Non-violent civil disobedience? Really?

I’ve always been skeptical toward the idea of non-violent social change. Don’t the people who resort to violence always come out on top? Anyway, this short essay is about me realizing it’s not about coming out on top.

I read an article by Douglas Rushkoff describing a conversation he had with a group of super rich hedge fund managers. Faced with a shrinking global human habitat, these high flying individuals were only concerned with finding the best methods to continue dominating their fellow humans. At this point in history, dominated by this mentality, it looks like our future will be a brutal hellscape dominated by strongmen and war lords.

Then it occurred to me. This won’t be a very good outcome for them either. The whole reason we are in our current crisis is because of our failure as humans to support each other. Domination creates conflicts and divisions, which in turn creates renewed struggle for supremacy. Anyone fortunate enough to survive the current ecological impass will not survive long if they still fail to realize this is the problem. If humans go through the now unfolding climate chaos without learning that we are all in this together, all the cleverness and ingenuity in the world will only further doom them. When you use half your energy and resources competing, dominating and fighting each other, there is never enough to go around. The result is a habitat turned battlefield. Climate change is only a by product of the real force that is driving us to extinction: each other.

It’s time for the poor to stand up to the rich, and for the rich to step down. We’ve always known that community is vital and important. Now we see that species survival depends on implementing real community as quickly as possible. Our chances for long-term species survival start to rise as soon as we commit to this. We may end up having to drag the rich down from their pedestals kicking and screaming, like the spoiled adult/children they have become.  But it will be a huge mistake to seek revenge against them, or threaten to kill them. That will only make them more determined to keep fighting us, while simultaneously seeking delusional escape routes, like replacing all workers with machines, colonizing Mars, or downloading their personal brains into computers.

They are searching for freedom in a place it can never be found: outside reality. They are literally trying to escape their own human nature. Humans are fundamentally social beings. We have deep feelings of interdependence, sometimes we call it spirituality. Believe it or not, the rich share our common feelings of separation anxiety, or alienation from each other. They are the ones who invented consumer society, after all –filling the emptiness in your soul with stuff.

It seems likely that the rich and their descendants will be the only human survivors left on planet earth. Ironically, the people most responsible for the current mayhem and destruction, will be the ones left to carry forward our legacy, assuming we have one. It may be that we have to set our aspirations even lower than this. Maybe all we can hope for now is to slow down the freight train of mass extinction to where a few simple organisms can make it through the bottle neck and begin the process of regenerating life on earth. It’s still a worthy fight.

We have to get through to the rich, that even if they succeed with their current plan of leaving us all behind, the game is not over. If they manage to shed themselves of the rest of us, they will not only be poorer for it, they will decrease their overall chances for survival. Our enemy is not the rich any more than it is the poor –it’s the fact that we have rich and poor. Our lack of community (democracy and equality) is tearing us apart, physically, mentally and spiritually. We are now literally locked in mortal combat as we drive ourselves over a cliff. Half measures are no longer possible. Until we fully realize and implement the foundational wisdom of community our course is set for doomsday.

Our message to the rich should be this. You’ve done a great job taking us this far. Thank you very much for your service, but we’ll take it from here. Unfortunately, we’ve spoiled you, and your manipulative behavior and violent tantrums have gotten way out of hand. We are not here to destroy you. So please just relax and let it go. We are here to welcome you back into the warm embrace of your family.

A final quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “I’ve been to the mountaintop…I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!” This optimistic vision of the future is dependent on our human faith in each other. If we fail now, there will be no one coming to save us.


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