FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Direct Action Gets Results

by

In the village of Kalabalge, in the northern Nigerian state of Borno, the people struck back. While politicians dithered and activists twittered, the people of Kalabalge armed themselves and took the fight to their enemies, ambushing a Boko Haram convoy en route to attack their village. At least forty-one Boko Haram militants were killed and ten were captured as the villagers surprised two trucks carrying militants. Armed with rifles, machetes and bows, the brave people of Kalabalge did what the Nigerian military could not and sent Boko Haram off howling.

We are conditioned to think of “activism” as getting someone else to do something. We plead with elected officials and bureaucrats, prodding them to take action. But the best and most effective activism is when we take matters into our own hands and solve our problems — or strike at our enemies — ourselves. In Mexico’s Michoacan province, the people rose against the Knights Templar cartel, driving them off with such alacrity that the Mexican government has given up attempts to suppress the vigilantes and now hopes to suborn them, turning them from a natural manifestation of the people’s wrath into another arm of the criminal state. We pray they resist the attempt.

And now in Nigeria, the people are rising. While the rest of the world responded to Boko Haram’s vicious crimes with hashtags and selfies, the people of Kalabalge responded with bullets and machetes, taking their lives and their families into their own hands. To defend oneself is to learn to rely on oneself; in self-defense courses, we learn confidence in our own strength and power as much as we learn specific techniques for defeating assailants. Boko Haram reacted the way bullies have reacted from time immemorial to suddenly emboldened victims — they turned tail and ran, leaving their dead and wounded behind like the cowards they always were.

In America, the imperial center, we too must learn to act directly against the bullies in our midst, against the forces of the empire. These actions need not be direct, violent confrontation — although those who do choose to engage their oppressors directly deserve our respect. In the anti-war movement over the last fourteen years, many consciousness-raising, fund-raising and feel-good events have been held, but the most effective activism I’ve seen has taken two forms — discouraging enlistment, known as “counter-recruiting,” and encouraging soldiers currently in the military to get out. Both are much more challenging than holding a sign at a rally, requiring us to get to know the people we are trying to reach and to offer them a good alternative to the military, which is one of the last places left in our society where any able-bodied young person can get a secure job with good pay and benefits. But both get results that matter, denying grist to the imperial mill, forcing the managers of the imperial state to spend more time and money on finding and retaining soldiers and less on killing and maiming others.

Talking to a classroom in an inner city high school about alternatives to the military is not as dramatic as ambushing a Boko Haram convoy in Nigerian jungle in the middle of the night, but both actions share one key aspect — neither involves begging power for mercy and comfort. Rather, both take on the enemy directly, confronting personally the mechanisms of oppression and violence. If we are going to be saved, we must follow the bold example of the people of Kalabalge, and save ourselves.

Jonathan Carp is a fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He works as a nurse in Tacoma, WA.

Jonathan Carp is a fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He works as a nurse in Tacoma, WA.

May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail