Direct action — peaceful, dignified, civil disobedience — is practiced when one wishes to purposely break the law for a social, economic or environmental purpose. It is proper, even necessary, to disobey the law when human rights are at stake. It is proper to challenge the status quo. It is proper to challenge power structures and it is proper to challenge the rule of law. If a society is totally obedient totalitarianism will surely reign. In a civil society people must obey conscience rather than law — if a law is unjust it must be broken. As elected officials ignore cries from the public and seek to enact laws that favor big business at the expense of the population it is proper to disobey. This is what is happening in North Carolina.
The new veto-proof Republican majority has been moving quickly, working on a number of new powerful laws that seek to serve special interests as opposed to people.
Duke-Progress Energy, the largest utility monopoly in the United States, is being awarded rate hikes by a favorable energy commission (the energy commission attempts to simulate a “market force” to keep the giant in check) in hard economic times. The utility giant is also doubling down on dirty energy resources while backing away from conservation and efficiency programs which would save working families money in the current economic slump.
Aqua America, the nation’s largest private water company, has an active subsidiary in North Carolina. Privatization of local municipalities is becoming a big issue in the state all while the legislature is also moving to strip local municipalities of the right to manage their own water. Government officials are also trying to bring fracking to the Tar Heel state. The bills promoting our nations latest energy boom classically use state power to uphold industry. The latest “fast track frack bill” seeks to allow eminent domain,compulsory pooling, and a number of other pro-industry “regulations.”
In the halls of power in Raleigh, politicians are also working to expand the regressive sales tax, cut spending on education, cut public safety nets and reduce unemployment benefits. One must not forget efforts at reforming the state’s criminal justice system and voting rights as well.
In response a small group of people began to organize what has come to be Moral Mondays. Organized by the NAACP, weekly protests have been held every Monday since mid April to raise awareness about the newest democratic assault occurring in the south. At the first Moral Monday there were 17 arrests while tens of supporters showed solidarity. Every single week this protest has grown, and now, as Reverend William Barber of the NAACP puts it, Moral Mondays “are a movement … not a moment.” Crowds have surged into the thousands and they sing, cheer and chant as over 100 people are now being arrested. As the legislature is soon drawing to a close, so too are Moral Mondays.
The movement will remain important, however, for a long time to come. It will remain important not because a Republican majority is being challenged. Not because of the progressive wishes of the movement (though folks across all political spectrums have shown support). Not even because of the calls for a more representative government. Moral Mondays will remain important rather because of the disobedience. Moral Mondays are composed of active, concerned and engaged individuals challenging state power. Civil disobedience is the most powerful tool available to libertarians. The power, the right, the willingness to disobey is fundamental to a free society. Power must be challenged.
State interests are different from individual interests. State interests are also different from community interests. Though agents of the state remind us that they are elected officials and that they are “public servants,” we must not forget that first and foremost they are “state servants.” The state seeks power, wealth and influence over society. The state seeks to serve vested interests as opposed to individual/collective interests. As individuals we seek health, creative labor, peace, leisure, love, companionship and clean and safe communities. The public is at odds with the state.
As this “Moral Spring” draws to a close here in North Carolina, I hope the citizens here realize they will always be at odds with the state, even with their prefered “state servants” in power. Indeed only in opposition to rule will our households, communities and Earth be healthy. Only without rule will we truly be liberated.
- 120 people arrested during eighth Moral Monday protest (myfox8.com)
- State NAACP President, Rev. William Barber, Is Emerging as the Leader of Moral Monday Protests in North Carolina (blackchristiannews.com)
- Moral Mondays (appalachianson.wordpress.com)
- Moral Monday crowds swell in week 8; first protestors appear in court (newsobserver.com)
- Reading Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” On My Way To A Demonstration (stuffjeffreads.wordpress.com)