Saboteurs in the peace camp

How many ways can you sabotage an activist effort? Until the government’s playbook is published, let’s use our imagination to ferret out saboteurs.

Infiltrators: paid undercover law-enforcement agents who report back about planned actions. They might also be instigators of actions contrary or more extreme to what the genuine participants intend. Infiltration of political assemblies has been considered unlawful, until now when everything considered unlawful, for this executive branch, has become lawful.

Obstructionists: usually volunteers, they may not even know that they are serving someone else’s purpose. Difficult, mentally addled, or mentally deficient persons are courted by political party handlers or law enforcement and innocuously encouraged to join grass-roots groups. Their purpose is to hinder concensus-building at meetings and slow the strategizing. They do this by being slow-witted or contrarian. As a result, activists come to feel disorganized and ineffectual. Genuine members become discouraged. Prospective participants are driven off by the seeming futility.

Talk of saboteurs being planted is completely paranoid thinking of course. But if I was Machiavelli, on the other side, it’s certainly what I’d do.

Obstructionists are entirely the fault of an organization’s self-sabotage. Usually it’s the result of the tender quality of activists wanting to include all others, regardless of capability or handicap. It’s our primary vulnerablity to being waylaid. But it is not only altruism. In many cases it is simply bad management.

Regardless of how the unproductive or counterproductive participants reach the door, it falls on the organizers to limit their reach. Don’t assign tasks beyond a volunteer’s talents. Don’t send someone to negotiate, for example, who is likely to be flumoxed and bamboozled. We sent an envoy to ask something of the city, alerted the press to monitor the response, only to learn our representative was appeased and stalled. Nothing gained, and no story.

As another example, be very careful about giving responsibility when it is unearned. Offering faith in someone’s potential is generous, but how much of your agenda can be risked for such a big, if maybe also lazy, gesture?

The world peace and justice movement recently coordinated an international, post 9/11, multi-day event. In Denver it included an appearance by the Dalai Lama and nine other Nobel lauriates. SEASON OF FORGIVENESS was an eleven day period beginning on September 11th, to reflect on forgiveness, perhaps the real key to peace. Season of Forgiveness was a wonderful antidote I thought to the knee-jerk nationalistic “never forgetting” of 9/11.

In our circle we had a staffer declare that eleven days does not a season make. Really? What about the holiday season? Or hunting season? Nope, it was “stupid.” As a result in our town, in rejection of the national and international buzz generated for the event, in rejection of the possible co-promotion, Colorado Spring’s eleven days were called “11 Days to Empower Peace.” The turnout was despairing. Small wonder.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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