The blog I meant to write has already been written, so I will throw you a teaser, link it, and then append a little commentary:
“Does Al Gore think he’s too old for civil disobedience?: Leaving aside whether breaking the law is ever justified, it seems odd that Gore doesn’t seem to include himself in the category of the “young people” he thinks should risk jail to halt global warming. After all, at age 71, Ghandi was arrested and served two years in prison. The US labor organizer Mother Jones was still facing charges of sedition in her 80s. Even TV president Martin Sheen, who is eight years older than Gore, managed to get himself arrested at an antinuclear action in Nevada last year, for what he says is the 65th time.” Read the rest …
Meanwhile, over at Climate Progress: Gore calls for civil disobedience to stop coal. But will he lead like Gandhi and King?
To be fair it’s not entirely clear from Mr Gore’s remarks that he is saying that he wouldn’t participate in direct action, but it sure doesn’t sound like it, and that’s a problem.
Gore is right that it is long past time for civil resistance on the climate issue. However if he is exempting himself then he is very much in the wrong. That would simply be another case of “someone else should sacrifice for this”, and we have an abundance of that already … we need more like we need more CO2.
I also disagree with Romm at Climate Progress that “Thus, the scale and nature of the problem makes civil disobedience at best a weak solution to the climate crisis.” If enough people participate in well designed actions and campaigns it is an incredibly powerful tool.
Now lest I be taken for someone who is also exempting himself, I do not. However I will use that as a segue to a caution. Civil disobedience is not some magical tactic that ensures success. It is a powerful tool that can achieve much, or do much damage to the cause if done poorly.
It has been my great good fortune that in my case multiple civil disobedience actions have resulted in only a few arrests, and those have led to only one jail term. For those who have not had the privilege I will note that jail really does suck, but it’s tolerable.
If I have not been active for several years (other than teaching courses in “How To”) it is because the actions
that have been undertaken were, in my opinion, poorly thought out and unlikely to achieve anything. If I am going to risk of arrest and jail again I want there to be some hope that it will contribute to the cause.
And that would be my point. This cause is important. So important that mere non-violent civil resistance is not enough. It must be thoughtful, well designed, strategic, non-violent civil resistance. If you are going to risk arrest and going to jail, make sure it really makes a difference.
To get started I would strongly recommend Doing Democracy by Bill Moyer.