Frequently, when I discuss the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the notion arises that nonviolent resistance could only work in a First World country in which leaders and people settle their differences democratically rather than violently, as is usually the case in an autocratic Third World country.
If that were true about a First World country, Dr. King never would’ve had to devote himself to what ultimately cost him his life. Admittedly, though, no Third World country with a dictatorship, to my knowledge, had ever removed its leadership through nonviolent protests and boycotts. In the past two years, however, this has changed.
It started December 2010 in Tunisia. A massive, nonviolent revolution involving the majority of the people forced its dictator out in a month. Egypt followed, deposing Hosni Mubarak quickly with similar nonviolent tactics.
Syria has been a tougher nut to crack, and I grant it may be sliding into civil war. However, the armed opposition lining up against Bashar Assad is largely defected military personnel. That means the nonviolent protests of the past year have caused Assad to start losing his military support, which is the final sign in a revolution that the repugnant dictator may not have much longer.
I don’t mean to make nonviolent resistance seem like a bowl of cherries. Thousands of nonviolent protesters in the aforementioned countries have been killed, hurt and imprisoned. As Dr. King relentlessly preached and personally experienced, nonviolent resistance merely means only one side is fighting for change and freedom as peacefully and fairly as possible.
Nevertheless, nonviolent resistance works even in the brutal Third World, with far fewer people harmed than if both sides had been armed. And on his national day, had Dr. King never existed, we might never have discovered this miraculous fact.
I hope you have a lovely MLK weekend!