This Is Not the Damned Titanic

What Happened to ‘Fill the Jails’?
By Sean Gonsalves, AlterNet. Posted May 18, 2007.

For there to be a progressive movement in this country — an evolutionary leap forward in the way we relate to each other and the environment — we need massive direct action.

You can’t expect a chicken to produce a duck egg — Malcolm X

Thank God, there are people willing go to jail in obedience to a higher law in protesting, say, the continued occupation of Iraq. It’s inspiring.

What’s discouraging, though, is the possibility that there’s not enough activists and/or movement organization in the U.S. right now to make a lasting difference on a whole host of foreign and domestic policy issues.

Because the pollsters don’t ask about people’s willingness to take part in civil disobedience, I have no way of knowing for sure. I just hope my sense of it all is waaaaay off. But, it feels like most disaffected Americans — profoundly disturbed with the State of the Union, in particular; and the State of the World, in general — have deceived themselves into thinking that electing the “right” person to government office is going to change things; that if only we get-out-the-vote, write even more letters, and create yet another blog … I’m not saying it’s trivial to do such things, but if folks think that’s enough, then we’re in trouble.

Think about it.

The Republicans got spanked during the mid-term elections in what was billed as a referendum on Bush’s Mess-in-Potamia and just as I predicted in this very column immediately following “the thumpin,'” Bush interpreted the election results — not as a call for an exit strategy — but as a plea for better war management. And what have the Democrats done?

Maybe the conventional wisdom, inside-politics view is that the Dems still don’t have enough power to end the occupation of Iraq, or they’re just “playing politics” by exploiting the now popular anti-this-war momentum, while not wanting to be seen as being “weak on defense” or “soft on terror.”

When even Lee Iacocca is writing: “Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind … but instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, ‘Stay the course.’ Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic” — you know it’s “fill-the-jails” time, to borrow from Gandhi’s tactical playbook. America’s Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., touched on the idea in his celebrated Letter From Birmingham Jail:

Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.? Isn’t negotiation a better path? You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue so that it can no longer be ignored.

King wasn’t talking about holding peace vigils or media-staged protest marches. He was talking about MASSIVE direct action — the kind that brings together huge numbers of disciplined, committed people, in a key location (or several strategic locations at once) to cause the political-economic system to grind to a screeching halt until the matter is resolved, or negotiated.

Read the rest here.

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