Jennifer Moore (b. 1972),
As quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A5 (April 21, 1993).
Said by the Boston University senior who was the nation's highest-ranking woman member of the Navy ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps).
I love the dictionary.com site, including their word of the day, and their hotword, which is why both are linked on our blog roll; I wish I could find a way to link their quote of the day, source of the above quote.
If our ability to have representative government were ever lost, then I would agree that the time had come to look at a change in our government. But far from that, our government has systematically expanded the vote to larger demographics, not restricted it. (It is ironically only those on the right who are eager to see fewer people able to vote by making it more difficult and costly to do so, on the factually unsubstantiated premise of voter fraud which they cannot demonstrate.)
Since the days of our founders successfully waging an admittedly military and guerilla-operation revolution against the forces of the King of England, a lot has changed. The UK is our dearest, closest ally (although I would argue we couldn't ask for a better neighbor and friend country than Canada.)
I would argue that since the days of Mahatma Gandhi, the very nature of successful revolution has changed as well. From the preface of Mr. Sharp's book:
One of my major concerns for many years has been how people could prevent and destroy dictatorships. This has been nurtured in part because of a belief that human beings should not be dominated and destroyed by such regimes. That belief has been strengthened by readings on the importance of human freedom, on the nature of dictatorships (from Aristotle to analysts of totalitarianism), and histories of dictatorships (especially the Nazi and Stalinist systems).
I have tried to think carefully about the most effective ways in which dictatorships could be successfully disintegrated with the least possible cost in suffering and lives. In this I have drawn on my studies over many years of dictatorships, resistance movements, revolutions, political thought, governmental systems, and especially realistic nonviolent struggle. (my emphasis added - DG)As I watch the news recorded from yesterday while writing this, relating to the events unfolding in Libya, and news comes that the U.S. is imposing sanctions and the U.N. is discussing further sanctions, along with calls for Quadafi to be turned over to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, it seems likely that the days of that four decades plus regime are nearing an end. Algeria, Bahrain, and Iran continue to be locations of turmoil, as Egypt and Tunisia begin to work towards a new government replacing the ousted despots.
I was intrigued by the article on Politics Daily penned by Alex Wagner, "After Egypt and Libya, What's Next for Those Still Under Dictatorships?", where she wrote :
Most certainly it resonated with the protesters being fired upon in Tripoli and Sabratha and Adjabiya and those fresh from Tahrir Square or still amassing in Tehran.
But it undoubtedly spoke to the hearts of those citizens around the world who looked to these revolutions with some combination of admiration and awe and hopelessness. People in places like Burma and Zimbabwe who feel that protest -- peaceful or otherwise -- is not an option for them and will not likely be any time soon.
As journalists have sought to untangle the disparate threads that unite these uprisings, one of the most interesting revelations has been a common reference to a dusty -- but still relevant -- book, "From Dictatorship to Democracy."So, what is the significance of this particular book as it relates to the upheavals? Wagner makes the connection clear:
Earlier this month, the New York Times proclaimed its author, Gene Sharp, a "shy intellectual" who had created "the playbook for revolution" -- noting that his work was posted on the Muslim Brotherhood website during the Egyptian uprising, and was cited equally among Tunisians, Bosnians and Estonians in their quest for freedom. So far, it has been translated into 41 languages. The book is a how-to manual for "liberation," dissecting classic protest strategies (sit-ins, leafleting) as well as more innovative options (selective resistance).(my emphasis again- DG)This book has a direct link to Wagner, and to previous struggles, as much as to the current ones, which begins to address the concept that the struggles which we now look to for opposing dictators are primarily not opposition of violence, but rather that what succeeds is well-organized and essentially non-violent protest. (Which also provides an interesting perspective to free speech and dissent in Wisconsin and other states.)
Sharp, who at 84 is working on strategic nonviolent action at the Albert Einstein Institute, told me that "From Dictatorship to Democracy" began when Tin Maung Win contacted Sharp to contribute to a Bangkok-based publication he had started: the New Era Journal.
Sharp says he decided to write generally about nonviolent protest -- rather than specifically about the Burmese democracy movement -- because "I didn't know Burma. The only way I could write in that kind of discussion was to make it generic."The precise premise of my comment over on MikeB's blog is argued in Wagner's article, violent revolution versus nonviolent revolution - which is more likely to be successful, especially in the face of violent oppression by dictatorial regimes?
The resulting article was serialized, printed in pamphlets and would eventually become "From Dictatorship to Democracy." Years later, at the request of CDRB leadership, my grandmother, who was a Fulbright scholar, would translate it, and the text would finally return to the cause from which it was borne -- Burma.
Bilal Rachid, the president of the CRDB, testified to the importance of Sharp's writings inside Burma. "It became source material for the courses we developed to teach activists in the jungles of Thailand," he said
Today, Burma is still widely acknowledged to be ruled by one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Human rights organizations have called for a U.N. Commission of Inquiry regarding govt-sponsored Crimes Against Humanity, including "widespread and systematic abuse and atrocities committed by the ruling military junta, government-sanctioned torture and rape, conscription of child soldiers, forced labor, complete censorship of the media, and political repression."
Because the brutal military regime remains as entrenched as ever, many Burmese now question the efficacy of peaceful protest.
Drawing parallels with the situation in Libya, Rachid asserts, "The Burmese situation is not going to change by nonviolent action. You're dealing with mobsters, criminals. We even saw in 1988 that they had no compunction about slaughtering our own people. They actually machine-gunned down the students."
He continues, "Personally, I believe the tactics have to be different. Peaceful nonviolence will not work." Gandhi, Rachid posited, was successful, "because he was dealing with a government that had a modicum of morality."It is worth noting that Gandhi was resisting the same country's government that the United States revolted against violently.
Sharp is quick to dismiss such criticism. The Burmese, he says, "have done some remarkable demonstrations," but "they don't really have a plan as to how to undermine the regime." He adds that his "conviction that this is a viable form of protest remains as strong as it ever was. It's about people taking it seriously."
And yet, their story -- the story of Burma -- helped set into motion countless other revolutions, by virtue of Gene Sharp's 94-page manuscript, by virtue of the fact that people everywhere recognize the desire to "live like human beings" -- no matter the latitude and longitude separating them -- and that the story of oppression carries with it a powerful resonance.
If 2011 is the year for Egypt and Tunisia -- and just maybe a few others -- perhaps, for the Burmese, the revolution will be cyclical. The forces that inspired protest so many years ago might once again return to the banks of the Irrawaddy River -- in different form and fashion, but potent all the same.
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