The Right of Resistance: The Legitimacy and Support of Nonviolent Civic Forces
More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle said that tyrants rule for their own advantage, while legitimate government is for the equal advantage of all who are governed. The American insight, as Lincoln explained, was that equal rights could only be assured if government were based on the people’s consent. Gandhi saw in that equation a strategy for liberation: The British are ruling us for their own benefit, he told Indians, so why should we help them? They can rule only if we let them.
Take away consent and government withers. Resist oppression, drive up its cost, and you divide those who enforce it. Then power flows away from those who deceive the people to those who represent the truth. Vaclev Havel said that the greatest threat to a system based on lies is living in the truth. “By breaking the rules of the game,” he said, the resister “has disrupted the game…He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together…”
Presentation at the California Institute of Technology, as part of the Social Activism Speaker Series