A few months ago, at the March Against Monsanto, I ran into some anarchists doing a survey in an attempt to convince people that non violence was futile, ineffective, and dumb. They made some good points that I had a hard time arguing with at the time, but I walked away from it still feeling uneasy. I just can’t believe that using violence to enact change is the best course of action. It took me a while to pinpoint why though.
If I were to support a group that uses violence to enact change, what guarantee would I have that the new regime would be any different than the last one? Oh sure, they say that they’re different, that under them, things will truly be different and better than they were before, but how many people have said that in the past, and how much have things really changed? Maybe right now they even mean what they say, but history has shown us again and again that once people take power, their ideals tend to get corrupted. The fact of the matter is that they are acting exactly the same as the current system. Any organization that takes power the exact same way the previous organization took power is showing me nothing but that it is exactly the same as the system we’ve already got. They can say they’re different all day long, but their actions are exactly the same.
Why would I want to trade one violent, oppressive regime for another violent and very likely oppressive regime? I’ve got it pretty good under the current system, not great, but I’m not a political prisoner and I’m not facing execution. I don’t live in exile or in hiding. I even have access to a few luxuries. Why would I want to risk that for a change that may not be much of a change at all?
They can bet that a lot of people aren’t going to want to take the kind of risks violence requires just to get more of the same. And using violence is just more of the same.
I’m all for civil disobedience, for taking big risks, for making things difficult for the powers that be. I do, however, feel that constructive disobedience is better than destructive. Instead of tagging a Starbucks to protest gentrification, why not seed bomb their landscaping so they’re providing the community with free food? Instead of encouraging kids to ditch school, why not set up a homeschool coop or an after school program where you can teach kids about being involved in their communities and resisting injustice and stuff like that?
But hey, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, go ahead and tag a Starbucks I guess. I don’t feel like its doing a whole lot, Starbucks isn’t going anywhere unless we can educate people as to why Starbucks might not be a great addition to a community, or at least educate them on how to make their own chocolate coffee so they don’t have to go there, but I guess you were a minor irritation to Starbucks so if that gives you a warm fuzzy, have at it.
But hurting people, I’m never going to be down with that.