If you take a look around our world, you will witness a myriad of beings who are each ebbing and flowing out of the various ways their lives manifest, some with beauty and grandeur while others with disdain and bitterness. However, if you pay attention even just the slightest, you will experience a diverse collective of individuals and communities who have been struggling to be conscious beings of fierce compassion and just peace; building the beloved community.
From the Movement for Black Lives to Extinction Rebellion, CODEPINK to the Baltimore Wisdom Project, or from the Voices of Creative Nonviolence to the Brooklyn Center for Sacred Activism, there are dynamic people causing beautiful trouble through a variety of means but all utilizing methods that motivate us to noncooperate with the injustices we have now. What is noncooperation? Noncooperation is the decisive act of refusing to engage in an a particular process, experience, or scenario. If we took even just the first two groups I mentioned, both have indeed decided to refuse engagement with the status quo, daring to disrupt through creative forms of public defiance. The Baltimore Wisdom Project also defies the status quo by empowering teens with the methods necessary for cultivating wisdom in their lives in order to be able to think beyond the norm when it comes to designing a more just world for each of us to live with.
For us at the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), noncooperation is our mission objective. The members of NWTRCC and our allies, choose to deny billionaires the ability to get rich off the lives of people of color who are forced to fight wars for the rich and pollute the earth on behind of oil corporations who fund the building of military equipment which perpetuates the destruction of our common home. We refuse and resist paying income taxes so money can be directed to programs, people, and grassroots communities who are actively building a pro-human, pro-peace, and pro-planet society. Now, let us be clear that this is not merely a bunch of people who have an issue with being told what to do, or a conglomeration of people who have “nothing better to do”, which many status quo Americans accuse activists of. Each of us, in our own way, are striving to enact a way of life that prioritizes the greater good so that in the long term the children who are being born at this very minute, have an opportunity to grow up and experience the majesty of life. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was very clear about this when in his Letter to a Birmingham Jail he stated:
We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.
The Prophet of Racial Justice, Martin Luther King Jr. was indeed correct that we who practice the way of nonviolence (Satyagraha as Gandhi called it), are revealing the “tension” that causes the poor to become more poor, the tension that causes black people to be murdered by police and then labeled a “criminal” by society, or the tension that permits children to be placed in cages all along the United States border while their parents are held for days in freezers without any idea if they will ever see their children again. Noncooperation is the way of the big-hearted, the prophet, the dreamer, and the sage. To stare injustice in the face and deny it power is the way of the rebel who values people over corporations and community over government. So, how can you noncooperate in your area and build a culture of peace with justice? Here are some key points that can assist you in building a new world:
- Have a Vision: If you as an individual or your community, do not have a vision that guides you in the pursuit of justice, you will always remain immobile.
- Regeneration: Each of us deal with highs and lows in life, especially those of us who go up against this huge beast of capitalism. However, when each of us practices caring for one another, we help to lessen the amount of trauma caused by oppression. Example of this could be, teaching community-care strategies, having weekly in-person check-ins with members of your community, creating time and space for visiting the elders of your community, etc. When you practice care, you facilitate peace.
- Commit to a Dynamic Strategy: Way too many movements die out or reinforce harm due to the lack of committal to a dynamic strategy. Everyone has a gift and that gift can be properly used for the development of the global family. However, you and your community have to be disciplined in the determination of how/when gifts are used. Gene Sharp describes this as the different types of change agents. Some people are the media personalities, they help get the narrative out there and know how to stay on script. Some of you may be the agitator who stirs up trouble, or exposes the “tension” as Dr. Martlin Luther King Jr. mentioned before. Maybe a few of you are the healers, those who deal with those who are physically, emotionally, or spiritually wounded. Whichever form of change agent you are, commit to it and have that as part of the overall strategy. Do not put the healers in front of the planning meeting because they are not organizers, whereas; do not put the agitators in the healing camp because each of us must use our gifts in their proper place. (https://wagingnonviolence.org/2016/02/bill-moyer-four-roles-of-social-change/)
- Speak Up and Be Silent: Security Culture is a big problem in a majority of movements partly because many change agents do not fully grasp the importance of protecting the privacy of targeted communities and the nuanced ways we freely give away our information which is then used to monitor us without consent. So, when you are organizing in your communities, do the research and determine what is the best mode of communication that puts up enough barriers to deter “big brother” from watching. Use fake news in meeting minutes, download signal, discord, or other encryption platforms, and stop using Google products for storing your vital documents…that is basically giving big brother everything. (https://techbeacon.com/security/6-ways-develop-security-culture-top-bottom)
As you can see from these guidelines, noncooperation is intentional, mindful, and proactive. Every single member of the human family must be conscious when it comes to creating a just world and that includes defying the status quo. We must reclaim our planet, reclaim our right to healthcare, our right to education and reclaim our right to be human in this inhumane society. In that same letter that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, he reminds us of an important historical truth, namely, “We have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined…nonviolent pressure. It is a historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily”. Noncooperation is how we reclaim our common humanity in right relationship with our common home (earth).
The late great poet and mystic, Mary Oliver, once asked this question and I leave it with you:
What is it that you will do with your one wild and precious life?
Rev. Jerry Maynard O.M.M. is known as “The People’s Priest”, and has a ministry of Protest, Praise, and Community Organizing in Houston, TX. Jerry works on foreign & domestic issues, teaches the spirituality of nonviolence, and serves as the Founding Pastor of The People’s Church. Jerry is an Independent Catholic Priest with the Order of Mary Magdalene and serves on both the Administrative and Outreach Committees of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC). For more info: https://www.RevJerryMaynard.org/