Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Mahatma Gandhi
In Part 1, linked above, I outlined 4 key warfare strategies from the Book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament of the Bible and how they apply to similar battleground experiences today, or in any era. I covered strategies “on the ground” and in the “spiritual realm.”
In this post I offer more observations on Nehemiah’s strategy of resistance to his enemies who came to ridicule him as their first plan of attack. I also include observations from Ghandi’s non-violent strategies as well as from Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu that align with Nehemiah’s plan, plus another method of resistance from the world of verbal abuse called “Gray Rock”. And I offer a recent, literal, “boots on the ground” illustration from the modern Israeli army.
In the News
Yesterday, this news story caught my eye as related to the previous post and as an illustration of how the first phase of warfare, ridicule, as noted in both Ghandi’s and Nehemiah’s observations, is being exhibited today: “CBS News Encourages Physical Assaults Against Political Right” by John Nolte.
Nolte writes, “Here is CBS News openly encouraging physical assaults against their political enemies on the right [emphasis added]”:
Protesters in Britain have weaponized the milk shake. In the latest of a series of attacks on right-wing politicians, Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage was doused with a milkshake yesterday. That was actually salted caramel if anyone is wondering. [Laughter.] He was campaigning. These attacks have come to be known as milk shaking. Now, this follows egging. It follows pieing, punching. I don’t know. I’m sure it feels great. I’m sure people love the feeling. Pictures fly around the world. Put some of that energy into campaigning and maybe the people you don’t want to be in office won’t be in office.
The ridicule is illustrated by the CBS reporter’s making light of the “milkshaker” attack: “That was actually salted caramel if anyone is wondering,” he said, to laughter, thus taking the sting and the chilling effect out of his next comment: “Now, this follows egging. It follows pieing, punching,” and adding that he’s sure “it feels great” to spread this around the world on the Internet.
It’s minimizing the escalation of violence by ridicule.
And it’s rousing the rabble.
As in Olden Days…
But of course attacks disguised as ridicule are not new tactics in the annals of war.
For example, in an analysis from 70 years ago by Ghandi and quoted at the head of this post, ridicule (derision, mocking, taunting) would be the second stage of an assault. As he put it; “(after ignoring you) then they laugh at you…,” today’s “they” being the “journalists” noted above, but others of like mind.
Some, of course, engage because they know well the power of ridicule (in this case, humor tinged with contempt) to divide and conquer. Others may be just chuckling at the humor yet at the same time they are naturally at least influenced by the anti-whomever message between the (punch)lines because of the power of such persuasion-by-ridicule to spark a base-of-the-brain response to the contempt lurking beneath any cerebral appreciation of the wit.
(There is a very fine line between humor for enjoyment and humor for riling up the masses.)
Now, on to the next phase of warfare: according to Nehemiah’s observation, the enemy will escalate to stirring up a fight; to Ghandi’s analysis: the fight itself begins.
Whether or not in our times this kind of attack escalates to the next stage of warfare in America that includes greater violence has already been demonstrated by peaceful demonstrations turned into violent riots by paid Antifa infiltrators egged on by something.
Many argue that something is a combination of a complicit media and the radical left using, at first, the ridicule that incites emotional reaction.
Aw, come on, some may say, they’re just havin’ a little fun! You’re takin’ it too far!
Here is a documented list from ten months ago of the, at that time, “639 “media approved acts of harassment and violence against Trump supporters.” We can add many more incidents since then, I believe, especially because of several new, and now openly anti-administration, anti-conservative, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-Caucasian, anti-First and Second Amendment rights (elements of, for starters), etc., members of Congress adding their rhetoric to the, now ignited, flames.
The new members also openly espouse Socialism.
They represent the new, further left, self-described Democratic Socialist wing of the liberal platform adding their voices, often tinged with sarcasm, to the once-ignored older Socialists in the party.
The time for “subtle” humor, from them, seems past. They wear their contempt on their faces and in their attitudes. And some people, perhaps unaware, have voted them into our highest levels of power.
In the case of Nehemiah (445-444 B.C.), his mockers were essentially Sanballet and Tobiah, as the record notes. While Nehemiah resisted by ignoring them and praying for God’s protection, he also kept working with a trowel in one hand and a sword in another as the assault intensified.
Which he knew it likely would.
So he remained on guard–while he and the others kept on working, as we must, too.
A Related Strategy
Drawing from a parallel yet completely different kind of “battleground” where the “enemy” is a verbal abuser, the tactic of “ignore but remain on guard” is called “Gray Rock”. The tactic is to ignore the verbal attacks as much as is possible in hopes that the fire of the abuser’s rage (that often includes mocking, derision, and taunting) will die down out of the sheer boredom of getting no response, or very little response.
This not only eases the burden of thinking that employing reason will have an effect when an abuser gets so riled up, it also helps conserve one’s energy for pro-active things one can do.
To today’s challenges, it is difficult, for example, to try to discuss or debate an issue when someone simply screams at you, swears at you, or shouts over you using a bullhorn. For example, these illustrations from Tuesday’s (5/21/19) pro-abortion-rights demonstrations across the United States. A video is embedded.
Therefore, in this case, too, like Nehemiah, targets of verbal abusers are wise to say little or nothing but remain to on guard–while continuing to work.
The Soldiers’ Strategy
In my final example of resisting the early stages of assault, the stage that includes mocking, derision, name-calling, and verbal intimidation, I will add one more dramatic illustration of the non-violent, Ghandi, Nehemiah, and/or Gray Rock tactics of resistance.
My sister recently returned from a tour of Israel. While there, her group came near enough to a wall between Israeli and Arab sectors to hear and watch what was taking place.
The wall was secured and guarded by a line of young Israeli soldiers who stood, guns readied and stone-faced, as the demonstrators on the other side of the wall loudly mocked, taunted, derided, and attempted to intimidate the soldiers into–reacting.
Undoubtedly, the soldiers had been well-trained in how to respond–by not responding but by simply remaining ready at their stations.
Undoubtedly, with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments festering, again, in today’s world–need I say aided and abetted by many “news” and political venues–the soldiers likely understood all too well who would be blamed for any response on the Israeli side should they “react” to the taunting in any way.
But also, I believe, like skilled soldiers everywhere and in every era, they are also expertly trained in how and why the need for such first-response, non-violent resistance as well as how to discern when and why it would be time to more aggressively hold their ground.
Of course, the escalation of violence can occur on any side of any debate or political cause therefore it is wise for everyone’s first line of defense to choose the “passive route,” if at all possible.
However, internally, it is often not passive at all, as we usually define the term, but it takes seasoned discipline and self-control to engage in such warfare.
I am here reminded of Proverbs 16:32, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city” (NIV), and of famed Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu who wrote, “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”
Part of this kind of subduing is through Gray Rocking, “passivity” in the face of ridicule, physical restraint, and at all times, a well-honed sense of discernment.
It also takes good counsel. I am also reminded, here, of Proverbs 24:6
The wise prevail through great power,
and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
Surely you need guidance to wage war,
and victory is won through many advisers. (NIV)
Because it is wise to remember that there are those, of course, who do not want resolution but revolution. History reveals, sadly, this often requires war, when all else has been tried.
My encouragement to all of us today is, as noted in Part 1 as well, to be remain aware, on guard, and “prayed up” while we–keep on working.
I doubt the world is going to get any better, a least for several years–if not exactly seven.**
Carry on wisely.
*See again Part 1, referencing Saul Alinsky’s notes in Rules for Radicals on the power of ridicule in laying the foundations of revolution.
**I’m referencing the seven years of the Great Tribulation detailed in the Book of Revelation that, many Bible scholars agree, are due at any time, as so many prophecies pertaining to the timing of the events having already been fulfilled. Here is a good synopsis of events from the pretribulational approach to eschatology (end times events). There are links to other views at the end of the article.