Power: Who Has It, Who Doesn't and How to Alter The Status Quo

In my last blog, I found myself focusing on the issue of an atheist "movement" and wondered whether such a movement would have to be bloodied in order to gain any ground against the theistic majority which holds de facto control in the culture of the United States.

Courtesy of Real Time with Bill Maher and a quote referred to by his guest, Rula Jebreal, I may not have gotten a hard answer, but an indicator of the thoughts of at least one person who has contemplated this issue in the past and given what I think is an opinion worthy of consideration:

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
-- Frederick Douglass

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Comment by Loren Miller on January 27, 2013 at 3:19pm


I just read a comment by A|N member Pat on another thread which speaks to his experience with such people and how they react to having their favorite toy taken away from them.  I find it rather sobering ... and also quite believable.

Comment by Loren Miller on January 27, 2013 at 3:13pm

SB, the people you mention are largely blowhard cowards, all right, with very likely not a day of military service among them.  They're not the ones to worry about, but the bullshit-brained bovines who willingly FOLLOW them and are glad to do their bidding.  THEY are the reason that I may one day have to arm myself and resort to a side of my personality which I don't much like but may keep me alive.

Comment by Loren Miller on January 27, 2013 at 12:56pm

I can't help noticing, Joan, that the "means" which Malcolm X referred to were less defined by those in search of their rights than they were by those determined NOT to grant those rights.

Just as "The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress," so the level of action needed to overcome the authority of a tyrant will be prescribed by the tyrant's determination to hold onto the status quo as he desires it to be.

Comment by Loren Miller on January 27, 2013 at 12:51pm

SB, I would genuinely LOVE to be wrong about the necessity of conflict and/or violence.  With that, I have to remember that their belief is based in IRRATIONALITY, and where a belief system is irrational, there may be equally irrational actions based in that belief, including actions to maintain its position and status.  My attitude is that their position is anathema to my health and that of the nation and its laws and because that is my position, I protest against their attempts to maintain theirs at the expense of my aforementioned health.  If they don't like my position, they are free to discuss their distaste with me, but that is the extent of their privilege as it comes to me.  Anyone raising a hand against me will learn that such is a mistake and quickly.

I have neither reason nor interest in throwing the first punch.  I am, however, utterly determined to throw the last one.

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 27, 2013 at 12:35pm
"We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary."
~ Malcolm X, 1965
Comment by Joan Denoo on January 27, 2013 at 12:31pm

"I was not the one to invent lies: they were created in a society divided by class and each of us inherited lies when we were born. It is not by refusing to lie that we will abolish lies: it is by eradicating class by any means necessary."

~ Jean Paul Sartre, Dirty Hands: act 5, scene 3. 1963
Hurting people or destroying property is never the first action of choice and it should not be excluded as an option. Being calm and reasonable is a necessary but not a sufficient means to reach an end. Historically, in the Black movement GLBT struggle and feminism, many intelligent, reasonable people were tortured and died for being who they are and speaking their truth.
We need strong law enforcement, prosecution and tough judges in such matters. Sadly, when judicial systems fail, and money buys legislators and executive, then more drastic measures need to be applied.
It doesn't have to be violence, it can be resisting, opposing, or withstanding, using boycotts, marches, strikes, and community organizing. 
The reality is, we face formidable foes of big money. What does big money want? Peace, calm, acquiescence,  obedience, submission, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness of the people.
Deny them all of these.
Atheists, GLBT, feminists, minority races make a formidable coalition, just in numbers. Trying to organize these into a common movement is like herding cats, but this would make up in numbers what we don't have in purchasing power. Law enforcement would be allies except members don't want to risk their pay checks ... so they can't be counted on. 
Focus on stupid words or actions; shine a bright light on delusions and denial; ask the hard questions  ie. "Do you really believe ...?" or "Does that make sense?"
One thing that needs to be done is encourage atheists and GLBT to speak their truth, out loud, with pride, self respect and honor. Claim the high ground and refuse to be put down, discounted, trivialized or demonized. So many people on this site still feel timid about who they are. 
Let's face facts, this is a war! We are not the first to face it and we probably won't be the last. Class warfare is very old, indeed very tiresome. However, what are the options? 
Sentient, we need people such as yourself, calm, reasonable, patient and willing to wait. When you have a more radical group behind you, the oligarch may yield to your requests, even as they demonize the more radical. That is what the 1960s Civil Rights struggle was all about. 
Comment by Loren Miller on January 27, 2013 at 10:55am

SB, my thing is this:

Right now, the theists in the US are pretty much holding the keys, even with the declining religious population in the US.  Religious belief is still considered the de facto standard of behavior, to the point where, if you want to be elected anything above dog catcher (and maybe not even that), you had better espouse religion of some form and preferably christianity.

At some point, presuming that the influence of religion continues, whether linearly or in some other fashion, SOMEONE in the religious establishment will become conscious of the fact that their position isn't what it used to be.  My suspicion is that they won't like that very much, will want to find someone to blame (atheists) and take corrective action to reassert their former status, said action potentially taking all manner of forms, some possibly violent.

I'm not suggesting that the violence sources from us, though please note: I am perfectly willing to answer violence with same if it is visited on me.  The fact is that the religionists are currently the ones in power and whether they lose power as the result of any "demand" of ours or because of a cultural / environmental shift toward rationalism, that loss of power will not go unnoticed or without response.

I don't see them going quietly into that good night, and as I have said before, I think we need to be aware of that possibility.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on January 27, 2013 at 9:24am

Loren, I am willing to grant said quote status of axiom royal. Not quite as pithy as typical axiom.

I like Harris a good deal but I agree with you, he has it incorrect on issue of "atheists". We ought to proudly proclaim our opposition to all manifestations of theism. The identification through label is important.

And I agree with everything you have written here.

Comment by Loren Miller on January 27, 2013 at 9:06am

I didn't know it at all, Glen.  I was really struck by it because it gives expression to a truism which approaches the status of an axiom.  I was just listening to a lecture by Sam Harris, who expresses the idea that we don't need to call ourselves "atheists" and that we don't need a movement, but to merely oppose the kind of magical thinking which doesn't or shouldn't survive public exposure.  The more I look at the current status quo, the less I think that kind of approach is going to be successful, that a "velvet revolution" against religion is possible without active conflict and possibly bloodshed.

All I know is that the human animal isn't what he or she could be, that religion is a significant component of WHY that is the case, and that removal of the influence of an element of human culture which is currently dominant and unwilling to relinquish that position is unlikely without a serious confrontation, possibly involving violence.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on January 27, 2013 at 8:42am

Good quote, unfamiliar, would not have guessed it with 50 tries.

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