Anchor for this item posted by Bernard Tremblay at Tuesday, June 18, 2002; Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Rejection, expectation, and solidarity

I can understand why those who think peaceful tactics a waste of time might, in the spirit of solidarity with those who feel otherwise, would choose not to trash gas-guzzling SUVs or grease-pushing chain restaurants. And I can understand why those who feel that deeply dignified and restrained moral indignation communicates more powerfully than rashly dumped garbage cans would feel slighted and dismissed by those who feel that brute gestures of disgust and rejection are simply frank talk.
    What I cannot understand is those whose motives drive them to play on the conflict that has been raging in the human species since time immemorial, the contention that is set out in the first chapter of Plato's Republic, with Socrates questionning how the cocky Thrasymachus could be so confident about his particular reading of justice, and the noble brute claiming that "Might makes right." In our civil society the state claims a monopoly on physical force, and so even a thrown water balloon can be pointed to as a breach of expected norms.
    The solidarity that's really at play in our movement, the real understanding that extends through and beyond respect for diversity ... it's a test of how we understand ourselves and what drives us. Part of the challenge for me is to relate to the proper anger that fuels the garbage dumping, and the proper rejection that energizes the balloon throwing. If I can get a sense of how those actors experience life under capitalism, then maybe I can be more effective in my own activity. If those who dump garbage and fire balloons can relate to the experience of those who find those tactics upsetting and offensive, maybe they can direct themselves more effectively, rather than feeling dismissed and rejected, and rather than waiting for someone to pursuade or seduce them into other tactics. And finally, if those who find dumped garbage and water balloons wicked enough and negativ enough to justify contempt and derision, perhaps they can wonder where there strength lies, how they can excercise their power in this sad example of a democratic state, and what it means to be active in the spirit of peace.
    If I can understand people's anger even a bit, maybe that will allow me to see how those who have their their human experience belittled and rejected have reason to slip into resentment. If we understand democracy as being based on the brute strength of numbers, or the brute power of wealth and control, or even if its actually more like a social game of influence and seduction, then I don't see how the critical issues of justice and sustainability can be addressed, since we have with us the greedy and corrupt.
    Maybe what will allow the vigorous discourse of democracy with we need is more like an appreciation of others that's grounded in a real self-esteem for ourselves, a diversity of view and action that's anchored by a reasonable confidence. Maybe the foundation of democracy is something like solidarity. I will not do what injures others; I will not allow others to injure me.