Civil Disobedience: Because It Works! Rolf Auer, 16 January 2014

Is civil disobedience effective? Is it relevant today?

Here, a student asks these questions of MIT Professor Noam Chomsky (1):

Student: “How effective do you feel civil disobedience was during the Civil Rights Movement and do you feel that it’s still relevant today when considering mainstream media blackouts on such events as March Against Monsanto and the protest for Bradley Manning?”

Professor Chomsky: “Well, the civil disobedience during the Civil Rights Movement was highly effective, not because of media exposure (most of it got very little), but just because the effect of civil disobedience, if it’s done properly, is to encourage others to undertake actions that they might not have considered otherwise, and it had a kind of a steamrollering effect in that way and I think there’s every reason to expect that it still will! Of course, you have to catch the imagination of the public and reach the understanding of the public. The civil rights activities—like others, like say sanctions, boycotts, any means that are taken—can only be effective if they are intelligible to the audience you’re trying to address, meaning they’re based on educational and organizational activities and they inspire actions which can escalate and develop. It’s a tactic that’s been effective when properly carried out in the past, and it can be today!

How could civil disobedience be used today? Here are six potentialities:

(A) fracking

(B) Oilsands

(C) homelessness

(D) inequality

(E) privatization of knowledge

(F) TPP – the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal

(A) fracking

Here, a man sets on fire tap water contaminated with frack wastewater: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U01EK76Sy4A&feature=youtu.be

An excellent 6:00-minute-long video summary of the Elsipogtog, New Brunswick anti-fracking protest can be found here (2). Anti-fracking protests are taking place around the world (3).

MIT Professor Noam Chomsky is on record condemning fracking and the Alberta Oilsands (4). “‘It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it’s shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result.’

[I]ndigenous peoples in Canada blocking fossil fuel developments are taking the lead in combatting climate change.”

More references can be found at Twitter hashtags: #Elsipogtog #Fracking.

(B) Oilsands

From Double, Double Oil and Trouble (5): “During the half-hour-long 2008 documentary, Downstream, one Native woman from the Alberta First Nations town of Fort Chipewyan condemns the water from the Athabasca River as undrinkable. From a related news article: ‘Many Fort Chip residents have even forsaken the town’s purified tap water, struggling to afford the bottled kind, which sells for $8 a gallon.’
Not only has the water (untreated or even treated) from the Athabasca River been proven to be undrinkable, it is so catastrophically polluted that it destroys not only the health of the First Nations peoples living beside it, but also all of the wildlife depending upon it in any manner for their existence (fish, fowl, et cetera).
It is largely First Nations communities that are bearing the hidden costs of tar sands development. The injustice of an economic gain that profits select Canadians while jeopardizing others’ health and access to clear water is undeniable.’—from the 2010 article titled, Dirty oil’s human price

Other articles of interest include: The Graveyard Laugh (6) and Oil Pollution Is Economically Inefficient (7).

Legendary musicians Neil Young and Diana Krall will be giving benefit concerts in Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, and Calgary to fundraise for a First Nations legal defense against the Oilsands (8). Catch a few words from Neil Young here (9).

Here is an article about the atrocious record on pipeline safety (10). An Oilsands “before and after” photo can be found here (11).

More references can be found at Twitter hashtags: #oilsands #Tarsands.

(C) homelessness

From Stephen Harper government lies to world on housing (12): “The Wellesley Institute filed a five-page document [available as a download in this article—RA] with the Universal Periodic Review citing a litany of Canadian cutbacks to housing programs….‘Included in the federal cuts were: 97% cut in Affordable Housing Initiative (new affordable homes) from $452 million to $16 million; 94% cut in national low-income housing repair program from $674 to $37 million; 27% cut in on-reserve Aboriginal housing from $215 to $156 million; and, 5% cut in assisted housing from $1.7 to $1.6 billion.’”

“Canada remains the only G8 country without a housing strategy.” (13)

(D) inequality

From Who Is Working For Minimum Wage In Ontario? (14):“The evidence is clear that income inequality in Canada is growing, and that it is harmful to our economy, to our society and to our health. Statistics Canada data document rising income inequality in Ontario. While the real incomes of the top 10 percent of Ontarians increased by 35 percent between 1982 and 2010; the real incomes of the bottom 90 percent increased by only 4.7 percent over that 28 year period. Analysis by the Conference Board of Canada and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has confirmed this trend. Work from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has documented the concentration of income to those with the very highest incomes.”

A rising share of the Ontario workforce is working for minimum wage. Between 2003 and 2011, the share of employees working for minimum wage has more than doubled from 4.3 to 9 percent. Data from the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics shows us that minimum wage work is not distributed equally across all Ontarians: women, racialized workers and recent immigrants are more likely to be working for minimum wage….Young workers are much more likely to be working for minimum wage than those who are over 25. But almost 40 percent of employees working for minimum wage, 183,000 Ontarians, were 25 years of age and over in 2011. The share of adult employees at minimum wage more than doubled between 2003 and 2011. However, the pace of increase was even faster for racialized adult employees and adult employees who are immigrants.” (15)

From the CBC radio show, The Current (16), Ralph Nader recently stated that in the US, 30 million minimum wage workers are making less wages as in 1968. He quoted a high-up in CostCo about the necessity of paying employees a living wage as saying: “It’s the right thing to do.”

Other articles of interest include Do workers have the right to a living wage? (17), Let’s Fix Economic Inequality (18), $10.10 [US] Minimum Wage Would Actually Create Jobs: Study (19), and Seventy-five Leading [US] Economists Just Told Congress To Raise The Minimum Wage (20).

More references can be found at Twitter hashtag: #minimumwagewars.

(E) privatization of knowledge

If knowledge is privatized, people would have to pay to access what is now freely available, if they would be even allowed access to it at all. Important information was made available to the public via Information Age heroes Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond (21), Julian Assange, Edward Snowden (22), and Aaron Swartz (23), who sacrificed dearly so that the public would remain informed.

More references can be found at Twitter hashtag: #WikiLeaks.

(F) TPP – the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal

MIT Professor Noam Chomsky roundly condemned the TPP (24): “It’s very hard to make anything of the TPP because it’s been kept very secret. Half-secret I should say—it’s not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the legislation. To them, it’s perfectly public, they’re in fact writing it. It’s been kept secret from the population, which of course raises obvious questions, and we even have some answers to those questions because one part of it leaked. It was leaked and released by WikiLeaks, it’s the section on intellectual property rights. What are called intellectual property rights are simply highly protectionist measures introduced to maximize profit for pharmaceutical corporations, huge media conglomerates, and so on. It’s called free trade, but that’s just a joke. These are highly protectionist measures designed to undermine freedom of trade and in fact much of what’s leaked about TPP indicates it’s not really about trade at all, it’s investor rights.

This 10:50 minute video is eye-opening (25). One quote: “To put it bluntly, the TPP would sacrifice national sovereignty, public health, and internet freedom all in the name of helping private corporations keep their CEOs’ wallets fat and their shareholders happy.” (02:16-02:28)

An article of interest: A Polemic Against Corporatist Dehumanization (26).

More references can be found at Twitter hashtags: #TPP #NoTPP.


Human rights today are under attack, eroded by corporatist dehumanization, of which the latest wave is the neoliberal assault. To fight this, one would be hard-pressed to find a better reason to use civil disobedience.

Remember Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


(1) Noam Chomsky video conference , 37:00 minute video, 1:03-1:20 Student 1:21-02:46 Professor Chomsky, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDLBDzDp0A0

(2) Canadian State Waging War Against Mi’kmaw First Nation – PRESS TV, 6:00 minute video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWorGYMlDBI&feature=share

(3) ‘We Say No To Shale Gas’: World Unites Against Fracking, 20 October 2013, article, http://rt.com/news/global-frackdown-fracking-protest-442/

(4) Noam Chomsky slams Canada’s shale gas energy plans, 1 November 2013, article, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/01/noam-chomsky-canadas-shale-gas-energy-tar-sands

(5) 25 April 2013, article, Instructions to read / download this piece: In a web browser enter the URL http://www.zcommunications.org, on menu on left, click “ZBlogs / Forums”; on “Advanced Search” on menu on left, click the magnifying glass; click “Sustainer Blog” and enter “Rolf Auer” in “Writers/Sustainers” field and click same in dropdown, then click “Search”; scroll down to first article by Rolf Auer; click “Auer’s Zspace page”; click “Auer’s content” on menu on left; click “Blogs” in dropdown; scroll down popup and click Double, Double Oil and Trouble. Whew!

(6) 8 May 2013, article, To read / download this piece, follow Instructions in (5) except for last one: instead click Bitumen pipelines are dangerous. Alternatively, in a web browser enter the URL http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rolf_Auer; Find Intersection Vol 1 Set 1: free download.

(7) 10 June 2013, article, To download this piece, in a web browser enter the URL http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Rolf_Auer; Find Intersection Vol 1 Set 1: free download.

(8) http://www.honourtheacfn.ca/

(9) http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2014/01/13/neil-young-oilsands-occupation/ 13 January 2014, 24:00 minute audio, click “Listen”.

(10) 28 October 2013, article, http://www.cbc.ca/news/pipeline-safety-incident-rate-doubled-in-past-decade-1.2251771

(11) March 2013, photo, http://www.ienearth.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/before-after-en.jpg

(12) Stephen Harper government lies to world on housing, 14 November 2012, article, http://www.straight.com/news/stephen-harper-government-lies-world-housing

(13) Statement by Marie-Claude Morin on the Conservative rejection of bill C-400, 27 February 2013, article, http://www.ndp.ca/taxonomy/term/24

(14) Who Is Working For Minimum Wage In Ontario?, October 2013, article, p.1, http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Who-Makes-Minimum-Wage.pdf

(15) ibid., from Executive Summary

(16) Minimum Wage Wars: Canada, US and International Minimum Wage, 14 January 2014, 28:00 minute audio, podcast downloadable from http://www.cbc.ca/TheCurrent

(17) Do workers have the right to a living wage?, 14 January 2014, article, http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/canada-politics/working-deserve-earn-living-wage-215554902.html

(18) Let’s Fix Economic Inequality, 8 January 2014, article, To read / download this piece, follow Instructions in (5) except for last one: instead click Let’s Fix Economic Inequality. Alternatively, in a web browser enter the URL http://www.ubiquitous42.wordpress.com. The article is located at entry: 2014_01_08.

(19) $10.10 Minimum Wage Would Actually Create New Jobs: Study, 19 December 2013, article, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/19/1010-minimum-wage_n_4474183.html

(20) Seventy-five Leading Economists Just Told Congress To Raise The Minimum Wage, 14 January 2014, article, http://www.thenation.com/blog/177918/seventy-five-leading-economists-just-told-congress-raise-minimum-wage

(21) Julian Assange: Stratfor Hacker Jeremy Hammond Guilty Plea Part of Crackdown on Journalism, Activism, 29 May 2013, article, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/5/29/julian_assange_stratfor_hacker_jeremy_hammond

(22) Public letter by Edward Snowden detailing and explaining some of his actions, 17 December 2013, https://www.facebook.com/davidmichael.miranda/posts/749158735113204

(23) Aaron Swartz’s unfinished whistleblowing platform finally launches, 15 October 2013, article, http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/10/aaron-swartzs-unfinished-whistleblowing-platform-finally-launches/. The latter “whistleblowing platform” (whistleblowers are kept anonymous) is located at the following URL https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/securedrop.

(24) A discussion with Noam Chomsky, 20:00 minute video, 03:25-04:52 Professor Chomsky, http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/a-discussion-with-noam-chomsky/52cad6fffe34442083000162

(25) TPP – WikiLeaks has released another bombshell, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPIsjH25GHo

(26) A Polemic Against Corporatist Dehumanization, 1 December 2013, To read / download this piece, follow Instructions in (5) except for last one: instead click On Corporatist Dehumanization. Alternatively, in a web browser enter the URL http://www.ubiquitous42.wordpress.com. The article is located at entry 2013_12_01.


About Rolf Auer

I’m this doofus who’s trying to get by as a know-it-all poet. Fighting poverty has long been an abiding interest of mine. Sharing fast, easy, low-cost recipes is but one way of doing that.🙂
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2 Responses to 2014_01_16

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