The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today,” when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution.
The story below is one of several written by the Man From the North. The article series is not included in the novel and was originally published on Dandelion Salad. We will feature a Man From the North story on a weekly basis through June 3, 2015. You can read the entire series at Dandelion Salad. The Dandelion Insurrection and a companion study guide can be purchased on Rivera’s website.
The Sabotage of Division
Enough! Enough of this senseless criticizing of one another. A Dandelion Insurrectionist who is imprisoned and beaten by the police is no more revolutionary than the mother who gets up in the morning and feeds her child. We all have tasks that are imperatives of our times and we must do them with humility. Those of us trying to make change through civil resistance are no nobler than the plumber trying to clear the shit out of the pipes.
So, enough of this criticizing one another about who is or is not a revolutionary, a radical, a cop-out, or who isn’t sacrificing enough to the cause, or who is playing it safe, or who lacks courage, or who is too middle of the road, or too extreme, or too cautious, or too colonized, or too oppressed, or who isn’t enough like you to be worthy of your respect.
We will criticize ourselves to death.
We will literally be facing the firing squad, sneering at who flinches, who looks away, who weeps, or who pisses themselves. This animosity toward one another is poisonous. Such malicious judgment cripples our struggle every step of the way. It is shameful; it is laughable. It is certainly not revolutionary.
Using our differences to divide us is an old trick. We love to blame it on our oppressors, but the truth is, it succeeds because we allow it. I have heard the accusations that They are dividing us, They send undercover agents into our midst to inflame our animosity toward each other. Let me ask you: if the kindling were not laid in our hearts, where would the sparks of division ignite? If you stood ready with the bucket of your awareness and used it douse the smoldering disdain within you, how could their agitation succeed? If we removed the logs and the stones of the fireplace, there would be no place for division to catch fire.
All across the country, this internal scorn is plaguing the Dandelion Insurrection. The radicals sneer at the mainstream; the working class bristles at the academics; the students scoff at the grey-hairs, the elders tear out their thinning hair over the impulsive foolishness of the youth, the spiritual faction derides the shallowness of the non-believers, the secular crowd rolls their eyes at the prayer circles, the communists argue with the capitalists, the socialists turn up their noses at both, the anarchists get haughty at the organizers, the non-profit leaders cringe at the anti-establishment types….
This is no way to run our everyday society, let alone a nonviolent struggle against the powerful corporate-political elite.
There is a place for honest critique, but the use of antagonistic scorn to deride one another is crippling our movement. At this rate, we will be standing on the steps of the Capitol, bitter with each other, jealous of who propelled the final thrust of the movement, suspicious of who will sell-out to the establishment, congratulating our closest companions for their brilliance while secretly sneering I told you so at everyone else. Instead of heartfelt celebration of our collective accomplishment, we will be wracked by the same animosity that plagues us now.
At present, however, criticism is so pervasive that our success seems unlikely. Scorn and derision are sabotaging everything we are working toward. Our ability to cooperate is being compromised. Our effectiveness at collaborative strategies is being undermined by our snobbery toward one another.
This must change. We need to practice revolutionary respect for one another. We need to celebrate the contributions of childrearing, garden planting, and protesting equally. Organizing a demonstration is no more important than organizing a prayer vigil. Painting a banner and repainting the local school are both efforts for the wellbeing of all. Hidden in our differences is a beautiful diversity that enriches our lives and expands our minds. Belittling someone for their beliefs, their style of dress, or their political views is limiting and no less discriminatory than sneering at a person’s color of skin.
A free, democratic society relies on a respect that extends beyond the right to hold views to the holder of those views. We have been taught that in order for our belief to be valid, we must stamp out and eliminate all other perspectives, but this is tyranny of the mind. Democracy is based on our ability to discuss our differing beliefs without prejudice, to make room in our society for the expression of ideas and opinions, and to respect one another as equals. The equality of a democratic society begins within us. If respect does not blossom there, then it will not be exhibited in our society or government. We must, as Gandhi famously said, be the change we wish to see in the world.
The revolution must begin within each of us.
Rivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to her most recent novel, Billionaire Buddha, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength. Learn more about Rivera and her work on her website.