Mendo Island Transition: Remember the Boycott…


[Yes, it is important to focus more on what we can do in positive ways to assist in transitioning our communities as the culture collapses around us, but there are also negative tools that can assist us in bringing about needed change on a local basis. For example, Branches Chop House Restaurant in Ukiah has been advertising “locally raised products” and as “specializing in locally grown products” which is not true (see our article here). A sustained local boycott could be organized to help change their ways just as some of us have participated in national boycotts. Stay tuned. -DS]

Sometimes I feel like I’m in the middle of a war. There are bullets flying and explosions all around, and I’m trying to organize people on my side to fight effectively, and instead they’re just standing around saying, “Look, they’re shooting at us! I can’t believe they’re actually shooting at us! Look at those bad, bad people doing that bad, bad thing! Shame on th- (takes bullet in head)”

There’s only one place for morality in this world, and that is that your actions must serve the greatest, widest good that you can perceive. Beyond that, it’s all strategy and tactics. Applying morality to the actions of other people is a strategic error. I think this error goes back to our tribal ancestors. If one person does something to harm the tribe, the others will use shaming to bring this person into line. If this feels to us like a moral action, it’s because it was easier for our ancestors to mindlessly throw righteous indignation at the wrongdoer, than to carefully discern why a behavior is harmful and how shaming will correct it.

Now here we are in a world of high tech and giant systems, still reflexively following the habits of the tribe, possessing a magical tool that sends words and pictures around the world in seconds, and wasting it by pointing fingers at governments and corporations and their human servants, as if these unimaginably complex systems, berated by a shrill minority, will bow their heads and obey like little children pressured by everyone they’ve ever known.

But there were things in our ancestral environment that behaved very much like governments and corporations and banks and mass collective short-sightedness: storms, floods, avalanches, disease epidemics, fires. As Thaddeus Golas wrote in The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment: “When your consciousness is open, any action you take in reference to evil has no more significance than digging a ditch to channel floodwaters away from a house.” If we think of modern “evils” as amoral forces of nature, and not as wayward family members, we begin to see how to deal with them.

The corporation can be influenced through the boycott, which modern lefties have tragically misunderstood as an individual action aimed at avoiding guilt. The correct way to do a boycott is to organize a block of customers of a business, large enough that without their money the business will fail. Then you make a precise demand, and you all withhold your money until the demand is met. Likewise, a government will not be influenced if every one of its citizens shouts disagreement, but it will be influenced if you can make a precise demand, and organize enough people to stop the government from functioning until that demand is met.

But suppose the damage is being done by almost everyone, through popular behaviors that feel meaningful and have no clear alternative. Suppose the harmful systems are so bound up with perceived benefit and necessity that you cannot organize enough people to stop them. What do you do when a flood is too big to save the town with channels and sandbags? You evacuate. But now my metaphor is breaking down, because I’m not telling people to head for the hills, or to take their money out of the credit union, or even to stop voting. Go ahead and participate in the system, but your strategic goal is no longer to turn the system around and save everyone. Rather, it is to guide the system through its collapse, so that people who are determined to avoid industrial toxins, to grow their own food, to move outside the money economy, to take responsibility for their own health and safety and comfort, are able to do so.