Baratunde wrestles with how to handle rising political violence in the U.S. by learning from a leading steward of strategic nonviolent action. Jamila Raqib, executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution, shares lessons on the superiority of nonviolent approaches to change, options for defending democracy against authoritarianism, and tips on what to do if a certain head of state refuses to leave office. Hypothetically.
Baratunde Thurston 0:06
Welcome to How to Citizen with Baratunde, a show where we reimagine the word citizen as a verb and remind ourselves how to wield our collective power. I'm Baratunde.
There is a lot of stress in the United States right now. And it feels like it could 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 protest. Personal 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 198 methods and oddly specific number 198 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 Jamila Raqib, Executive Director of the Albert Einstein institution, and a sort of coach to nonviolent activists around the world.
Jamila Raqib 2:21
I'm Jamila Raqib, an oppressors worst nightmare.
Baratunde Thurston 2:27
That was the sound of bombs being dropped, y'all. All right. We'll keep it we'll keep it. I'd love for you to start us off Jamila with a brief history of strategic nonviolent resistance or action. What is it? How is it formalized? into a field of study of practice?
Jamila Raqib 2:46
Yeah, so I think when we think about strategic nonviolent action, we tend to think of many different things at the same time, it sort of loses meaning, right? I think the popular conception is that nonviolent action is somehow about rejecting violence, that it's about, you know, what you don't do rather than what you do. Instead, what we study right is distilled from 1000s, 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, nonviolent intervention, you talked about the 198 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, you know, 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, 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 political movements today to make what they're doing more powerful and more effective. 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, you know, every day,
Baratunde Thurston 4:21
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?
Jamila Raqib 4:38
It's a great question. And it's a question that we get a lot on surprisingly, it can be 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 and 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 a 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, You know, I'm about to go to prison. And I've also written a book. And that was during the McCarthy era. And Einstein was, you know, sort of a mentor to a lot of people who were, you know, 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, you know, 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.
Baratunde Thurston 6:09
Albert Einstein's pen pal, is a great title of a story I want to consume in any medium. Yep. What's your story with this? Jimmy? How did you get connected to this work? Why does it matter to you?
Jamila Raqib 6:23
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 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 you know, 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, you know, 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, you know, adjust war. And so I grew up with really, you know, 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, you know, 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, you know, not really connected with the level of suffering that goes on and, and how are people to, you know, 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. 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 year position turned into wealth, it's continues until today,
Baratunde Thurston 8:33
this idea that non violence is more powerful than violence, I think we'll meet some skeptical minds when they hear it. And I've heard you say before, that this image that we have that non violence 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 and action?
Jamila Raqib 9:02
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 as our understanding of the world, not in how it 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, you know, we think that, you know, even in the most authoritarian systems, that people and institutions provide various types of skills and assistance in obedience and cooperation, that cooperation and assistance allows those systems to function. And so if that cooperation and obedience those skills are either Kind of restricted, or in 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, you know, 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.
Baratunde Thurston 10:41
There's an additional powerful notion that I came across in some other interview did with a different podcaster. 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 non violence 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 non violence. 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.
Jamila Raqib 11:28
Yeah, that's really key. I think there's an amazing quote where this like, sociologists, 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, you know, places of dictatorship or authoritarianism are the severe places, that's where people feel apathy. But in fact, our own 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, right, people definitely care. They know that there's huge stakes here. But it's really about feeling helpless, and 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, you know, it's really that engaged citizenry that prevents these types of violations from happening. I understand all this sounds very theoretical,
Baratunde Thurston 12:48
but we're gonna get practical, we're gonna bust open that toolbox right now. Because you and your institute have a list 198 methods of non violence. For those on the violence side of the ledger, there's an armory, and there are small alarms, and there are tanks and their aircraft and the carriers there have, but you've got 198 methods, can you describe how you've organized the tools and methods of non violence? And give us some examples of how different they might be and how they're being used?
Jamila Raqib 13:21
Yeah, I think the the list of methods is something it goes back to like 1973. So it's before my time. But you know, 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, right 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, they're about kind of expressing dissatisfaction. And what they do is convey to the society to third parties and to the opponent, that people you know, 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, strikes are very, very diverse, we generally tend to think of a general strike, do you just shut down the whole country for you know, 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, you know, 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, you know, before you get rid of the old and that actually, you're making that old obsolete, because of the creation of there. They include things like creation of, again, alternative institutions, alternative media, civil disobedience is is in there. And creation of shadow institutions, Shadow governments, we saw like a rogue EPA group springing up, you know, this would be an example of nonviolent intervention.
Baratunde Thurston 15:45
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 populaces disposal in that super hypothetical situation?
Jamila Raqib 16:15
So this is not necessarily something that can provide sort of like a formula for this right. But, but I know, right, is 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 cruise, 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, a widespread rejection of the illegal action by as many people as possible as quickly as possible. And the second is non cooperation with the coop, how do you pick methods? This is a great question, because I think, you know, 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 defense policy, right, 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 decentralized 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 non hypothetical for a moment, yeah, let's get real, is that people recognizing that we're facing this potential crisis that could bring a lot of harm to our communities into our country, are figuring out what to do quickly. And so I think that, you know, 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, you know, 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 still part of various groups. We're part of different associations. We are individuals, but we're also workers. You know, 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 non cooperation. In 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.
Baratunde Thurston 20:40
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 US over the past four years?
Jamila Raqib 20:55
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, anti dictatorship material. I think that you know, people sort of fear the worst. And I think the best antidote to that is to prepare. And so you know, 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.
Baratunde Thurston 21:41
What have you seen on the non violence side of strategic use of this, over the past few years that has made you feel good, you something we're celebrating a novel deployment of one of these methods or several,
Jamila Raqib 21:54
you know, I think it's the creation of networks and new groups that are thinking about this, that are thinking of, you know, the 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, you know, more needs to be done, I think we're in a moment of opportunity, a moment of responsibility to figure out you know, 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, you know, I think that some of the best stuff that I've seen are 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 like tons of trainings, and, you know, tried to develop the skills and the knowledge and the sort of plans needed. So that, you know, 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. You know, we've seen huge mobilizations, right, we saw the biggest protests in our country's history. We're over the summer, the racial justice protests. And that's an enormous show of power. And it's great, right? 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 the 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, you know, with the young people, gun reform, immigration reform, all of this, it's really heartening, right. But it is a first step, there's got to be the next phase of this. And that has to be go beyond simply, you know, again, sort of bringing attention to injustice to actually shifting things shifting power in our country feels like we have an increasing amount of political violence in the United States, or the threat of it, but certainly the actual use of 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
Baratunde Thurston 24:02
that rise? At least as I'm characterizing it? And how do you think about the presence of violence in and among largely non violent gatherings? Where is that coming from this huge rhetorical arguments? Are these peaceful protests? Are there john provoca tours? What's your read on how we should read this rising tide?
Jamila Raqib 24:25
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 97% or more. 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 D legitimize 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, you know, 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, you know, our movements? How do we make sure that our movements demands that are legitimate, are carried out non violently? Right. So I think the 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 justifying limited acts of violence is very dangerous. You know, I have a colleague that says that, you know, the use of violence in a movement is sort of inevitable, right? You're going to have little bits of violence, anytime you're getting a mobilization of potentially millions of people. The idea is figure out, how do you identify it and isolate it? And how do you take steps at a strategic level to anticipate it and to, you know, try to prepare for it at that level, but also tactically, what do you do in the midst of a protest? with, you know, 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 a movement is like moisture in the engine of your car, you know, a little bit of moisture, and maybe it's okay, and the engine will sputter, but you get to a point where it's very difficult to control it will be if you add more and more of this moisture, this contaminant, then it will 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, you know, 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 was using Indian independence movement, it was also used in the civil rights movement, you know, the use of martials that participate in demonstrations to, again, make sure that people don't use violence 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, you know, 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 incredible example, and happened in North Carolina, where they said that these groups showed up one by one, you know, 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 and our community as being an amazing, amazing sort of antidote to right wing violence.
Baratunde Thurston 28:56
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? But what have you seen? Do you have any studied advice for the next steps for protest movement to grow?
Jamila Raqib 29:22
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, you know, there was this massive mobilization of groups, that I think that the danger there is that if people think that you know, structural major change for, you know, 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, figuring out what are the tools at our disposal? What power have we created? And how can we kind of escalates 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.
Baratunde Thurston 30:52
I'm thinking about the crisis that we spoke earlier, this sort of hypothetical, with our current at a 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 sustain themselves, after the person many people perceive of as the villain has formerly left the stage?
Jamila Raqib 31:24
You know, I think that the best example of this is some of the uprisings of the Arab Spring in which people wage 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, so you know, specifically the the Egyptian struggle, I think that there needs to be a plan for what comes next. And not just about how do 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, you know, 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 were 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,
Baratunde Thurston 33:22
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. 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?
Jamila Raqib 34:00
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 observed 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 atomization, this kind of fragmentation of society. And that is something that is a as 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.
Baratunde Thurston 35:09
What resources would you recommend for people who have had their appetites wet and by, by this moment to Want to learn more?
Jamila Raqib 35:18
Well, I think that there's 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 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 900 page books, but then there are things of varying length and detail. And some of it is theory, a lot of it is, you know, 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 as sources of insights, 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, non violence International, there's a website called waging nonviolence, which collects these stories as they're sort of happening. And I think that's also a great resource to get more information.
Baratunde Thurston 37:02
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 Jamila define what it means to citizen?
Jamila Raqib 37:19
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 in 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 do I 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 and how to citizen.
Baratunde Thurston 38:29
I like that a lot. Jamila, Ricky, thank you for this form of one on one time, I have an observation, which is thinking about the imbalance of education on these techniques and these strategies. We have the Naval College, we have West Point for violence, you know, for war. We don't have the equivalent for peace. And I've 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 bandit 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 zoom eo audience. First up, Adrian.
Unknown Speaker 39:19
Hi, Barry attended. Thank you so much for your expertise to Mila. I'm Adrian. I'm calling in from Menifee, California, but I'm an educator. So I really appreciate you bring it in the education piece to this. One of the things that has been on my mind as we kind of see social media and the media both manipulated and both a tool for us in the non violence 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
Jamila Raqib 39:58
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 be 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 in organizations and movement people, but also, you know, 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, you know, how to filter that information to law enforcement or to, you know, 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.
Unknown Speaker 41:33
When it come in next to Ned James net, 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 complimentary work that you or the outside Institute is that are pursuing that emphasizes the building, what comes next part of that equation?
Jamila Raqib 41:55
There's some books that are focused on there's some studies that are focused specifically on how to strengthen institutions, 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 Reconciliation committees that deal with how do you kind of recover from harm and 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.
Baratunde Thurston 42:45
We haven't another live question vanetta. It is with your question.
Hi, I'm Vanessa. I'm from Springfield, Massachusetts. My question is more about really preparing people or the everyday person to participate in the act of non violent protests. 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 tear gas, 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 goes sideways? And then what does that do to you as the person who wanted to go out and do good? And now, you know, you're traumatized, because you witness these things that were supposed to be positive turned negative. So I'm just wondering if there's any preparation or resources provided for that?
Jamila Raqib 43:51
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 does, or isolated, if it does break out, and how to prepare for things like tear gas, you know, from potentially water cannons, we're seeing a huge spike in the purchase of crowd control, supposedly non lethal equipments, 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. I mean, you may have seen the umbrella movements 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 too. 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 in what perhaps you think is a nonviolent protest. is 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 nonviolent. 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 Jian Sharpe came up with it's that repression backfires, right? 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 it'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.
Baratunde Thurston 45:59
Jamila, 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 to way more people.
Jamila Raqib 46:15
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 worlds. 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.
Baratunde Thurston 46:48
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 Jamila Raqib for helping me reimagine this moment of crisis as an opportunity. I hope she has done the same for you. Follow Jamila on Twitter @JamilaRaqib. And you can learn more about the Albert Einstein institution at aeinstein.org. As always, we will post this episode of transcripts show notes, plus more at how to citizen.com. But now for the goodie bag, the calls to action that 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 as 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 28th 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 28th amendment. The other internal action is to go to aeinstein.org. And look through the 198 methods that they've accumulated around strategic nonviolent action. Look through 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 resistant muscle through some actions right here. Wagingnonviolence.org is a website Jamila told us about go to the site, share it, post it on your socials, email it be that forwarding email uncle or Auntie, this is good spam. This is the good stuff wagingnonviolence.org is another site I want you to check out called choosedemocracy.us. go to that site, take the pledge to defend democracy, check out the action centers look at a training of 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 holdthelineguide.com. Now I'm gonna be real. This is a long document, it's 55 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 nonviolent 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 you want to see, unless invest in those dreams. As always, if you take any of these actions, let us know firstname.lastname@example.org. Throw it up on the socials under the hashtag #howtocitizen and give us general feedback, ideas, suggestions, comments and howtocitizen.com You can find me a baratunde.com on that socials @Baratunde on Patreon @Baratunde and you can text me 202894884 for the textures get the first invites to the next live show tape. How to Citizen with Baratunde is production of IHeartRadio Podcast executive produced by Myles gray Nick stump Elizabeth Stewart, and Baratunde Thurston. Produced by Joelle Smith, edited by Justin Smith, powered by you.
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