Civil disobedience is a potent weapon in the hands of those who understand how to use it’ M. Coxall 2015.
I’m Created Equal….No Less No More!
Haromaya University on November 30, 2015. Let us be the voice of the voiceless Oromo peaceful protesters. Their voice is stifled by fascist TPLF regime again. Time to act by Oromo around the world!
People are differently nurtured in different parts of the world although their biological element known as DNA is over 99.5% the same. Nurturing is the basis for peoples’ way of understanding the world around them. History shows that largely, peoples’ attitudes, behaviours and practices have been socially constructed and deconstructed, shaped and reshaped throughout several centuries. Moreover, our collective and individual beings are shaped with our self-awareness as an individual or community. In psychology also, self-awareness is defined as metacognition, awareness of one’s own ability to reasonably and logically assert realities. In humans, metacognition and other advanced cognitive skills, such as social intelligence, planning and reasoning, are all thought to depend on a region of brain known as the prefrontal cortex. Therefore, we, humans became different from the animals only with the power of our brain and the ability of reasoning and self-awareness which distinguish us from most other earthly species.
We are all created equal and thus deserve our inalienable rights enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration and the 18th century American Independence documents as described:-We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the concerned of the governed.
Contrary to the above, there are groups of morally corrupt and politically and economically powerful individuals who ascribe inferiority to the ruled. They dictate the majority that they are created special and given omnipotent power to rule over the others. This is why there are socially fabricated royalty, super rich, corporate management, and ruling politicians. Such morally corrupt, self-appointed persons make up rules and regulations to impose them on their likes. They do so for their own egocentrism by keeping the majorities as simple usable tools – in spite of the fact that their likes equally deserve dignity and respect, and share the same human needs such as physiological, safety, social esteem, cognitive and self-actualisation needs; in addition, these individuals deprive the rest of the Mankind of basic needs, including the pursuit of happiness, aspiration and hope.
The inhumane practices of the rulers and business corporations have been in place since time immemorial although their barbarism become more sophisticated as European modernisation became a reality. Notwithstanding such abhorring crimes of slavery committed by Europeans, Americans and Arabians since the 16th century; regardless the European technological advancements, slavery has increased exponentially since the mid1750s to 1800s with scope and dimension under the infamous name known as industrial revolution. My personal opinion is not that the industrial revolution has been bad for mankind. I rather argue that this progress has brought its own evils with it. During this period, the sophistication of strategizing the enslavement of the majority under guise of civilisation and capitalism, whilst keeping the ruled majority silent, ended up with the enslavement of the dummies; in the same period the number of the prisoners of conscience increased significantly too. One of famous American Black Civil rights movement leaders defies the silence of the majority as; ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’ Martin Luther King Jr. 1929 – 1968.
Human brain power has got the capacity of either positively or negatively impacting human endeavours. History tells us that this capacity has shaped and unshaped social evolution throughout millennia; therefore humans judge any people or any society, based on their individual or collective contributions and actions to their likes. Ever since humans exist in the form of social entity, some groups of people or individuals have viciously treated their kinds, while within the egalitarian societies people have peacefully and fraternally coexisted with one another and in full agreement with the nature and natural orders. Several establishments across History have repeatedly demonstrated their viciousness by viciously treating their subjects and by erroneously recording and promoting their accounts of history which emphasise their own nobility and superiority, thereby preaching the inferiority of their subjects. Howard Zinn, an authoritative American historian professor advises about such flaws of histories and their repugnant roles in the society as follows:-“I’m worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel – let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they’re doing. I’m concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that’s handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers”.
Human species with capacity to make fair choice and ability to empathise the sufferings of their likes regrettably switch their positive natural abilities to greed, which takes at times diabolic proportions, and to vicious inhumanity and in this manner they do cause further misery to their kinds. These groups of people create extremely repressive regulations, policies and legislations, which they blatantly impose on the systematically silenced majority, who on most occasions obey without any question. And this has been an ongoing exercise of those who have appointed themselves to be the sole beneficiaries of wealth, greed and social hierarchy since time immemorial. Besides, no person on planet has been given such rights by birth as we saw it from the above argument. Neither royalty nor secret societies nor anyone else has been naturally endowed with such right to be a vicious ruler rejoicing with the sufferings of his likes. Evidences reveal that it’s those who are the ruled ones who allow such systems to evolve from century to century as their minds are increasingly obscured as a result of century’s old bombardments with lies and deceits geared to coerce them to accept the imposed inferiority.
A famous singer, Bob Marley, rightly puts this: ‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds! (Bob Marley 1945 – 1981)’. This has been substantiated by Marcus Garvey as follows: ‘Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men, (Marcus Garvey 1887 – 1940)). They both agree with one fundamental fact, namely that people must liberate themselves from various forms of injustice imposed on them by simply rejecting such rules.
The first and foremost priority is unambiguously understanding that no one on planet has got any right under whatsoever definition to oppress people individually or collectively or to impose their rules on them due to their military superiority and financial power- with money expropriated from the wealth of the majority. The next step is understanding the power of unity and having unity of purpose. Cognizant of their fundamental rights, if those who are oppressed are united and agree to persistently and unanimously demand their own rights, those who might impose their will on majority will have no choice apart from unwillingly surrendering. However, as mentioned above, it is imperative to acknowledge that those, who are in power, have got weapons and use them against the majority. They have got money and Media machineries and others governmental apparatuses through which they can systematically impose their evil will. More essentially, they might have already systematically brainwashed the majority with lies and deceptive mantras of generations to obscure historical reality. Regardless, if once such erroneous assertions and beliefs of the majority change and the clouds of falsehood diminish, history will inevitably change. Once the majority wake up and understand that no one has got God-given right to rule over them with iron fist from generation to generation, no rulers on planet can stop such wave of united movement.
Throughout Human History, the frustration of the extremely dissatisfied, disillusioned and oppressed citizens has always resulted in some kinds of public reaction. Such reactions, in the best case take the form of civil disobedience (CD) and the others take some form of an armed struggle. As M. Maxall, 2015, analyses it in more extreme cases, CD results in bloody revolution or what modern politicians prefer to call it ‘Terrorism’. Therefore, civil disobedience is an inevitable human reaction to unacceptably imposed oppression by the oppressors in any part of the world. Effectively utilised, CD has brought down governments and even empires, overturned despots of all levels globally, won great civil and human rights victories throughout centuries, driven the engine of human development and brought dignity and power to the people of the world (M. Maxall 2015).
Using CD as a method of forcing government to listen to people’s voice or removing authoritarian rulers from power will undoubtedly have a phenomenal effectiveness. Another famous intellectual and campaigner of civil rights stresses that no one should remain silent while their rights are stifled and they are oppressed for the sake of peace and security: ‘You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom’. ‘Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to… (Malcolm X, 1925 – 1965).
Emphatically Rejecting Oppression until Asserting Own Rights
Preparing to embark on CD needs minimum or no external resources. All the mass need to do is psychologically and mentally feel liberated and freed. They have to believe that they are exonerated from the prisoning systems. It is all about believing that the mass is not any more the slave of the government or corporations and that no one has got right to brutalise and continually enslave them. The oppressed and subjugated subjects need only an internal strength and understanding of the reality on the ground. They must be prepared to continually and in unison demand their unalienable rights whether the regime in power is likely to shoot and kill or intimidate them by any possible means. Often CD can be conducted in a peaceful and in a very discrete manner without even the regime in power or its loyalists understating what is going on. Neither weapons nor expensive means of communications are necessary to conduct CD. Always preparing to conduct CD on non-violent basis will be the most potent weapon as stated by Gandhi:- ‘Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It’s the mightier than the mightiest Weapon of destruction devised by theingenuity of Man’ (Mahatma Gandhi, 1869 -1948).
Deeply articulating the fact that no one has got right to exploit the resources of the majority, whilst the majorities are left with little or no choice but suffer the consequences, plays a crucial role in bringing together those who are victimised. Once courageous and determined individuals or groups of peoples come together, their unity triggers waves of CD movements with common vision and understanding, who are therefore able to stand own grounds whilst demanding these universal and unalienable rights to equality. No one has got any rights to prevent us from demanding these rights, as a famous American novelist stated: ‘No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow, Alice Walker).
As I have mentioned above, among the various methods of unanimously rejecting the rules of dictators or corporations, the most efficient, cost effective, simple and potent weapon the oppressed can use against their rulers is CD. Effectively used CD can easily shake the foundations of any oppressor in any part of the world. CD manifests itself by unanimously rejecting any regime wherever it might be, whenever possible. CD is nothing but mere refusal to obey governmental demands or commands; it is a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government or removing the government. It is entirely non-violent, and this is the reason it ismore potent than any form of manmade weapons. A famous American intellectual, professor, historian, playwright and human rights activists emphasises the importance of this as follows:-
‘The most formidable military machine depends ultimately on obedience of its soldiers, the most powerful corporation becomes helpless when its workers stop working, when its customers refuse to buy its products. The strike, the boycott, the refusal to serve, the ability to paralyse the functioning of a complex social structure, these remain potent weapons against the most fearsome state or corporate power’, (Howard Zinn, 1922 – 2010).
Effectively used CD obliges the rulers to understand that their subjects are not dummies any longer; thus the rulers will be forced to relinquish their power in order for the majority to decide their ways out of the difficulties. One of the America’s novelists agree with this as follows:-‘The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t possess it anymore’ (Alice Walker, American novelist)
Although those who have placed themselves in upper social strata or hierarchy dictate their accounts of history and stories, philosophically their place in history is inferior, as they utterly lack the key elements that make us humane. They are short of the key humane element which makes us feel and empathise the sufferings of the others. They rejoice when they bomb innocent children and civilian with nuclear and others forms of WMD. This is the reason why sadly those who are in power dictate false accounts of everything to hoodwink their subjects in order for them to exploit their subjects – ignorant of historical realities. Howard Zinn states the above argument as follows: –“History is important. If you don’t know history it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it”. Human histories are recorded and maintained depending on individual region’s or country’s contexts although the following is a universally binding declaration. Orally narrated histories of traditional societies are much more reliable than the written and serve as valuable in their objective as the written accounts. The question is whether the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are respected in any part of the world
Box 1. Excerpts from ‘UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Courageous and Bold Move is Essential whilst affecting CD.
The reason why we need CD is simply because those whose rights are violated by those officials or corporations must unite and demand them. The oppressed subjects must defy the current repressive and exploitative orders, either in Ethiopia or worldwide; the universally self-appointed elites who call themselves the rescuers and governors of our planet must be met with CD, i.e. the most effective manner to have them removed. We should not fear any person on planet as long as we stand for genuine cause and aforementioned universally acknowledged rights. One icon of our century’s struggle for freedom and resistance and renowned African statesman states that we must win over our fear whilst standing for our fundamental rights: ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear, (Nelson Mandela 1918 -2013)
Box 2 Some of Key Reasons Initiating Civil Disobedience
|Persistent and blatant abuse of power in a number of ways by government officials.
Controlling of civilians by spying on citizens via state and corporation censorship.
Manipulation of public opinion with lies, deceits and obfuscations.
Disallowing room for a political rights and kidnapping and torturing those who choose to be involved.
Morally, economically and ethically corrupt government officials.
Detention without trials only using kangaroo courts for show trails.
Collective punishment of given ethnic groups or nationals for their political views/economic interests of the rulers.
Massacre and genocide of given ethnic nationals or groups of people for their political views.
Rigging election and promoting state terrorism whilst covering up official misdeeds.
Deliberately and systematically impoverishing given ethnic nationals by expropriating their natural resources.
Targeting given ethnic nationals for belonging to given ethnic identity or nationals therefore torturing and mass imprisoning them.
Denial of justice and arbitrarily arresting non-combatant civilians to keep them jailed for years/decades.
Suppression of dissent voices and misuses of police and army power to stifle citizens and keep them silenced.
Discrimination against certain groups or ethnic nationals for their political and economic importance.
Theft of citizens’ property to enrich politicians and their loyalists.
Blackmailing of dissents and human rights activist by authorities.
Institutional incompetence and negligence of authorities.
Disrespect of citizens and repeated hypocrisy… and more.
Since time immemorial, Mankind has experienced rewarding progress and advancement, but at the same time IT continues to suffer ever worsening and appalling evils, troubles and ills. This is because man’s problems are man-caused therefore potentially easily resolvable matters. We must fight and overcome manmade injustice that humans imposed on their kinds. We must challenge and overcome man’s capacity of causing deliberate harm to his/her likes. The most effective means of achieving this is CD.
Understanding the World: prerequisite to effectively conduct CD while not expecting any good from big Evils
History affirms that the largest part of human decadence is ascribed to European and American colonial expansionists who have in massive scale developed the concept of humans’ inferiority or superiority and thereby played a key role in advancing concomitant human sufferings. In addition to simple economic and political superiority, these groups of peoples created weapons of mass destruction and continually experimented them all over the world. For instance, to such evil and inhumane competitions is due the notorious Chernobyl’s 1986 nuclear disaster where over a million civilians have been affected. The worst and inherently inhumane examples were the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 1945), resulting in the death of over 300.000 and consequently over a million civilians and children in the following two decades.
The current ongoing global instabilities are mainly ascribed to West in general and to America’s politicians and corporations in particular. These groups of international and regional powerful economic and military giants and their networks don’t want their dummies to know this fact. This is why they have placed themselves in charge of our society. These are the politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television channels who dominate our ideas so that they will be secure in their power. They didn’t need soldiers patrolling our streets until they have fabricated boggy men known as terrorists to stifle our freedom of expression and assembly. They made us dummies that can easily be controlled so that the mass remains subservient enslaved and conformist. This is why we sit down in front of television sets glued to their endless and deceptive propagandas. The majority of world peoples became addicted to celebrity culture and fizzy yet literally poisonous drinks massively produced by the corporations in addition to junk meals by McDonald’s, KFC, etc. The same trend is being used by all the regimes of the world, including in the Ethiopian empire. Clear understanding of the anatomy of global rulers and their corporations enables the majority to be united in order for them to effectively and successfully conduct CD.
Particular Case of the Ethiopian Empire
When it comes to the Ethiopian empire, it is essential to note that the mentees of American and European colonisers have caused similar sufferings to all the subjugated nations that are found at their disposal. They have crushed dissents of various ethnic nationals who demanded their collective rights. They have demonised such dissents whilst encouraging and praising subservience. The survival of this colonial state has been stitched together by lies and subterfuges. Its history dictates the hegemony of the rulers and the subjugation and the ensuing blackmailing of those who demand their rights. Although historians and social justice activists strongly believe that ‘Dissent is the highest form of patriotism’ and that silence is equivalent to dead walking, while something important to humanity is at stake, Ethiopian TPLF’s regime remain as adamant as all its predecessors.
Those courageous social justice advocates suggest CD as a means of achieving social justice and equality for all – by conquering our fear and uniting with purpose in the following manners: – “CD is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem”. (Howard Zinn)
In the Ethiopian empire, the above account is absolutely correct, and this will never stop unless we prevent the criminals, who call themselves ‘government’, from incriminating innocent majority, impoverishing and enslaving them all. No one has given TPLF’s barbaric regime any rights under whatsoever definition to sell the Sidama land, the lands of the Oromo, Gambela, Ogaden, Afar, Gedeo and other subjugated nations. It is us, the majority who are allowing the regime to freely continue with their criminal acts against the interests of the mass.
Where CD can begin?
CD can begin at home. Stop having any deal with your neighbour, who might be known to you and others for his/her part in torturing and brutalising innocent citizens and expropriating their resources whilst impoverishing them. Systematically stop cooperating with your family member who might have a link with the brutalising regime. Stop allying your pure conscience with the regime whose hands are dirtied with the blood of the innocents. Refuse attending their weddings and funerals. Stop visiting these groups of criminals whilst they are ill, either at home or in hospitals. Systematically stop buying their products and selling yours to them. Stop befriending with such groups of worst quislings.
Never hesitate to surreptitiously offer the necessary support to dissent and never think that it is none of your business. After all, the pain of one person who is targeted today by the regime’ssecurity and army will be yours tomorrow or after tomorrow, if you remain silent today. But if you are courageously and defiantly involved, the regime, though unwillingly, will stop individually targeting innocent civilians or nations’ peoples for their being who they are. If so, the CD will be unanimous. Never think that you don’t have a weapon. Your unity, determination, and indefatigable approach, your effort to underscore of your own rights and your preparedness to persistently demand them is your formidable and lethal weapon. The rulers know this fact, therefore they don’t want you to know about it.
To be able to persistently reclaim your rights until you assert them, unity with likeminded is paramount. Explicitly and implicitly plan your actions and strategize your methods. If the majority can do so, they can easily incapacitate the capability of any brutal regime, let alone the minority of TPLF’s increasingly wobbling bunches of criminal mafias. One of the distinguished Indian human rights activists and author, Arundhati Roy, emphasises about this as follows:-
“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” Arundhati Roy, April 2003, War Talk’
It is nearly 25 years since the current brutal regime has assumed power and promised millions of lies and deceitful projects none of which has materialised. Therefore, the only way for the empire’s subjects is standing on own ground and rejecting the regime. The regime has got a lot of weapons, but we have to understand that our weapons are much mightier than theirs. Therefore, open your mind; wake up from your hibernation to reclaim your dignity and pride as a fellow respected human being who has got his own life, aspiration, hope, and dream. These all are denied to all captives of Ethiopian empire by the vicious incumbent. To reclaim your rights, the most potent and long lasting method is CD. If CD progresses, other means of struggle, involving the use of arms, will also have further leverages in their momentum to successfully accomplish their part.
Begin it at home, from your neighbours, colleagues, classmates and friends. Completely, yet surreptitiously ostracise all inhumane members of regime’s criminal networks.
By Denboba Natie, 01 December 2015
- Asmal et al 2003, Nelson Mandela in his words, Little Brown, UK
- Coxall (2015), Civil Disobedience, a practical guide.