Two moments in civil action. First one happened in Caracas where I was working as a young idealistic lawyer. The second in South Florida. The first one involved municial authorities of all kinds and the reason was smoke produced by their machines left running while they sat iddle doing nothing to a big-ass building in its construction first stages.
They had already dug up the huge hole to dig up the foundations and a sudden rainfall filled it like a lake. They had to take in a swarm a workers to drain it. While not more than 2 machines where working, 8 where left idle, and all 10 where left running while they took their lunch. That monday, I went down and spoke with the guys at the worksite. They all turned the machines off. I went back to work. On tuesday, my housekeeper called at miday and said sha had to leave early for some personal reasons, and I agreed. At night the janitor told me. Those guys next door are a beastly bunch. Why? I asked. They don't turn their machines off. I called my office and told yhem I would be working out of my house the next day.
I had an early breakfast and dressed with an old tie and jeans. And then I waited. Around 7 am they came, turned 2 machines on, and proceeded to sit and have their breakfast. I came down and told them to keep their machines off while they were not using it, thereby interrupting their breakfast and their friendly morning conversation. First, they remembered me from days before. Second they kept on talking and discussing with reasons all fraught with the overpowering need to be right over the elegantly dressed. I then used the citizens only weapon: I'll call the police, I told them. And when they all started laughing, I briskly walked to the backhoe took the keys and threw them in the middle of the lake. But I had seen the hole, they had only kwnon the lake. I knew where it was deeper due to the terrain bordering with a creek and a higher unstable ground of the golf courses.
That day eneded whith the whole crew finding out how really deep was the hole, and doing their work without break for luch with the only remaining tractor left. I took care of some issues due by the condominium (which secretary was the janitor herself) which is little but efficient. Later I came to know I had thrown to the lake the whole bunch of keys of the construction's supervisor. They kept looking until very late and since then all was alright, and eventually our janitor started cooking their breakfast. In the meanwhile, I stopped the construction 5 times due to different code violations. Finally it was finished, a proud building with a modern façade facing wrongwards, hence the 5th construction's stoppage, an unintended consequence of my suing against the municipalities decision to change the area's street directions. The plan is still in effect today and in front of my house accidents are a daily occurrence at early morning. ¡Even the police!
Eventually they'll catch on.
The second instance of civil disobedience happened minutes ago on a small little village in south Florida. I was talking with some friends of my neighbor staying at her property for a week's worth of vacation. I was inside the common yard, and they on the veranda that runs around the second storey. Suddenly, a truck delivering alcoholic drinks stops in front of the restaurant across the street, by the way, owned by a prominent hollywood star. I stopped talking and was again piqued because the guy did not turned off the truck. The guy said something and I told him: I can't hear you when your truck is running. Finally, he came over and asked: ¿what? And I said, I can't hear a word my friend and you are saying because your truck is on. He then started talking in ebonics, a language I still hace trouble understanding; specially spoken by someone so aggravated. In insisted that he turn off the engine, and said: If you don't turn it off I might have to report you.
¿Report ME! he said. No. I will report right now to my supervisor! ... some guy named Carlos, and started talking into his phone/talkie while I gathered information about the company displayed on the sides of the truck. When I finally got the supervisor on Mike's phone I started berating against the driver ("a black man a good 15 inches higuer then me and between 50-60 pounds heavier, wearing a TampaBay baseball hat" and clothing so and so) and yold him how aggravating was that he left the truck on and, specially his lack of courtesy and his crazy response.
Now, ¿what's your excuse? sir. He said "I will talk to the driver, thank you sir..." The driver spoke on the gadget, turned of the truck off and proceeded to make the deliveries. I asked him: Don't you think is more peacefull now? He looked at my smile and said: Hace a good day, sir.
You too Mike!
Once again, civil action has contributed to everyone's welfare. Of my neighbors, only Anita dissented: Those are refrigerated trucks and need to stay on... No, my dear friend. If they are distributing locally, and locally has become a small city, then they should set up a local distribution network with trucks that do not need refrigerated trucks. How they will know is time to set-up shop locally? As soon as they start receiving more and more calls with hard recriminations from customers and neighbors like me today.
Civil disobedience is a higher form of consciousness. It requires us to acknowledge the level of legitimacy awarded to the local, regional and national authorities. In Caracas, at that time, the local authorities were adequate, fighting against an irrepressible wave of bad goverments. In my hometown, there is no doubt about the legimitimacy of the mayor and, at a local level: who cares who sits as Governor of Florida or as President of the United States?
When any government starts abusing its power and starts prohibiting more stuff, let's say, possesion and wearing of firearms (isn't the exaple ironic?), the general public should start confronting the illegitimate rule. It always start with a small act of punlic defiance. It almost always end in revolution. Because in this fight we wage against the bolibananian protodictatorship we are the revolucionarios!
And what is so revolutionary about our ways?
We are revolutionaries because our only weapons are reason and the nonviolent character of our actions. Sabotaging, undermining, refusing to obey stupid laws; they're all part of a revolutionary struggle for independence happening in our long suffering land. Independence from military rule, charismatic leadership, barbarism and it's use of centralism to attain totalitarian aspirations is just the beginning of a building of a society.
Never before in our history we confronted this wild unpredictable animal - totalitarism. Cuba suffers it's most developed form in the tropics, while Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union are the most developed forms in history. The Venezuelan people have resisted - successfully, we might add - against tyranny, and it's desperate grasps to maintain absolute power. It will have to surrender to the voice of God through the people speaking in democratic elections, or he will have thrown away decades of democratic experiment. He loses either way.
He stands on the brink of becoming a full-blown dictator (and there is no doubt he is ok with ignoring all kinds of constitutional principles stated on a constitution he made approve in a hurry in 1999), but this will requiere some blood be spilled. It is true blodd is being spilled by the buckets in Caracas and everywhere else of our suffering lands; but to affirm real terror, specially among his minions, he should make it very public, meaning a firing squad and the supreme justice delivered ipso-facto. That might have happened in very few instances before, and now at the student level and somewhat in the jornalism profession, both sectors increasingly unnerved by the authorities' impunity in the mess.
Does he have the guts? Some doubt it as none of his colleagues has ever recounted his deeds in combat. What is known - he changed his orders and instead of getting his objective, decided to wait out the shootout in the Military Museum. There he was captured without any struggle. He surrendered the coup with those famous few seconds. He was incarcerated and later pardoned by Rafael Caldera, his godfather and then presidente of the 1961 Republic. In the other coup he surrendered himself to the military rebels, was transported against his will to an isolated military island (and was provided with a priest to say his peace), and then restored into power without any shots fired amog military men -apparently-. Those and the failed General Mobilization of 2008 are his only three military actions (none was part of another gohher campaign). If you are a soldier with half a brain you would understand the kind of beast you're dealing with.
Good luck with that because he is your Commander-in-Chief (or Mico Mandante, which is play on words that means mouse that gives out orders)! He, who said he would go to the heart of the jungle to rescue Ingrid Betancourt, heard about the operation afetr it happened while aboard his air conditioned supersonic jet. Meanwhile, in the heart of the jungle, over a coca field, Ingrid was rescued by Alvaro Uribe's men using the weapon of deception. Apparently, they went overboard and used insignia of international workers and journalist in a manner that puts all them around the world at risk. This is unnacceptable.
However, I will not insist on it since it served the purpose of liberating the "jewels of the guerrilla's pseudo-crown" and inflicting the weakened rebel organization a near-fatal blow. Specially on political terms because it was a clean operation, even if it meas the fall of Uribe's government in the end.
Armed confrontation also has its moments. But that exceeds the limitations of nonviolent struggle and civil disobedience.
We work like ants towards freedom