The first principle of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating. – Mohandas K. Gandhi I once read an account of bullying in rural America in the early 20th century. The narrator said, “If a victim did not stand up to them, there was no limit to how far the bullies would go.” He described them tying another child to the train tracks as a train approached (on the parallel track). There was no appeasing the bullies. Each capitulation only whetted their appetite for new and crueler humiliations.
I just shared your essay on Facebook and it was scary. I can no longer, quietly put my mask on and watch our children be psychologically harmed. The consequences of this will be very serious if we continue to blindly follow this unprecedented course of action, particularly for the young and the vulnerable.
Thank you, Charles, from a fellow bullied kid (perhaps even smaller at age 12 than you).
Real Life story about standing up:
Like lots of people, I sucked it up and wore a mask for a couple of weeks during the beginning of all this. When it became apparent to me that the whole story didn't hold up to even the quickest looks at the facts, I concluded it was yet another authoritarian con job and decided to live normally. I got yelled at here and there for no mask, even got thrown out of stores a time or two. It hurt, but I found ways to dance around it all, finding stores that bullied you only with a sign on the door. When I ran into friends I hadn't seen in a while and they stop before we hug hello and ask me if I'm jabbed up, I'd lie and say "Yes!" because I can't bear the pain of not being hugged.
Last month I decided on a last minute whim to join some friends in Death Valley Nat'l Park. This meant I didn't pack much in the way of necessities knowing that I could get by for a couple days on whatever they sold at the fuel station. Well, turns out the fuel station is run by the Nat'l Park system. You could get gas outside but inside the store was 100% gov't employees.
I walk in without a mask anyway.
Not 3 steps in and: "SIR! YOU HAVE TO WEAR A MASK!" I keep walking. Got to get a couple jugs of water, right?
"SIR! WE HAVE A MASK HERE FOR YOU! PLEASE PUT IT ON!" I ignore the guy. He comes after me and blocks my way to the cashier. Everyone in the store turns their head to watch. We are face to face, chest to chest. He is bigger.
"Aren't you supposed to stay 6 ft. away from me? You are breaking your own rules." He backs off. I walk around him toward the cashier who is behind a Plexiglas screen. The guy continues to yell at me. He obviously knows that yelling causes a scene which increases my discomfort. Nevertheless, I continue to ignore him. My body is shaking. Some people in the store snort and shake their heads. I wait my turn. My turn comes. I approach the cashier, fully prepared that he may not ring it up and thus deny me water in the desert.
But he rings it up. I notice that his mask is "off the nose", mouth only. Did I notice a twinkle in his eye, perhaps one of enjoyment at watching his boss standing over me in frustrated distress as the cashier hands me my change? I believe I did. I smiled back and walk out of there, still shaking.
The next morning the sun came blazing out and I realized I didn't bring a hat. Oh no! There's only the one store and I gotta go back in there? Oh well, I head back over. One of my friends joins me. As we approach the store, I tell him to "let the chaos unfold and don't intervene" as he puts on a mask and I do not.
This time, there is a line outside. The same guy guards the door. Only 10 people are allowed in the store at a time and there are 3 people in line. My friend gets in line and I open the door and attempt entry. The guy slams the door on my foot (lucky I am wearing sturdy boots) and pins it there.
I ask him: "So that's what you are going to do? Assault me?" He remains in place, my foot stuck and his weight against it. People pull out their phones and start videos. He is determined this time that I will not enter. It's a standoff. Except, he forgot that customers inside would need to exit. A guy inside knocks on the door to come out and the guard opens the door. I duck in. He follows me and starts yelling again. "SIR!"
More stares, more disapproving tsk's, comments and head-shaking from the customers inside. Again, my body starts shaking. I look at the hats. Nobody is on my side, or if they are, they are silent about it. This time, the guy gives up and goes back outside to guard the door because people are starting to walk in without his permission. He shoos them out while I select a hat. In the cashier line I stand behind a woman who I'd heard make a comment "There's one in every crowd!" when I entered. Annoyed by remembering that, I said to her backside, in a mocking ladylike voice: "There's one in every crowd." Not the nicest thing I ever did, but I did do that.
She turns around and looks at me.
I tell her "Hey, I've been hearing crap like that ever since I was a little kid."
Not the slightest bit shaken, she says through her mask:
"You know, I don't really care if you wear a mask or not. Just stating that there's one in every crowd."
One what? I didn't know and I didn't ask her. A non-conformist? Fair enough then. I thanked her for saying at least that much.
Outside I find that the door guy has summoned a Nat'l Park Ranger, possibly his immediate superior. They stand in front of my path and block my way. The ranger is a woman who launches into what strikes me as a prepared speech. Out of respect I listen to a few lines of it: "....we all have to do this, there is no choice...." like Mommy trying to reason with her misbehaving child.
Politely as I can, I interrupt her and tell her that I am not going to understand what she is saying anymore than she is going to understand my point of view and that this is not a problem. We can think differently and still respect each other. I walked around them and they let me go.
But this is not fun! It is scary and I hate doing it. It does not feel good at all. But if I don't do it, I can't look myself in the mirror and still see the same person I have fought my whole life to be:
Me. A peaceful, natural human being. The day I Iet other people tell me who I am or that I have to obey them and be approved of, I'm as good as dead.
This essay is one of the most amazing pieces I have ever read. I can't thank you enough. I am one of the healthcare workers that have held in line in NYC and lost my job and am proud of myself!
“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ's breath moves through; listen to this music.” - Hafiz, Persian poet. Charles, this quote first comes to mind when I read this piece. Christ just being the word here to represent that Higher Power (or Logos as you mention in your piece) that moves through us and uses us as instruments to deliver its wisdom. From where I stand, this piece is sheer genius and has comforted me greatly. Your works have been nourishing to me since the days of Occupy when I first stumbled upon your works as a teenager. My heart is filled with gratitude to stand with you and many others in this space of courage and defiance, a space of saying, "No, we choose a different world." I have been going through a sort of a recluse phase over the past year, a phase of withdrawal and healing, away from the public eye, away from content creation, but there is a growing sense within me that "the time approaches". Thank you, Charles, for your ritual drawing a line in the sand and giving words to many of what they intuitively sense, one of your great gifts to the world.
Wow this is, for me, one of the most powerful essays you've written. (not that the others aren't). I had almost the same bullying experience--youngest, smallest in 9th grade, and female and the new kid. Horrible bullying by both boys & girls. And I DID fight back, physically, which was a joke. It was almost like my fighting back with fists was only illustrating my weakness. I had to reach a point of clearheaded anger instead of the diffuse frustration and fear I'd been feeling, and had to just literally say, FUCK OFF I don't care anymore. Or something to that effect. And it did stop. There's a dance of abuse and victimization and getting caught sometimes in the frustration of being bullied is part of that dance, even though you think you're trying to get out of it. And the same goes for the covid bullying nonsense. Which I've been fighting in my own small way, ever since it started and my gut said: "something's wrong." But, like torture, the illogic of the mandates very much depend on keeping you either fearful or frustrated--confused in any event.
Anyway, blah blah blah. Thank you for this!
A couple of comments. I am a child from an abusive family. I strongly suspect my resistance comes from that history, and there's nothing wrong with that. Experience with abuse teaches you what it looks like and not to tolerate it. Secondly, you are exactly right that we decide when this is over. I realized that some time ago. I am not waiting for the government to give me my rights and freedoms back, even if I cannot access some of them now. I am living my life as normally as possible and defying vaccines, masks, testing, and quarantines.
A poor dear lady in my Bible study group last night wanted to pray that "things would go back to normal". I told her they would when we decide they will. If we wait for the government to give us our freedoms back, we'll be waiting forever.
The genius of the founders of our country (USA) was that they recognized and were honest with themselves about the human nature. (A supreme act of bravery.) They recognized that humans, no matter their good intentions, will abuse power if not checked. Thus, they designed, not a democracy, but a representative republic with powers checked between legislative, executive and judicial. And distributed between federal and state responsibilities.
Unfortunately we threw that away with the progressive movement starting in the early 1900's. We have now progressed to a tyranny of unelected administrators and a single administrative state, with the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal and most state governments going along for the ride, remaining for the most part figureheads trying to remain relevant be repeating the dictates of the administrative state tyrants.
The problem I see is that most of us 'subjects' of the administrative state do not realize who the real tyrants are. They continually think the next election has a chance of restoring order. Until we recognize who the real tyrants are we can't stand up to them.
I too was a 90 lb bullied kid, but...as my father showed me one night coon hunting. "Watch what happens when the dogs go after the coon" he said. The 20 lb coon whooped the dogs the first go round. Dogs twice to three times his size! The difference in dogs and humans, a dog is absolutely relentless.
My point though, is you're right. Fighting back against human bullies will end it. I fought back every time and ended the abusive interactions. Rare was a bully a hound dog, but on occasion some were, and it required ever more resolved, [and a few bloody noses, along with some loose teeth] but watching that coon the night of the hunt gave me the courage to stand my ground.
If a 20lb coon could stand against foes thrice his size, so to, could this 90 lb. boy.
My wife and I both are vax free, and will remain so. We never wear mask. If stores require them to shop there, we turn around and leave. More, need to turn around and leave.
Put an end to following the norm, and stop shopping where those rules are enforced. Period.
Brother. You continue to offer distress into a distressed world. Gabor Mate said, "Safety isn't the absence of threat, but the presence of connection." You used to fan the flames of inquiry and reasoning into such connection, but this period has overwhelmed that in you, dear brother. You've fallen into a wounded, "us and them", self-congratulatory place, and your reasoning is frantic, playing with vengeful currents of public opinion. For everyone's sake, I hope you turn toward what is most beautiful in your life and take the next step.
"If you join us, you will be witness to a most marvelous paradox. The transition to a more beautiful world is a mass awakening into sovereignty..."
^Who is "us" and what steps does one have to take to join "us"? It sounds like, in practice, you're primarily saying that "us" is people who don't get vaccinated, don't wear masks, and don't social distance. Is that accurate?
If so, isn't it possible for people who are vaccinated, who wear masks, and who social distance to do it from a place of sovereignty — out of personal desire? Why then make the divide about vaccines, masks, and social distancing? (Or perhaps I'm missing something obvious?)
I am waiting for a movement of people powered by nondualism and pluralism that transcends this dualism of victim and abuser because the other side is using the same logic except reverse. Having an opposing side is not liberating. Transcendence of duality is true liberation. Rather than looking at man vs. man, consider dependent reality asserting power over dependent reality. The means are the same though - suffering.
Why are we using so much precious life energy as a society to wrestle with the question of whether vaccines are good or bad? They are obviously both and/or neither. I imagine a stronger argument could be made for or against the mandates but the mandates both go too far and not far enough depending on what camp you're in. Again, we arrive at both and/or neither.
So I think the real awakening is to nonduality and pluralism. To that end, your voice and everyone's who resonates with its relative truth are essential to dig our heals so deep into duality until we find there is nothing left to hold in opposition. When that happens I don't know. It's likely longer than my mind can comprehend. Charles, I do trust your depth of wisdom and your track record of risks taken in using your influence that you will recognize this deeper truth when the time is right.
Dear Charles - I have followed you, with great appreciation, for many years. But this is the ground you choose to stand on now? Covid bullying? Why are you not talking about the taking of the right to vote from thousands of people? Why are you not talking about the Republican Party's slide into fascism and authoritarianism? Why are you not talking about the loss of our democracy? If you truly wish to move the needle from othering to more love, as you always have espoused before, why do you OTHER those of us who choose the vaccine as an ally and assistant to our immune systems, and find it to be so? I'm a caregiver for my 92-yr-old mom. I choose vaccination and masking as a way to protect myself to protect her. I am MUCH more concerned about the loss of voting rights, gerrymandering, obstruction in Congress to the passage of policies that PROMOTE greater health and well being for us all, including our environment. It looks to me like you are looking through a distorted lens at this time. You don't acknowledge the violence, and threatened violence from the "anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers" - which in my view, is much worse than the "COVID bullying" you speak of. What are you reading that you aren't seeing this? It seems like you are limiting your "newsfeed" to what confirms your current biases. This doesn't feel like you, as I have experienced you in the past. It feels like you are off the rails of your own teachings, your own integrity, into some tunnel view. I deeply hope and pray you return to your more balanced views. That you return to love. That you return to teaching us not to OTHER each other. This is not that.
Your efforts to convince people we are being bullied are only making things worse in my opinion. I recognize there is conflicting information about vaccines and COVID mitigation measures. I stay informed and I make my own decisions. To imply that anyone interested in protecting themselves and others is submitting to the will of bullies is quite a stretch. Public health should not be political, but too late. Instead of finding a way to incorporate your desire for less mandates along with proven strategies to protect vulnerable populations, you sow decisiveness and anger.
WooooHooo you are on fire. This is all that I think, and more. This is really what I’ve thought since day one, a long time ago. I’m standing in the sand imagining that solid path rising to meet me. I still feel like I’m flying solo, much of the time. But thanks to your strong voice I know that isn’t true. I hope I’m strong enough by the time the path finds me.
I’d love you to explore some visioning of the future/present, once more people are travelling a similar path. Not where we are going, but who we are BEING or BEcoming
Thank you Charles, you are the best xx
The last part moved me to tears. It's not about conquest or vanquishing an enemy, or triumphing as victorious over evil, or turning the tables on the victimizers, but it's the birthing of the New. Meet You at the rise... on the path..... .
Powerful, insightful and right on target Charles.
As to footnote No. 4, I think most of us relate to a feeling of having power over us through school and other forms of indoctrination that have led to our collective malaise and inertia. It is up to each of us to realize our compensations and heal them.
Wheter it be called bullying or something else, public health policy is not currently helpful or benign and it needs to be reisted and redirected.