Friday, November 11, 2016

#316 / Failing At Their Task

One of my Facebook Friends recently complained about the failure of members of the public to speak up, when confronted by public officials who deliberately obscure the truth, or who intentionally try to make it hard for members of the public to raise effective opposition to the projects that the public officials are supporting.

Being too "polite," or too deferential to officials, she said, is "where I see the public failing at their task." 

To emphasize what she thought might be the right approach, my Facebook Friend posted the picture above, and said: "Here's how civilized people behave when their land and water are threatened."

While I am very sympathetic with the point my Facebook Friend made, I am not endorsing the "machetes at the ready" approach. Here is what I do advocate, as conveyed in my response to my Facebook Friend: 

I basically agree with you about the inappropriate willingness of members of the public to say nothing to confront elected or appointed officials (who work for them, after all) when the officials are purposefully attempting to quell the expression of real dissent. But "organized" opposition is what is needed, so everyone in the group feels supported to speak out. Isolated individuals always feel weak vis a vis those in positions of power, and a strong group is needed to counteract that natural human tendency to be "polite," even when rights and the truth are being trod upon.

My formula for effective political action is a small group (5-15 people) who meet weekly. Without that, it's hard for individuals to stand up to institutional power. You may be, as an individual, somewhat of an exception! But still, my advice is to leave your machete at home!!

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