to be an Activist: Being Civilly Disobedient
By Ben White
Civil Disobedience (CD) - breaking the law of
the day to argue for a greater goal - has been used as a form
of activism for many years. Both Gandhi and Martin Luther King,
Jr. used it. Ben White lays down some philosophical ground rules
for those who feel they wish to undertake CD. The following is
not intended as a recommendation to undertake CD; that is entirely
a personal decision.
1. Challenging the infliction of suffering is the
right thing to do. Feel proud. If you act like a criminal,
you will be treated as one.
2. Treat everyone - police, your opponents, the
press - as potential converts. Be persuasive, not angry.
3. Be peaceful. Completely. If verbally attacked,
smile. If physically attacked, protect yourself without responding
in kind. Look the person in the eye.
4. Remember why you are doing it - to keep from personally
acquiescing to suffering. The more oppressive the treatment
of you, the more obvious the institutional protection of
5. There is power in numbers.
6. Come across as a normal person. Otherwise your
opinion is considered by many to be worthless.
7. Know your subject. Don't answer any question from
the media that you're not sure of.
8. Appeal to the inherent sense of fairness in your
opponent or the police who are encountered.
Ben White is the Pacific Coast director of Friends