How to resist: lessons on "movement learning" from the Albert Einstein Institution

Jamila Raqib is a research affiliate at the MIT Media Lab and is Executive Director of the Albert Einstein Institution, founded by Gene Sharp, who literally wrote the book on successful nonviolent resistance.

Raqib doesn't advocate nonviolent resistance because she's a pacifist; she advocates it because she believes it is the most effective way to create change. Using Sharpe's catalog of nonviolent resistance tactics, she works with activist groups around the world to identify which tactics will work, how to adapt them, and to promulgate knowledge to other activist groups, elsewhere in the world, to help them refine their strategy and tactics.

Many of today's most successful struggles — the Romanian anti-corruption mass demonstrations, and the impeachment movement that brought down South Korea's President — work out of the nonviolence playbook — playful and serious at once, seizing political power by refusing to do what you're expected to do.

Moreover, the nonviolent resistors are networked and connected — South Koreans are seeking counsel from anti-corruption activists in Guatemala!

As well, activists and organizers in many countries tell me that they understand they can no longer operate based on trial and error. This is especially true because they're increasingly facing opponents who have massive resources at their disposal, including manipulation of the media, banks, and transportation systems, as well as the tools of violent repression — the police, military, and prisons. And, these opponents are constantly learning and developing better techniques to defeat social and political movements, which means that activists must also innovate in order to have a chance of winning this nonviolent arms race.

Movements are learning from each other, and that reveals another powerful insight: What we do in our small corner of the planet — whether we accept a future of oppression, violence, and injustice; or whether we choose to fight against these conditions — will affect not only our lives and our communities, but also the lives of people in places that are far away, who may be looking to us for inspiration and knowledge.

Learning from civil resistance around the world
[Jamila Raqib/MIT Media Lab]

(Disclosure: I am also a research affiliate at MIT Media Lab)

(via We Make Money Not Art)

(Thumbnail: Mass protest in Cheonggye Plaza, Teddy Cross, CC-BY)