The people created the government to safeguard their individual interest and the interest of society. Democracy works upon the assumption that the power to rule belongs to the people. Public officials are mere representatives of the state. The state was created by the people and it should serve the people and not the interest of the few.
However as Lord John Acton would put it “power tend to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When the state tyrannizes the people, that is the time for the people to take action through collective action.
Dr. Martin Luther King said that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” (1968).
The world has witnessed perhaps the most successful collective action through nonviolent strategy of civil disobedience that a country can undertake and that is during EDSA Revolution of the Philippines (Abueva, 1999). They successfully overthrew a dictator for 21 years, Ferdinand Marcos, by giving flowers to the military men.
They had tanks and weapons but the people outnumbered them by millions. It was a feat of the entire country, had it been just a few men it would have been easy for the dictator to disperse the group.
We must establish the connection of the success of nonviolent strategies of civil disobedience to collective action. Civil disobedience without enough support from the masses will not win over the state that has all the machineries. Dr. Martin Luther King used the strategy of progressive groups which is to “inform, educate, organize and mobilize”. This strategy can also be used by progressive groups in pushing for their advocacies such as the issues on Iraq war, global warming, and even isolated local issues.
First of all they have to gain the support of the masses and this is through the strategy we have mentioned above. First they have to inform the public that there is such an issue, then they have to educate them why there is an issue and what out to be done, then they can organize the public such that when civil disobedience occur they have a unified stand and they are adept with the issue that they carrying. Dr. Martin Luther King organized workshops training the public on taking in blows by police officers and not striking back. The last part is to mobilize.
However it should be taken into account that a mass action should only be done when all means of dialogues and legal action has been done yet there is still no resolution to the issue. For when two parties have conflicting interest it is impossible for them to reach an understanding. In the case of Dr. Martin Luther King, they had engaged in dialogues and have agreed to a compromise yet they were betrayed.
Collective action through civil disobedience is an effective tool in fighting against oppression since it magnifies the issue and draws attention to it. However it has to be reiterated that collective action is needed so that there is higher possibility of success in the endeavor. Much has changed in society since the time of Henry David Thoreau and Dr. Martin Luther King. Various medium is now available in disseminating information, thus, it is much easier to “inform, educate, organize and mobilize” the people.
However the challenge here is to break the culture of apathy in our nation. Students would not mind if there are no healthy food in their canteen unless they are informed and they feel the need to eat healthy. Americans will not care about the Iraq war unless they are informed of its negative effects on the economy. Inform te public for them to feel the urgency for an collective, nonviolent civil disobedience.
Abueva, Jose V. (1999). Peoples’ Perception of People Power. October 17, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Tagalog/Tagalog_Default_files/Philippine_Culture/remembering_the_1986_people_power_revolution.htm
King, Martin Luther. (1968). Letter from Birmingham Jail. October 17, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/frequentdocs/birmingham.pdf
Thoreau, Henry David. (1849). Civil Disobedience. October 17, 2008. Retrieved from http://thoreau.eserver.org/civil3.html