16 July 2015

‘Few’ does not mean ‘weak’

This is the thirty seventh in a series of articles on rebels and rebellion written for the FREE section of 'The Nation'. Scroll to the end for other articles in this series.  'FREE' is dedicated to youth and youthfulness.

Naturally, when you start off, you have very little on your side of the equation.  Resource-wise you are nothing.  The enemy has all the aces and you have a couple of deuces and maybe a 3 or 4.  The enemy has the trumps and you can be trumped any time.  And if you want to leave the metaphors aside and talk ‘real’ think of it like this: the enemy has all the people on his/her side, either out of conviction or fear.  

So if the possibility of success was all about numbers a quick calculation might be enough to convince you to ‘forget it’.  You might even start remembering those classic ‘truisms’ that the powerful keep passing around such as ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’.  You can be done in before you actually start, especially in the early days when ‘friends’ back down when their half-baked idealism encounters real-life threat and dire consequences of being identified as ‘rebel’ or ‘trouble-maker’.  

This is when you have to understand that numbers are only one element out of many in the equation of rebellion.  Just think.  Who makes decisions in any organization?  Is it the majority of those associated with the organization or just a few.  Who makes decisions in an Army? Does everyone have a say or is it just the top commanders?  

Think of successful corporate entities. Do you think the key business decisions were made after the entire staff was consulted or was it just the Board of Directors?  Entrepreneurs can be and often are ruthless persons who think nothing of exploiting people and things, but they get things done, by and large on their own.  

Minority.  That’s the word here.  You could use an adjective and say ‘small minority’.  They can and have made a difference.  Think of all the revolutions you’ve heard of.  The Bolsheviks led by Lenin did not make the majority of those who wanted overthrow Tzarist Russia.  Fidel Castro had only a handful of men to begin with.  

Almost all social movements begin small.  They begin with one individual or a handful of them.  Mahatma Gandhi was just one man.  Look what he did in South Africa and then in India.  Things grow.  Even the most violent and despicable movements begin small.  If they fail it is not because they didn’t have the numbers.  Think of the LTTE. The ISIS.  Taliban.  

Of course not all righteous movements end in victory.  There are more defeats than there are victories.  But the single-mindedness of a few people can make a difference. Siddhartha Gauthama was a single man.  So was Jesus Christ and the Prophet Mohammed.

Not having a whole bunch of people does not mean you will lose.  Even when people abandon you, you need not think that everything is over.  It’s not about the numbers.  Not always about quantitative things.  It is also about the qualitative.  It is about the mind.  And the heart.  Take heart.

Other articles in this series