wrong. ‘Taint so.

    There were two different kinds of Nonviolent Resistance practiced by the Freedom Movement of the 1960s:

    • Philosophical Nonviolence. Those who were philosophically nonviolent did try to love their enemies and did try to refrain from any form of violence in all aspects of their lives. Politically they were pacifists and deeply studied in Gandhian creed. Dr. King, John Lewis, James Lawson, Bernard LaFayette, and others belonged to this group. The heart of philosophical nonviolence was taking action to oppose injustice and winning over one’s enemies through love and redemptive suffering. Yet, despite the media myths, philosophical nonviolents were always a small minority of the Civil Rights Movement.
    • Tactical Nonviolence. Those who were tactically nonviolent used Nonviolent Resistance as a tool for building political power — in demonstrations, as an organizing technique & style, and as a political strategy to achieve specific goals. But it was a tactic, not a philosophy of life; and in other situations, — both personal and political, — other strategies and tactics might be used. We who were tactically nonviolent used Nonviolent Resistance because we wanted to win. We saw nonviolence as the most effective way to accomplish our goals through political means. By 1963 the great majority of Freedom Movement activists in CORE, SNCC, NAACP, and even SCLC, were tactically nonviolent rather than philosophically nonviolent.Those of us who were tactically nonviolent did not love our enemies, nor did we believe that our redemptive suffering would convert racists and segregationists to a new outlook of interracial brotherly love. Rather than changing hearts, our focus was changing behavior — through persuasion if possible, but if that was not possible then by coercion. On the broad scale that meant building political movements to win legislation, sway court decisions, and alter social values that would then force racist businesses, institutions, government agencies, and individuals of power to change their behavior regardless of their personal opinions. On a narrower local scale — a particular business that discriminated against people based on their race, for example — we would try persuasion, but if that failed we would try to coerce a change their behavior through disruptive nonviolent tactics such as a sit-in or boycott or shop-in.

    But these two views were not hostile to each other — they were just different. Both groups worked well together, simply agreeing to respectfully disagree on it. Dr. King made it quite clear that he was not demanding that others adopt his personal philosophy of nonviolence, and we who were tactically nonviolent respected the courage and commitment of the philosophicals. The two views were not antagonistic because both encompassed the fundamental premis that nonviolence is about active resistance — not passivity. In the words of SNCC organizer and Freedom Singer Bernice Johnson Reagon:

    Many times when people talk about nonviolence, they think of a sort of passivity, a peacefulness. If you are talking about the Civil Rights Movement and our practice of nonviolence, you have to think of aggressive, confrontational activity, edgy activity; action designed to paralyze things as they are, nonviolent actions to force change.” [Music in the Civil Rights Movement]

    Most people are unable (or unwilling) to love their enemies or practice philosophical nonvilence in all aspects of their life — Mahatma Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings are few and far between — which is why it’s important to understand that you don’t have to be a Gandhi or a King in order to use Nonviolent Resistance as a strategy and technique of social change and struggle.

    — Copyright © 2004, Bruce Hartford

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