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GOVERNMENT / THE ELITE -
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The Trouble with Authority

Posted in the database on Monday, October 10th, 2005 @ 21:07:41 MST (1184 views)
by Charles Sullivan    Information Clearing House  

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It is not desirable to cultivate respect for the law, so much as for the right. ‘ --Henry D. Thoreau

‘How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. --Henry D. Thoreau

‘Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?’ --Henry D. Thoreau

I doubt that any sane person would argue that civil society can or should operate without at least some laws. Society exists in part because it has come to some kind of agreement about what is acceptable conduct and what is not. Perhaps some people will argue that there are too many laws. Others would argue that there are unjust laws. I would place myself into the latter camp.

Civil law cannot set us free. Only our respect for the rights and welfare of others can do that. Good laws exist—laws that were written to protect people from discrimination; laws that were designed to protect life, liberty and property. Unfortunately, in too many instances those laws are not applied to everyone equally. Too often in the course of American history those laws were not applied to certain groups of people. Those groups included but were not limited to the American Indians, people of color, women, laborers and immigrants, and the millions upon millions of people trapped in the lowest socio-economic classes.

We operate under the assumption that the laws of the land are in place to protect our human welfare and to safe guard property from being unjustly taken from us. It may be argued that that is the intent of the law; but it is often not how the law is applied. It is the application of law that determines outcomes, not the intent of law. History is replete with examples.

America is a class society. There are the haves and the have-nots. Viewed in this way, one can see the law, or shall we say—authority—as existing to protect the haves from the have-nots. Thus it can be seen that both law and authority, mean different things to the different classes. So the government does not consider all people, both citizens and non citizens alike, as equal under the law. As it is applied to real life situations, the laws of the land are quite often unjust.

Now we find ourselves in a moral conundrum. Should just people obey unjust laws? Should they obey authority that does not have their own welfare at heart? Should they be loyal to authority that takes from the poor and gives disproportionately to the rich? Should they lend their support to a military industrial complex that uses them as cannon fodder in wars in which they have no stake? Should they obey the authority of heartless and soulless corporate entities—legal fictions—who behave like sociopaths but write many of the laws governing corporate behavior? The answer is a resounding NO!

When the government operates in the corporate interest and against the public interest, the citizens do not owe it their allegiance. Indeed, they have an ethical responsibility to resist and dismantle a government that does not protect the public interest. They have a moral obligation to act in their own self interest. After all, it is a matter of survival. When the political system is broken beyond repair they have both a right and an obligation to revolt. I would argue that that is the situation today.

So the question becomes: how do people concerned about social justice accomplish those ends? Can they be affected by operating within a corrupt and unjust political system? The answer lies in an examination of American history.

The most important advances of American society have come from citizens who operated outside of the law. Examples include winning the eight hour work day by organized labor, ending child labor laws, shutting down chattel slavery, winning the right of people of color to vote, ending the Viet Nam war, and ending racial segregation. Those victories were won not through obedience of the law, or by respecting unjust authority—they were won through acts of civil disobedience.

As long as people obey unjust laws we will have unjust government. Like our predecessors in the labor and civil rights movements, we have to be willing to take protest to the next level. When the government—I hesitate to call it our government—turns a deaf ear to the concerns of its citizens and the rest of the world, we have been absolved of all ethical obligation to that government. It is the government that is disloyal, not the citizenry. Our intent must become ‘Death to the state.’

Millions of people have taken to the streets in an effort to halt the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Clearly, it has been demonstrated time and time again that the huge majority of American citizens do not want war. Only the suicidal are anxious to throw their lives away. The majority does not support American imperialism and colonialism. We do not sanction the destruction of sovereign nations that threaten no one and the wholesale looting of their resources for the sake of corporate profiteering. These are atrocious acts of barbarism against our fellow human beings—people who are like us---and against the earth. We do not want them committed in our name. These acts of war benefit the corporate bottom line but do not serve the interest of the average American. As a nation, we must refuse to send our young men and women to fight for pathological corporate values, while betraying our own values of life and liberty for all.

So we must oppose corrupt government with every fiber of our being. We must become a friction to the war machine and bring its insatiable lust for gore to a grinding halt. We must fill the streets with dissenters and cause the jails to overflow with those who demand justice and accountability. We must sabotage the machinery of war and throw a monkey wrench upon the apparatus of social and economic injustice. We must throw our bodies onto the gears and levers of the machine and make it stop. We must organize huge general strikes and hit at the soft economic underbelly of the oppressive beast. Let us bring back the general strike. Let us organize nationwide work stoppages.

We must commit ourselves to organizing the masses in our communities. We must educate. We must agitate. We must challenge authority. We must fan the flames of dissent, if we are to save our country and sow the seeds of hope and freedom. We must prepare to make personal sacrifices. Like our brethren in the social justice movements around the planet, we must prepare to die. That is what it is going to take. Nothing else has ever worked. We must understand that fact and all of its ramifications.

Remember that when Dr. King and his followers marched for the rights they were supposedly granted by the constitution, that the police and the National Guard turned their water canons, billy clubs and rifles against them, rather than their oppressors. We know that when confrontations occur that the police and the National Guard are always called forward to put down uprisings and to protect the property holders—the haves from the have-nots. We cannot count on them to help us. They too are the enemy—an extension of state authority. The same thing occurred when organized labor took to the streets in search of justice. This is a very telling truth.

If the more radical elements of society had not defied authority we would have remained under English rule. Slavery and segregation would still prevail. We would have the twelve hour work day and the seventy-two hour work week. We would still find strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees of the Deep South. Young children would continue to work in dangerous mines and filthy factories scarcely fit for human habitation. Rosa Parks would continue to obediently sit in the back of buses, with whites at the front. After working ourselves to exhaustion under deplorable conditions in the nation’s factories and mines, we would be forced to buy all of our goods from the company store at a net deficit.

All that is good and decent in America was won and paid for with human blood. Nothing was ever given. Blood is the currency of emancipation. Let us bring back militant unions like the Industrial Workers of the World that fight like hell for worker’s rights, rather than making concessions to the straw bosses in industry. Let us have unions that view the employers as the enemies of the working class. Let us demand accountability from those in government. Let us remind them that we the people are in control, not them. Let us undo the horrendous mistake of Corporations as persons and force them under the control of the people.

In our desire to appear reasonable we have lost the willingness to fight for what is good and decent. We have marginalized and prostituted ourselves. We cannot expect any help from either the Democratic or the Republican parties—they are a part of the problem. They are essentially one and the same—a party of the corporate oligarchy. Our loyalty does not belong to political parties that do not serve the interests of the working class people. It belongs to truth. It belongs to justice. It belongs to one another. Together—united---we are an irresistible force for revolutionary change in America. Let us purge the corruption from the veins of government. Let us organize around the principle of social and environmental justice. Let us go forth into the streets and wreck havoc upon the economic machinery of war and injustice.

The kind of America we envision is possible. A terrible price will probably have to be paid. But in the end it will be worth it if we can find the courage now to go forward. Future generations will be glad we did.



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