Burn it all down. It is the fundamental question to any revolution. When do we burn it all down? If there is a cause or issue you care about, ask yourself where that line is. I don’t care what political or religious or philosophical ideology you subscribe to, ask yourself where is the line beyond which all bets are off and it is time to burn it all down.
I don’t give a damn about convention or the status quo. I am tired of hearing people bitch about injustice. I finished with various factions on the Left squabbling among one another while the right and corporatists keep pushing forward. What I want is justice, and my definition of justice is a simple one; I demand the greatest realization of human rights, equality and justice possible for the broadest possible spectrum of humanity. I reject the idea of class and privilege. I believe that opulent wealth is not benefit of success but a flaw in an inefficient economic notion, and I believe we have abandoned our government to corporate control and that it may require sacrifice unlike anything seen in this nation since the civil war to restore power back to the people.
If it all sounds rather ominous, I am as serious as a heart attack. This nation is in real trouble. And while I am not advocating violence, at least not now, what I am saying is that, well, I better explain.
Look, Americans have been fed this prescription for pacification and control. Everything about this society has become about pacification and control. Make no mistake, the consolidation of 94% our once public media into ownership by 5 major corporations is not an accident. These companies are the messaging body for the corporations assuming more and more control over our nation.
Take, for example, the eternally peaceful and humble little Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian Independence Movement. Most Americans simple assume that Gandhi was the leader of the movement and that the nasty British colonialists beat Gandhi’s ever persistent ranks of peaceniks until they were so exhausted and frustrated that they climbed back onto their sailing vessels with their pith helmets and tea sets and retreated to foggy old England, but the movement to throw off the Brits was almost 60 years old before Gandhi migrated from South Africa.
In fairness to the good Mr Gandhi, the character of the movement became decidedly, but not exclusively nonviolent after his arrival. Most Indians accepted, and the effort gain considerable momentum and credibility adopting his philosophy of nonviolent action and protest. In that shadows and on the fringes, and seething in the ghettos and impoverished villages across India remained those who saw a necessity for violence if pushed or threatened or if nonviolence failed.
The threat and potential for violence had been there from the beginning. Even Gandhi held revolutionaries like Bagha Jatin, a founder of the armed revolutionary organization, Anushilan Samiti, in high regard, calling him a “divine ma.” Anushilan Samiti engaged in political assassinations, terrorist acts and plotting violent revolution against British rule, well into the 1920s and beyond. Yet, all we in the West known of Indian Independence was that it was all because of a quiet little bald guy played in a movie by Ben Kingsley.
The truth is, that there are no peaceful movements for justice. As Fredrick Douglas said, power concedes nothing without demand. I’ll take that a step further, that power takes nothing serious without the threat of violence. In the face of oppression backed by the power of the state, what is left to the oppressed by the specter of violence if the state refuses to concede or abandon its injustice and oppression? Abolition had John Brown.
Among the greatest of these control myths promulgated by the media and state is the characterization of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While King was decidedly nonviolent, there is growing evidence that King and Malcolm X were growing closer in their views and strategies. But more importantly is how Malcom X and the Black Panthers contribution and necessity to Civil Rights and Black identity has been negated or ignored. In truth Dr king could not have existed in a world without Malcolm X. King’s call for concession by the state over civil rights was bolstered by Malcolm’s demand. While King stood peacefully with his back to the line, Malcolm X defended that line, making it clear that if the state crossed that line it would be met with resistance.
“Kill that dog!” Malcolm X asserted. “If a man uses a dog to keep you from what is rightly yours, kill that dog!”
In his book, “Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.” author David Howard-Pitney recounts a brief meeting between the two men. Pitney describes a mutual respect often overlooked in historical accounts about the two civil rights leaders and how their positions moderated towards one another’s towards the end of their lives. “In the last years of their lives, they were starting to move toward one another,” he says.”While Malcolm is moderating from his earlier position, King is becoming more militant.”
The lesson here is not simply to burn it all down, but that it is important for the activist to know when to burn it down. The activist must draw that line, and the authorities must know that the line exists, or there is no demand to encourage concession. There has to be a trip wire in every protest in which the cars will overturn, the windows will shatter and mayhem will break out. Otherwise it isn’t a protest with a demand for justice, reform and change. It is merely a parade, and parades are for children and clowns.