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  • Writer's pictureJosey Goggin

Why this? Why now?

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

I was a quietly rebellious kid.

More often than not, if I respected a person, thought they were doing what was right, and caring, and smart, I went along with what was asked of me. If not, well, I did my best to subvert their efforts.

While I didn’t always recognize the specifics of inequity in any given moment, I usually felt it viscerally. Often I didn’t have the words to tease apart what I saw, to explain it to others, to make them see it too, but I did understand something was wrong, and that I could dissent. Sometimes I was vocal, but more often I was quietly subversive, disguising my disobedience as obedience, or couching my defiance as naiveté.

I grew up to be an openly rebellious adult.

In this day and age, when times are so fraught and those with power seek to divide us, and we march, and we march, and we march: for women, and science, and black lives, and indigenous rights, and children in cages, and healthcare, and gun control, and for a gasping planet and endangered animals, it can seem like we aren’t always making progress. That our efforts aren’t big enough, or vocal enough, or just enough, period.

It is easy to lose hope.

In the past few years when we tap into the internet we see people pushing back on all kinds of fronts. Periodically a protest like Standing Rock[1], The Women’s March[2], Black Lives Matter[3], March for Our Lives[4], Greta Thunberg’s School Strike for Climate[5], the Puerto Rican protests against their governor[6], or the Kentucky coal miners blocking a train full of coal[7] breaks through the noise and hits the front pages of the newspapers, websites, and television top slots, and we think: this is it, THIS is nonviolence in action.

But many of these things take tremendous time to organize, have heavy associated financial costs, require filing for appropriate permits, coordination with security forces, ordering and locating port-a-potties, figuring out routes, and speakers, and, and, and...

Yet, like Greta Thunberg has demonstrated, these actions represent a tiny fraction of how nonviolent dissent can be exercised. In fact, the academician Gene Sharp studied methods of nonviolent dissent for decades and categorized 198 different ways people can practice it.

Since not everyone feels comfortable taking to the streets, and not everyone can safely do so, understanding the multitude of options and methods of engagement that match different personalities, skills, ability, societal positions, and interests, is a critical piece to making change. That nonviolent actions can be acts of commission or omission, can result in taking action or declining to do so, opens up possible routes of dissent that are not often obvious, nor as publicized.

I started this blog as a place to explore nonviolent actions, what they are, how they're deployed, and to muse about what makes one effective, and another not so. I want, no... I need to know what else I can do to make change, to help move us toward a better world.

Over the next little while I’m going to grapple with, and blog on, nonviolent actions occurring around us. I want to see what actions I can tease out of stories using the work of Gene Sharp and his compilation of 198 methods of nonviolent action as a framework, see if I can figure out how to best mobilize my rebellious streak.

Thanks for joining me on this journey.


[1] Nonviolent actions No. 183: Nonviolent Land Seizure and No. 173: Nonviolent Occupation

[2] Nonviolent action No. 47: Assemblies of protest or support

[3] Nonviolent action No. 38: Marches

[4] Nonviolent action No. 38: Marches

[5] Nonviolent action No. 62: Student Strike

[6] Nonviolent actions No. 47: Assemblies of protest or support, No. 38: Marches, No. 172: Nonviolent obstruction, and No. 117: General Strike

[7] Nonviolent action No. 172: Nonviolent obstruction and No. 173: Nonviolent occupation

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