So I came across this story a couple weeks ago:
It’s about a couple activists who’ve recently ended a hunger strike calling on a company named Valero to remove all ties with TransCanada- the people behind the infamous KXL Pipeline. The statement from the activists seen above says that they were on strike to show that these corporations don’t care about whether or not people die because of this pipeline- the horrible damage it would do to the environment, the aquifers that are endangered, and the people who will have to live with the cost of the production and the activity of the KXL Pipeline.
There were a lot of people, in the comments and some of my environmental friends, who thanked them for their sacrifice to the cause. How hard it must have been to put their lives on the line to symbolically demonstrate how treacherous this whole thing is.
Sometimes I feel like such a critique. I know how hard fasting is- I couldn’t imagine fasting for 45 days…but unless you’re Gandhi, I really don’t understand what a hunger strike would accomplish besides feeling good about yourself and impressing your friends- or in this case, people who are already actively involved in the movement. Even a prisoner hunger strike would be more effective.
I think this calls into question how strategic a hunger strike is to our movement, and possibly how strategic most symbolic actions are to our movement. I love, absolutely LOVE, how more environmentalists are getting on board with the need for civil disobedience and direct action. We are starting to lock down in Texas and sit down in stuffy corporate offices. Just look at the Sierra Club- they’ve FINALLY put their funding on the line to publicly announce that this is a time stop fucking around and engage in an act of civil disobedience to stop the KXL Pipeline (I’ll probably have more to say about that at some point, but that’s another post for another time). But I think the next step is to start sifting through what actions are strategic, and necessary, and what actions just make us ‘feel good’.
I can say a lot about why we’re so insistent on symbolic arrestable actions, our romanticizing of the civil rights movement, many white activist’s ties to a pacifist ideologies, the media’s willingness to jump on anything that’s vaguely militant and call it ‘terrorist’ activity; but if we’ve made it this far we need to keep on challenging ourselves. There ARE ways for a small group of people to radically change the world around them but we have to be willing to explore all avenues, regardless of unfounded moral hesitation, in order to reach those goals.
This isn’t an argument for or against violent direct action, but I think that seriously exploring what non-violence can entail, what we generally agree is violent action, what it’s honestly going to take to stop the production of one of the worst projects we’ve seen today, and what solidarity really looks like- is the logical next step for us as a movement.
'Revolution' isn't pretty. It's long, ugly, and scary. But we are in desperate need of one. And it has to happen by any means.