The Morality of Dissent

Daily life rarely requires drastic moral decisions, even more rarely the need for an understanding of one’s own ideological beliefs. In times of uncertainty, however, this understanding of a personal foundation is rather helpful. Society is no different; decisions are made and laws are created to remedy daily problems. During difficult situations posing moral questions, however, the answers don’t come as easily and the people are forced to step back and look at the canvas they’ve painted.

The overall color of laws may offer insight into the values of the people of that time period. During the Civil War era, both the northern and southern United States enforced laws that defined an entire ethnicity as nothing more than a possession. In Nazi Germany, the Jewish people were vilified and became the victims of genocide. American xenophobia can be cited on multiple occasions: German internment during WWII, Japanese internment during WWII, significant attempts to associate all of Islam with terrorism.

The enforcement of these laws seems completely foreign to people who aren’t from the era, as the laws were a reflection of the atmosphere (read: paranoia), political world, and money of the time. Slavery in the US dated back two hundred years, so entrenched in tradition and economics that the Founding Fathers dared not directly approach the subject for fear of never passing a Constitution through the Continental Congress. The German people were angry, afraid, and growing desperate, and the political climate was unstable – the perfect recipe for a major ideological overturn. German and Japanese internment were largely the product of American fear of a foreign insurgent, fueled by an incessant propaganda machine. The American post-9/11 war on Muslims, whether intended or merely a coincidence, was likely spawned by fear of an idea which moves people to action; the unforeseen consequence of this, however, is that many Westerners fail to differentiate between Muslim extremists and citizens who happen to be Muslim.

The ability to justify these laws is not equivalent to a moral argument in their defense. The forward thinking and subsequent actions which led humanity out of these dark days, however, are worthy of argument. History benefits those who can see a correlation between past and current events: a strong theme among social or humanitarian movements is that they are rarely popular in mainstream society during their time, or may even themselves be viewed as illegal operations. Examples include the suffragettes, who fought for years to be recognized as legitimate before the public would even listen to their argument. Abolitionists were routinely arrested, blackballed,  harassed, or even killed by pro-slavery advocates, in a time when both law and the majority of society were on the side of the offender. Both of these movements faced major opposition, from society in general and the laws which governed it. The suffrage movement alienated some generations and inspired others, but changed the fabric of American society with lectures, speeches, books and conviction. Abolitionists protested peacefully with their words, but broke laws by functioning as safe houses on the Underground Railroad.

The conclusion may be drawn, then, that a modern social or humanitarian movement may be viewed as illegal or immoral at the time of its inception, but the change it effects may be viewed by a future society as positive, and the movement’s actions honorable. Without the suffragettes efforts, women may not have obtained a right to a vote; the feminist movement may not have occurred; and the women’s role in American society may have remained limited. Without abolitionists, slavery may have exploited African Americans for a longer period of time; those who escaped slavery wouldn’t have had a safe haven; and there wouldn’t have been a moral argument for the Civil War – the United States as we know it may not exist.

The power and success of these movements lies in conviction, not in numbers, because conviction is contagious. A recent study suggests that once a committed opinion is held by 10% of a population, it is possible to spread the idea to the majority like a fire to dry grass.  Initially, the abolitionists’ ideals were held by only a small number of people, but  the passion of individuals and surrounding events such as the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the Dred Scott decision, the popularity of Frederick Douglass, and the passage of the fugitive slave act, brought major attention to the abolitionists’ ideas. Even as anti-slavery advocates’ numbers increased organically, the election of Abraham Lincoln and the corresponding secession of the southern states immediately polarized the north and the south. The moral argument against slavery was an easy case against the South. So did abolitionism capture the hearts of the people that President Lincoln believed he could recruit, fight, and win a war based on morals,  as he signed the Emancipation Proclamation essentially declared a war on slavery.  An idea which originally functioned on the fringe of society became a base of a reformed United States.

10% is a powerful figure.

10% is the estimated participation in the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

10% of Americans describe themselves as ‘radical’ or ‘revolutionary.’ 10% of the American population watched Glenn Beck’s program while it was on Fox News. Once ideologies become actions, the world will truly begin to change.

The adamant minority is much more powerful than any complacent majority.

-a. dare

Is it better to live or die on your feet?

I analyze everything way too much.

Example: I was listening to Rise Against’s new album, and the lyrics are essentially a call for revolution. But one song in particular, “Survivor Guilt,” begins with commentary between an American and someone with an eastern European accent, likely Russian.

America: “What are you talking about? America is not going to be destroyed.”

European: “Never? Rome was destroyed, Greece was destroyed, Persia was destroyed. Spain was destroyed. All great countries are destroyed. Why not yours? How much longer do you think your country will last? Forever?”

American: “You’re a shameful opportunist. What you don’t understand is that it’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.”

European: “You have it backwards. It is better to live on your feet than to die on your knees.”

Song

I find both of these arguments compelling.

To die on your feet, rather than live on your knees.

There are few people in this world with beliefs so unshakable and nerve so strong, that they are willing to die for their beliefs. I’m including religion in this, as the seed of doubt is planted very early in life. Most people don’t question, but won’t hesitate to doubt, especially in a pressing situation with multiple possible outcomes and no true solution. However, there are those who choose to stand. I use the term “choose” loosely, because for those who would die for their cause, the person and the idea are no longer separate: those who are willing to die are the embodiment of their movement. Whether it’s those who have been brainwashed by government propaganda, or those who have embraced an ideal by choice: to die on your feet is to sacrifice for a movement.

To live on your feet, rather than die on your knees.

This conjured images of an execution. There are extreme situations when dissent is deadly, and regimes do not hesitate to kill those who attempt to introduce new ideas. Information becomes an enemy, and those who distribute it are traitors. In this environment, it’s impossible to openly broadcast anything against the government or regime, impossible to be anonymous. Once a government utilizes technology against their citizens, bans books, monitors airwaves, funds propaganda (I know,  they already do all of these things), and openly target those who dare speak against the approved agenda, word-of-mouth becomes the most powerful weapon. In these situations, it’s critically important to remain alive despite oppression, in the hope of facilitating change and a better future.

During an open revolution, or in a freer society, pledging to die on your feet is productive. The buildup to these revolutions, however, is largely spawned by the quieter understanding between those who are willing to live on their feet, against their ideals, only comforted by the knowledge that they are not alone, and they are the inspiration for a new generation.

Like a single domino that falls while the rest stay vertical.

-a. dare

*Nov 29, 2011: edited title on the suggestion of a reader

This is letting go.

There are no words for how much I’ve learned, grown, experienced, and expanded my understanding since I became involved in activism during the first Operation Payback against MasterCard, Visa and PayPal. I’ll try, though.

I have images of revolution burned into my memory, water cannons being blasted against Egyptians while they interrupted battles against Mubarak’s forces to pray. My heart still swells with joy when I remember the feeling of elation when Mubarak stepped down, remember the massive numbers in the streets during UK UnCut’s protest, the European Acampanadas, the US occupantions, the Dec 17 Horizon protests; remember the support for Julian Assange, and his corresponding support for Anonymous. My heart still clenches when I remember Mo and his sacrifice, and that he represented so many Libyans, as well as Syrians, Bahrainis; remember the images of pain, the helplessness and overwhelmed emotions that we’ve all felt at one point or another.

But everything happens for a reason.

I’m one of the people, one of the 99%, however broad that phrase may be. I know my potential and I’ve accepted that as a responsibility to make this world a better place, whether that means reform, which I increasingly believe is unrealistic, or a complete overturn of what we consider normal. I’m not walking away from activism, and I’m far from walking away from my commitment to change. But in order to become as internally involved as possible, I have to walk away from here.

We are Anonymous. We are your students, teachers, postal workers, waitresses. We’re anyone and everyone. We’re on the outside, as well as the inside.

-astrid

Invisible Children, a summary.

There’s so much more to Invisible Children than just commercializing murder for profit.

They started out great, yeah, but the money kept pouring in and priorities changed. Only 30% of donations go to their intended cause; the other 70% goes to things such as propaganda-film making (for more money), travel and $90,000/year salaries for the executives.

Invisible Children also knows nothing about geopolitics, history, or culture. Or maybe they do and just choose to overlook it, I don’t know. IC believes that the best way to ‘save the children’ is by arresting someone who hasn’t been in the country in 6 years and may even be dead. IC endorses the Uganda military and believes that the US should back a war against the LRA, ‘for the children.’ The Ugandan military has been cited in UN reports as being the suspect of conflict minerals trading. Perhaps more importantly, Uganda’s military is guilty of the same atrocities as Kony’s LRA, including the recruitment by force (like murdering of parents) of child soldiers.

Also, disregard the fact that much of the active warfare is down and former child soldiers insist that rebuilding Uganda is much more important than chasing someone, however evil he may be.

Politically, IC are pawns used by the US corporatacracy. The US knew about Joseph Kony and his LRA child-snatching methods for 20 years. IC’s claim to fame, the Northern Uganda Crisis Response Act, was introduced in 2004 and immediately tabled until 2010 when oil was discovered in Uganda. It became active legislation once more, passed and was signed by President Obama. There are active troops within Uganda, with no withdraw date and no limit to the number or type of contractors who will follow.

Basically, Invisible Children began as well-meaning hipsters who are now used up false flags, literally drunk with ignorance.

UPDATE: Full military intervention by the US into Uganda has already had disastrous consequences. The US planned operation aimed to “crush the LRA” who have been hiding in a Congolese national park, but actually scattered the gathered LRA members and sparked brutal massacres against the Congolese people, killing 900 civilians. The LRA is a Ugandan movement, but military intervention has pushed the violence back to the already war-torn Congo, where women have a greater chance of being raped than learning to read.

The contraception mandate as a dividing mechanism

The contraception mandate within the Healthcare Bill, which would require all colleges and hospitals to provide contraception regardless of religious conviction, is being demonized by the right as a blatant attack on freedom of religion. This follows a pattern of  the evangelical Tea Party faction of the Republican party controlling the conversation and, at times, diverting the conversation into foggy areas.

In my opinion, the contraception mandate is overstepping many lines, arguably even separation of church and state, and is a clear example of the ever-increasing size and scope of government.

However, my concern lies with the silence that has fallen between a previously tentatively cooperative Tea Party and Occupy movement. Though the differences in perspective and opinion are vast, the Tea Party and Occupy have a common interest in some areas, most often those concerning the expansion of Homeland Security’s authority and the introduction of laws which could have a negative affect on our First Amendment rights.

The clearest example of these examples of these expansions include NDAA, the indefinite detention bill; SOPA/PIPA, internet censorship bills; and ACTA, the worldwide internet censorship treaty.

We risk losing our common ground due to a successful propaganda campaign, likely by establishment Republicans whose primary goal is to replace Obama with one of their candidates. This cannot be easily done if their radical base, the Tea Party, is finding common ground with the Occupy movement. The political 1% remain in that position by dividing those beneath them, and we needn’t fall victim to their tricks.

The contraception mandate is not a threat to freedom of religion. It does not say, we revoke your tax status as a church because we force you to violate one of your core beliefs. It does not instill a state religion or introduce Sharia. It hurts some sensitive feelings, that’s about it.

NDAA, EEA, SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA and legitimate threats to freedom. Their potential impact is measurable, and it’s very clear what life will be like if they are allowed to become a reality. Some of these already have, but that just means that we have more work to do.

Work that should be done together.

No more left, no more right. Stand up and fight.

-a.dare

Indefinite detention in the United Police States of America

Congress attempted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act as nothing more than a defense spending bill, an extension of the Pentagon’s budget for the next quarter. However, for the second quarter in a row, this bill contained an eerie, military state-like provision which conjures images of a potential 1984 world.

The 1031 provision shocked activists, NGOs, human rights organizations, and average citizens as a frightening expansion of power in the wake of massive international upheaval.

In its original form, the 1031 provision would allow the government to indefinitely detain, without trial or charge, anyone who had been determined a terrorist or to have aided a terrorist. It sounds like a sequel to the PATRIOT Act, but NDAA’s broad language does not define what qualifies as terrorism, nor does it define what would be considered aiding a terrorist, or if a person would be guilty of aiding a terrorist if they had no knowledge of their classification as such.

ACLU summarizes most concerns about the 1031 provision:

The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.

Though the intended version stated that any person, citizen or foreign, could be detained under NDAA, the final passed version stated that only non-US citizens are subject to the law. This is consistent with a previous defense spending bill which contained a provision which essentially declared endless, worldwide war. NDAA allows the US to detain those who are deemed enemies.

A new, separate bill, the Enemy Expatriation Act, is fighting to fill in the gaps of  the edited version of NDAA. If passed, EEA would strip any American who is deemed a terrorist of their citizenship, allowing them to be detained under NDAA, because technically, they are no longer citizens.

These bills are not intended to protect Americans from terrorists or ensuring national security. Their only goal is to attempt to stabilize a regime whose domestic support is crumbling and whose international legitimacy is far from certain.

Under NDAA & EEA, we are all Bradley Manning.

-a. dare

The ends justify the means?

I’ve been very overwhelmed and I’m still learning how to balance life with my attempt at citizen journalism (mostly crowdsourcing on Twitter). The gap in blogging was characterized by a major identity crisis – I had been trying  to convince myself that I was a socialist of any sort, when I knew in my heart that communalism is completely incompatible with who I am. I’m an individualist, a libertarian bordering on anarcho-capitalist. I believe in everyone’s inalienable rights, unless they’ve attempted to take the rights of another person. Rights are ideas, possibilities, opportunity. Rights aren’t a guaranteed outcome, that your life will be regulated until it’s the same quality as your neighbor’s. I have no problem with communalist ideas. I just can’t advocate them.

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That perennial question, “Does the end justify the means?” is meaningless as it stands; the real and only question regarding the ethics of means and ends is, and always has been, “Does this particular end justify this particular means?” -Saul Alinsky, Rules For Radicals

Our year began with a brilliant uprising and overthrow of a powerful regime. Tunisia’s revolution inspired multiple other uprisings, the most successful and influential being Egypt. Two months, two dictators. Since the fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak, a majority of countries in the Arab world have been met with some form of mass protest, the most significant occurring in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and Iran.

The UN responded to Gaddafi’s  attempted genocide, sending NATO to interfere. The US seems to have taken it a step further – the only measure of success being the dictator’s head. While this illegal war is waged (Obama insists the War Powers Act doesn’t apply, and Congress’ approval isn’t necessary), a separate covert military operation is being conducted in Yemen. There are reports that the US intervention is intensifying sectarian conflicts and pushing the country closer to civil war.

I will never suggest that intervention wasn’t necessary in Libya – it was; there is no reasoning with a man as crazy as Gaddafi, who is completely comfortable with ruling a dead, but compliant country. But wars are sold on humanitarian grounds, and fought for much less appealing reasons. The usual suspect – oil – has been suggested. But I believe it may go further than that.

There are people in this world who are radicals; then there are people who take radicalism seriously. Risking the loss of half my audience, I will suggest that the community of people around President Obama are among the latter. One of these people is Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein’s wife, Samantha Power. Those who have heard of her likely know her “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, which gained UN fame. Most, however, are either unaware or disregard her globalist ideology.

The ends justify the means, according to radical legend Saul Alinsky. What if war is the means? An article by The Nation regarding Power’s influence on Obama’s decision to involve the US in Libya suggests just that:

[Power] began to see war as an instrument to achieving her liberal, even radical, values.

Many will disregard this idea. It’s disturbing and unthinkable to most people.

But to radicals or liberals who disregard: why? It means that your side has the upper hand. It means that your side fighting much harder and much more cleverly than your opposition is even bothering to look.  These people have served your cause very well, if you share their same idea (globalism, for the most part). If you don’t, you may want to reconsider your alliances, because most lead back to the same few, very powerful people. Progressives and the far left have been waiting for this period of time for nearly a century, and people like Samantha Power are keeping the opportunity alive.

But to what end? And why?

For any radically different system of government to be introduced as a legitimate alternative, the current system must be proven an utter failure, collapse, and the people demand a new one. Riots may be thrown in for good measure. Indirect or direct attempts to initiate the fall of the current governments, immediately or over a period of  time, is just a series of means to a general end. If that end is a powerful enough idea, most anything is acceptable.

Like most ideas, there are people will kill and die for the cause.

We’re fed these empty fairy tales. Will you believe them?

– a.dare

Music continues to define me.

I’ll try to keep this post short. I feel the need to document this period of time, because it seems to be rather definitive in the development of my activist persona.

I was raised in a very conservative home – I didn’t even know how conservative, until I began to stray away from my family’s accepted ideals. “Liberal” is spoken in the same tone as curse words; it’s an insult in my home. Largely because of this, I intended to keep my passions as distant from my home life as possible – even the little I’ve mentioned had set of fireworks.

A wise friend once told me that this was a bad idea, to never attempt to separate who you are (activist life) from who you’re expected to be (home life), because one could be used against the other.

Music has always had a very powerful affect on me. I can’t just take a song as words and a good beat – there must be more, much more. There are bands I love for their simplicity, but my favorite bands are those who manage to capture passion, lyricism, and storytelling, and wrap it up as incredible noise. Rise Against, an arguably hardcore/punk band from Chicago, is one of the few bands to meet my standards. In the past week, I spent way too much money and drove way too many miles, all to bruise my hips, hyper-extend my neck, and get sunburn. I consider these my battle scars of a great punk show; but I walked away with more than just injuries, autographs, and pictures. I walked away feeling empowered, confident. Unashamed.

I had an epiphany in the middle of Rise Against’s set. It was as if all the pieces had come together: how the world has gotten here, how people can help but why they still feel helpless, how this world will come crashing down – and  the same people who have caused its descent will insist they hold the answers to the future.

I knew these things before, but I only knew them as facts. I didn’t feel it as emotion or conviction. I’m no longer afraid of judgment, because I don’t really feel like I’m living to promote my own interest at this point. My voice is better used to amplify and speak for those who cannot do so for themselves.

I lost my words when I met Tim McIlrath, singer/guitarist/lyricist of Rise Against. But I intended to say this:

I don’t know much about your band, but I know what your music means to me. When I’m forced to choose between who I am and who I’m expected to be, it’s nice to have a soundtrack. Thank you.

I can’t walk away. I can’t look away. I can’t hope that someone else will fix it. I can’t be quiet when there so much left unsaid.

I know I’m not alone. I feel isolated, but I know I’m not alone.

We still believe in all the things that we stood by before. After everything we’ve seen here, maybe even more.
-a.dare

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