It seems clear from the attention recently directed toward the M(H)RM, its flagship websites, and its spokesmen, that a significant number of people are being motivated to at least take a look and see what all the fuss is about. This fact alone informs us that more and more people perceive the existence of a problem and (hopefully) want to find a solution they can be part of.
The problems have been thoroughly described and well-analyzed – no mystery there, although they bear considerable further dissemination, discussion and publicity.
But what’s the solution?
Dr. Gene Sharp’s 1993 book From Dictatorship to Democracy offers extensive advice on the most successful methods for deposing an illicit regime and substituting something more reasonable in its place. Although he casts the struggle primarily (though not exclusively) as one of freedom-loving democracy-seekers in their fight against totalitarian dictatorships, in truth the M(H)RM might well take some lessons from his work.
It is probably wisest to avoid terms such as ‘revolution,’ ‘rebellion,’ ‘overthrow’ and ‘deranged despots,’ but there is no doubt that those most heavily engaged in the men’s issues battle are indeed revolutionaries of a sort, attempting to upend the status quo of regimes which routinely violate the basic human rights ensconced in the U.S. Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and other similar documents.
It’s worth bearing in mind too that the enemy, as such, needs to be clearly defined. Herbert Spencer, in The Man Versus The State (1884) reminds us that the state always proceeds in the direction of greater control and money for itself, at the expense of citizens and individuals. Gustav Le Bon in The Crowd (1896) calls “the progressive restriction of the liberty of the individual” one of the two great dangers of even the ideal state (the other being financial waste). Frank Chodorov’s 1959 book The Rise and Fall of Society describes the state’s “proclivity for expansion… its inherent compulsion toward the acquisition of power (which) cannot be inhibited by law,” and shows most importantly that “state power can grow only at the expense of social power.”
An obvious ancillary conclusion must be that partisan politics is irrelevant in the face of abusive state power: no government, no form of centralized authority with a monopoly on violence, has ever escaped these expansionist tendencies. The notion that these tendencies can be magically restrained is a part of our political mythos which many still accept as legitimate.
In Western capitalist democracies, we are now witness to a psychotic agglomeration of quasi-fascist right-wing policies coupled with hard-left collectivist regulatory regimes which serve to aggregate financial and political power in an oligarchic and bureaucratic ruling class while stripping the general populace of power, money, liberty and justice.
Ideologues and populists can and do provide support to the state, but in fact are only the justification, the useful idiots, for the relentless and inescapable march to state dominance – it matters little which particular ideology is employed, so long as the interests of the state are preserved. (Consider that during the recent U.S. ‘financial crisis’ the number of government employees increased by 22,000 persons). In democracies, right, left and centrist governments are statist: that is to say, they withdraw power, money and freedom from individuals and accrue it to themselves and their institutions.
Dr. Sharp begins his analysis of successful campaigns by commenting that “in extreme cases, the social, political, economic, and even religious institutions of the society — outside of state control — have been deliberately weakened… . The population has often been atomized (turned into a mass of isolated individuals) unable to work together to achieve freedom, to confide in each other, or even to do much of anything at their own initiative. The result is predictable: the population becomes weak, lacks self-confidence, and is incapable of resistance.”
Sound familiar? Lest you doubt the viability or intent of such tactics, bear in mind that a record 27% of America’s households are now solo occupant, a dream come true for radical feminists and rulers alike. In Tokyo, the average number of persons per household is less than two. In Canada the number of people living alone is at an all-time high and continues to rise. This socially destructive trend is occurring all over the Western world.
So what can be done? The bad news first: not every revolution is successful. But rather than lay down on the sofa, turn on the PS3 and dial up the porn channel, however, men should note the corollary: many struggles against oppressive authority are successful, and there are damn good reasons for that success.
Violence is clearly not the answer. In addition to moral and ethical implications, violence means attacking the state in its area of greatest superiority, which is hardly a winning strategy. In addition, violence often has the effect of mobilizing support against the initiators.
Elections are generally useless as well – the state is clearly not going to create and promote any electoral system which leads to its own demise. A quick look around the world should substantiate this point – with only very rare exceptions, the effective, underlying status quo does not change much, regardless of election results.
Negotiation has its own pitfalls, from serving to legitimize the oppressive regime to co-opting the resistance. And on fundamental issues, such as human liberty, negotiation is a path to failure. Negotiation is not based on the ability of each side to recognize the relative merits of the opposition’s position and then compromise, it is based rather on an assessment of the power relationships involved. Guess who wins.
The arguments of such as R. Tod Kelly, who want men to engage in reasonable dialogue in order to correct “civil rights discrepancies,” are those of a person who misunderstands both the fundamental nature of the state and the goals of the M(H)RM.
Understanding and exploiting the weaknesses of the state are key to undermining its power. As well, activists must strengthen the oppressed population in their determination, self-confidence, and resistance skills; strengthen their independent social groups and institutions; create a powerful internal resistance force; and develop a strategic plan and implement it skillfully.
For a wide variety of reasons, Dr. Sharp contends that political defiance is the alternative of choice for activists. It enables attacking the status quo where it is weakest, undermining the state’s sources of power, and it is difficult to defend against. Political defiance also helps distribute effective power across society, rather than leaving it solely in the hands of the state.
The strategies and tactics of political defiance need not involve breaking the law, harming others, or sacrificing oneself martyr-style to no purpose. Dr. Sharp describes 198 methods of nonviolent action which can be applied effectively – these are listed at Methods of Nonviolent Action.
In response to a legitimate and successful battle against abusive authority, societies can change in one of four ways, these being conversion (rare), accommodation, nonviolent coercion, and disintegration. Strategic planning is critical in attaining the desired outcome.
But success can have its own difficulties and risks as well. Le Bon, also in The Crowd, summarizes the leading danger: “The idea that institutions can remedy the defects of societies, that national progress is the consequence of the improvement of institutions and governments, and that social changes can be effected by decrees — this idea, I say, is still generally accepted. It was the starting-point of the French Revolution, and the social theories of the present day are based upon it. The most continuous experience has been unsuccessful in shaking this grave delusion.”
There is a certain bitter irony to this notion as applied to Dr. Sharp’s work, since he envisions the attainment of constitutional democracy as the end goal of political struggle. What happens when constitutional democracy itself is the problem? History is providing the M(H)RM with an opportunity to help write a new chapter to this story. Let us prove ourselves worthy of the challenge.
From Dictatorship to Democracy is considerably more nuanced and comprehensive than can be conveyed in one short article. Dr. Sharp has placed his work in the public domain, so it’s free to download and read. I recommend all serious M(H)RAs read it carefully.
– Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy
– Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus The State
– Gustav Le Bon, The Crowd
– Frank Chodorov, The Rise and Fall of Society
– Where The September Jobs Were: Truck Drivers, Bureaucrats, Salesmen And Temps
– More Americans are ditching their roomies and living alone
– Living alone in Tokyo
– The Daily Beast: The Masculine Mystique
– 198 methods of nonviolent action