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.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail