- CounterPunch.org - https://www.counterpunch.org -

Activism: Quality, Not Quantity

In the Vietnam War protest song “Five to One,” Jim Morrison of The Doors sings:

The old get old/And the young get stronger
May take a week/And it may take longer
They got the guns/But we got the numbers
Gonna win, yeah/We’re takin’ over

In my youth, I took solace in the whole “we got the numbers” thing but it eventually became crystal clear that the ones with the guns have had it all figured out for a very, very long time. Philosopher David Hume, in 1758, explained it this way: “As force is always on side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments as well as to the most free and most popular.”

“The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world,” added Gore Vidal. “No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity, much less dissent.”

This potent combination of muscle and misinformation manifested itself in the events leading up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. On Feb. 15 of that year, tens of millions of earthlings marched and carried signs to declare their unambiguous disapproval of America’s plan to drastically ratchet up what had essentially been a 12-plus year war against the people of Iraq. But…

* The massive global protests were ignored by the elites.

* The shock-and-awe invasion went on as planned.

* The occupation, violence, and despair continue to this day.

Doesn’t say a whole lot for “having the numbers,” huh?

“We” have had the numbers time and time again since then. Even at the overhyped climate parade in September 2014, roughly 125,000 humans marched in NYC. But, as long as America’s ruling elite has no intention of changing the dominant paradigm, we remain on a runaway train to ecocide — no matter how many of us show up.

In these and countless other cases, “we” have had the numbers. “We” still have the numbers. Morrison’s “they,” however, give no indication they’ll be surrendering their guns any time soon. As a result, dissent in America is pretty much limited to permitted marches, protests, boycotts, petitions, candlelight vigils, documentaries, free speech zones, the occasional vote for a third party candidate, and articles like this one.

All of these methods (at least in their safe-for-mass-consumption versions) are deemed “legal” by those with the guns and, in their own way, legitimize the power held by those with the guns. Thus, all such tactics are ultimately futile in terms of provoking systemic, long term change.

If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why you haven’t taken your rebellion beyond the methods listed above. Your answer is likely the same as mine: “We got the numbers, but they got the guns.”

Maybe author Derrick Jensen had it right when he said: “We still think we have something to lose. That’s what’s stopping us. As soon as we realize we have nothing left to lose we’ll be dangerous.”

After all, in “Five to One,” Jim Morrison also sang: “No one here gets out alive.”

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.