FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Direct Action Gets Results

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.

More articles by:

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
November 20, 2019
Vijay Prashad
The Coup in Bolivia Has Everything to Do With the Screen You’re Using to Read This
Kenneth Surin
Labor and the UK General Election
Ron Jacobs
The Trumpists’ Attempts at Snark Define Their Day: Impeachment Day Three
George Ochenski
The Walls are Closing in on Donald Trump
Timothy M. Gill
Towards a Democratic Socialist Foreign Policy
Robert Hunziker
Neoliberalism Backfires
Thomas S. Harrington
Let’s Give Three Cheers for Those “Western Ears” 
Michelle Renee Matisons
Freedom, Valor, Love: On Snowden’s Permanent Record
James C. Nelson
How Trump is Warping the Federal Courts: the Case Against Lawrence VanDyke
Rev. William Alberts
Whistleblowing Religion
Chandra Muzaffar
The Coup That Ousted Morales
Mike Garrity
Trump Administration Ignores Court Order Stopping 85,000 Acre Payette Forest Logging and Burning Project, Conservation Groups Sue
Andrew Moss
Raising the Stakes in the Struggle Over Immigration Detention
Dean Baker
Making Andrew Yang Smarter
Lawrence Wittner
The People of the World
November 19, 2019
Ramzy Baroud
How Western Media Bias Allows Israel to Getaway with Murder in Gaza
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Kurds is Still Happening
Dave Lindorff
Student Protesters are Walking a Tightrope in Hong Kong
Richard Greeman
French Yellow Vests Celebrate First Birthday, Converge With Planned Labor Strikes
Dean Baker
Impeachment is a Kitchen Table Issue
Walden Bello
Is China an “Imperial Power” in the Image of the West?
Jim Britell
Modern Biology and Ecology: the Roots Of America’s Assertive Illiteracy
Sabri Öncü
Non-Financial Private Debt Overhang
John Steppling
Baby Shark Coup
Binoy Kampmark
Open Guidelines: The Foreign Interference Problem in Australian Universities
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Greece and the Struggle for Freedom
Colin Todhunter
Lab Rats for Corporate Profit: Pesticide Industry’s Poisoned Platter
James Graham
Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn on the Eve of the Debate
Elliot Sperber
Scrutiny – From Scruta
November 18, 2019
Olivia Arigho-Stiles
Protestors Massacred in Post-Coup Bolivia
Ashley Smith
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Macho Camacho: Jeffery R. Webber and Forrest Hylton on the Coup in Bolivia
Robert Fisk
Michael Lynk’s UN Report on Israeli Settlements Speaks the Truth, But the World Refuses to Listen
Ron Jacobs
Stefanik Stands By Her Man and Roger Stone Gets Convicted on All Counts: Impeachment Day Two
John Feffer
The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Shock Therapy and the Rise of Trump
Stephen Cooper
Another Death Penalty Horror: Stark Disparities in Media and Activist Attention
Bill Hatch
A New Silence
Gary Macfarlane
The Future of Wilderness Under Trump: Recreation or Wreckreation?
Laura Flanders
#SayHerName, Impeachment, and a Hawk
Ralph Nader
The Most Impeachable President vs. The Most Hesitant Congress. What Are The Democrats Waiting For?
Robert Koehler
Celebrating Peace: A Work in Progress
Walter Clemens
American Oblivion
Weekend Edition
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Meet Ukraine: America’s Newest “Strategic Ally”
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Frankenstein Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ukraine in the Membrane
Jonathan Steele
The OPCW and Douma: Chemical Weapons Watchdog Accused of Evidence-Tampering by Its Own Inspectors
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail