Transformations: Civil Disobedience … Still Effective

Go Lean Commentary

This commentary has previously identified African-American Abolitionist Frederick Douglass as a role model for the Caribbean, despite the fact that his advocacy was 150 years ago. His is quite the legacy:

“Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” – Frederick Douglass

CU Blog - American Defects - Racism - Is It Over - Photo 1

The publishers of the book Go Lean…Caribbean recognize the contributions of role models who used civil disobedience to reform and transform their societies, Frederick Douglass included. The book specifically details (Page 122) these other advocates:

Mohandas Gandhi Indian Independence
Dr. Martin Luther King African-American Civil Rights Movement
Nelson Mandela South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid
Cesar Chavez Migrant Farm Workers in the US
Candice Lightner Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

The quest to transform society, as accomplished by these foregoing named advocates, is familiar to the movement behind the book Go Lean…Caribbean. This book asserts that the societal engines in the Caribbean (economy, security, and governance) are deficient and defective and need to be reformed and transformed to make our homeland a better place to live, work and play. This is commentary 4 of 4 from this movement on the subject of transformations: how to move our region from the deficient-defective status quo to the undisputed title of “greatest address on the planet”. All these commentaries detailed transformation issues, as follows:

  1. Perfecting our Core Competence
  2. Money Matters – “Getting over” with “free money”
  3. Caribbean Postal Union (CPU) – Delivering the Future
  4. Civil Disobedience … Still Effective

The Go Lean book details the quest to transform the Caribbean; it features a how-to guide, a roadmap for elevating the region’s societal engines using effective tactics like civil disobedience.

Civil disobedience has been effective in the past … see a related history here:

Title: History of Mass Nonviolent Action

Source: ACT UPAIDS Coalition To Unleash Power – Civil Disobedience Training – Retrieved 05-22-2016 from:

The use of nonviolence runs throughout history. There have been numerous instances of people courageously and nonviolently refusing cooperation with injustice. However, the fusion of organized mass struggle and nonviolence is relatively new. It originated largely with Mohandas Gandhi in 1906 at the onset of the South African campaign for Indian rights. Later, the Indian struggle for complete independence from the British Empire included a number of spectacular nonviolent campaigns. Perhaps the most notable was the year-long Salt campaign in which 100,000 Indians were jailed for deliberately violating the Salt Laws.

The refusal to counter the violence of the repressive social system with more violence is a tactic that has also been used by other movements. The militant campaign for women’s suffrage in Britain included a variety of nonviolent tactics such as boycotts, noncooperation, limited property destruction, civil disobedience, mass marches and demonstrations, filling the jails, and disruption of public ceremonies.

The Salvadoran people have used nonviolence as one powerful and necessary element of their struggle. Particularly during the 1960s and 70s, Christian based communities, labor unions, campesino organizations, and student groups held occupations and sit-ins at universities, government offices, and places of work such as factories and haciendas.

There is rich tradition of nonviolent protest in this country as well, including Harriet Tubman’s underground railroad during the civil war and Henry David Thoreau’s refusal to pay war taxes. Nonviolent civil disobedience was a critical factor in gaining women the right to vote in the United States, as well.

The U.S. labor movement has also used nonviolence with striking effectiveness in a number of instances, such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) free speech confrontations, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) sitdown strikes from 1935-1937 in auto plants, and the UFW grape and lettuce boycotts.

Using mass nonviolent action, the civil rights movement changed the face of the South. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) initiated modern nonviolent action for civil rights with sit-ins and a freedom ride in the 1940s. The successful Montgomery bus boycott electrified the nation. Then, the early 1960s exploded with nonviolent actions: sit-ins at lunch counters and other facilities, organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Freedom Rides to the South organized by CORE; the nonviolent battles against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); and the 1963 March on Washington, which drew 250,000 participants.

Opponents of the Vietnam War employed the use of draft card burnings, draft file destruction, mass demonstrations (such as the 500,000 who turned out in 1969 in Washington, D.C.), sit-ins, blocking induction centers, draft and tax resistance, and the historic 1971 May Day traffic blocking in Washington, D.C. in which 13,000 people were arrested.

Since the mid-70s, we have seen increasing nonviolent activity against the nuclear arms race and nuclear power industry. Nonviolent civil disobedience actions have taken place at dozens of nuclear weapons research installations, storage areas, missile silos, test sites, military bases, corporate and government offices and nuclear power plants. In the late 1970s mass civil disobedience actions took place at nuclear power plants from Seabrook, New Hampshire to the DiabloCanyon reactor in California and most states in between in this country and in other countries around the world. In 1982, 1750 people were arrested at the U.N. missions of the five major nuclear powers. Mass actions took place at the Livermore Laboratories in California and SAC bases in the midwest. In the late 80s a series of actions took place at the Nevada test site. International disarmament actions changed world opinion about nuclear weapons.

In 1980 women who were concerned with the destruction of the Earth and who were interested in exploring the connections between feminism and nonviolence were coming together. In November of 1980 and 1981 the Women’s Pentagon Actions, where hundreds of women came together to challenge patriarchy and militarism, took place. A movement grew that found ways to use direct action to put pressure on the military establishment and to show positive examples of life-affirming ways to live together. This movement spawned women’s peace camps at military bases around the world from Greenham Common, England to Puget Sound Peace Camp in Washington state, with camps in Japan and Italy among others.

The anti-apartheid movement in the 80s has built upon the powerful and empowering use of civil disobedience by the civil rights movement in the 60s. In November of 1984, a campaign began that involved daily civil disobedience in front of the South African Embassy. People, including members of Congress, national labor and religious leaders, celebrities, students, community leaders, teachers, and others, risked arrest every weekday for over a year. In the end over 3,100 people were arrested protesting apartheid and U.S. corporate and government support. At the same time, support actions for this campaign were held in 26 major Cities, resulting in an additional 5,000 arrests.

We also saw civil disobedience being incorporated as a key tactic in the movement against intervention in Central America. Beginning in 1983, national actions at the White House and State Department as well as local actions began to spread. In November 1984, the Pledge of Resistance was formed. Since then, over 5,000 people have been arrested at military installations, congressional offices, federal buildings, and CIA offices. Many people have also broken the law by providing sanctuary for Central American refugees and through the Lenten Witness, major denomination representatives have participated in weekly nonviolent civil disobedience actions at the Capitol.

Student activists have incorporated civil disobedience in both their anti-apartheid and Central America work. Divestment became the campus slogan of the 80s. Students built shantytowns and staged sit-ins at Administrator’s offices. Hundreds have been arrested resulting in the divestment of over 130 campuses and the subsequent withdrawal of over $4 billion from the South African economy. Central America student activists have carried out campaigns to protest CIA recruitment on campuses. Again, hundreds of students across the country have been arrested in this effort.

Nonviolent direct action has been an integral part of the renewed activism in the lesbian and gay community since 1987, when ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) was formed. ACT UP and other groups have organized hundreds of civil disobedience actions across the country, focusing not only on AIDS but on the increasing climate of homophobia and attacks on lesbians and gay men. On October 13, 1987, the Supreme Court was the site of the first national lesbian and gay civil disobedience action, where nearly 600 people were arrested protesting the decision in Hardwick vs. Bowers, which upheld sodomy laws. This was the largest mass arrest in D.C. since 1971.

Political Analysis
Power itself is not derived through violence, though in governmental form it is usually violent in nature. Governmental power is often maintained through oppression and the tacit compliance of the majority of the governed. Any significant withdrawal of that compliance will restrict or dissolve governmental control. Apathy in the face of injustice is a form of violence. Struggle and conflict are often necessary to correct injustice.

Our struggle is not easy, and we must not think of nonviolence as a “safe” way to fight oppression. The strength of nonviolence comes from our willingness to take personal risk without threatening other people.

It is essential that we separate the individual from the role she/he plays. The “enemy” is the system that casts people in oppressive roles.

Civil disobedience is still effective today!

The Go Lean book serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU) to empower societal elevation (economics, security and governing engines) for the Caribbean region. This roadmap focuses on the political transformations and the practical transformations to elevate the Caribbean region, individually and collectively. But as identified in the foregoing quotation from Frederick Douglass, power is never ceded … without demand. It takes agitation, plowing up the ground, “thunder & lightening” and struggle. Those in power in the status quo will do what all “men” in power try to do: keep it!

The required transformation for the Caribbean may very well take some acts of civil disobedience, challenging the dysfunctional economic status, perhaps even with economic boycotts, sit-ins, general strikes, picket lines, marches and messaging campaigns.

There are effective role models for this as well. Consider here the very recent experience of the University of Missouri Football team:

Amid escalating protests over complaints of racial bigotry at the University of Missouri, the school’s football team said it won’t play until the University President resigns or was replaced. These football players threatened to go on strike. At least 30 players with the support of their coach made the demand. They wanted University President Tim Wolfe to resign for allegedly failing to confront racial tensions at the school.
Commentary: Mizzou Football And The Power Of The Players

Posted November 18, 2015; retrieved May 22, 2016

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Members of the University of Missouri Tigers football team – after threatening civil disobedience – returned to practice Nov. 10, 2015 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. – Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

AUDIO Podcast – Commentary heard on NPR’s Morning Edition –

It’s accepted that thePresident of the University of Missouri stepped down in a racial dispute only when the football team threatened not to play a game. The players showed us again — surprise, surprise — how powerful is football, and let’s throw in basketball, too, throughout our bastions of higher education.

It would have cost old Mizzou a million-dollar penalty had it forfeited. It would have cost the players next to nothing, because the NCAA rules they must be amateurs and risk serious injury for the love of the game. Ironically, for once, having nothing to gain actually strengthened the players’ hand.

The particular racially insensitive issues at Missouri and those that’ve produced protests at other colleges have nothing to do with sport, but, on the other hand, it’s worth noting well over half of the football players who bring in the big money in the big-time conferences are African-American. The percentage of minority basketball players is even higher.

The Go Lean book relates that the experience of Frederick Douglass and other advocates assert that one man or one woman can make a difference and impact his/her community, country and the whole world. Now we must add the student-athletes of the University of Missouri to that podium of role models for us to emulate.

The Go Lean/CU roadmap is designed to motivate the people, institutions and governmental leaders of the Caribbean, regional stakeholders, to make an impact – by the use of civil disobedience if necessary – on the region’s societal engines corresponding with these prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

The focus of the previous commentary, Frederick Douglass’ legacy, is relevant for our life and times and the Go Lean prime directives. Notice the parallels: The institution of slavery was initiated for economic purposes; it took civil disobedience in the form of a civil war to assuage. In addition, there was no consideration to security principles for the enslaved population. But for the consideration of the Go Lean book, the subject of consideration is one of governance, the need for technocratic stewardship of the regional Caribbean society; how to reform and transform it. This point of governance against the backdrop of civil disobedience was pronounced early in the book, in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 10 – 14) with these declarations:

Preamble:  As the history of our region and the oppression, suppression and repression of its indigenous people is duly documented, there is no one alive who can be held accountable for the prior actions, and so we must put aside the shackles of systems of repression to instead formulate efficient and effective systems to steer our own destiny. … whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xii. Whereas the legacy in recent times in individual states may be that of ineffectual governance with no redress to higher authority, the accedence of this Federation will ensure accountability and escalation of the human and civil rights of the people for good governance, justice assurances, due process and the rule of law. As such, any threats of a “failed state” status for any member state must enact emergency measures on behalf of the Federation to protect the human, civil and property rights of the citizens, residents, allies, trading partners, and visitors of the affected member state and the Federation as a whole.

xxxiii. Whereas lessons can be learned and applied from the study of the recent history of other societies, the Federation must formalize statutes and organizational dimensions to avoid the pitfalls of [other] communities.

The Go Lean book stresses key community ethos, strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies necessary to reform and transform the eco-systems of Caribbean society and apply the lessons learned from other advocates. The book details the following:

Community Ethos – Economic Principles – Economic Systems Influence Individual Choices Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Principles – Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 21
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Foster Genius – Developing genius in many endeavors, i.e. Sports Page 27
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Turn-Arounds Page 33
Community Ethos – Ways to Manage Reconciliations Page 34
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Vision – Confederate all 30 member-states / 4 languages into a Single Market Page 45
Strategy – Mission – Build and foster local economic engines Page 45
Tactical – Ways to Foster a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – Separation-of-Powers – CU Federal Government versus Member-State Governance Page 71
Planning – 10 Big Ideas – Failed States Marshall Plan Page 127
Planning – Ways to Make the Caribbean Better Page 131
Planning – Ways to Improve Failed-State Indices – Advocate for Human Rights Page 134
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Governance Page 168
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage the Social Contract Page 170
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Wall Street – Lessons Learned from Occupy Wall Street Protests Page 200
Advocacy – Ways to Preserve Caribbean Heritage Page 218
Advocacy – Ways to Protect Human Rights Page 220

Civil disobedience lead to political transformation and practical transformation. Protest movements, with civil disobedience activities, have effectively reformed and transformed societies in the past, present and no doubt, the future. Scattered through the pages of history, many times protest leaders have become political leaders. Consider Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Lech Walesa of Poland.

Previous Go Lean blogs presented other lessons for the Caribbean to learn from considering protest movements from history; the following previous blog/commentaries apply: Frederick Douglass: Role Model for a Single Cause ‘Street naming for Martin Luther King’ protests unveils the real America ‘The Covenant with Black America’ – Ten Years Later COP21 Protest – ‘Climate Change’ Acknowledged A Lesson in Protest History – Principle over Principal During War Local Miami Haitian leaders protest Bahamian immigration policy Book Review: ‘The Protest Psychosis’ Philadelphia Freedom – Successful Protest and Fight for Change British public sector workers strike over ‘poverty pay’

The words of Frederick Douglass echo loudly through the ages (19th, 20th and 21st centuries). Reform and transformation only comes with a struggle. This is because “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

This reality applies doubly for the Caribbean!

The Caribbean region is in crisis – all 30 member-states! But this crisis would be a terrible thing to waste. We must use this crisis as a motivation to transform the region. Motivation alone will not bring change – the powerful ones in the status quo will not give up power willingly; they will not accept change willingly. There must be struggle, employing tactics like civil disobedience! As conveyed by Frederick Douglass, we “cannot get the rain without thunder and lightening”. The Go Lean movement – books and blogs – call for rain, and calls for “thunder and lightening”. The movement calls for forging change – transformations – through approaches like the Fun Theory, Sales Process, Power of Music, Food Therapy, and Risking Too Much to Lose.

Once we succeed in transforming the Caribbean societal engines, we must then ensure the changes are permanent! The Go Lean book declares that for permanent change to take place, there must first be an adoption of new community ethos, the national spirit that drives the character and identity of its people. The roadmap was constructed with the primary community ethos of the Greater Good, not a political nor profit motive; but rather a commitment for the “greatest good for the greatest number of people”.

Now is the time for all Caribbean stakeholders to lean-in to this Go Lean regional solution. With this roadmap, the Caribbean can transform to a better society; a better place to live, work and play. 🙂

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


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