|Photo Wendy Lynne Lee|
Here I would like to return to these questions--but with two significant additions. First, I'd like to entertain a claim Linzey made at a presentation he gave at the Bloomsburg Town Firehall, April 1st as part of his series, Time for a Pennsylvania Revolt (http://celdf.org/2016/03/time-pennsylvania-revolt/). Pressed for a definition of what counted as an "ecosystem" by restoration ecologist Kevin Heatley, Linzey responded that it was whatever the community says it is.
Second, I'd like to consider a recent CELDF article entitled "Pennsylvania Township Legalizes Civil Disobedience."
First, then, let's return to the original August 2015 piece where I set up a number of clearly crucial questions any organization like CELDF must be able to answer--and for which neither Linzey nor anyone else among the CELDF leadership to date has offered any response:
"Whatever a Community Says"
They're just really really shitty ones where no one wants to live--and Linzey leaves it wide open for a community to adopt The Road as its utopia if it wants to. If an ecosystem is "whatever a community says," then while one township may decide to take up aggressive nonviolent protest to protect itself from a deep injection well, another may decide that what benefits its ecosystem the most is the cash flow made available (for a little while, for a few) through welcoming the next big round of natural gas extraction or tire burner or Walmart.
If an ecosystem is whatever the community says--and the community leaders just really like their bacon--then what's to stop that township from permitting a ginormous industrial animal agricultural operation to raise pigs?
And if Linzey's response is that such imposition flies in the face of all that's sacred about the democratic, I say this: we celebrate the Ancient Greeks as a model of democracy--and they were slavers who held both foreigners and women to be a deviation from the mean of what constitutes a human being. There's nothing to prevent that from happening in any community when "what the community says" just means "what it's loudest and most powerful demand."
The community of Grant Township, in other words, has the right to participate in nonviolent acts of civil disobedience/direct action in the effort to prevent the construction of a PGE deep injection well (or whatever) that's inconsistent with the township charter that ostensibly protects its members' right to clean water. Moreover, criminal charges cannot be brought because these would be inconsistent with the township charter.If a court does not uphold the people’s right to stop corporate activities threatening the well-being of the community, the ordinance codifies that, “any natural person may then enforce the rights and prohibitions of the charter through direct action.” Further, the ordinance states that any nonviolent direct action to enforce their Charter is protected, “prohibit[ing] any private or public actor from bringing criminal charges or filing any civil or other criminal action against those participating in nonviolent direct action.”
This sounds great--in principle. Grant Township is to be applauded for taking this principled stand. But the law also illustrates the extent to which CELDF is obviously willing to go in advancing their vision of a "Pennsylvania Revolt" by using--exploiting--townships in the pursuit of that larger agenda. Fact is, Grant Township does not need a "not-really disobedience" law, and CELDF's assistance in drafting it just makes Grant Township more beholden to CELDF--all the while CELDF gets to claim another victory.
The principle here is simple: the ends do not and cannot justify the means when the means--bankrupting a township and subjecting its citizens to genuine hardship--create very real and very great harm.
Grant Township supervisor Stacy Long claims that she'll "do whatever it takes to provide our residents with the tools and protections they need to nonviolently resist aggression like those being proposed by PGE." I respect this principled position, and I applaud Long for it. But there are serious logical and practical problems with the direct action law--and Long has a right to know this before she puts her body on the line.
First, to legalize civil disobedience is to make that particular variety of action--say, blocking a backhoe--precisely not disobedient. This might seem like mere semantics--but it's not. In fact, if blocking a backhoe is a right I have under my community charter, and I am bound by that charter to protect the community's right to clean water, what stops that action from becoming a responsibility?
In other words, the potential effect of this law is to transform civil disobedience into civil obedience because rights--as all civil libertarians know in their bone marrow--create responsibilities. And a law that allegedly liberates me from being prosecuted for civil disobedience is a short step from erecting a law that compels me to obedience in the defense of my community, in this case, putting my body in front of a backhoe.
A right to protect my community where there is no penalty for not doing so confers a responsibility to protect my community. Linzey might point out that the explicit language of the law reads "may then enforce the rights," not must. But this has little logical or practical force since what the community charter protects is the right to something essential to the existential conditions of living things: clean water. How could any morally thinking citizen--freed from the prospect of prosecution--not feel it as a duty to engage in direct action in blocking that backhoe?
Linzey, of course, knows all this, and he knows better on at least two counts:
First, Linzey knows that unless a compelling number of other communities join forces with Grant Township, this law will have less than zero force--it will simply expose courageous Grant Township citizens like Stacy Long to arrest and prosecution. While CELDF may be there to defend her in court, that will be cold comfort the next time she makes, say, a job application. The only community members in a position to take the real risk of standing up to PGE are those with little to lose when they're arrested--and that won't be many.
Second, Linzey knows that if this experiment fails, he can still refer to it as a CELDF victory for having drafted the charter and the law defending it. The harm, after all, isn't to CELDF. And when CELDF leaves, the harm to Grant Township will still be there--right along with the deep injection well.
To be very clear:
deceptive goods by leading them
that follow on direct action.
powerful and valuable is that it is disobedient.