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:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull, 500 Years of Trauma
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Gordon Smith
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
stclair
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered, Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail