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Beginnings of creative disregard

Long time back, I proposed that “creative disregard” was more important (and better for personal happiness) than “civil disobedience.”

Civil disobedience can be a powerful political tool. But its inherent flaw is that it assumes that government is both necessary and potentially good. Civil disobedience merely aims to change certain actions or forms of government.

Creative disregard, on the other hand, gives government a big “ho hum” (or in some cases, a big “eff off”). Creative disregard says, “I’m going to live as I please among fellow peaceable human beings.” It acknowledges government (if at all) as a potential nuisance to be worked around — that’s the creative part of creative disregard.

I’ve been thinking more about this lately after running across a pair of blog entries last week: Kevin Carson’s “In Praise of Bad Attitudes” and part of a series Arthur Silber’s writing on Wikileaks, resistance, and “the obedience culture.” Silber quotes Hannah Arendt:

If I obey the laws of the land, I actually support its constitution, as becomes glaringly obvious in the case of revolutionaries and rebels who disobey because they have withdrawn this tacit consent.

In these terms, the nonparticipators in public life under a dictatorship are those who have refused their support by shunning those places of “responsibility” where such support, under the name of obedience, is required. And we have only for a moment to imagine what would happen to any of these forms of government if enough people would act “irresponsibly” and refuse support, even without active resistance and rebellion, to see how effective a weapon this could be. …

And here’s the key part:

Hence the question addressed to those who participated and obeyed orders should never be, “Why did you obey?” but “Why did you support?” This change of words is no semantic irrelevancy for those who know the strange and powerful influence mere “words” have over the minds of men who, first of all, are speaking animals. Much would be gained if we could eliminate this pernicious word “obedience” from our vocabulary of moral and political thought. If we think these matters through, we might regain some measure of self-confidence and even pride, that is, regain what former times called the dignity or the honor of man: not perhaps of mankind but of the status of being human.

Amen, Sister Hannah. The word “obey” implies passivity, compliance under force. You obey because you feel you have to — and therefore you have an excuse: “I was only following orders,” “I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t.”

But to “support” implies an active choice. Those who support become pillars — and therefore can’t evade responsibility for holding up a system that does evil.

I don’t knock those who commit active civil disobedience. They’re often people of tremendous courage. They say a loud and public NO and often succeed brilliantly in getting their message across to those who might otherwise never hear it. (Ironically, the worse government treats them, the more loudly they’re heard.)

On the other hand, civil disobedience sometimes plays right into the hands of the very power it aims to oppose: “See, these dirty, disruptive radicals are causing chaos. For your safety, for the sake of law and order, we must crack down.”

I think we could go a lot further if more people understood that we are just as responsible for our compliance as we are for our non-compliance — that in either case, we choose our own actions. And when it comes to moral choices, “the choice not to choose” — but just to go along — lays just as much on our shoulders as “the choice to choose” — and go our own way in creative disregard of authority.


It’s late. I’m tired. Just returned this afternoon from a weekend getaway and am packing for a cross-country move that will begin in a few days. Not sure if I’m up to the “brilliance” I promised the other day. But at least, dear readers, I owe you something other than postings about house roofs and pellet stoves.


  1. C Wood
    C Wood August 9, 2010 3:24 am

    Claire, I just finished reading “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow. It’s a great story about civil disobedience by some teens who get scooped up by the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a great story, right up there with “Rebelfire”. I’ve always been a malcontent who has gone back and forth between civil disobedience and creative disregard. Obedience has never been one of my strong points. I’m in a creative disregard period lately while I wait for the whole house of cards to collapse. Fortunately I won’t have to “bug out” when it happens, as I did that many years ago.

    Good luck with the new house and the move.

  2. Pat
    Pat August 9, 2010 5:11 am

    I understand the differentiation between “obey” and “support,” and agree with it heartily in the context of your remarks. But I do wonder how Thoreau would interpret it in the context of HIS remarks.

    Granted he did Obey for the most part (except for one significant act), but he spent his adulthood not _Supporting_ the government in many different ways——not the least of which was to give *his* support to the concept of Living Free in the face of government.

    Am not arguing the points made here, but just got to musing about Thoreau’s lifestyle, and his essay, “Civil Disobedience.” Would they mean “non-obedience” or “non-support” today?

  3. Devin
    Devin August 9, 2010 7:25 am

    I found the book _The Freedom Outlaws Handbook_ at my local library and have been enjoying it. I like the post today and I for one would consider this pretty brilliant. Good luck with the packing, as my wife is doing the same for our move while I am here with the kids. No one ever knows your location, but if you are traveling through CO as you head Northwest and need a crash pad, email me at coultraguyatgmaildotcom and I would be happy to oblige.
    In Frith

  4. Mark
    Mark August 9, 2010 7:27 am

    You don’t “owe” us anything. Thanks for EVERY little thing you post. There was a time when it seemed like you weren’t going to write any more at ALL. Glad you got over that! 🙂

  5. Jake MacGregor
    Jake MacGregor August 9, 2010 7:37 am

    Claire, do not try to be brilliant

    what I/we as readers love is Claire being Claire

    and right now Claire is following her dream of her Pac N-West home

    now THAT is brilliant!


  6. Winston
    Winston August 9, 2010 12:39 pm

    If public school taught me anything useful…it’s a variant of this lesson. When they wanted you to do something stupid…a simple polite, “No, I think I’m just going to stay here and read this book” works exactly like you want it to 99.9% of the time; whereas declarations that you have rights and they can’t make you do anything, etc, never ends well.

    Wroks with cops, too. (Kinda)

  7. Kevin Carson
    Kevin Carson August 9, 2010 1:49 pm

    Thanks for the link, Claire.

  8. MadMarkie
    MadMarkie August 10, 2010 10:00 am

    Greetings Claire ~

    I like to practice what I call my “penile principle interpersonal communication skills” whenever I must interact with one of the representatives of the PTB. When I’m soft they can’t beat me and when I’m hard they’re gonna get diddled.

    Thank goodness that stupidity isn’t a crime here in the United States because, if it were, 90+% of the population would be doing life without parole. “Duh-huh” works wonderfully when dealing with representatives of federal, state and local governments. It quite simply destroyes their day and drives them bonkers when they have to repeat their ‘rap’ 5 – 10 times before you kind of, sort of, almost understand whatever it is that they are attempting to lay on you. Huh?????

  9. B Woodman
    B Woodman August 10, 2010 11:45 am

    Automobiles & trucks:
    Insurance — necessary, for your own private peace of mind and wallet.
    Registration — not necessary, only used for the nanny state’s tracking and taxation. Do once, to get a license plate (camoflauge). Afterwards, ignore.

    Good start?

  10. Wendy Hause, Gregory MI
    Wendy Hause, Gregory MI August 10, 2010 5:09 pm

    It’s ALWAYS good to read whatever you’re writing Claire! Good luck with the move.

  11. TUartist
    TUartist February 21, 2011 8:05 am

    Good post, and personally, I like to blend a bit of both.

    You’re always brilliant, even when tired.

    Now, I would like to reply to Mr. Woodman if I may:

    Good start in theory. Unless of course your area has the ALPR system, then good luck.

    Freedom lies in personal responsibility. If you want insurance, that’s up to you of course, why feed the corporate mongers? Take a defensive driving course with that money. The ultimate is never get another drivers license or registration, and maybe a good attorney. If you know about the Manufacturers Statement of Origin of the vehicles we purchase from these corporate ne’re do wells, you’d know that they hand over our true ownership of our vehicles to the states who provide us with our “rent receipts” called registrations. If you have that, you don’t even need a registration.

    It’s not easy to get an MSO, but it’s possible, and it’s real freedom living. Good luck!

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