Over the past few years the political and economical situation in Sudan has been a ticking bomb waiting to explode. From 2010-2013 Sudan has seen various waves of protests due to heavy increases in fuel price imposed by the government of Sudan along with the removal of subsidies, which meant heavy increase in everything else. These protests were of course met brutally with the use of heavy tear gas and live ammunition which had resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives of young men and women and many were wounded. The everyday life of a Sudanese citizen became all about survival, we just want to make it through the day, without any plans for tomorrow because we don’t know how tomorrow will look like with all that is going on in a country with years of civil war and where 75% of the budget goes to military forces and a basic right like education gets an allocated budget of less than 5%. A protest has a high chance of being met brutally so many of us became fearful of hitting the streets asking for our basic human rights.
A few years ago I came across Gene Sharp‘s “From Dictatorship to Democracy, A Conceptual Framework for Liberation” which elaborates on how people can non-violently destroy a dictatorship and prevent the rise of a new one. This book has been translated into 30 languages and acts as the blueprint for peacefully overthrowing tyranny an has inspired revolutionary movements in different parts of the world including but not limited to Serbia, Turkey, Iceland, Zimbabwe and even The Arab spring. Sharp discussed means of Identifying the Achilles’ heel of dictators and attacking weaknesses of dictatorship. The book uses an excerpt from Lui-Ji’s 14th century”Rule by Tricks” entitled the “Monkey Master” fable which goes as follows:
“In the feudal state of Chu an old man survived by keeping monkeys in his service. The people of Chu called him “ju gong” (monkey master). Each morning, the old man would assemble the monkeys in his courtyard, and order the eldest one to lead the others to the mountains to gather fruits from bushes and trees. It was the rule that each monkey had to give one-tenth of his collection to the old man. Those who failed to do so would be ruthlessly flogged. All the monkeys suffered bitterly, but dared not complain. One day, a small monkey asked the other monkeys: “Did the old man plant all the fruit trees and bushes?” The others said: “No, they grew naturally.” The small monkey further asked: “Can’t we take the fruits without the old man’s permission?” The others replied: “Yes, we all can.” The small monkey continued: “Then, why should we depend on the old man; why must we all serve him?” Before the small monkey was able to finish his statement, all the monkeys suddenly became enlightened and awakened. On the same night, watching that the old man had fallen asleep, the monkeys tore down all the barricades of the stockade in which they were confined, and destroyed the stockade entirely. They also took the fruits the old man had in storage, brought all with them to the woods, and never returned. The old man finally died of starvation.
Yu-li-zi says, “Some men in the world rule their people by tricks and not by righteous principles. Aren’t they just like the monkey master? They are not aware of their muddleheadedness. As soon as their people become enlightened, their tricks no longer work.”
We always view the political power as this monolithic top-bottom hierarchy where the only probable solution is to overthrow the head, however I find that challenging to accept as there are other important factors to keep in mind when talking about political systems. Niccolo Machiavelli (and all thanks to Tupac’s lyrical genius for introducing me to Machiavelli years ago) had argued that the prince who has the public as a whole for his enemy can never make himself secure; and the greater his cruelty, the weaker does his regime become. When it comes to political power, Sharp reminded us of how it is essential to keep in mind the sources of political power (authority, human resources, skills and knowledge, psychological and ideological factors, material resources and sanctions and punishments imposed on those who disobey the power) and how democracy can be achieved through the peaceful and strategic stripping down of those sources of power. He also mentions a very crucial point of how the degree of liberty or tyranny in any government is, it follows, in large degree a reflection of the relative determination of the subjects to be free and their willingness and ability to resist efforts to enslave them.
If the regime loses the obedience of its civil workers and employees, its media, its universities and schools, of financial institutions and of the police and army, it loses everything. Political defiance is all about stripping the regime off all its pillars of support, non-violently through strategic awareness and unity for the common good of the people. I highly recommend following and reading through the rich library of Canvas and watching this documentary and you can download, read, and share the Arabic version of Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy too! Perhaps there is a hope for a better Sudan through political defiance after all…