All around us – Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, the Congo, Ivory Coast, Palestine, Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere – empires are tearing a trail of destruction. This is not a sign of strength but of weakness, because the aim of empire is not to destroy but to conquer.
Since conquest cannot be achieved without the collaboration of the conquered, a campaign of demoralization is an essential component of empire. It is the job of the mainstream to present every initiative, good or bad, as issuing from power. This, it does exceedingly well. From the popular news, we may expect to learn that one set of westerners bombs a country and another set of westerners rebuilds it: never the natives. Or we may learn that all history is effected by powerful men. For example, almost everyone has heard that Abraham Lincoln freed the United States’ slaves in 1863, but how many know that Haiti’s slaves emancipated themselves in 1804. We are told, quite wrongly, that the Supreme Court granted civil rights to US blacks one hundred years after their emancipation, and not that African-Americans assumed those rights by facing the racist policemen’s dogs and fire hoses.
It is important to relate the truth of things: that real power comes from the people and not from its supposed rulers. Imagine for a moment, that a master is flogging a slave and insisting that the slave works nearly to death. And in response the slave says: “No!” Who has the power? In Haiti, we have always known who this is. It is whenever people lose their fear and decide enough is enough that historical advances get made. Think of the US labor movement. No rent-a-cop Pinkertons, no military, however technologically advanced, stands a chance against a resolutely uncooperative populace.
Non-cooperation may take many forms. We can all do more, but every day, the world over, people refuse to work for empire by striking, working for family or community, and learning to grow more, make more, and share more; they starve the empire by bearing fewer children, living in smaller houses, walking instead of driving, and foregoing the things that have to be transported over vast distances at a high cost in fossil fuels; they preserve wildness by planting trees, saving rivers, protecting animals.
To counter military might with civil disobedience is nothing new. The idea is originally Henry David Thoreau’s but has been successfully tested by Mohandas K.
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"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>, and many others in varying places and situations. Importantly, Gandhi insists that before any demands are made from an enemy, there should be a process of candid self examination together with a categorical rejection of the ways in which one cooperates with this enemy. A fantastic instance of this was when five brave Egyptian