I haven’t had time in the last week to read any of the screeds and counter-screeds revolving around the question of violence or nonviolence with regard to the Occupy movement. Being involved in Occupy Oakland, where this has been a front-and-center issue since at least late October, it is something I’ve spent a lot to time on. There is only so much you can say on Twitter, but I simply haven’t had the time to devote to catching up this week and writing a detailed response. Even if I do, it will not be so much about debunking most of the “violentist” claims and hollow arguments, but more on looking at the big picture, which I sum up something like this:
Society evolves and has been evolving, however fitfully, toward equality and democracy and liberty. This is because people who want equality, democracy and liberty have worked really, really hard for hundreds of years and have been more successful at organizing and changing people’s attitudes than those who want to maintain prejudice, inequality and control. It didn’t magically “happen” that, for example, women got the vote and segregation ended.
Those who want a more egalitarian society don’t spend their time and energy pointing to hundreds of years of patriarchy, quoting dead guys and saying that gender equality is impossible. They don’t point to hundreds—or thousands—of years of racism, quote dead people whose work they’ve never really studied and then claim that racism is necessary, inevitable and that an egalitarian society could never work.
What would it say about someone if they talked like that? Who would want to be around someone with such a cold, hard heart and constrained imagination who claims to want a better world but says it cannot work?
In the same vein, what should we now think about the people who spend their time and energy pointing to history and quoting dead people and making justifications for the need for social change through violence?
People who want a more free, nonviolent society put their energy and imagination into working toward that in new and effective ways. They don’t put it into explaining all the reasons it can’t work.
A better world is possible, but not if you have your feet and mind so deeply stuck in the mire of the old empire that you can’t imagine anything better.