The First Thing They Steal Is Courage

I Will Stand With The Most Vulnerable

Image by Lorie Shaull via Flickr

The Essays of The Man From the North by Rivera Sun
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Originally published Nov. 9, 2016
June 15, 2018

When the forces of destruction, hate, bigotry, greed, and violence rise into power, there are three things they steal before they plunder the treasury. Stopping them is where the struggle for life begins.

The first thing they steal is courage. The forces of destruction must snuff out the courage of the people like a candle in a harsh autumn wind. Fear must pervade the nooks and crannies of the heart and mind. Frightened shivers must weaken the spines of the people. It is easy to conquer people who scurry out of danger or hide from fear.

The second theft is hope. To achieve the goals of greed and hatred, the people must be bogged down in the morass of hopelessness and despair. So, they steal our hope, bound and gagged like Demeter’s daughter, and shove it into the underworld of impossibility while the cold winter of hopelessness freezes us in its grip.

The third thing they steal is joy. Sly and clever, they ferret out the small things in which the human heart delights and one-by-one, they rob us of our joy. Where they cannot take the physical sources of our happiness, they sneakily insinuate guilt … making us feel guilty for feeling joy in the midst of the world’s madness.

Joy is the place where our resistance must draw a line in the stand and begin to push back. Your joy is a wild and beautiful thing. In the midst of insanity, destruction, violence, greed, it is a force of strength and liberation, love and hope. The leaves falling in autumn, the breathless hush of snow, a cup of tea, a slice of bread, the company of a good friend, the smiles of children, the eyes of someone you love … to feel joy in these beauties is a powerful resistance to the tide of destruction. It is the ground of existence and the source of strength for resistance. Draw a line here. Give life to your joys to defy the forces of hate and despair. Lift up your small joys as the motivation to meet hated with love; destruction with creation; greed with generosity; and violence with active, powerful nonviolence.

When your hopes are dashed, bound, gagged, silenced and mocked, go – like Persephone’s mother – into the underworld of despair and rescue them. Bring them back to life like the first buds on the branches in spring. Withstand the hot-cold crosswinds of change, and dare to lift your hopes aloft for everyone to see. If they are knocked down, pick them up. If they are trivialized, resist. Where there is hope, there is life. A world without hope is a world locked in the darkness of midnight that cannot remember the dawn. This is nonsense. Every two-day old baby knows that sunrise is coming. Every child has seen how spring returns after winter. Hope is woven into our existence. It is our treasure. Don’t allow it to be kidnapped from your heart.

As for courage, this is the most important of all. When fear lands on your shoulders like a hunchbacked demon, gripping your neck in the twisted clench of its fingers, suffocating your chest, clouding your eyes … fight back. Fling it off, again and again. Wrestle with fear in the darkness until you break free. The heat of that struggle is called courage – the fire in your veins, the flush of life in your muscles, the breath in your chest, the pounding of your heart, as you break free of the clutches of fear.

There is more, too, that we can do in the ground of resistance. We can cultivate clarity, centeredness, and presence. When we lose these qualities, it is easy for us to be thrown off-balance, shoved to the side, pushed down, confused, and defeated. The forces of hate, destruction, violence, and greed are all delighted when we allow our minds to become scattered and ungrounded. We become easy to fight, to trample, and to destroy. So, our resistance must cultivate clarity and focus to give us strength and capacity to wage struggle.

There are also other treasures of the human heart that the forces of destruction try to steal or weaken: love, a sense of injustice, rebelliousness, stubbornness. But, these are tenacious capacities of the human heart. It takes the forces of destruction longer to chisel them out of us. We must draw the line at the three treasures of courage, hope, and joy. With them, we can stand firm in the madness. We can shine light in the darkness of destruction. We can draw upon the wellspring of strength that has nurtured humanity through eons of time. We can enter the struggle prepared with courage, joy, hope, clarity, vision, connection, and love. With these strengths we will succeed.

Author/Actress Rivera Sun syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and has just launched the sequel, The Roots of Resistance, and is the cohost of Love (and Revolution) Radio. Website:

The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection and the sequel, The Roots of Resistance. 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.

from the archives:

How to Fight a Tyrant

Grotesque Inequality and Anxiety by Graham Peebles

Shifting Systems With Nonviolent Strategy + Think Outside the Protest Box by Rivera Sun

Rebellion in Munich by Gaither Stewart

Chris Hedges: We Desperately Need the Clarion Call of the Radical Poet to Give Words to our Despair

Fling Back Despair!

What Would Happen If We All Refused To Go Quietly To The Slaughterhouse? + The Roots of Resistance

If Hope Remains Dormant, Freedom Remains Elusive by ashiftinconsciousness

The Man From the North: Impossible Courage by Rivera Sun

The Seeds of Hope by Tristan A. Shaw

13 thoughts on “The First Thing They Steal Is Courage

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  6. During the 80s and 90s I watched, as a bemused outsider, Singapore’s imposition of a police state on it’s increasingly obedient citizenry. Then, in 2006, I returned to Australia only to observe my fellow countrymen had become easily frightened timid mice, just like the people of Singapore.

    This tells us that police state tactics are probably a tool of CFR policy.

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