Resistance in a political sense is put into play when people are offended or on a deeper level, oppressed or repressed by the actions of their government. In this context, when citizens are being harassed, or made to pay unreasonable taxes, or kept from participation in the activities of their government, they resist in various ways. This paper delves into resistance — the how and why of resistance — in the Middle East over the past several years.
Resistance to Unreasonable Government Actions
The Library of Congress (LOC) provides in-depth materials on the events leading up to the American Revolution. In their document titled “British Reforms and Colonial Resistance, 1767-1772,” the LOC points out that even after the Stamp Act — which was an unreasonable policy of taxation imposed on the colonists by the British Parliament — was repealed, there were other “grievances” that called for colonial resistance. The Stamp Act had caused colonists to resist because they had local legislations and democratic assemblies which represented their interests, but the colonists had no representatives in the British Parliament, so it was a matter of being taxed without representation.
For example, after the Stamp Act was repealed in England, the British “Mutiny / Quartering Act of 1765” (by the Parliament) required colonial “assemblies to house and supply British soldiers” (LOC, p. 1). Not only did colonists object to a “standing army” in their midst, they were very unhappy with the idea of having to provide housing and supplies for the British soldiers. To the colonists, this appeared to be a hidden tax, and “â€¦many colonists began to assert that only an elected legislative body held legitimate powers of taxation” (LOC, p. 1).
The resistance to taxation without representation grew even stronger in the colonies when the British enacted the Townshend Duties, which taxed paper, paints, glass, and tea, all imports to the colonies from England (LOC, p. 2). Once the British established a “board of customs commissioners” (designed to make sure England collected the taxes it felt it was owed), Boston merchants were incensed and a boycott was organized in resistance to the Townshend Duties. Soon Philadelphia and New York joined the boycott. It was the early resistance that led to the Revolutionary War and to American independence.
Meanwhile an article in Time (Anderson, et al., 2011) points out that political resistance has recently been demonstrated in several Middle Eastern countries, in the U.S., and in Europe. An example used by Anderson is that of Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunisia. Bouazizi and many others had grown weary of “the dictator’s power grabbing and high living” and the time to begin resisting this oppression and arrogance had come in 2010. In fact the government had been harassing street vendors (seemingly wanting to tax them exorbitant amounts), and on December 17, 2010, after Bouazizi had his scale confiscated and was slapped by police he walked to the gate of the provincial capital building (the Tunisian government), “â€¦drenched himself in paint thinner and lit a match” (Anderson, p. 2). “My son set himself on fire for dignity,” his mother explained (Anderson, p. 2).
Anderson explains that resistance in North America (the “occupy” movement) and most of Europe “â€¦there are no dictators so dissidents don’t get tortured,” but Tunisians, or Egyptians, or Syrians who resist by taking to the streets they know “â€¦some of them might be beaten or shot” by resisting. Still, “â€¦all over the world the protestors of 2011 share a belief that their countries’ political systems and economies have grown dysfunctional and corrupt” (Anderson, p. 3).
In conclusion, resistance to political harassment or oppression is not a new concept, but in modern times resistance is illustrated by a wide variety of protestors for a wild variety of reasons. Those resisting individuals in New York City called “occupy” demonstrators can be fairly sure they won’t be shot and killed as demonstrators in Egypt or Syria may well be on any given day. Hence, those resisting the policies of the Bank of America or Wells Fargo, or the policies that Wall Street puts into place, should be grateful they have the right to peacefully redress their grievances. But they could also show resistance to Bank of America’s seemingly unfair “fees” by simply removing their money from that bank — another way to resist.
Anderson, Kurt, Abouzeid, Rania, Ghosh, Bobby, Hauslohner, Abigail, Abend, Lisa,
Bhowmick, Nilanjana, Thottam, Jyoti, Kasissis, Joanna, Motlagh, Jason, Padgett, Tim,
Rawlings, Nate, Tharoor, Ishaan, and Shuster, Simon. (2011). Time, 178(25).
Library of Congress. (2009). The American Revolution, 1763-1783 / British Reforms and Colonial Resistance, 1767-1783.
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