What Else You Can Do

You’ve been radically misled to believe that the only thing, or the most important thing, or one of the super important things you can do is vote. Voting in a functioning democracy would be a fairly important thing to do, but wouldn’t somehow eliminate the thousands of important things that would also need doing. Voting in a broken democracy is a mildly important thing to do, for the reasons you know by heart, but also for this reason: Seeing so many people so eager to do something alerts everyone else to the fact that you give a damn.

“I’ve been waiting two years to do something!” This remark, common on Tuesday, must sound joyous to many ears. But if you study history and notice that change comes primarily from organizing, educating, protesting, marching, disrupting, disobeying, and creating things anew, and if you’ve spent the past many years trying to get more people to do those things, then all the “All I can do is vote, oh helpless me” comments may have you pulling your hair out.

There are circumstances in which you can do very little. We are moving in that direction. But we are not there. We are still able to speak, write, assemble, and agitate — and vote. I have to think that more of us would do more if we recognized the gravity of the situation. The planet’s climate can no longer be saved, but the agony can be slowed and eased. Nuclear apocalypse is closer than ever before, but can be averted. Fascism can be undone, but not without actions that extend far beyond voting.

I’m not against elections. I think we should have one someday, with no private money, with no corporate media, with no gerrymandering, with fair ballot and debate and media access and public financing, with substantive platforms, with hand-counted paper ballots, with election day holiday and free food and drink, with instant runoff, with automatic registration — elections meeting world standards. In fact, if I had my druthers, we’d abolish the Senate, enlarge the House, govern largely by public initiative, turn the president into an executive, lower the voting age, abolish the electoral college, and so forth. But even with the broken system we’ve got, I’m not against voting. I’m against imagining that voting is all you have to do, and that because somebody sticks an “I voted!” flag sticker on you, your country loves you and everything is going to be OK.

Your country is sending its military to the border to protect you from poor children hundreds of miles away who were made homeless with help from your country, because your country loves you. Well, not your country exactly, but the patriots in charge of it. They love you, although they would kill you in a heart beat.

Remember when your government proposed to kill you in Operation Northwoods? It was similar to the actual effort to kill you in Operation Tailwind, which had something in common with Operation Dick, as well as Operation Constitutional Scholar, not to mention the delaying of the end of WWII in order to use nukes, including on Hiroshima where captured U.S. pilots were killed alongside hundreds of thousands of mere non-Americans. Your country spends the majority of the money it makes decisions on each year on an enterprise that it knows endangers you. Its name is militarism. Its participants are killed first and foremost by suicide. They are your government killing itself.

Your country is first in the world in a number of things, including environmental destruction of various sorts, in which the U.S. military takes the lead; locking people up in prisons; and the most disastrous policies in the wealthy world on guns, healthcare, poverty, etc. If your country isn’t killing you quickly, it is doing so slowly; in other countries people live longer. Please don’t imagine that you have to defend this atrocity because you created it. You didn’t. You let it happen. But it is run by an oligarchy that we just go on year after year pretending is a democracy or a republic.

Congress has long since marginalized itself. Nobody even thinks to expect Congress to halt an attack on starving children from Honduras, not because nobody cares, but because it’s Congress, which its biggest fans and its own members admit has basically shut down.

So, I don’t object to one day spent on an unaccountable voting system, choosing this or that generic platform-free candidate. I don’t mind people getting their chance to vote against a president without the bother of having a second presidential candidate on the ballot whom they’d like to vote against as well. But don’t imagine it’s a substitute for impeachment. Don’t imagine it’s a fill in for nonviolent revolution. Don’t imagine that in this bus careening toward a cliff, it’s more than a change of windshield wipers.

When it’s done, we should all be curious — better late than never — to find out what the people elected intend to do and what we can compel them to do instead. Here are some questions I think we should pose to them:

  1. What would you like the U.S. discretionary budget to look like? With 60% now going to militarism, what percentage would you like that to be?
  2. What program of economic conversion to peaceful enterprises would you support?
  3. Would you end, continue, or escalate U.S. war making in: Afghanistan? Iraq? Syria? Yemen? Pakistan? Libya? Somalia?
  4. Would you end the exemption for militarism in Kyoto, Paris, and other climate agreements?
  5. Would you sign / ratify any of these treaties: Paris Climate Agreement? Convention on the Rights of the Child? International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights? International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights optional protocols? Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women? Convention Against Torture optional protocol? International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families? International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance? The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities? International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries? Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court? Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity? Principles of International Cooperation in the Detection, Arrest, Extradition, and Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity? Convention on Cluster Munitions? Land Mines Convention? Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons? Proposed treaties banning the weaponization of space and banning cyber crimes?
  6. Would you halt or continue expenditures on the production and so-called modernization of nuclear weapons?
  7. Would you end weapons sales and the provision of military training to any governments? Which?
  8. Would you close any foreign bases? Which?
  9. Would you halt or continue the practice of murder by missiles from drones?
  10. Do you recognize the ban on war, with exceptions, contained in the United Nations Charter? And the ban on threatening war?
  11. Do you recognize the ban on war, without exceptions, contained in the Kellogg-Briand Pact?
  12. Will you end discriminatory bans on immigrants?
  13. Should actual, non-military, no-strings-attached foreign aid be eliminated, reduced, maintained, or increased? How much?
  14. 84% of South Koreans want the war ended immediately. Should the United States block that?
  15. Should NATO be maintained or abolished?
  16. Should the CIA be maintained or abolished?
  17. Should the ROTC be maintained or abolished?
  18. Should domestic police forces be trained by, collaborate with, and be armed by militaries?
  19. Should the U.S. military pay sports leagues, secretly or openly, to celebrate militarism?
  20. How large should the U.S. military’s advertising budget be, and how much should the U.S. government spend promoting the concepts of nonviolent dispute resolution and the abolition of war?
  21. Will you keep the United States in the INF Treaty?
  22. Will you impeach and remove Trump and Pence?

I’m sure you can think of dozens more concrete questions on various topics never asked or at least never answered during the election campaigns. They might include the election reform measures mentioned above. Remember that the way you use elections is not by electing people but by achieving the credible ability to unelect people.

Now, let’s get to work. There are thousands of great local, national, and global organizations that you should consider at least as important as any electoral candidate. Here are two I work for and recommend. Here is a tiny fraction of the powerful tools waiting to be picked up and put to use. Like all tools, they can be ignored or put to harmful use. Putting them to good use, together, strategically, is our only path out of catastrophe. I quote:

THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT PROTEST AND PERSUASION
Formal Statements
                    1. Public Speeches
                    2. Letters of opposition or support
                    3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
                    4. Signed public statements
                    5. Declarations of indictment and intention
                    6. Group or mass petitions

Communications with a Wider Audience
                    7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
                    8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
                    9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
                    10. Newspapers and journals
                    11. Records, radio, and television
                    12. Skywriting and earthwriting

Group Representations
                    13. Deputations
                    14. Mock awards
                    15. Group lobbying
                    16. Picketing
                    17. Mock elections

Symbolic Public Acts
                    18. Displays of flags and symbolic colors
                    19. Wearing of symbols
                    20. Prayer and worship
                    21. Delivering symbolic objects
                    22. Protest disrobings
                    23. Destruction of own property
                    24. Symbolic lights
                    25. Displays of portraits
                    26. Paint as protest
                    27. New signs and names
                    28. Symbolic sounds
                    29. Symbolic reclamations
                    30. Rude gestures

Pressures on Individuals
                    31. “Haunting” officials
                    32. Taunting officials
                    33. Fraternization
                    34. Vigils

Drama and Music
                    35. Humorous skits and pranks
                    36. Performances of plays and music
                    37. Singing

Processions
                    38. Marches
                    39. Parades
                    40. Religious processions
                    41. Pilgrimages
                    42. Motorcades

Honoring the Dead
                    43. Political mourning
                    44. Mock funerals
                    45. Demonstrative funerals
                    46. Homage at burial places

Public Assemblies
                    47. Assemblies of protest or support
                    48. Protest meetings
                    49. Camouflaged meetings of protest
                    50. Teach-ins

Withdrawal and Renunciation
                    51. Walk-outs
                    52. Silence
                    53. Renouncing honors
                    54. Turning one’s back

 

THE METHODS OF SOCIAL NONCOOPERATION

 

Ostracism of Persons
                    55. Social boycott
                    56. Selective social boycott
                    57. Lysistratic nonaction
                    58. Excommunication
                    59. Interdict

Noncooperation with Social Events, Customs, and Institutions
                    60. Suspension of social and sports activities
                    61. Boycott of social affairs
                    62. Student strike
                    63. Social disobedience
                    64. Withdrawal from social institutions

Withdrawal from the Social System
                    65. Stay-at-home
                    66. Total personal noncooperation
                    67. “Flight” of workers
                    68. Sanctuary
                    69. Collective disappearance
                    70. Protest emigration (hijrat)

 

THE METHODS OF ECONOMIC NONCOOPERATION: ECONOMIC BOYCOTTS

 
Actions by Consumers
                    71. Consumers’ boycott
                    72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods
                    73. Policy of austerity
                    74. Rent withholding
                    75. Refusal to rent
                    76. National consumers’ boycott
                    77. International consumers’ boycott

Action by Workers and Producers
                    78. Workmen’s boycott
                    79. Producers’ boycott

Action by Middlemen
                    80. Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott

Action by Owners and Management
                    81. Traders’ boycott
                    82. Refusal to let or sell property
                    83. Lockout
                    84. Refusal of industrial assistance
                    85. Merchants’ “general strike”

Action by Holders of Financial Resources
                    86. Withdrawal of bank deposits
                    87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
                    88. Refusal to pay debts or interest
                    89. Severance of funds and credit
                    90. Revenue refusal
                    91. Refusal of a government’s money

Action by Governments
                    92. Domestic embargo
                    93. Blacklisting of traders
                    94. International sellers’ embargo
                    95. International buyers’ embargo
                    96. International trade embargo

 

THE METHODS OF ECONOMIC NONCOOPERATION: THE STRIKE

 
Symbolic Strikes
                    97. Protest strike
                    98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike)

Agricultural Strikes
                    99. Peasant strike
                    100. Farm Workers’ strike

Strikes by Special Groups
                    101. Refusal of impressed labor
                    102. Prisoners’ strike
                    103. Craft strike
                    104. Professional strike

Ordinary Industrial Strikes
                    105. Establishment strike
                    106. Industry strike
                    107. Sympathetic strike

Restricted Strikes
                    108. Detailed strike
                    109. Bumper strike
                    110. Slowdown strike
                    111. Working-to-rule strike
                    112. Reporting “sick” (sick-in)
                    113. Strike by resignation
                    114. Limited strike
                    115. Selective strike

Multi-Industry Strikes
                   116. Generalized strike
                   117. General strike

Combination of Strikes and Economic Closures

                   118. Hartal
                   119. Economic shutdown
 

THE METHODS OF POLITICAL NONCOOPERATION
 
Rejection of Authority
                    120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance
                    121. Refusal of public support
                    122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance

Citizens’ Noncooperation with Government
                    123. Boycott of legislative bodies
                    124. Boycott of elections
                    125. Boycott of government employment and positions
                    126. Boycott of government depts., agencies, and other bodies
                    127. Withdrawal from government educational institutions
                    128. Boycott of government-supported organizations
                    129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
                    130. Removal of own signs and placemarks
                    131. Refusal to accept appointed officials
                    132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions

Citizens’ Alternatives to Obedience
                    133. Reluctant and slow compliance
                    134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
                    135. Popular nonobedience
                    136. Disguised disobedience
                    137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
                    138. Sitdown
                    139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
                    140. Hiding, escape, and false identities
                    141. Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws

Action by Government Personnel
                    142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
                    143. Blocking of lines of command and information
                    144. Stalling and obstruction
                    145. General administrative noncooperation
                   146. Judicial noncooperation
                  147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents
                    148. Mutiny
Domestic Governmental Action
                    149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays
                    150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units

International Governmental Action
                    151. Changes in diplomatic and other representations
                    152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
                    153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
                    154. Severance of diplomatic relations
                    155. Withdrawal from international organizations
                    156. Refusal of membership in international bodies
                    157. Expulsion from international organizations

THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT INTERVENTION
 
Psychological Intervention
                    158. Self-exposure to the elements
                    159. The fast
                                        a) Fast of moral pressure
                                        b) Hunger strike
                                        c) Satyagrahic fast
                    160. Reverse trial
                    161. Nonviolent harassment

Physical Intervention
                    162. Sit-in
                    163. Stand-in
                    164. Ride-in
                    165. Wade-in
                    166. Mill-in
                    167. Pray-in
                    168. Nonviolent raids
                    169. Nonviolent air raids
                    170. Nonviolent invasion
                    171. Nonviolent interjection
                    172. Nonviolent obstruction
                    173. Nonviolent occupation

Social Intervention
                    174. Establishing new social patterns
                    175. Overloading of facilities
                    176. Stall-in
                    177. Speak-in
                    178. Guerrilla theater
                    179. Alternative social institutions
                    180. Alternative communication system

Economic Intervention
                    181. Reverse strike
                    182. Stay-in strike
                    183. Nonviolent land seizure
                    184. Defiance of blockades
                    185. Politically motivated counterfeiting
                    186. Preclusive purchasing
                    187. Seizure of assets
                    188. Dumping
                    189. Selective patronage
                    190. Alternative markets
                    191. Alternative transportation systems
                    192. Alternative economic institutions

Political Intervention
                    193. Overloading of administrative systems
                    194. Disclosing identities of secret agents
                    195. Seeking imprisonment
                    196. Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws
                    197. Work-on without collaboration
                    198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government

 

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