I was immediately excited about the idea of nonviolence for sustainability when I first heard about the November 30th “Day of Action”. I have come to believe that environmental sustainability will be the issue of justice that defines our generation. Nonviolence offers a path by which to dramatize the issue, and to demand major rapid changes in mainstream systems.
From the Beyond Talk website, I found my local New York City event for November 30. There will be a rally at the Bank of America followed by a march to the offices of the National Resources Defense Council.
And so I am faced with a decision: shall I risk arrest for this particular action of civil disobedience? It’s one day before the event, and my heart’s not in it.
Am I choosing a romantic relationship over a better world? My girlfriend and I are planning to move into a new apartment on Monday: if I risk arrest, we may not be able to continue living together. And I risk losing the closeness that supports my work, and the person who will support me now and in future actions. “You should go to the rally, and join if you are moved to join,” she tells me.
Am I choosing myself over a better world? I have never risked arrest before. Nonviolence sounds smart, feels right, but when it comes to an actual opportunity that risks arrest, am I too afraid? I have no doubt that I can overcome that fear.
Or do I hesitate now because of particular details of this particular upcoming action? The event’s website declares: “Join us in a carnival procession as we chase politicians, corporate environmentalists, and grim reapers, down Fifth Avenue and expose their true alliances!”
This event does not feel like I will be protesting the darkness within myself–my own self-doubt, inactions, ambivalence, inconsistencies, fears, and selfishness.
It is a protest against the corporation, and against the corporation-friendly charity, and not a protest against the damage I do myself as a user of fossil fuels. It is a protest against them, the corporate people–someone else–and not a protest against us, all the people–ourselves. I have tried before to change them, and have not gotten far, now I feel strongly that it is time to change us.
I seek the protest against unjust practices in everyday lives. Block my roads, my bridges, my gas stations, my ATMs, my shopping malls, my produce markets. Make me ask myself whether these institutions are just. When truth stares me in the eye, my own darkness exposed, shared, support offered to defeat it, I will join you.
As for this particular rally, I will watch, and if I am moved, I will join.
As K-pop fans and Black organizers and artists are demonstrating, joyful, powerful movements draw more people in and reflect the kind of world we want to live in.
If soldiers train for armed combat, why wouldn’t activists train for toppling the political-economic structure that’s killing our chance for a just future? The stakes are just as high.
Uganda’s COVID-19 experience underscores the seemingly universal opportunism of authoritarians amidst crisis, as well as opportunities for resistance.