Reprinted from the Ruckus Society: actions speak louder than words.
Three arguments for Direct Action
Nonviolent direct action is often misunderstood and just as often criticized. You hear it called ineffective, un-American, or illegal.
That the effectiveness of direct action can still be debated strains credulity. The success of Gandhi’s campaigns in India or the U.S. Civil Rights Movement should have settled the question. Since the beginning of the modern environmental movement, the campaigns against nuclear power, to save ancient forests, to achieve a global ban on high-seas drift net fishing and end ocean dumping all have incorporated significant direct action components.
The American experience is teeming with nonviolent direct action. One of the most famous direct actions ever, the Boston Tea Party, is patriotically taught in school. These colonial campaigns were so effective that some argue the “shot heard ’round the world” actually delayed American independence. Most of the world’s democracies have been created by acts of conscience against the state.
The final argument – that direct action is illegal – is weakest. It is also illegal to break into a home. But if that home is on fire and you fear someone will be hurt, it is OK – it is in fact your responsibility – to break in. This is the argument of competing harms: A smaller harm is accepted if it prevents a greater harm from occurring.