31 August 2015
Give the regime a daily dose of disobedience and defiance
By Mike Smith
28th of August 2015
In the previous section on getting rid of a regime we looked at Why people obey dictators and we determined that obeying a tyranny is not natural. People obey, because of habit, being conditioned, fear, coercion, etc.
The question therefore is: How do you get people to actively disobey instead of just speaking out against it?
Many good people have assumed that if they denounce the oppression strongly enough, and protest long enough, the desired change will somehow happen. That assumption is an error. Resistance to tyranny is a moral duty and should be part of every person's daily routine.
Resistance to injustice is a moral duty.
Just the other day a member of the public asked a question online which made me think: Are we South Africans committing a crime by paying tax?
The crime we would be committing is, “aiding and abetting crime, corruption and extortion”.
Henry Thoreau used a metaphor in his essay Civil Disobedience, 1849 comparing the government to a machine: when the machine was producing injustice, it was the duty of conscientious citizens to be "a counter friction" (i.e., a resistance) "to stop the machine."
Thoreau was disgusted by slavery and he was opposed to the war the USA was waging against Mexico (1846-1848) that, if they would win, which they did, would enlarge the area where American slavery would be practiced. He saw his taxes as a means of supporting injustice and refused to pay poll tax. He was imprisoned for it, albeit only for a night, before his aunt paid the taxes against his wishes.
In his essay he exhorts people not to just wait passively for an opportunity to vote for justice, because voting for justice is as ineffective as wishing for justice; what you need to do is to actually be just.
This is not to say that you have an obligation to devote your life to fighting for justice, but you do have an obligation not to commit injustice and not to give injustice your practical support. Paying taxes is one way in which otherwise well-meaning people collaborate in injustice.
In a constitutional republic like South Africa people often think that the proper response to an unjust law is to try to use the political process to change the law, but to obey and respect the law until it is changed, but if the law is itself clearly unjust, and the law-making process is not designed to quickly obliterate such unjust laws, then Thoreau says the law deserves no respect and it should be broken.
The regime: False appearance of the strong fortress
To most people, the state and its apparatus appear monolithic and virtually indestructible like a medieval stronghold or fortress.
In the old days this strong appearance of the fortress was deliberate. It was designed to be impenetrable and to deter enemies from laying siege to it and trying to conquer it. It would just not be worth the effort and cost.
The classical strategy to take such a fortress was to besiege it by building rings of “circumvallation” and “contravallation” around it in what is known in military terms as Investment and then either scaling the walls or breaching it with siege engines and battering rams. The city's inhabitants would slowly starve and weaken, making it possible eventually to breach the walls and take the castle. These sieges tended to be quite long and bloody.
Over the centuries, however, certain enlightened strategists hit upon a different way to bring down the walls. Their strategy was based on a simple premise: the apparent strength of the fortress is an illusion, for behind its walls are people who are trapped, afraid, even desperate.
The city's leaders have essentially run out of options; they can only put their faith in the fortress's architecture. To lay siege to these walls is to mistake the appearance of strength for reality.
If in fact the walls are hiding great weakness within, then the proper strategy is to bypass them and aim for the interior. This can be done literally, by digging tunnels beneath the walls, undermining their strength, a conventional military strategy.
A better, more devious route is to infiltrate people inside them or to work with the city's disaffected inhabitants. This is known as "opening an inner front", finding a group on the inside who will work on your behalf to spread discontent and will eventually betray the fortress into your hands, sparing you a long siege.
For ten long years, the Greeks battered the walls of Troy to no effect; the simple gift of a wooden horse let them sneak a few men into Troy and open the gates from within.
When faced with the dictatorship in South Africa it becomes clear that the “Castle” is not impenetrable. In fact it has been infiltrated already. All the structures the dictatorship depends upon to remain in power are only held together by a few key civil servants who still obey the regime. Therefore it is extremely vulnerable. If these key people start to disobey and withdraw their support, the entire regime will come crashing down.
The termite strategy: Stopping Thoreau’s “machine of injustice”
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6
The South African poet and intellectual genius Eugene Marais studied termites for ten years in the Waterberg area. Strictly speaking termites are not ants, but are also known as “White Ants” and Marais wrote a book called “The soul of the white ant” which was plagiarized by the Belgium Nobel Prize laureate, Jesuit and Socialist, Maurice Maeterlinck in 1926.
Marais came up with the theory of "organic unity" and saw termites not as individual organisms, but the colony as an organism in itself.
Termites are hardly visible from the outside. They take small bites and patiently bore through beams and supports. Their work goes by almost unnoticed, but not the results. These are individual organisms as part of a large organism, slowly weakening and bringing the structure down. Once you notice them, it is already too late.
The basic principle here is that it is easiest to topple a structure, a wall, a group, a defensive mind, from the inside out. When something begins to rot or fall apart from within, it collapses of its own weight, a far better way to bring it down than ramming yourself against its walls.
So imagine the key people on the inside of these government structures putting little spanners in the machine every day causing structural breakdown, not immediately, but almost unnoticed over a period of time.
Here you have two types of breakdowns. “Breakdown of commission” and “breakdown of omission.”
A “breakdown of commission” is an active act of sabotage to bring the system to a halt.
A “breakdown of omission” is the deliberate failure to act in order to prevent a breakdown.
Typical examples of “breakdown of commission” are to lose critical files or documents. Break the printer or scanner. Break the air conditioner, set off the fire alarm at critical times triggering an evacuation, etc.
Typical examples of “breakdown of omission” are to simply do nothing or waste time at critical periods. Spend double the amount of time on the toilet. Do everything at half speed. Be off-sick or simply do nothing when you can to prevent a crash.
Start with something small, low risk and grow from there. Point is that you will start to feel part of the resistance, part of the larger colony, part of doing your duty. It builds confidence, it gives you self respect and dignity knowing you are breaking the habit of obedience and defying an unjust regime.
Look at Batman. He first goes after common thugs, building a reputation and a name. Only then does he take on The Joker.
If your day is over and you haven't done your bit of disobedience and defiance, then it was a wasted day. Weakening these structures that support the regime is what we are after. Without availability of those sources of power, the rulers’ power eventually weakens and finally dissolves even if he has foreign support. The dictators’ power will die, slowly or rapidly, from political starvation.