The Decision to Resist (2) - Jeff Knaebel

"The Decision to Resist" is chapter 5 of Experiments in Moral Sovereignty, The Diamond Printing Press, Jaipur, 2006 by Jeff Knaebel.

Gathering of Elders, Pasquah, Canada: Indigenous spiritual leaders had come from around the world. The Cree Elder had asked my profession. Upon my response, he said: "You are like a bank robber. First your people took our animals, then they took our fish, then they took our trees. Then they began breaking even the rocks of Earth herself and taking them. You pushed us from our homelands onto the reserves. Now you are going to flood even the little bit left to us, so that your hydro power project will keep the houses of your big city people cool in summer. You people are like termites eating their own house. What will you do when there is no home left for anyone?"

Chihuahua City, Mexico, Environmental Conference: The World Bank had proposed to finance a project of logging the last of old growth forest in Sierra Occidental, where Tarahumara Indians are struggling to survive. The timber is feed for a pulp mill. Before an audience of scientists, bureaucrats, environmentalists and trade officials assembled in University of Chihuahua auditorium stands a Tarahumara Elder. His hand holds a cheap pulp magazine, a transmission of rubbish. Gazing calmly at the industrialists and bankers, the Tarahumara speaks softly: "You are cutting the last of our trees to turn them into this. The forest is the life of my people. When you have cut the trees, we will die, and you will read this." A few miles from the auditorium, Tarahumara women and children are living in burrows dug into mounds of garbage at the city dump. At a small village in the Sierra, a Tarahumara elder had said: "I tell my young men not to fight. I tell them we must be patient, we must wait. The white man will destroy himself."

I had piloted my personal aircraft from Alaska to Mexico to provide volunteer flight service for an environmental organization. The mission was to fly opinion makers for a direct took at logging devastation. In a kind of epiphany I realized for sure that my whole lifestyle made me part of the problem. If I sincerely wished to become part of the solution, I must change - entirely change - my way of life.

I made the decision to leave my own, my native land forever. I would become a man without a country, separated by a vast ocean from friends, family and my young adult children. No more would I smell the rain on high desert sagebrush, nor hear the wolves howl across moonlit tundra, nor watch the Northern Lights dance in Arctic sky.

I would owe allegiance to all of humanity and to no State. I would be the indentured servant of no gang of murderers sitting in any legislative body. By paying tax to no State would I finally make a farewell to arms. I would seek peace and brotherhood.

Man does not lose his freedom except through his own ignorance. The primary ignorance at play in a corporate state society is ignorance of the Law of Cause and Effect, the Law of Moral Causation, the Truth of Dependent Origination. Freedom and slavery are mental states. First say to ourselves we shall no longer accept the role of slave. Then be willing to act and suffer the consequences. There is no high destiny without self denial.

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Law of Ahimsa (non-violence): Love is the law of the human race and is infinitely greater than and superior to brute force. Ahimsa requires a living faith and commitment to Truth, which is Love (or God if you prefer). It is inconsistent with modern imperialism based on force for its defense. It protects one’s self respect but not his property. Nonviolence can be practiced by all who have a living faith in Truth and therefore equal love for all mankind. Moral activity on behalf of others is self realization because humanity is One.

Gandhi speaks: "In order to see face to face the universal and all penetrating Truth, we must be able to love even the least of creatures as we love ourselves. The man who attempts this cannot be indifferent to anything in life. Ahimsa overrides all other forces. It is the only true force in life. ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven and all else shall be added unto you.’ The Kingdom of Heaven is Ahimsa.” One must renounce violence in the heart, and then consciously exercise of the power of Ahimsa generated by this renunciation.

The pre-eminence of these principles is made known to me through my personal moral conscience, life experience and reason. These Laws have been expounded by the great sages of humanity. Most notable in my personal studies are the Buddha, Christ, Lao Tzu and Mahavir. In modern times they have been exemplified by Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, John Ruskin, Albert Schweitzer and Henry David Thoreau. I have drawn on the inspiration of these and others to organize my thoughts into a plan of action.

Principal Axioms of Theory and Practice of Nonviolent Resistance: Evil is parasitic on good, inhumanity on humanity. No man is entirely devoid of humanity. Suffering, accepted in the spirit of nonviolent witness to truth, can restore to a person his lost humanity. All exploitation is based upon cooperation, willing or forced, of the exploited. Non-cooperation and fearlessness go together. The nonviolent resister fights with his power of suffering in order to arouse his opponent’s power of sympathy. This restores to the oppressor his humanity, while restoring to the oppressed his justice denied. Non-violent struggle properly conducted, even if it fails, leaves behind no trail of bitterness. Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering. It is the reverse of resistance by arms. It involves sacrifice of the self. Sacrifice of the self is superior to sacrifice of others. Civil disobedience serves all, including the tyrant, by teaching him his error. Evil can be sustained only by violence. Therefore, withdrawal of support for evil requires complete abstention from violence. Nonviolence requires voluntary submission to the penalty of non cooperation with evil. The government itself does not expect our full cooperation. It does not say: "You must do this." It says: "If you do not do this, we will punish you." Sincerity of a moral position requires willingness to accept the costs necessary to see the principles realized. When it violates his moral conscience, no person will submit to the evil of another or group of others except under coercion. The means pre-exist in, predict and determine the end. It is impossible for violent means to achieve moral ends.

Justification for Civil Disobedience: When the injustice is great and morally repugnant. When it is of a nature that can be resolved by non-cooperation. When the offence is real to the best of one’s knowledge and belief. When administrative recourse is not reasonably available, or after thorough examination is deemed to be ineffective. The goal must accord with natural right. The resister must not hate his opponent. The goal must conduce to the good of all.

Certain Gandhian Prerequisites for Civil Disobedience: The following are required in order to earn the moral authority to make a distinction between moral and immoral law. One must have obeyed consistently the law of his country. He must have served society. Must have embarked upon the work of self purification and be adhering to the five basic moral precepts. Must have met his family obligations and made arrangements for them to be covered in his absence. Must be prepared for self sacrifice and significant hardship. One cannot disobey the law while continuing to live under its protection and with its comforts which are financed by the other citizens who are obeying it. One must strive for harmony of thought-word-deed. To think one thing, say another, and do a third is a lie. One must be prepared to embark upon a program of constructive service to humanity along with self sacrifice. The resister must not hate his opponent. The goal must conduce to the good of all.

The text is published here with courtesy of the author.

Jeff Knaebel manages three websites :
Free of state
Trees of tomorrow
Gandhi Padyatra

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