Saturday, June 9, 2012
For everyone out there that wishes to see a new and better world, you must follow the Mahatma Gandhi’s advice and “be the change you wish to see in the world”. Nothing will be fixed and it will continue to seem as if the whole world is broken, if you cannot first act upon your own vision of what you think the world should be like. This is my vision of the world; it is not perfect and likely not even right, but it is mine. Change is inevitable and will come. Though, if someone does not try to direct change in the right direction, you will not see the change you wish to see. Each person must act on their own; separately from each other. No one can change for someone else. Each person must train themselves and not wait for a leader to follow.
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him…. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Individual sovereignty is what should the goal of all change should be. Individual sovereignty is the identification of the individual person as the sole and ultimate ruler of themselves. No other person would hold power over any other person and no person would be able to deny any other person their right to their own individual sovereignty. The idea of individual sovereignty finds its roots in the writings of John Locke, a 17th century British philosopher. John Locke states in his Two Treatises on Government that “[every man] has a right to decide what would become of himself and what he would do, and as having a right to reap the benefits of what he did”. This principle may be hard for most people to adopt because it is contrary to all previous political belief in human history. Never before has the individual been allowed to be their own ruler without the aid of an outside source. Individual sovereignty is not anarchy and would not result in a leader-less society; instead everyone would be the leader of themselves.
In this quasi-perfect society, the only true rights are life, liberty and property. No person anywhere or from anywhere would ever be denied their life, liberty or property. Every person would have citizenship and no person would ever have power over another. I say ‘quasi-perfect’ because these rights are already there for the taking, the 13th and 14th amendments to the US Constitution codify the principle and the 14th even says explicitly that “[No] state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Now we only need to truly provide this protection to all persons, regardless of location of residence, national origin, sex, race, or age.
The principle of individual sovereignty, when it is finally afforded to all people will result in the creation of a government I call “the Common Law Republic”. The Common Law Republic will be a government, not only figuratively, but literally be of the People, by the People, and most importantly for the People. In the Common Law Republic, all people’s voices will carry the same weight. No matter how crazy, radical, or out of the mainstream someone’s opinion may be, they will at least have the dignity of opinion and have the reasonable expectation of having someone there that will actually listen. In the Common Law Republic, people will actually be able to decide for themselves; no representatives, no presidents, or kings, or leaders, only themselves. Only then will War, Hunger, Violence, Poverty and the Conservation of Ignorance cease to exist.
Tax resistance is important because money is the primary source of power that the governments and oppressors of the world exercise. By refusing to pay taxes, I am refusing to submit myself to the whims of the military. I would be more than happy to pay taxes, if my money only went to roads and parks and schools and libraries, but neither I nor anyone else gets to earmark their tax money to go to these things. A good way to get around this is to refuse to pay traditional taxes and instead donate your money directly to those responsible for the creation and maintenance of roads, parks, schools and libraries. If those in power do not have the resources to impose their law upon everyone else, it will be easier to circumvent them and begin the process of change.
By voting to abstain, I am refusing to put someone in power in the first place. If there is no legitimate and consensual leader, then society becomes more egalitarian and it becomes possible to communicate with all others on an even playing field, where no one holds power over any other. Voting is abstain is not the same as not voting altogether, instead I’m letting the ‘leaders’ of the country know that I refuse to elect them, any of them. No matter whom I vote for, my voice and my opinion will not be heard; instead only the opinions of the rich donors and the party leaders will matter. Without people in power in the first place, then they aren’t there to circumvent in the first place and then the process change can truly begin.
Gandhigiri is a term that originates from the 2007 Bollywood movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai, which is about an underworld don in the Indian city of Mumbai called Munna Bhai who sees the spirit of the Mahatma Gandhi. The image of Gandhi teaches Munna Bhai about Satyagraha, truth, and non-violence, part of the whole philosophy which Munna Bhai calls Gandhigiri. Munna Bhai begins to employ Gandhigiri to help random everyday people with their problems. Since the movie premiered in 2007 Gandhigiri protests or spontaneous expressions of individual civil disobedience have begun to appear both in the United States and India. In 2006, in the Vidarbha region of India, farmers staged a protest against food prices utilizing flowers as a form of Gandhigiri protest. Going forward Gandhigiri will be the primary means of resisting civil government everywhere. Lots of small scale acts of kindness and non-violent civil disobedience will add up and actually make a real substantial difference in people’s lives.
In 1906, while working as a lawyer in South Africa, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began to employ his principles of Satyagraha or “insistence on truth”. Satyagraha was Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent resistance to civil government and as part of Satyagraha he set forth several rules for non-violent civil resistance. These rules included prohibitions on the harboring of anger, on retaliation, on insulting your enemies, and he even instructs people to defend their enemies from the violent attacks of anyone. Gandhi continued to employ his philosophy of non-violence throughout the rest of his life and through its use successfully resisted British rule in India until 1947, when India and Pakistan gained independence from the British Empire.
We can look at the Mahatma Gandhi’s rules for non violent civil resistance as a sort of blue print for widespread, substantial change. Through the use of tax resistance, voting to abstain and the newer ‘Gandhigiri’ protests, while following Gandhi’s rules, I believe that real change is possible and maybe even likely.
In Thoreau’s 1854 essay, entitled Life Without Principle, he states that “if a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.” This leads into the next problem with our current system, which is money. Wage slavery looms heavy over the heads of workers in this country. Too often people are forced to live according to the whims of their employers; workers have no say in how much they get paid and rarely do workers get say in when and where they will be working. Wage slavery limits the creativity and imaginative ability of people and chains them to the interests of the employer. In a world where robots can manufacture goods for us and even perform many services for us, why then is there a continued need for people to manufacture things for consumption instead of devoting their time to pursuits of progress, imagination and interest? Is there even a need for everyone to have jobs in the first place? I say that those with the ability not to work should not, and those who still must work should not allow their employer to dictate the details of their lives to them, if possible.
So what exactly is so wrong with our current system? It’s not exactly that there is something wrong, evil, or bad with the current system, but that the current system is just simply flawed. For the last 235 years, American government has operated via the system of representative democracy, aided by elections, political parties and the tyranny of the majority. It is quite true that our American system of government has worked correctly up till recent times, but until about the mid 2000’s, only the wealthy, powerful and wise had their opinions heard by the masses, but the invention of and mass availability of the internet has now given anyone and everyone a voice. The internet has effectively rendered representative democracy, elections and political parties as relics of an idolized past America and replaced it with a world where corporations are people and one where candidates can spend unlimited amounts of their supporter’s money in their attempts to get elected to public office. The internet, however, has not hindered the tyranny of the majority, if anything in recent years the court of public opinion has become even more influential in our system of government and politics. The speed, of which information can reach the masses, means that now more than any other time in human history, everyone can and often does have an opinion about everything and the internet is an ideal place for anyone to voice their opinion. The problems are though that it can be very hard to defuse the more learned opinions with those who don’t know a whole lot and there is no guarantee that anyone will even read about your opinion in the first place. As a result of these problems, real, substantial and effective change is very hard to come by. Progress, not only in the political realm, but in the social realm is plagued by gridlock caused by unlimited debate by those who do not have the authority to create change. American society is more divisive now than ever in the past, and this is due to the increases in population and the diversity of the population. Divisiveness, diversity and unlimited debate are perfectly fine, but we need an outlet for anyone and everyone to speak their mind and have the reasonable expectation of having a listening audience who is willing and ready to listen.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
In July 1846, poet Henry David Thoreau spent a single night in a jail after refusing to pay poll taxes, which he had not paid for the previous 6 years. After spending this single night in jail Thoreau wrote his famous essay, Resistance to Civil Government, also called Civil Disobedience, which is about his argument for individual non-violent civil resistance against an un-just government. In the essay, Thoreau states that “if a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the state to commit violence and shed innocent blood”. This radical statement of defiance was not unheard of in Thoreau’s time and has been heard from the mouth of humans since nearly the dawn of civilization. The problem is, though while many people sympathize with the sentiment spoken by Thoreau, few have the foolhardiness or the guts to act upon it. Very few people refuse to pay their taxes; mostly out of fear, whether it is out of fear of jail, loss of property or of public ridicule. I say, however, that it only takes a single fool to change the world; it only takes a single fool to end war, or end poverty or to end the conservation of ignorance. The “majority of one” can change; through the use of tax resistance, voting to abstain and Gandhigiri protests, the government can be changed for the better and can and will finally allow people to decide for themselves and be truly free.