An Essay of The Man from the North
by Rivera Sun
A self-organizing movement like the Dandelion Insurrection relies on the collective and individual capacity of our participants. We are only as strong as the synergistic sum of our parts. The weaknesses of each person affect the effectiveness of the whole movement. The wisdom or folly of every individual contributes to either the intelligence or foolhardiness of our shared strategies and decisions.
Everything matters to this equation – our short tempers, hard won experience, creativity, grounded awareness, our respect for one another – and most of all, our knowledge of nonviolent action as the tools of change with which we are dismantling injustice and building a new world.
It matters because of the nature of our movement. The Dandelion Insurrection did not emerge from a single point. We never had a solitary leader or central command. It began by following the actions of ordinary people, telling their stories, and weaving a web of awareness about the dispersed resistance that was growing. We marked a map full of pushpins and described it as an insurrection. The dandelion grew up as a symbol . . . people started using it, and thus, the Dandelion Insurrection emerged.
Emergence is the jaw-dropping, beautiful arising of complex systems in an ever-changing, interconnected world. It is as old as the origins of life in the primordial soup. It is as enduring as each chapter of evolution. It unfolds daily, moment-by-moment in every plant, animal, and ecosystem. It blossoms in each one of us. Whether the powerful like it or not, it is at work in the very systems of economics and politics they are trying to dominate and control. It is entwined in the practices of real, participatory democracy . . . and in nonviolent movements for change.
Emergence has been the co-creative mechanism of the story of the world since the dawn of time. And, if humanity wishes to have a future on this planet, we will need to get cozy with emergence.
In the work of reconnecting with the emergent nature of our world, the Dandelion Insurrection serves as both training ground and mechanism of transformation. We are the means of eternity in the making. We have planted our seeds in the ground of existence. Our roots stretch into the very same soil from which all that we know has grown. We are organizing in alignment with the vast processes of the universe. When one participates in the Dandelion Insurrection as one of the participatory members of this leaderfull movement, one must unlearn old behaviors of dominator culture and relearn the practices of being human, being real, and a part of this beautiful, ever-changing, interconnected world.
The Dandelion Insurrection is a nonviolent movement challenging and transforming injustice, domination, authoritarian control, and the corporate take-over of our government and structures of power. But more than that, we are a tidal wave of life and change sweeping through the hearts, minds, and actions of our populace. We are a process that makes participants out of subjects; people out of consumers; and human beings out of victims, oppressors, and bystanders locked in old patterns.
We are rooted in nonviolence because it is integral to this process. Violence is fundamentally based in disempowering someone, holding power over them with the willingness to cause pain to get one’s way. The effectiveness of nonviolent action rests in withholding participation and cooperation, by placing our resources in new systems; and by intervening and disrupting the functioning of unjust systems. It stands upon the recognition that we are all connected to the vast ecosystems, economies, societies, and cultures that churn in our world. Whether against our will or with our willing consent, these systems rely on our continued active participation (or passive acceptance). If we, individually and collectively, shift our interaction in those systems, they also must shift and adapt to that change. The larger we make our shifts, the greater the system will feel the pressure to adapt to that change. The more strategically we can either withdraw participation or intervene in the system, the more likely that we can achieve the exact changes we desire.
Skillfulness counts . . . and because the Dandelion Insurrection is not a top-down movement with commands coming from leaders on high, the skillfulness of each person is critical to the success of the whole. Like barn raisers, we each must know how to swing a hammer and where to place the nail; when to lift and hold, and when to lower and release. There is no substitute for training ourselves. If we want an effective movement, the seeds of skillfulness must be planted in each participant.
This means you. Along with your friends, family members, and community, you must know the hundreds of methods of nonviolent action (our toolbox of tactics). You must know the basic dynamics of nonviolent struggle (the architectural principles of building change with those tools). You must know the goals that the Dandelion Insurrection collectively seeks (the sketch of the house we wish to live in). You must train to build your muscles for action. You must gather in small groups to gain practice in our versions of swinging the hammer and hitting the nail on the head. Then, when we move into action, we can move with trust and respect. We know the task we wish to accomplish is achievable. We know that the barn will be raised as safely, efficiently, and smoothly as possible. The work we do is dangerous by nature, and our skillfulness individually and collectively can be the factor that saves – or risks – thousands of lives, including our own.
There is a one thing more: every emergent system – from a sprouting seed to a newborn galaxy – is guided by organizing principles. These principles shape how it is formed and the formation that it takes. They make trees green and leafy with trunks, limbs, branches, and twigs. They give fish scales, gills, and tailfins. They determine that human babies will grow up into human adults while tiger cubs grow up into tigers. The Dandelion Insurrection has four guiding principles for our actions. Take them to heart as you act as part of this movement. They have emerged along with the Dandelion Insurrection. We saw them emerging, identified them, articulated them, and adopted them consciously. They give us strength, beauty, and grace. They have served us well in the past and the present. With your participation, they will serve us well into the future we’re building.
- Nonviolence: don’t cause physical harm to anyone or anything.
- Create connections: build community, open dialogues, organize action.
- Use our civil liberties of speech and assembly to stand up for democracy.
- Keep humanity and the planet alive: stop destruction; support the life affirming.
And, of course . . . be kind, be connected, be unafraid!
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. This article is one of a series written by The Man From the North, which are not included in the novel, but can be read here.
Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Love (and Revolution) Radio, and the co-initiator of Live Share Grow: A Movement for the 100%. She is a trainer and social media coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. Sun attended the James Lawson Institute on Strategic Nonviolent Resistance in 2014 and her essays on social justice movements appear in Counterpunch, Truthout and Popular Resistance. www.riverasun.com