Civil disobedience was the principal topic of a big public get together held two evenings ago in Peterborough‛s remodelled Market Hall Theatre. The principal speaker and principal attraction was young Brigette De Pape, also known as the Rogue Page.
Remember Brigette? She became famous (some of the hide-bound say notorious) for holding up a “Stop Harper”sign in the Senate during the last Throne Speech. Her appearance here in Peterborough was sponsored by the local chapter of the Council of Canadians and several other civil society groups and was enhanced by the performing talents of local citizens, Trent U students, and the Rep by Pop band.
It was quite an evening, with lots of reasons put forth as to why Mr. Harper should be stopped. But don‛t worry, it‛s not my intention now to dip into that fearsome cornucopia of fact-free government policy that is rapidly becoming the hallmark of today’s so-called Conservatives. However, as one who has spouted off about the perils of government in league with Corporate Creatures who see profit in War, Crime, Sickness, Disasters, and unchecked Growth, I see no reason not to take an interest in the phenomenon of civil disobedience.
Actually, it’s not a phenomenon at all. In our society it just hasn’t been used a great deal. No wonder so many of us were impressed by Brigette’s senatorial act. She set a very high standard indeed — absolute civility and absolute disobedience.
Brigette’s act was singular, not only in the sense of being unusual but in the fact that it was performed by one, lone, frightened but composed, young woman.
On the other hand, the Occupy movements that are circling the globe involve huge numbers of people and appear to be basically unstructured. But history tells us that large protests can be meticulously structured. Let me dip back into my files for an illustration. (I found this to be even more topical than I had expected.)
….There is a story from India that illustrates truly civilized disobedience. It happened in a small community after World War Two. Because of nationalist riots, the British had passed a law prohibiting public gatherings of more than a handful of people. One day, in intentional disobedience, a couple of thousand gathered.
There was no way the community’s small police force could arrest two thousand people so the protesters arrested themselves.
The local jail could accommodate only about 125 inmates. The 2000 took lime and outlined jail cells on the grass in the shade of some banyan trees.
There was no way the local authorities could cope with the paper work that was required in order to bring a person before a British court. The prisoners filled out their own charge sheets with meticulous care, those with a legal turn of mind helping the others.
The local authorities could not feed 2000 prisoners, so at mealtime the prisoners went home and then dutifully returned to their “cells”. Eventually, a real judge sentenced the ring leaders to two years in a real prison, but the point had been made. The machinery of civilized government only functions with the consent of the governed.
The farther a government removes itself from its people the more valid civil disobedience becomes as a political tool. It may be the only tool left for Canadians who want to force their government to listen to the governed.
A majority of Canadians objected to the government’s version of free trade and were ignored. A majority of Canadians were opposed to the Meech Lake Accord and were ignored. [Until after a referendum.] The Senate listened to the citizens and tried to put the brakes on the GST but was manipulated into submission. Our armed forces were committed to a questionable war [Serbia] before Parliament was consulted. Our government is again committing us to a fast track on yet another questionable free trade deal…
Through it all a majority of MPs, representing a minority of Canadians, salute the prime minister and ignore the people. There comes a time when genuine, peaceful, loyal disobedience is the only civilized weapon left. There comes a time for the governed to withhold consent. ♣
♣ Loyal Disobedience
From: Down Paradox Lane
Lindsay This Week, Feb. 13, 1991
Copyright (c) Munroe Scott