Friday, February 05, 2010

Public commitment=recruitment

In his volume on Kingian nonviolence, philosopher John J. Ansbro (emeritus, Manhattan College) preserved the Commitment Card, signed by all the civil rights actionists in the Birmingham campaign in the summer of 1963:

"I hereby pledge myself--my person and my body--to the nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:
1.Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
2.Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation--not victory.
3.Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
4.Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
5.Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
6.Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
7.Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
8.Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
9.Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
10.Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration."

Imagine the effects that this pledge would have had, amongst them, likely, but not limited to:
~The commitment, made publicly and collectively, was much more serious than just a vague set of guidelines
~Each individual would feel much more beholden to the movement to abide by these conditions
~These standards, the same for all, gave the movement an independent and objective set of criteria that transcended personalities or political power
~Observers were essentially invited to compare this strong commitment to a groundtruthing reality
~Media were predisposed to accept this tone and tenor of each demonstration once the movement both committed and demonstrated adherence to these elements
~Anyone not acting in compliance with these commitments would not logically be regarded as a part of the movement, and their conduct would not so easily tar the movement

In any campaign for which I train I introduce a pledge, differing in many ways from the Birmingham pledge, but with the same general purposes and, if the movement is well run, the same successful results.

By tightening up the standards within any movement the sympathy will grow and thus political recruitment will follow, as well as actual recruitment of more participants. This lesson is a key component of many of the most successful campaigns and really enhances chances for victory much sooner and with more sustainable outcomes.

Ansbro, John J. (2000). Martin Luther King, Jr.: Nonviolent strategies and tactics for social change (2nd ed.). Lanham MD: Madison Books.

No comments: