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There is a lot of stress in the United States right now, and it feels like it can explode at any moment. In fact, it already has. Our president has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the upcoming election. Members of the current administration have celebrated and encouraged political violence beyond the context of an election. We've had armed skirmishes in our streets, violence directed by and at law enforcement. Citizens have killed their fellow citizens at protests.
Personally, I've never known so many self-described liberals to talk so openly about taking up arms. This feels scary. We don't bring guns to ballot boxes, it's the opposite of patriotism and the undermining of democracy. There is a better way to do this. Years ago, I had the opportunity to host a PBS television series comprised entirely of TED talks, and one of those speakers stuck with me. For years, she spoke passionately about non-violence as a force more powerful than violence for making change.
She referenced one hundred ninety eight methods and oddly specific, number one hundred ninety eight methods of nonviolent strategic action that could bring down authoritarian regimes or prevent them from rising. Given the current situation in my beloved United States, I knew I needed to speak with her. This is my conversation with Djamila Raqib, executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution and a sort of coach to non-violent activists around the world. I'm Jamila Raqib and I'm in oppressor's worst nightmare. That was the sound of bombs being dropped.
All right, we'll keep it.
We'll keep it. I'd love for you to start us off, Djamila, with a brief history of strategic nonviolent resistance or action. What is it? How is it formalized into a field of study? A practice? Yeah.
So I think when we think about strategic nonviolent action, we tend to think of many different things at the same time. And it sort of loses meaning, right? I think the popular conception is that nonviolent action is somehow about rejecting violence, that it's about what you don't do rather than what you do instead of what we study is distilled from thousands of years of history, of cases where people have used not violence, but other means, social, political, economic acts of non-cooperation, different types of protest, not violent intervention.
You talked about the one hundred and eighty eight methods. These are a collection of all the kind of catalogue of the types of actions people have taken. And so strategic nonviolent action really refers to groups throughout history using these means for particular objectives. And what Gene Sharp, my mentor and colleague, did was look at these cases and say, you know, we usually equate this type of action with Gandhi or King, but actually there's this rich history. And the idea is people have been using it in an improvised way without a lot of knowledge or access to resources.
What might be done if we actually looked at this type of action and studied it to figure out what makes it succeed, what are the factors that contribute to failure? And how can those lessons really be used by social or political movements today to make what they're doing more powerful and more effective? And so it's a body of work. It's a research field, and it's also a type of action that people are doing around the world every day. You are the executive director of a place known as the Albert Einstein Institute.
When I hear that, I imagine particle accelerators and time travel research. What's the connection between Albert Einstein and the study of strategic use of nonviolent resistance?
It's a great question and it's a question that we get a lot. Unsurprisingly, it can be for some a bit of a confusing name. And we get lots of emails and phone calls asking about scientific theories that we don't understand. So there's a couple of ways to answer that. And I think that the one that's really key here is that Gene Sharp, our founder in his 20s, was a conscientious objector to the Korean War, and he also was at the time studying the Indian independence movement and what Gandhi had done.
So he wrote his master's thesis on the book about Gandhi, and he was also at the same time facing a prison term for his conscientious objection. And so he reached out to Albert Einstein and said, I'm about to go to prison. And I've also written a book, and that was during the McCarthy era. And Einstein was sort of a mentor to a lot of people who were refusing to cooperate with the draft board or with the stuff going on with McCarthyism.
And so they formed this sort of pen pal relationship. And this is also sort of a nod to Einstein's views at the end of his life during this time, where he was having this correspondence with Gene Sharp, where he said Gandhi is a brilliant political strategist. This theory and type of action is the best hope we have to deal with these very, very serious political questions of our time. And so, really, at the end of his life, he thought nonviolent resistance really offered humanity a very powerful tool for social justice and political justice.
And so, yeah, that's where the name comes from.
Albert Einstein's pen pal is a great title of a story I want to consume in any media. What's your story with this, Djamila? How did you get connected to this work? Why does it matter to you?
Yeah, I wish there was like a great story to it, but really, I applied for a job, a job that I thought was a one year position. I had just finished school, but before that, of course, I my own history is that I was born in Afghanistan during the Soviet war. And so I grew up with really the war as a backdrop to my childhood. We became refugees in the US, but even as we lived in the US, in Maine, of all places, we had our eye to the country we were from and really disturbed by the level of suffering going on there, but also really in tune with the fact that people were waging this holy war, this war for the defense of their homeland.
And so really, this idea that war was necessary, that it was a just war. And so I grew up with really that kind of backdrop, really thinking about war and violence and conflict, knowing that there's a terrible cost to war. But that is something that we have to use sometimes for so-called good purposes. So that was really my thinking until I found this work, until I got kind of connected with the Albert Einstein Institution where I came to it as a skeptic.
I thought this was about people in the US telling other people from a place of privilege that violence was morally wrong, that they shouldn't do it, not really connected with the level of suffering that goes on. And and how are people to fight against oppression. And so I learned very quickly that this isn't a moralistic condemnation of war and violence. It's really about offering an alternative that is actually powerful, as powerful as as war and violence, if not more.
And so that was hugely appealing. And I think it's that connection that I think a lot of people make to the work. You know, when they find out that this is centuries old, it's something very human, doesn't require us to be good, morally good requires us to be stubborn and that we know humans are really good at. And so it was this idea that, wow, this is like totally accessible. Right. It's not something that Mahatma Gandhi does.
It's something I can do. And so I think that's the big attraction to the work as it was for me as well. So the one your position turned into? Well, it's continued until today.
This idea that nonviolence is more powerful than violence, I think will meet some skeptical minds when they hear it. And I've heard you say before that you have this image that we have that nonviolence is some moral attempt to change the heart of the oppressor is a false understanding of its power. Can you ground us in the source of the power of nonviolent civil resistance in action?
So I think at the root of it is an understanding of power, right? It's absolutely at the heart of it. I think that we understand power as if somehow it's inherent to our political leaders. Right. It's actually in according to established political theory. Right. As well. Our understanding of the world, not in how we want it to be, but in fact how it is, and that is that we give our institutions and our leaders and our political systems power through what we do or what we refuse to do.
And so that's at the heart of it, right? Is this theory of consent of power. And so we think that even in the most authoritarian systems, that people and institutions provide various types of skills and assistance and obedience and cooperation, that cooperation and assistance allows those systems to function. And so if that cooperation and obedience and those skills are either kind of restricted or a severe cases, if it's completely withdrawn, then power holders are left with none of the power that they need in order to survive.
And so in extreme cases, you could see like a disintegration. Right, which is a complete overthrow of an oppressive government. And then at other stages, it could be a type of by exerting this power, you could create a situation where you get an accommodation or a coercion. But it's not about asking for something. Right. It's about understanding that actually, again, you hold power by what you do and what you refuse to do. And if you do that in a collective, then it can be greatly destabilizing to the power of an oppressive system.
There's an additional powerful notion that I came across in some other interview did with a different podcast there.
But I loved it so much because it was breaking down this false idea that you're trying to ask an oppressor to be nice to you, to just come around to morally see the error of their ways. And actually that strategic nonviolence is about the oppressed people finding their power. Right. It's actually it's not about appealing to the oppressor. It's appealing to yourself and seeing yourself as a source of power when you combine with other people. And that is not an obvious interpretation when I hear nonviolence.
And so I think it's a really powerful, no pun intended point. And thank you for kind of breathing some life into that a bit with us here.
Yeah, that's really key. I think there's an amazing quote where this like a sociologist, this Indian sociologist says he's sick and tired of people saying that we need to melt the heart of the opponent. Right. What we need to do, he said, is melt the heart of the oppressed right to change the heart of the oppressed so that they see their own power. And so he was he was talking about the Indian independence movement, but also more generally, really about this kind of the conditions that allow oppressive systems to function.
And that is deeply rooted to people's own understanding of their own power. And I think this is so connected to our world today and into our country today, because I think when we think about power, we tend to think that places of dictatorship or authoritarianism, really severe places, that's where people feel apathy. But in fact, our society also has a lot of trouble with this, you know, the sense of kind of inertia or apathy, which is not that people don't care.
People definitely care. They know that there's huge stakes here, but it's really about feeling helpless in the face of those forces, you know, and that's why I think, you know, having tools and understanding and a basic literacy and civil resistance that you talked about earlier is really so key. And I think it's it's really that engaged citizenry that prevents these types of violations from happening. I understand all of this sounds very theoretical, but we're going to get practical.
We're going to bust open that toolbox right now because you and your institute have a list. One hundred ninety eight methods of nonviolence. For those on the violence side of the ledger, there's an armory and there are small arms and there are tanks and there aircraft and the carriers thereof. But you've got two hundred ninety eight methods. Can you describe how you've organized the tools and methods of nonviolence and give us some examples of how different they might be and how they're being used?
Yeah, I think that the list of methods is something that goes back to like nineteen seventy three. So it's before my time. But Gene Sharp started collecting these. He realized that there was this massive diversity of things people had done, that it wasn't just simply about protest, it wasn't simply about dissatisfaction with an existing system or policy or a set of rulers. Right. It was actually this whole range of things people had done and that actually it was useful to think about them in categories.
Right, to think about them in the sense that there's the first batch or group of methods that are really symbolic right there about kind of expressing dissatisfaction. And what they do is conveyed to the society, to third parties and to the opponent, that people disagree with a particular policy or function of the government. And then you move into, again, a more powerful category, which is the methods of non-cooperation. These are ones we might have heard of, like boycotts and economic non-cooperation, different types of strikes.
Are very, very diverse. We generally tend to think of a general strike. Do you just shut down the whole country for an indefinite period of time? But they are sometimes limited, limited in terms of types of industries or what they're intended to do or for particular periods of time. You have strikes that are a day long or whatever. So there's these kinds of non-cooperation that are economic or political, like withdrawal of political systems, refusal to carry out certain functions in the government.
And so they really are looking at society. Where does power lie and who has historically withdrawn it for a particular effect? And lastly, we have what we consider the most powerful methods. These are the methods of nonviolent intervention. So I think that generally a lot of people sort of equate nonviolent action to kind of undermining systems. Right. These are the methods that are actually the creation of institutions, the building of society, the ones that are actually quite subversive, because what it means is that you're creating the new before you get rid of the old and that actually you're making that old obsolete because of the creation of they include things like creation of, again, alternative institutions, alternative media, civil disobedience is in there, and creation of shadow institutions, shadow governments.
We saw like a rogue EPA group spring up. This would be an example of nonviolent intervention.
How do you know what tool is right for what circumstance? People are facing a variety of levels of legitimacy to their government, levels of protest or or disagreement with what their governments are doing. And I have a far fetched example in mind. Like, let's say your head of state refuses to leave office. What are the tools that might be a populace's disposal in that super hypothetical situation?
So this is not necessarily something that can provide sort of like us a formula for this. Right. But but as I know. Right, there's no shortcuts in this stuff. But here's what we know. A lot of the kind of trends and conditions that we see in this hypothetical situation. You point out we've seen before. Right. So we do know that there's a way in which kind of illegal or executive usurpations or coups, if you want to call it that, happen.
And there's ways in which those have been historically defeated. Looking at those lessons that those kind of cases provide, you know, that there's sort of general categories of methods that have been really useful. The idea of defeating a coup or illegal unconstitutional action by an executive is something that requires a couple of things. One is a rejection, widespread rejection of the illegal action by as many people as possible as quickly as possible. And the second is non-cooperation with the coup.
How do you pick methods? This is a great question because I think the list of methods is exciting, but it's also, in a way, dangerous, right. Because these methods are not meant to work on their own without an understanding of how they work together as part of a strategy. So a situation where you have a potential attack on the government. I mean, this is something for which people should be prepared, right? People should be prepared in the sense of when we understand what democracy is, we should know that it's part of a process, a process where there could be attacks against it, whether internal or external.
And so having a sort of so-called civilian based defence policy write something that is prepared in advance for situations like this is super helpful. Now we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis. So what I'm saying is is not potentially helpful. Right. This is for the next time. But right now we're in a crisis moment. Right. And so I think what a lot of people are thinking about is how do you foster super decentralised action that is still effective and that feeds into a kind of larger strategy.
Who is working on that strategy? So I think what we're seeing in our country, we're going to take it not hypothetical for a moment. Yeah, let's get real is that people recognising that we're facing this potential crisis that could bring a lot of harm to our communities and to our country are figuring out what to do quickly. And so I think that they're working on developing a response to various scenarios that experts are identifying and they're figuring out what is the role of different people and institutions in our society.
There are the people that are going to need to not cooperate with illegal orders. And so those are going to be people within various institutions, people that work in the electoral system, police and members of our government, elected officials and others. And then there's really the rest of us. So what are the rest of us do? The rest of us are. Part of various groups were part of different associations. We are individuals, but we're also workers.
We have different types of leverage and so figuring out what groups we belong to and how those groups could be mobilized again to do those two things, the rejection, you know, the rejection of the coup as loudly and clearly as possible in whatever ways we have to communicate that to make sure it's understood that this is not acceptable. And also the noncooperation and what ways can we refuse to cooperate and do certain things or refuse to do other things that can really block certain things from happening at the community level, but do that in accordance with a common vision, some common goals.
And I think people are working on those principles. They're working on rolling out like tactical recommendations to people. There's a number of groups, maybe some people on our call today are familiar with those. So there's the creation of new groups that are thinking about this, and then there's also the strengthening of existing groups. And that's the two things we need to be doing.
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Now, that is true. Do you feel like your work has become more relevant in the United States over the past four years, and are you particularly worried or increasingly worried about what you've seen play out in the U.S. over the past four years?
Yeah, definitely. I think your first question, it is definitely increasingly relevant. I know that from the number of inquiries we're getting, from the access to our website, the tapping into resources and material, people ordering books, it's like hard to keep things in stock these days. Etty dictatorship material. I think that people sort of fear the worst. And I think the best antidote to that is to prepare. And so if we develop these capacities and then the worst doesn't happen, then there's no harm there.
But the idea that we would have this kind of thinking through of what what has been done historically to fight against authoritarianism, I think is really the smart move. So it's a busy time for people working in civil resistance, for sure.
What have you seen on the nonviolence side of strategic use of this over the past few years that has made you feel good, something worth celebrating, a novel deployment of one of these methods or several?
You know, I think it's the creation of networks and new groups that are thinking about this, that are thinking of these sort of incremental violations that we've been seeing in our country and figuring out how to respond to it at a community level. Clearly, a lot more needs to be done. I think we're in a moment of opportunity, a moment of responsibility to figure out how to use what we've been paying attention to, what we've been learning, what we've been preparing for, to really mobilize in this moment.
But I think that some of the best stuff that I've seen is really around climate defense and really about a lot of the stuff that we've seen in the progressive movement, young people coming together, young people doing tons of trainings and try to develop the skills and the knowledge and the sort of plans needed so that in a moment of crisis, they could act effectively. So it may be that the best stuff that I've seen is really the behind the scenes stuff.
We've seen huge mobilizations, right? We saw the biggest protests in our country's history were over the summer, the racial justice protests. And that's an enormous show of power. And it's great for people who have been marginalized, are taking power where they can, how they can, and winning incremental successes. Have they done everything that they set out to do? Clearly not, because these systems are very well entrenched and that that takes time. So there is the kind of street level action that we've seen with the women's march, with the young people on gun reform, immigration reform, all of this.
It's really heartening. Right. But it is a first step. It's got to be the next phase of this. And that has to go beyond simply, again, sort of bringing attention to injustice, to actually shifting things. Shifting power in our country.
It feels like we have an increasing amount of political violence in the United States or the threat of it. But certainly the actual use we have skirmishes in the streets. People have actually been murdered. Over the course of the past several years at protests which have been largely peaceful, how do you think about that rise, at least as I'm characterizing it? And how do you think about the presence of violence in and among the largely nonviolent gatherings? Where is that coming from this huge rhetorical arguments?
Are these peaceful protests? Are there agent provocateurs? What's your read on how we should read this rising tide?
First of all, I think we need to figure out how to interpret that violence. Right. I think that there's been a narrative that somehow these were violent protests. In fact, the data doesn't back that up. They were largely nonviolent, something like ninety seven percent or more. And so the cases where either violence was used against against the police or against others is very, very limited. And in cases where violence was used, it was usually from the police or from counter protesters.
So that's one. I think we need to be careful about kind of characterizing this. Then there's I think the the question about the future. I mean, there's so much to it, right? I think there's been a narrative that somehow there's this sort of law and order narrative that somehow protests gets delegitimized because of the actions of a few people. There's a strategic question there in terms of how to prepare for it, because we find ourselves in the situation where experts are saying that we're facing a period of time that is likely to be characterized by quite a lot of chaos and potential political violence.
So as a society, how do we prepare for that? How do we prepare to withstand it? How do we make sure that it's not used by our people? We agree with our movement. How do we make sure that our movement's demands that are legitimate are carried out nonviolently? Right. So I think the strategic thing is to understand that violence is counterproductive, that in fact, it carries a cost that we're not going to be willing to pay in our society that justifies limited acts of violence is very dangerous.
I have a colleague that says that the use of violence in a movement is sort of inevitable. Right. You're going to have little bits of violence any time you're getting a mobilization of potentially millions of people. The idea is figure how do you identify it and isolate it and how do you take steps at a strategic level to anticipate it and to try to prepare for it at that level. But also, tactically, what do you do in the midst of a protest with all the emotion in that moment, especially groups that are being met with repression?
How do you make sure your movement doesn't turn to violence? Because he says that violence, even defensive violence in the movement is like moisture in the engine of your car. A little bit of moisture and maybe it's OK and the engine will sputter. But you get to a point where it's very difficult to control. It would be if you add more and more of this moisture, this contaminant, then it would make the system malfunction. So the movement does potentially collapse.
So I think understanding violence as being counterproductive is something that we need to really, really promote in our society. Not that it's morally wrong, which we may think it is or it's not. But the justification piece is really has to be a pragmatic one, right. That this is unwanted in our society. That has to be very, very clear. And so, yeah, I am worried right now about some of the conversation about what types of action is allowable.
And so I think we need to be prepared for that in terms of what we need to be doing at a tactical level, I think we should be prepared for groups that are willing and have the capacity to use violence. We've already seen that in our streets. And so there's a variety of ways in which we can reduce that risk to communities. There's a bunch of tools like the development of peacekeeping teams. These are groups of people that are specially trained to identify violence and to isolate it, to make sure it's not being used by the movement.
That's something that's worked around the world. It was used in the Indian independence movement. It was also used in the civil rights movement, the use of marshals that participate in demonstrations to again make sure that people don't use violence and to isolate them when they do. Besides that, you know, some of the best examples are ways in which groups have used humor and actually deflated right wing groups or armed groups. There's some cool examples where people have heard that there was going to be a right wing rally and basically flooded that public square with like clowns.
And I found this an incredible example and happened in North Carolina where they said that these groups showed up one by one, these individuals that had showed up for this right wing rally. They found the square filled with clowns and they really didn't know what to do in response to it. So they kind of left. So I find that celebration of joy and love and music and culture and art in our community as being an amazing, amazing sort of antidote to.
Violence. What comes next in your studies after protest movements, you mentioned the largest protests, at least some definition of history that we've just been through in the United States. How do you sustain that energy but morphed into different tactics to achieve the goals, which is never just to protest? What have you seen? Do you have any studied advice for the next steps for a protest movement to grow?
I think it's such a great question and I think that there's no clear answer right now. What we're seeing is that there was this massive mobilization of groups that I think that the danger there is that if people think that structural major change for centuries old system can be overturned by that type of in the streets demonstrations, that that can actually lead to a sense of kind of helplessness. And so I think we need to celebrate the victories we have achieved so far in the racial justice movement.
And there have been a lot of important incremental wins. And then to not lose sight of the fact that there's an end game here, there's a vision of the kind of society that we want. And so I would say back to the drawing board, this is where strategy is so important for figuring out what are the tools at our disposal, what power have we created and how can we kind of escalate right nonviolently and how can we grow our demands?
And I think that means that we see this as a process. Right. These events can't be one offs. They have to be part of long term vision. And I think we're seeing that in the racial justice movement, a lot of the kind of strength created that doesn't just go away. Right. Those are groups that now have developed a level of trust that have actually achieved some big wins together. That level of confidence is something that is hugely empowering.
And I would say communities are going to be drawing from that well of power when they go on to demand.
The next thing I'm thinking about, the crisis that we spoke of earlier, this sort of hypothetical with our current head of state, should the election legitimately go not in his favor, what happens when the object of such public ire does move on, but the systems that have been corrupted remain? Have you witnessed collapses or how have movements sustained themselves after the person many people perceive of as the villain has formally left the stage?
You know, I think that the best example of this is some of the uprisings of the Arab Spring in which people waged these massive struggles against these entrenched opponents that were successful, at least in the short term. Right. I think the problem that we face globally is that we tend to kind of almost personalize oppression in the sense that we tend to think that individuals are responsible for it. And so in the case of some of the uprisings of the Arab Spring, specifically the Egyptian struggle, I think that there needs to be a plan for what comes next and not just about how you undermine and overthrow the oppressive system or the oppressive opponent, but how do you understand that?
Actually, there were conditions that brought them to power. And there are also deep structural institutions that are very invested in the status quo that are going to make sure that they survive a revolution or uprising or whatever the case may be. So I'm thinking about that for our own society. Right. And this is where I think it helps to think long term to understand that we're here at this juncture for a number of reasons. And also there's going to be things to do, even if we're successful in the short term, we're going to have a very broken country in which a lot of our institutions have been undermined.
Authoritarians are in the business of undermining institutions, not strengthening them. And so we need to be thinking about how do we develop the networks and capacities in our communities and at a state level, at a federal level that can make sure that this is a transition that we all survive, because the idea is not to kind of get rid of one potential authoritarian for another. And societies are very vulnerable. And so, you know, I have no clear answer except for we must think about not just how to win in the short term, but really how to defend that win.
And I think that's what democracy is.
I want to push you on that because I love where you're going. This is not about the short term. It is about the long term. And we've often interpreted democracy as an Olympic effort every four years. But even those Olympic athletes are not working every four years. They're working every day. They're training every day.
And that's how you get to the Olympics as you work hard every day. Yeah, yeah.
So in terms of going past the vote, in terms of restoring trust or faith in our institutions, what do you want us to do to make this long term? What's your. Vision for how we sustain our energy here. I think that a lot of what's happened in our country has been deliberate or sort of by design. I think there's a level of divisiveness that is really, really harmful and dangerous that I think has really contributed to where we are today.
So I'd say to resist that, to resist that in whatever ways that we can. I observe something in the United States that I've seen elsewhere and that I think students of history have seen elsewhere. And it is this sort of isolation and atomisation, this kind of fragmentation of society. And that is something that is a is a condition of generally authoritarian systems. Right. This idea that individuals are these individual units and that really works to the benefit of power holders.
Right. Because individual units are not very good at collective action. So I think, again, building networks, building networks of trust, maybe with people you don't agree with on everything, maybe not necessarily political organizations, but networks of people that come together to do various things. And so I think that's really key for the long term.
What resources would you recommend for people who have had their appetites weakened by by this moment, who want to learn more? Well, I think that there is a really rich history of nonviolent resistance that people have been studying that we can draw from. I think that our education system doesn't really teach us to be good citizens. I think we tend to highlight the history of war and violence as having achieved the changes that we value. And I think, again, educating ourselves is key.
Clearly, changing our education system is important. But in the meantime, we can proactively educate ourselves. And there are groups that have been working on developing those resources and tools. My organization is just one of them. We have a website with a wealth of information. There's some things that are a nine hundred page books, but then there are things of varying length and detail and some of it is theory. A lot of it is again, stories.
I think these stories are so important. Right. Our history is filled with them, but we just haven't done a good job paying attention. I think drawing from them as sources of inspiration is key, but also a sources of insight to figure out what we ourselves can do. Right. I mean, just as the conditions we're facing right now are not happening for the first time, they're happening in different parts of the world and they've happened throughout history.
So they're not new, which is actually good news. Right, because it means that we have a set of tools on how to respond to them. So, again, the Albert Einstein Institution has a lot of resources. There's also other centers like International Center of Nonviolent Conflict Nonviolence International. There's a website called Weijing Nonviolence which collects these stories as they're sort of happening. And I think that's also a great resource to get more information.
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So disregard all simple explanations because complex questions require complex answers. Listen to Prodigy every Thursday on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or ever you get your podcasts. We ask all of our guests this question, our show believes that the word citizen should better be interpreted as a verb, as action, rather than a strictly illegal status, given that interpretation. How do you, Djamila, define what it means to citizen? That's a wonderful question and I really appreciate the approach of this conversation and the definition that you've just offered.
I think that, again, I would look to the civil resistance field and our understanding of history on how to be a good citizen. And I think that really requires us to figure out how to be engaged, how to understand the issues again, to be educated and informed, to know our rights right. But also to know what to do if those rights are violated and again, speaks to this issue of resisting apathy and inertia. I think it's just a mask for feeling helpless.
So accessing tools, figuring out how to connect with others, how to work with others, including, again, people who we may not agree with to have a basic sort of literacy and how change happens. So I would say the educational piece is really, really key. And I think, again, it is an important moment right now. This moment of crisis is a moment of opportunity. And it may be that it's this moment, this crisis, that gives us all sort of a crash course in how a citizen.
I like that a lot. Djamila Raqib, thank you for this formal one on one time. I have an observation which is thinking about the imbalance of education on these techniques and the strategies we have the Naval College, we have West Point for violence, for war. We don't have the equivalent for peace and have just occurred to me like if we invested as much in the education of these tactics, a lot of the changes that have happened have not been at the end of a gun or a bayonet or sword, but at the end of an idea or a word or a person standing in the street.
So thank you for opening me up a little bit to that. I'm going to open up to our live studio zummo audience. First up, Adrià I ever attended.
Thank you so much for your expertise, Djamila. I'm Adrian. I'm calling in from Menifee, California, but I'm an educator, so I really appreciate you bringing in the education piece to this. One of the things that has been on my mind as we kind of see social media in the media both manipulate it and build a tool for us in the nonviolence movement. How have you seen the disinformation aspects of that used against these movements? And what are some successes that you've seen in organizers combating that and maybe some challenges that we have yet to overcome?
Yeah, I think it's a real problem and I think it's one that we're seeing is highly relevant in this moment. I think there's awareness of it is a good first step. I think being more critical about where we get our information, I think that the technology companies, the social media companies do need to be pressured to combat this. But then at the end of the day, I think we need to be very critical about what we're hearing and what the motivation for that might be.
We're seeing some really, really dangerous signs of this. So I think right now, as far as people working on the response to election unrest are trying to develop alternative media places where people can get information on reporting about both what people are doing, what civil society groups are doing, organizations and movement people, but also what we're seeing in terms of the use of violence, police repression, so that people can access good information and respond appropriately because developing tactics and strategy without good information is obviously really, really dangerous.
So I think it's the creation of alternative media. I think the good news is that people are being trained as sort of citizen journalists. We see this around the world in cases where you have misinformation or you have media controlled by the state, regular people can act as journalists and figure out how to filter that information to law enforcement or to government officials or to movement people to the general public. And I think that is something that people are working on and which is really important when you come in next to Ned James.
Ned, I'm calling in from Madison, Wisconsin. And my question is, you mentioned before about needing to focus on what comes next as part of a successful movement.
Is there a complementary work that you or the online institute or is that are pursuing that emphasizes the building? What comes next part of that equation?
There's some books that are focused on there's some studies that are focused specifically on how to strengthen institutions and legislative bodies and other agencies of the government that can serve as sort of protective mechanism. And those are books like civilian based defense is one of them. The anti coup is another one. And then there's other organizations that deal with that that set up truth and reconcile. Asian committees that deal with how do you kind of recover from harm, recover from violent society?
So I think there are there are organizations that deal on the what comes after. But I think the key is that in the development of a strategy for undermining a system or for defending a system, that it really needs to be about the immediate need, but also the longer term one. And that needs to be sort of at the front end, sort of central to leadership thinking.
We have another live question. Vernetta, it is with your question. Hi, I'm Vaneta. I'm from Springfield, Massachusetts. My question is more about really preparing people or the everyday person to participate in the act of nonviolent protest, because I think, you know, people are going out. It's all about protest, protest, protests, and it's supposed to be peaceful. And then you get there and now you're hit with teargas, people actually getting injured or shot and things like that.
And so I'm wondering if the institute has any resources that really prepare folks for what they're getting into, prepares them for if things, for whatever reason, go sideways. And then what does that do to you as the person who wanted to go out and do good and now you're traumatized because you witnessed these things that were supposed to be positive, turn negative. So I'm just wondering if there's any preparation and or resources they provide for that. Yeah.
So we've been there collecting those resources. We don't deal with that ourselves because a lot of groups are very good at that. So there are a lot of trainings, there's quite a number of them right now about how to participate effectively in a protest and how to prepare for violence, how to again marginalize it if it if it does or isolate it, if it does break out and how to prepare for things like tear gas, potentially water cannons. We're seeing a huge spike in the purchase of crowd control, supposedly non-lethal equipment, heavily militarized equipment by our federal government.
And we have a lot of historical and global precedent to this. Right. And so we have a lot of learnings from other movements on how people have prepared for that. And you may have seen the umbrella movement in Hong Kong. And I think they are incredibly savvy with the way in which they they deal with some of the equipment that's been used against them. And so they've actually provided a lot of insight to I think it is really important for a movement to think of that and to make those resources available.
Right. You talked about what it means to go participate and what perhaps you think is a nonviolent protest only to be hit with tear gas. Tear gas is extremely painful. So is a lot of this other equipment and it's hugely radicalizing. Right? I think that's one thing that it actually escalates a conflict. And so it's really not in the best interest of anyone to be using this against citizens that are non-violent. And I think this is really dangerous, I think, for what we may see coming, because there's this concept of political jujitsu, right?
This is like a term Gene Sharp came up with. It's that repression backfires. Repression is designed to make groups stop what they're doing to make them abandon their activities. But actually, what happens globally, we've seen this in countless cases. It actually creates a stronger resistance. It recruits people to the movement. It actually creates fractures among the police, among the security forces, among the government. So that's in all of our best interest to de-escalate and to keep things nonviolent and to make sure people are prepared for these equipment and tools to be used against them.
Djamila, having you on any kind of show has been a dream of mine since we met five years ago, and I saw you do your TED talk for the TED PBS program. Thank you for making the time to be with us. We have learned a lot. We're going to make sure to get this out the way more people. Thank you so much.
It's been so great to be with you. Just look around your community, do some searches, figure out who is sort of preparing a response, who is thinking about these issues, and then connect with them, connect with each other, connect with the available resources. It can get scary to look out at what feels like a dark world, but we obviously have to retain hope and do what we can to prevent that dark future. And I think there's a lot we can do.
So, yeah, it's great to be part of this conversation. And thank you all.
This moment of crisis is a moment of opportunity, and it may be that it's this moment, this crisis, that gives us all a sort of crash course in how to citizen. Thank you, Djamila Raqib, for helping me reimagine this moment of crisis as an opportunity. I hope she has done the same for you. Follow Djamila on Twitter at Djamila Raqib. That's JMI l a R AQ Ibe. And you can learn more about the Albert Einstein Institution at a Einstein dot org.
As always, we will post this episode, a transcript and the show notes, plus more at how to Citizen Dotcom. But now for the goody bag, the calls to action, the things you can do to citizen along with this episode. First up, a couple of internal actions, things that are more calls for reflection, things you can do alone, give your energy and attention to the things you want for your country. I'm going to repeat that one for you.
Give your energy and attention to what you want for your country. Not as much what you fear. If you journal or pray or meditate or yoga or do all those at the same time use those practices between now and the election to center yourself on what you want to have happen with that clear picture, you will be in a better position emotionally and psychologically to prepare your response. If things don't go the way you want, walk that fine line with me.
But do not fall over the edge into the abyss of fear and despair and panic. Hang on. As a powerful visioning example out there, a tangible thing. The Brooklyn Public Library, where I still serve as a member of the Board of trustees, did a borough wide exercise crafting a twenty Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, a proposed amendment. It is so inspiring to see that we can still extend and create this democracy. Check it out. Over at the Brooklyn Public Library website, it's under Twenty Eighth Amendment.
The other internal action is to go to Einstein Dog and look through the one hundred ninety eight methods that they've accumulated around strategic nonviolent action. Look to that list. It takes just a few minutes. But then I want you to do something. I want you to identify the things on that list that you've already employed at some point in your life.
Then congratulate yourself for being an active, nonviolent participant in our democracy. Well done. See you already there. On the external front, I want you to continue building our collective civil resistance muscle through some actions right here, waging nonviolence. Doug is a website Djamila told us about. Go to the site Sharett posted on your Sociales email it be that forwarding email, uncle or auntie, this is good spam. This is the good stuff waging nonviolence. Doug, there's another side I want you to check out.
Call Choose Democracy that us. Go to that site, take the pledge to defend democracy, check out the action centers, look at a training in particular a workshop called How to Defeat an election related power grab. This is part of that preparation for things we don't want to see happen. But let's be prepared. And lastly, a site called Hold the Line Guide Dotcom. Now, I'm going to be real. This is the long document. It's fifty five pages.
I don't expect every listener to read every page, but check out the site and check out this volunteer led effort to prepare us for the situation that we're in right now. They've got guys to setting up election protection efforts in your community. They've got workshops on non-violent resistance and they've got ways to get your elected officials, police and military personnel to commit to upholding democracy. We do this together. We cannot citizen alone. We cannot defend democracy alone. And I also don't want anyone out there living totally in fear, prepare for things that we don't want to have happen, but dream for the things we do want to see unless invest in those dreams.
As always, if you take any of these actions, let us know, action, I had a citizen dotcom throw it up on the Sociales under the hashtag How to Citizen and give us general feedback, ideas, suggestions, comments at how to citizen dotcom. You can find me a Baratunde Datacom on Sociales Abarat Sunday on Patria at Sunday. And you could text me to go to eight nine four eight eight four for the texters. Get the first invites to the next live show taping.
How does The Citizen with Baratz and his production of I Heart Radio Podcast Executive produced by Miles Gray mixed up Elizabeth Stewart and Baratunde Thurston.
Produced by George Smith. Edited by Justin Smith.
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