The Man From the North: Liberty and Strategy for All by Rivera Sun


Image by Carlo Villarica via Flickr

The Essays of The Man From the North by Rivera Sun
Writer, Dandelion Salad
November 3, 2013

The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today”, when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution. This article is one of a series written by The Man From the North, which are not included in the novel, but can be read here. (The novel can also be ordered from this link.)


You must believe that pockets of resistance exist. As America plunges into darkness, some people burn with resistance like fires in the night, aglow with respect for the civil liberties that define the modern ideal of freedom. The quiet murmur of their impassioned voices will call to you as they discuss nonviolent strategy and struggle, but you will not be asked to join them until you strike the matchstick of your heart, build a fire of your determination, ignite the blaze of your courage, and reach out to others.

You must pull out those weathered, dog-eared books – the ones that you saved before the government banned them, the volumes that escaped the bonfires of the increasing authoritarianism of our corporate-controlled society. You must study them: Gene Sharp, Robert L. Helvey, and other scholars of strategic nonviolent struggle . . . and if you were not wise enough to collect these writers before the Freedom of Speech vanished without so much as a gasp of popular dissent, then you must take the pains to try and gather them now. Meanwhile, in these articles of The Man From the North, I will do my humble best to pass on the knowledge of how to topple tyranny from its throne.

I am not an expert like Gene Sharp, therefore, I ask you to weigh my suggestions on the scale of your own reason. Accept nothing without examining it with the knife of your own mind. Sharpen the edge of your intellect and dissect all strategies and proposals. By this, I do not mean the opinionated arrogance that rejects all notions but one’s own. (Indeed, one’s own strategies must be submitted to the sharpest critique of all.) What I ask of you is to be a good friend, one who values the thoughts of another and will acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of his or her friend’s proposal with determined compassion. The stakes are high and great wisdom is required.

We are not playing with toy soldiers or video games, my friend. Resistance is a word that encompasses human hearts, blood, sweat, tears, families with small children, the elderly, the frail, and the tender hopes and dreams of all. The fabric of society – woven from those we know and love – is on the operating table. We are surgeons with scalpels in hand, trying to remove the spreading cancer of injustice, corruption, and tyranny. Cut carefully. Casualties are not numbers; they are faces with names. People are not profits; they are the immeasurable potential of the future. This is why we must commit to struggle . . . and also proceed with great care. Be a good friend to me, and to all others: lend me your wisdom, and I will lend you mine.

Gather your good friends and pull out the books of those who detail the strategies of nonviolent struggle. Everything we have been taught about such struggles has been warped and twisted with falsehoods. Nonviolent struggle is not passive . . . nor is it ineffectual. It has toppled dictators around the world and succeeded more often than violent uprisings. The corporate regime that currently controls our textbooks, our newspapers, our popular media and entertainment perpetuates misinformation about such struggles. They would have you believe that Rosa Parks got tired one day and refused to give up her bus seat.

That is a lie.

Rosa Parks was deeply trained in strategic nonviolent struggle, as were the other Civil Rights activists who planned the Montgomery Bus Boycott long in advance of its eruption. But this is not taught in schools, for it would empower children to know the means to end oppression. The Rosa Parks story is just one example of the mountain of false perceptions that are perpetuated by the empowered elite. They fear strategic nonviolent struggle . . . and rightly so.

Strategic nonviolent struggle draws its strength from an undeniable truth: governments rule by the consent of the governed. Such cooperation may be willing or coerced, but without our support, the government cannot operate. We prop up injustice by complying with laws, providing our skills and services, showing up at our jobs, and giving tyranny the full benefit of our compliance. The American Declaration of Independence clearly outlines this, along with a call to moral responsibility:

” . . . Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

This time has come.

Gather your good friends, pull your dog-eared books from hiding, and begin to study and strategize. Tyranny can -and will be – toppled. Here is how it will be done.

– Let us remedy our ignorance of the tools of nonviolent strategy and learn the sensible application of these tools. Let us study diligently, as if we had been asked to build a skyscraper and, not knowing whether circumstance shall call upon us to lug concrete or draft the blueprints, let us prepare for whatever may be required.

– Since no blueprint for ending tyranny in our country has been shown to us, let us begin drafting many designs in small groups with our good friends, seeking out still others with whom we can compare notes. Acknowledging our own ignorance and lack of experience (for who among us has successfully removed tyrants from power?), let us use the assistance of others to rout out the weaknesses of our designs and revise them to increase their strength.

– Let us exercise caution, but not fear, as we reach out to others. Not all who profess to be good friends will be what they claim. Some will be agents of our opponents; others are bitter humans who would tear the joy from a child and trip elderly people out of spite; still others suffer from despair and in their despair would smother out all chances of success. But let us be open with our knowledge, unless, for strategic reasons, it is absolutely necessary to conceal it. Secrecy is a double-edged sword. It can suffocate resistance movements like ours that depend on broad support of the populace. Let us use anonymity before secrecy. Tack your strategies anonymously to telephone poles if you must, but do not withhold much needed knowledge from the people. They hunger for hope. They starve for solutions. As often as possible, we should reach out and remind others that resistance is not only possible, it is happening in our own communities.

-Let us use an ounce of patience and a pound of precaution to prevent a ton of foolhardy actions from causing losses of life and limb. Let us take the time to study and strategize now, so that when we move into action it can be with great certainty, commitment, and determination. All dictatorships have weaknesses. We must study the Achilles’ Heels of our corporate-political regime and strike wisely. They are strong and we are weak. We must use time and strategy to shift this distribution of power. Let us sway the social institutions and the populace to shift allegiance. Oppressive regimes can fall quickly, but only when their pillars of support have been eroded through persistent resistance.

-Let us plan for success by crafting not just a blueprint of strategy, but also a vision of what should follow. Such a vision for the future should evoke not just our long-buried, wild dreams, but also our nuts-and-bolts pragmatism. Without a well-crafted plan, the power vacuum opened by our struggle may be quickly filled by a coup d’état or an even harsher regime.

This last may prove equally – if not more – challenging than strategizing a plan of resistance. In a nation as diverse as our own, the desire to be free of tyrannical control may be widely shared, but the vision of a better world will take many shapes and forms. Compounding our differing views is a legacy of dispute. We, the people, carry many layers of prejudice and suspicion that the elite – both liberal and conservative – has fostered in us. But, since our arguments and dogmatism serve to their advantage, let us remove that source of their power by reviving the art of respectful discourse. If we seek our liberty from tyranny, we must exercise both the rights and the responsibilities of a civil, democratic society: the right to speak and the responsibility of listening; the right to our beliefs and the responsibility to allow others their views; the right to work toward our goals without fear of violent repression and the responsibility of ensuring that same freedom for even those we disagree with.

This list goes on. With liberties come responsibilities, for human beings are an interconnected species, and true freedom is found not in isolation, but in concert with others. At times such as these, the deep strands of our connections weigh heavily and tyranny binds cruelly with the weight of unjust laws and state-sanctioned violence. But, by working together to articulate a strategy for liberation and a vision that encompasses our rights and responsibilities to each other, we can lift the iron shackles of oppression and break free. Together, we can create a civil society that respects freedom for all without sacrificing the rights of the many for the privileges of the few. Such liberation has been achieved in other countries. It will be achieved in ours. So, get out your books, gather your good friends, and let’s get to work.

Rivera Sun with her new book, Dandelion Insurrection

Image by Dariel Garner

Author/Actress Rivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto.  In addition to The Dandelion Insurrection, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength.

From the archives:

Rivera Sun’s The Dandelion Insurrection reviewed by Guadamour

Russell’s Brand New Revolution + Chris Hedges Interview on Class War

Shutdown Solution: Opt Out of Tyranny by David DeGraw

The Seeds of Hope by Tristan A. Shaw

It Has Happened Here – What Now? by Luke Hiken

28 thoughts on “The Man From the North: Liberty and Strategy for All by Rivera Sun

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  13. Surely the business of honest governments is to regulate and to serve, not collaborate and dictate ~ is it not?

    If the mantra of “elected” officials is “our responsibility is to protect our essential global markets, we must keep the dollar economy running ~ at any cost” then it must be up to us not to surrender the power of choice. We should never provide them with blanket justification through our dependence upon and support of those very corporations (& institutions) that are destroying life, killing livelihoods and restricting individual self-determination ~ world-wide.

    If American politicians abuse their privilege as legal representatives of the public will, then informed American citizens should tell the whole world more about it and in greater detail; because the rest of the world still seems to buy into the myth that everything in the good ol’ USA garden of delights is just rosy, and the American way is the only way. It’s Uncle Sam our Savior-forever, all the way to the heavenly fracking vaults.

    I’d love to hear something of more substance on the BBC for example, some depth analysis by Americans about America but addressing a foreign audience. My sense is that people here have barely a clue about what’s really going on “over there.”

    • Very good points, David. Hardly anyone knows, for example, that nearly fifty percent of the American population lives at or below international standards of poverty. Our health rates are abysmal and we have over 2 million people incarcerated. We are a struggling nation, as a populace. I think your suspicions are correct, the global conception of the American people arises more from our mainstream media – which is controlled by the wealthy power elite. It does not reflect the average American.

      Conversely, Americans tend to be self-absorbed navel gazers, particularly if it involves someone else’s famous navel. We do not know very much about other nations. I could see how an international program of people addressing their own countries for a foreign audience could be of benefit to us all. Perhaps such a thing even exists already. (I am an American, after all, guilty to some degree of navel gazing. In my defense, the policies of our country need serious examination, so I focus my attention here at home, knowing that it has profound global impacts.)

      There is no “if” to the notion that “American politicians abuse their privilege as legal representatives of the public will.” Beyond any question, they are abusing their privilege to the fullest extent of their capacities. The Dandelion Insurrection is a novel I wrote in attempts to shake my nation awake about the dire direction we are heading (and so far it is having that effect). The novel also explores how we can use the same forms of strategic nonviolent struggle that have been used successfully worldwide to create citizen-powered democratic societies. It is much needed information. In publishing “The Essays of The Man From The North”, Lo Daniels is allowing the conversation to go deeper. (Thanks Lo!)

      • I very much appreciate your response. I also deeply respect Lo’s commitment to intelligent, constructive discourse.

        I think it might help if we could just begin to see the wisdom of re-visioning ourselves as coherent microcosms, as the living embodiment of the kind of healthy ecological and species relationships that we know exist & thrive without the super-imposition of human precocity.

        I mean, if a slime-mold can re-map the optimal co-ordinates for the Tokyo subway, surely there’s more to (spiritual) human-being than dancing to the tune of some political goon-squad juggling racket! I agree profoundly, we need to go much deeper.

        • Indeed. David, you should write about this subject. I think General Systems/Living Systems Theory can form a basis for functional democracy and sane, sustainable societies and communities. A lack of understanding of the “nature of our reality” (as the Buddhists put it) is at the core of the problems that plague our world today. Compassion is considered a pre-requisite for perceiving the interconnected nature of reality … is it any wonder then that our profit-driven officials and power elite are blind to the devastating effects of their actions and policies?

          They are also blind, it seems, to the causes of the uprisings that they are trying to prevent. Instead of investing in the well-being of the populace, creating more just, equal, and peaceful societies, they are merely aggravating the tensions by increasing the surveillance and police states. This is a typical cycle by which tyrants topple.

          I have heard that the early indigenous North American tribes had systems of societal governance similar to what you propose. I do not know enough about them to say more than that, but perhaps it will lead you on an interesting search. Thanks for the conversation.

        • Good point Sun, and David, our problem here is many bureaucrats are employed to be sub intelligent, if you are to intelligent, you will not get the job, the bureaucracy requires sub humans to persuade populations to go to war and other unsavory aspects that someone whom were more intelligent would smell a rat, therefore manipulation is increasingly difficult.
          It takes a special being as a national presenter on media to have the ability to present a national tragedy such as several hundred deaths occurring and immediately after produce a amusing pun or a joke between presenters that only the presenters are privy to other than you get it was extremely funny by the sound of the hilarious laughter.
          If only you were there!

        • Thanks Don.
          It is galling, so why even listen to their inane “subhuman” twaddle? It only dignifies what is essentially an irritant & a gross insult to basic intelligence & “Painesian” common sense
          ~ a total irrelevance…..

          That said ~ I do take your point, because it tends to be a mainstream media rule; so I reckon in a more proactive context, it’s a matter of totally deconstructing these phony puppet scripts, as you are doing here & calling the bluff by exposing the sophist addictions of all these parasitical, opportunist junkies of capital.

          These are folk who simply don’t have a clue what real wealth is all about.

        • Great counsel Rivera Sun, thank you for sharing your wise perceptions so generously.

          Yes, our Sacred Planet’s indigenous “zeitgeist” is hugely suggestive. There is so much for us to learn. My own instinct is to try to imagine how we can realistically adapt our advanced technical abilities to the needs of an emerging “aboriginal” or primal civilization, that is anything but “primitive.”

          Canadian ethnographer Wade Davis, for example ~ “explorer in residence” at the Nat. Geographic Soc. ~ has enhanced substantially our growing understanding and insight about how to engage with, and thus benefit directly from, such enduring but still threatened, ancient empathetic knowledge.

          The world ~ or “reality” ~ is overflowing with living information; maybe it is just a question of educating ourselves to recognize, and reaffirm, the appropriate ritual means of entering respectfully into this continuous magickal conversation.

  14. The vision of the ultimate police/military of authoritarianism state is ambivalent as what the model would be? would a model be similar as what Afghanistan is to day? a sort of sub class that is malnourished and all hope of self respect no longer exists, a existence whereby your only companion is your heart beat that no longer can be relied on?
    Conversely what would the ultimate vision be of utopia? would we all be doing Hatha yoga? or like the Greek mythology, admiring boys? or believe Hitler had a vision of the perfect race, we would be lounging around on couches, admiring classical nudity of paintings of the feminine sex? either way non of it makes that much sense as to the road of paradise or hell.

      • No, I have to admit I hadn’t heard of it before. I would like to check this out. Thank you for sharing it.

        • Thanks, Jeff.

          I usually don’t get so excited about a book, but this one was incredibly inspiring. Before the end of the book you are ready to join The Dandelion Insurrection. So, it’s up to us now to do just that.

        • “The aptly named Dandelion Insurrection is primarily about people making people to people connections, and cutting the government and corporations out of the equation. Since every part of the dandelion, which is primarily thought of as a weed, is edible and medicinal, that allows for a lot of contacts: contacts with the wealthy, the undocumented, the every day worker, the farmer, even police officers and soldier.”

          …This mirrors the type of resistance and bottom-up reforms that Paulo Freire spoke about. Instead of talking about the indigenous and local people of a given region, it’s about talking to and with them. Having not read the book, I presume the writer advocates for grassroots movements, a groundswell if you will.Thanks again for the recommendation.

          I also learned recently that how the Monarchs are declining because milkweed is disappearing due to GMO crops. I didn’t know dandelions were a backup food source.

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