Activist initiatives multiply; wise advice from elders with experience
November 22, 2011 —
Despite postponement of a momentous vote on the Delaware River Basin Commission’s proposed natural gas regulations, activists carried through with a planned rally in Trenton, NJ on November 21 (see page 1). The rally was one of a quickly multiplying number of initiatives on the part of people responding to a sense that the time has come to be heard on issues ranging from the economy to hydrofracking.
In addition to international actions such as the Occupy movement, some of the local efforts arising include last weekend’s Occupy Honesdale event (see page 5), weekly gatherings in front of the Monticello, NY post office to express solidarity with the Occupy movement and the Watershed General Assembly on November 19 (see sidebar below).
During a community discussion on civil disobedience sponsored by the Crones Club in Narrowsburg, NY recently, a group of elder women led a stirring session on civil disobedience with personal accounts of past activism and guidance for today’s initiatives.
Crones Club founder Beverly Sterner said she recognizes a similar energy to that of the 1960s when she first became an activist. “It’s Washington and Wall Street coming together now,” she said. “We’re connecting the dots, forming a movement and creating coalitions. This is the beginning of a discussion about how we can connect and bring this issue home.”
Sterner began with an explanation of what civil disobedience is and how it has historically been practiced. “Civil disobedience and nonviolence go hand in hand,” said Sterner, before sharing Martin Luther King’s basic elements of non-violence, including, “The ethic of real love is at the center of non-violence.”
“It’s extremely important that when we commit a civil disobedience, we make it clear that this is nothing personal against the person who is arresting us, that we have options to walk and talk with them, or to go limp and not cooperate with the arrest,” she said.
Drawing upon years of personal experience, Sterner urged caution. “It can be a very iffy situation. If provoked, don’t engage. Don’t get hooked into their language or their arena. Back off and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Suppress your immediate response to react. Heavy judgments, blaming and projecting are all forms of violence.”
Sterner recounted the principle of “moral jujitsu.” “Don’t give something to push against,” she said. “If you do not respond in kind, then your opponent is thrown off balance and there is an opening to get through.” Sterner also stressed the importance of non-violent language and cited the work of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg.