Passive Resistance II

Danny Boice here, Trustify’s CEO. This post is the second part of The Third Way: Passive Resistance blog.

As Jesus was aware, it is also very powerful to have an audience, such as Twitter commenters or forum participants in this day and age, who view the oppressor and oppressed as having equal humanity. Whereas before these powerful Hollywood men felt untouchable and immune to punishment, the actresses were able to leverage their audience and fans to bring attention to the fact that no one should hold unchecked power over another. Eventually, the momentum from the public Internet forum was translated into a legal forum of actual courts, thus illustrating the power of leveraging your audience.

In terms of the NFL kneeling protests, one of the most recognizable people within the movement is Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick first participated in a demonstration in which he took a knee during the performance of the National Anthem in 2016. These protests from Kaepernick and other NFL players followed repeated killings of Black men and women during police interactions. To this day, many NFL players are fighting through passive resistance to show their disapproval of the oppressive dynamic, despite repeated calls by NFL team owners for them to stop. However, since these protests have gained massive attention through the traditional media as well as on the Internet, it has been a relatively successful protest.

How can we leverage this same dynamic for our everyday encounters both on and off the Internet? Well, one key to this goal is to understand how to cultivate an invested audience, just as Jesus set out to do. We need to make sure that during peaceful resistance, we are also engaging in communication with various stakeholders in the Internet community. On a smaller scale, we can use Jesus’ philosophies about peaceful passive resistance to maintain our sanity when being bombarded by Twitter trolls, Internet forum abusers and other negativity we face online by simply remembering his lessons about humanity and resilience.

Go the Second Mile

The Romans also allowed their soldiers to force the civilians to transport (via carrying) their equipment for one mile, but carrying their gear for more than one mile was strongly forbidden to avoid abuse. Each bag was approximately 60-85 pounds. This practice was a common and constant feature in Palestine, between the Persian and the Roman eras. One example of a person coerced into this practice was Simon of Cyrene, who was forced to carry the cross that Jesus was crucified upon (Mark 15:21). During times of war, whole villages were forced to carry soldiers’ equipment, and were often forced to flee to escape this practice.

Despite the hardship, Jesus explained that if a Roman soldier asked you to carry their pack, you should agree to it; however, you should also carry their pack a second mile. In fact, Jesus suggested that one should insist on going further than one mile. This would allow the peasant to regain his self-respect and dignity, while also putting the soldier in an unsettling situation. The disconcerting scenario for a soldier would be to be fined, flogged, put on a ration of barley (instead of wheat), or made to stand all day holding dirt because they were caught abusing the rule.

Jesus did not teach Jews to walk a second mile to “kill the soldiers with kindness”. Instead he was helping the oppressed class protest in a peaceful way, which sends a message to them that they can regain their humanity by disrupting the imperial forces controlling every aspect of their physical and spiritual lives. Here, Jesus also promotes an adaptive approach, one that advocates peaceful protest not just as a technique for outsmarting the opponent, but also one that opens the possibility of the enemy realizing that the behavior is unjust.

One example of this dynamic has been between the online “Incel” community and those who oppose this oppressive and hateful movement. The term “Incel” means “involuntary celibate”, in which the men in this community complain about not finding female partners, usually due to a lack of social skills or physical attractiveness. Consequently, the members of the Incel community frequently encourage others to enact violence upon women and girls to extract “revenge” for depriving them of sex and companionship. This has caused countless women and girls to face online harassment, abuse, or worse. Also, it has harmed the lives of many young men and boys, who often keep their online behaviors a secret from people they know “in real life”.

However, some women have been reaching out to the men and boys in the Incel community with kindness, and in a way are going “a second mile”, by showing they have the power to share their humanity and love, even in the face of oppression. Recently, the celebrity comedian Sarah Silverman did just that. She shocked the Internet when she responded with immense compassion towards an Internet troll who was a part of an Incel Internet forum. When she showed this compassion, she also expressed a new power dynamic by engaging his humanity. As a response, the troll actually broke down and revealed his depression and sadness he faced due to his ugly behavior. Silverman then did an unbelievably compassionate act, and offered to set him up with a therapist in his hometown. When Silverman showed compassion the first time, we can compare that act to walking “the first mile”. However, when she followed-up on his reaction and offered him therapy, she actually decided to “go the second mile”, and actually turned the tables on the power dynamic.