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Lynne McTaggert asks Gandhi

Lynne McTaggert

Only everybody-all-at-once can change the current chaos.” – Adi Da

Lynne McTaggart takes some intelligent stock of the middle class at her blog, asking “What on earth ever happened to public outrage? Or protest? Or any sense of anger translating into action?” What Kool Aid are they drinking?, she muses.

What would MK Gandhi do?

The figures continue to be bad around the world, notes McTaggert.  By way of example, the latest American figures show that half of all Americans are struggling to get by on low incomes. The financial markets continue to worsen, soon to eclipse those of the 1930s. Millions of people have been turfed out of their homes, surrounding homeowners have lost $1.86 trillion in home value, 13 million people are out of work, and the collective wealth of American households has dropped by $16 trillion.

As Thomas Frank, author of Pity the Billionaire, wrote, ‘If you had brought the world’s teenaged anarchists together in some great international congress and asked them to design an ideal crisis, they could not have discredited market-based civilization more completely than did the crash of 2008.’

‘If ever a financial order deserved a 30s-style repudiation, this one did,’ he adds. ‘Its gods were false. Its taste was bad. Its heroes were oafs and brutes and thieves and bullies. And all of them failed, even on their own stunted terms.’

Key Points from McTaggart

– Most ordinary people today are taking all of this on the chin.

– In the 1930s, after four years of economic depression just like today, farmers across American radicalized and began to create roadblocks to farmers’ markets. In 1933, thousands of farmers marched on Washington to put a halt to farm foreclosures. Veterans marched on Washington to protest unpaid pensions. Violence erupted in the streets. Leaders like Huey Long and Father Coughlin incited protest – as did Labor unions and the Communist party, which held campaigns, boycotts, and hunger marches that immobilized entire cities.

– In the 1960s, after Brown vs the Board of Education, the American Civil Rights Movement gained enormous power and influence through the strategy of mobilizing millions for direct action, with protests, civil disobedience, non-violent resistance and sit-ins. In response to the Vietnam War, college students held well organized mass protests and, in 1970, after Kent State’s killing of four protesting students by National Guardsmen, essentially closed down universities across the land.

Consider Acts of Gandhi’s Satyagraha, asks McTaggert –

Gandhi UN StampConsider the power and achievement of Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi was as great a peacemaker as ever lived, yet he believed in Satyagraha, the philosophy of non-violence, which literally means ‘the force that is generated through adherence to Truth.’

Central to Gandhi’s methods was polite – that is to say, ‘civil’ – disobedience. In Gandhi’s view, non-violence activism was justified in the face of unjust laws or tyranny, but the manner of protest should avoid hostile language, damage to property, secrecy or law-breaking or any but the unjust laws themselves.

In other words, and here’s the important bit: when there are unjust laws, the most effective course of action is to collectively ignore them.

Gandhi used these techniques to organise peasants, farmers and laborers to protest excessive taxation, to stop discrimination against women and the untouchables, and of course to end British rule.

Gandhi persuaded millions of Indian peasants to refuse to pay the British salt tax by first refusing himself to pay and then beginning a 24-day 240-mile march, during which he picked up followers along the way.

The power of saying no

Gandhi understood that the power of any law or leader depends upon the people’s agreement to obey it. If citizens simply refuse to obey the law, the law or leader loses its power.

As Gandhi said, ‘I believe that non government can exist for a single moment without the cooperation of the people, willing or forced, and if people suddenly withdraw their cooperation in every detail, the government will come to a standstill.’

As a resident of the UK, I saw the power of this tactic in the 1980s with the much-hated Poll tax. The British people simply refused to pay this tax, and it was eventually withdrawn, even with the Iron Lady in charge.

This year, our New Year’s resolution must be to mobilize together – Left and Right together – and just start saying NO.

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