Visitor:

Practical Issues > Things To Do > Activism > Groups

FEARLESSNESS

"A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve [one's] self-respect and inherent human dignity."--Aung San Suu Kyi

Because noncooperation inevitably results in repression, we must nurture our fearlessness so we never let repression make us subservient to the demands of the opposition, their courts, or their police forces.


In May of 1963, segregationists bombed Reverend A. D. King's house in Birmingham, Alabama to intimidate civil rights activists.

 

 

Fearlessness is our willingness to accept and to endure any and all consequences of our actions. Once we are psychologically ready to bear these consequences, we have nothing left to fear. Such fearlessness in our troops creates true strength for the movement. As Gandhi explained, "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. No power on earth can make a person do a thing against his will. [Nonviolence] is a direct result of the recognition of this great law."

The more fearless we are, the more we can implement noncooperation and continue the struggle despite threats and violence from the opposition.

Abolitionist and suffragette Susan B. Anthony was an effective voice for black freedom and votes for women because of the courage she had fostered within herself. On her speaking tours, she endured numerous riots and threats of violence. Effigies of her were burned by angry mobs who would brandish guns and knives in an attempt to intimidate her, but she always remained calm, stood her ground, and never succumbed to pro-slavery intimidation.

As animal activists, we must model the courage of Susan B. Anthony so we never betray the animals or the earth out of fear. Open defiance is one way to empower ourselves and bolster our courage.

OPEN DEFIANCE AND HONESTY

"So long as the [oppressor] is not convinced of [the activists'] nonviolent attitude, he will be inclined to strengthen his own position. Only an open resistance organization can convince the oppressor that its professed belief and the demands which arise from it correspond to the true aims of the campaign."--Theodor Ebert, author of Theory and Practice of Nonviolent Resistance.

Openness is another component of strategic nonviolence that helps us decrease our fear, empower ourselves, maintain nonviolent discipline, and expose the violence and scandals of the opposition. Openness means we have no secrets and conduct all of our actions in full view of the public, media, police, and opposition. Openness also means we will not deceive people with lies, exaggerations, or misinformation.

Actions that require secrecy create the need for security precautions. These very secrets and security precautions instill fear in activists--fear that the opposition will discover their plan, fear that other activists are informers, fear that they will be caught and punished, fear that any scandalous actions will be exposed, and so on. The fear created by these secrets can lead activists to become paralyzed by paranoia. The need for security precautions also spreads mistrust, suspicion, and rumors within the movement as paranoid activists try to expose suspected informers. This serves to destroy solidarity and our ability for cooperative action.

By conducting all actions openly, we have no secrets to hide and we rid ourselves of any security-induced fears, thus making us stronger. And, since we have no secrets, we foil the effectiveness of any informers. Is someone is an informer? Who cares? We are not ashamed or secretive about anything we do, so there is no information they can collect that could hurt us!

Openness not only reduces fear; it also empowers us. When we are openly defiant, it means we can look our opponents in the eye and tell them in a nonhostile manner exactly how we feel and what we think. Such open defiance empowers us, inspires onlookers, and unnerves the opposition. Power-holders expect their threats of force and repression to create submission and subservience, and when we remain openly defiant while facing those threats, they are taken aback by our commitment and sincerity.

Jawaharal Nehru, a comrade of Gandhi during the struggle to free India, expressed the empowerment he gained by using openness when he wrote:

"Above all, we had a sense of freedom and pride in that freedom. The old feeling of oppression and frustration was completely gone. There was no more whispering, no round-about legal phraseology to avoid getting into trouble with the authorities. We said what we felt and shouted it out from the house-tops. What did we care for the consequences? Prison? We looked forward to it; that would help our cause still further. The innumerable spies and secret-service men who used to surround us and follow us about became rather pitiable individuals as there was nothing secret for them to discover. All of our cards were always on the table."

Being open and honest also helps us maintain nonviolent discipline. When we know our actions are exposed for the world to see, we are less inclined to engage in scandalous activities. Furthermore, movements that engage in guerrilla operations which require secrecy, need to enforce security among its troops by punishing those who betray other activists. Unfortunately, groups committed to nonviolent sabotage, sometimes slip into using violence and hostility to punish "traitors." This violates nonviolent discipline and causes all of the counterproductive harms previously discussed.

Our openness and honesty further benefits the animals by accentuating the differences between us and the opponent in a way which makes them look as bad as possible and us as good as possible: We are totally open about our activities and plans; the opposition hide their atrocities behind locked doors. We confront them publicly; they decline our attempts to engage us in public debates. We speak for ourselves; they hide behind public relation firms. We speak the truth, and, if we make a mistake, we admit it; they try to cover-up their scandals with more lies. We are committed to nonviolent action; they are willing to imprison and injure us to maintain their power. We are willing to endure sacrifices for the animals; they are willing to sacrifice animals for personal gain. These distinctions help create a powerful and consistent message which shows that we control the moral high ground and helps us gain public sympathy and support.

Besides openness, solidarity is another component of strategic nonviolence that helps us increase our fearlessness and endure the inevitable repression that results from our noncooperation.

SOLIDARITY

"The gains we made came about because blacks realized that it takes cooperation and determination to make progress in their struggle towards equality. No one can fight effectively for justice alone."--Rosa Parks

Solidarity is the support, mutual respect, and trust between activists. Solidarity is crucial to maintaining high morale and empowering activists to endure greater amounts of suffering.


Civil rights activists continued their campaigns despite the bombing of this Birmingham Baptist Church which killed four blacks and wounded over a dozen more.

 

 

 

 

 

Solidarity, when applied to the entire struggle, means we maintain nonviolent discipline towards each other. We unconditionally respect all people for the fact that all animals have inherent value--even though we might disagree with them on tactics, appropriate behaviors, or even the specifics of the issues we champion. What does this mean for nonviolent animal liberationists? It means we treat every animal advocate with respect--even if he or she supports violent revolution, economic sabotage, or eating animals--while still being true to ourselves by not respecting their hostile and/or violent actions. Gandhi put it best when he said, "My noncooperation is noncooperation with evil, not with the evil-doer." That is the essence of struggle-wide-solidarity.

Our differences of opinion and behavior should not factionalize us. Instead, these differences should create a diversity of ideas within our movement that help our continual evolution into a stronger, adaptable, and more powerful struggle. Such an atmosphere of trust and unconditional respect allows for the free-flow of ideas (as activists don't fear other activists attacking them for their opinions), greatly increases an activists' intellectual growth since they will encounter a variety of opinions that will stimulate thought, and helps us collectively select the best weapon systems, strategies, and tactics available to gain victories for the animals.

Although our differences should not disunite us, we must also respect and honor our personal beliefs by not engaging in activities we see as counterproductive or immoral. This means we need to form smaller affinity groups--groups of activists who take cooperative action with each other.

Affinity-group-solidarity means the unanimous agreement between the group members regarding what action will be taken, what each activist's responsibilities are, and how activists will respond to possible situations that arise during the action. Affinity group solidarity could be described as a contractual agreement between the members of that group. Trust and mutual respect are again major components of making the affinity group work well.

The better our solidarity within both the movement and our affinity groups, the more fearless we will be. This is because many activists will refuse to engage in risky actions of noncooperation unless they know other activists who they trust will provide sufficient support to make their sacrifice as effective as possible. Furthermore, people are more inclined to take risky actions when others are acting with them, than when they are acting alone. For these reasons, we must maintain both movement and affinity group solidarity.

Solidarity and open defiance help strengthen our fearlessness and ability to bear repression so we never become submissive. If we submit to the abuse, we violate the last component of strategic nonviolence: persistence.

PERSISTENCE

"I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience."--John Bunyan , a seventeenth century religious reformer and English preacher who spent nearly 12 years of his life in jail for repeatedly preaching without a license.

Despite the brutality, set-backs, and demoralization we face, we must continue the struggle if we want to win. As long as we remain fighting, the animals have a chance. Once we stop, all hope of victory is lost. Persistence means we never give up.

Persistence paid off for the civil rights movement. During the struggle for desegregation in the U.S. led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.--leader of the nonviolent revolution for civil rights and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize--numerous nonviolent civil rights activists were wounded and killed by segregationists. Police forces brutalized nonviolent activists by spraying them with high-powered fire hoses, setting dogs on them, or beating them with clubs. From 1957 to 1963, there were 17 bomb attacks against black churches and the homes of civil rights leaders in Birmingham, Alabama. Despite enduring these brutal acts and having a letter opener stabbed into his chest by an opponent, King and his followers continued the campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience and eventually achieved their goal of integration.

The need for persistence is obvious. Unfortunately, most nonviolent struggles fail miserably because they lack persistence. If we commit to an action, we violate the persistence principle if we do not make good on our commitment. If we set campaign demands, we violate the persistence principle when we abandon the campaign before our demands are met. Thankfully, by narrowing our focus, we have the power to maintain persistence. We must resist the temptation to proclaim we will conduct an action or a campaign which we lack the strength or resources to accomplish.

For example, if an activist arrested for civil disobedience valiantly proclaims she refuses to pay bail to a judicial system that imprisons nonviolent protesters, then she must fulfill her claim or violate the persistence principle. If she does not fulfill her self-imposed obligation, she appears weak and dishonest, reinforces the opposition's beliefs that repression will keep us controlled, disempowers those activists who believed in her, and also hurts her solidarity with other activists who will be less likely to trust her claims in the future.

If however, she hadn't expanded her focus by claiming to be morally opposed to paying bail, she could have paid bail without violating the persistence principle. As activists, we need to have the strength to honestly evaluate the suffering we are willing to endure along with our personal situations so we do not create our own failure. By maintaining persistence, we empower each other and gain respect from onlookers.

Another way we can violate the persistence principle is by not responding to the opponent's repression. For example, if security guards assault nonviolent fur protesters, we need to respond quickly and courageously to let the opposition know that such violence will not intimidate us or make us submissive. We could respond by reaffirming our resolve to continue the campaign at a news conference, or by holding a follow-up protest done as soon after the incident as possible. After receiving repression, our actions against the target must not diminish in intensity or frequency, lest we violate the persistence principle and reinforce the opposition's belief that their repressive measures allow them to control us.

UNJUST LAWS

"We no longer petition legislature or Congress to give us the right to vote, but appeal to women everywhere to exercise their too long neglected 'citizen's rights'."--Susan B. Anthony referring to her efforts to get women to register to vote and vote before women were legally able to do so in the U.S.

Civil disobedience--violating unjust laws openly, respectfully, and with a willingness to accept the consequences--is a major tactic utilized by strategic nonviolence proponents. Civil disobedience highlights the issue, directly challenges the opposition, exposes their violence, and shows our courage, determination, and sincerity. It also helps create the voluntary suffering needed to utilize political jiu-jitsu (which will be explained later) so we can win massive support and accelerate the conversion process.


"...if [oppression] is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counterfriction to stop the machine." --Henry David Thoreau

 

 

So what is an unjust law? According to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.--leader of the nonviolent revolution for civil rights in America and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize--"An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself." Therefore, laws which reduce animals to slaves, targets, medical tools, and dinner (which would include any law that considers hunting and fishing, animal research, animal agriculture, animals in entertainment, trapping and fur farming to be legitimate activities) are unjust, because humans--the power majority--do not make such laws binding on themselves.

King also recognized another kind of unjust law: "Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest." A modern day example of a just law that is often unjust in application is the trespass laws. On their face, these laws are just and serve to protect people's privacy and property. However, when they are used to prevent us from rescuing wrongly imprisoned animals in laboratories, fur farms, and factory farms, they perpetuate human tyranny and animal oppression.

King further states, "One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws." And, also, "law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress." He also reminds us, "We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was 'illegal.' It was 'illegal' to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany." In the U.S., the animals are warehoused in concentration camps awaiting their death. It is illegal to aid and comfort them, but that is the right thing to do, and we must all strive to do the right thing.

As animal activists, we must foster our fearlessness, solidarity, and willingness to endure sacrifice so we can break these unjust laws effectively and bear the opposition's repression without backing down.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

"Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such a creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored."--Martin Luther King, Jr.

To maintain the openness component, we risk almost certain arrest when we disobey unjust laws. To maintain the persistence component, we must endure jail, make numerous court appearances, and serve our sentence while never compromising our position. At our trial, we must honestly state our actions and why we did them--even if that proves our guilt! We should do this because our goal is not to avoid punishment, but to speak the truth and demand justice for animals while maintaining the required components of strategic nonviolence. Furthermore, our punishment further benefits the animals, as will become clear when we discuss political jiu-jitsu.

Enduring arrest, court trial, and punishment, while maintaining nonviolent discipline, openness, and persistence, is the minimal requirement for those strategic nonviolent activists to uphold when they break an unjust law. Although this is a minimal requirement, it is still quite a sacrifice. Therefore, it must be stressed again that no one should engage in civil disobedience unless they are ready to endure days in jail, paying a possible bail, spending days in court, paying fines, performing community service, and/or spending weeks or--depending on what type of noncooperation you conducted--years in prison after being sentenced.

Before engaging in civil disobedience, determine if you will be able to bear the repression without surrendering to it by thinking about how the above consequences will impact your companion animals, work, school, finances, family, and any of your other responsibilities. If you have such responsibilities, but still want to partake in civil disobedience, then you must organize the needed support to fulfill those responsibilities while you see your civil disobedience action through to the end. And, again, this should be done before violating the unjust law.

If, however, your responsibilities are such that you would be unable to engage in civil disobedience, then don't do it. It is extremely important that people who do civil disobedience conduct it through to the end. It shows the courts, the public, and the abusers how determined we are to gain our objectives, how sincere we are, and that we control the moral high ground. These courageous acts also serve to inspire the rest of the troops and win the respect of our opposition and the public, who--at the very least--give us credit for our bravery and convictions.

On the other hand, when we submit to their repression, it demoralizes our troops, makes us appear weak and uncommitted, reaffirms the government's beliefs that their repression can control us, destroys solidarity and trust between affinity group members, and disempowers the activist who submits. Because of these destructive results of submitting to repression, it is vital that activists do not engage in civil disobedience unless they can endure the above stated minimal requirements.

Furthermore, animal activists should never try to coerce or mislead other activists into an arrest scenario. If an activist can't risk arrest because of his or her responsibilities, or simply because of fear, they should never be made to feel ashamed of that. Instead, we must respect the activist's honesty and trust in us, and not condemn or criticize them for what may be interpreted as a lack of commitment. Instead, we should be respectful, supportive, and nurturing to help foster his or her inner strength, commitment, and willingness to make sacrifices. But--even if the activist never engages in civil disobedience--we must continue to respect and appreciate all the selfless activities which he or she does for the animals. Besides, considering all of the harms caused by a civil disobedience action that lacks follow-through, we honestly should not want people to get involved who are not ready to handle the repression.

However, some activists may be fearless enough to further increase their noncooperation with the courts and jails by doing such things as refusing to pay bail, conducting fasts or hunger strikes while in jail, refusing to accept probation, and refusing to pay fines. The extent of noncooperation expected by each member of the affinity group must be determined before the action. Most importantly, once all members of the affinity group reach an agreement, every activist must keep their promises and follow through with the plan. But remember, if you increase your noncooperation, repression will also increase, and you must be ready to handle the consequences. Avoid biting off more than you can chew.

Because of strategic nonviolence's strict requirements for those involved with civil disobedience, it may decrease the number of people willing to get arrested, and some activists may fear that the struggle will end because we will all be in jail. However, civil disobedience campaigns require good leadership. Leaders must maximize an arrest's positive impact while ensuring it does not deplete so many human and material resources that the group cannot sustain the struggle. Of course leadership has far more importance which will be discussed later.

But now, we will look to see how to redirect our opponent's best weapon--their repression--against themselves. This technique is known as political jiu-jitsu.

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin, annxtberlin@gmail.com