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  • William H. Douglas

The Necessity Of Noncompliance

“But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39)

“Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world – ‘No, you move.’" - Captain America (Amazing Spider-Man #537 by J. Michael Straczynski)

The purpose of violence is terrorism. It really is that simple. There is no fundamental difference between a growling dog and a person brandishing a club or a gun other than the latter walks erectly and has opposable thumbs. The purpose of each action is the same- to terrorize the one being threatened with violence to do what the one threatening violence demands be done. In short- “Do what I say or suffer!” The State is therefore a terrorist organization because it is based on violence, and it uses violence or the threat of violence to compel obedience from the public. To reiterate, the government uses terror, the fear of it and its power, to maintain control of society. That is, the government uses terrorism to control the public. Thus, the State is a terrorist organization.

Some will disagree with this arguing that their goal when using violence is to protect their home, property, or family. Likewise, they argue that the government’s goal is to protect the community, whether that be the local community or a national one. But to confess this is to concede the point. The government is a terrorist organization that can only “solve” the problems of society by the use of blunt force violence or the fear of it that their power inspires. Is that truly any different than the dog’s motivations when it barks and bites? Is it not also “protecting” its territory and its pups when it snaps and snarls at those it dislikes? Humans are never more animalistic than when using violence to secure their goals. As Gandhi said:

“I am not a visionary. I claim to be a practical idealist. The religion of nonviolence is not meant merely for the Rishis and saints. It is meant for the common people as well. Nonviolence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in the brute and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law to the strength of the spirit.”

“I have therefore ventured to place before India the ancient law of self sacrifice. For Satyagraha and its off-shoots, non-co-operation and civil resistance, are nothing but new names for the law of suffering. The Rishis, who discovered the law of nonviolence in the midst of violence, were greater geniuses than Newton. They were themselves greater warriors than Wellington. Having themselves known the use of arms, they realized their uselessness and taught a weary world that its salvation lay not through violence but through nonviolence.”

Nonviolence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the putting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of being, it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his religion, his soul and lay the foundation for the empire’s fall or its regeneration.”

Gandhi starts off by dispelling the idea that nonviolence is utopian in nature. Of course, it isn’t. It is in fact eminently practical as the only means by which to bring true and lasting change to a society by transforming the hearts of the people within it. Easy? No. Effective? Absolutely. And, of course, compared to violence, far more successful. Then he goes on to make the distinction discussed in The Liberator 2 Edition 4 article, The Importance of Nonviolence. When we engage in animalistic behavior -violence- we degrade our humanity to the level of brute animals. We dehumanize ourselves. But we are not animals. As humans we are so much more than animals and are therefore capable of so much more than acting as animals in order to “solve” our problems.

We are capable of nonviolence, the only species capable of doing so in fact. Violence is the opposite of civilization and humanity, nonviolence the essence of civilization and humanity. Any deranged, rabid, mongrel mutt can bite its attackers back. Only humans can choose to be nonviolent in the face of violence. Only humans can reach the hearts and minds of others through suffering and love. Only humans can convert their enemies into their friends. We are fulfilling our possibilities as humans when we embrace and engage in nonviolence. And the power of that nonviolence to defeat even the greatest of enemies without incurring the terrible mutual slaughter of war, ironically makes those dedicated to nonviolence greater “warriors” than any of the greatest generals in history who could only accomplish what they did by incurring immeasurable destruction.

Then Gandhi makes a triumphant point about the power of nonviolence. Nonviolence leads to noncompliance. Violence ultimately is about submission and only ends when either one side submits to the other or both are destroyed. Having submitted to the ways of the world, they go the way of all the world. It is the lifeblood of statism (“state-ism”) and all government oppression. Using the tools of oppression only makes you another oppressor, not a liberator. But nonviolence empowers its practitioners in a way that makes the State impossible. Because the nonviolent resister cannot be terrorized by violence into engaging in the brutal game that justifies violence, the practitioner of nonviolence cannot be controlled by those in power.

Instead of submitting either to the will of the oppressor or the terror of the oppressor’s violence, by refusing to either obey or be terrified into obedience, nonviolence empowers the resister to refuse to obey those in power. This noncompliance delivers the resister from the system of the State’s control and makes him or her more powerful than all the weapons of the State, combined. Though they may beat, cage, or kill you, they can never obtain your submission because you will not comply. Therefore, they have no power over you and you are free.

This is the power of turning the other cheek. In suffering, you absorb the violence of the State without submitting to its orders, laws, and/or commands. Instead, you refuse to comply and turn to it your other cheek. It too may be smote, but that is all the State can do. Having been smitten and still not terrified into submission, you are now free. You have defied the State’s only tool, terror, and it can no longer control you. All by you simply refusing to comply with its rituals of violence that justify terror and signal submission. You are defiant, you do not back down. Nor do you play their game. Your spirit conquers the tyrant’s will and in doing so, conquers the tyrant. And the law becomes impossible to enforce because you will not obey. Nonviolence and noncompliance by society therefore makes oppressive laws and oppressive government impossible.


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