Peace Requires Anarchy


The “Monkey Master” Fable

Following is an excerpt from Gene Sharp’s essay From Dictatorship to Democracy, pages 17-18 (PDF pages 25-26 of 102).

Whence Comes The Power?

Achieving a society with both freedom and peace is of course no simple task. It will require great strategic skill, organization, and planning. Above all, it will require power. Democrats cannot hope to bring down a dictatorship and establish political freedom without the ability to apply their own power effectively.

But how is this possible? What kind of power can the democratic opposition mobilize that will be sufficient to destroy the dictatorship and its vast military and police networks? The answers lie in an oft ignored understanding of political power. Learning this insight is not really so difficult a task. Some basic truths are quite simple.

The “Monkey Master” fable

A Fourteenth Century Chinese parable by Liu-Ji, for example, outlines this neglected understanding of political power quite well:

In the feudal state of Chu an old man survived by keeping monkeys in his service. The people of Chu called him “ju gong” (monkey master).

Each morning, the old man would assemble the monkeys in his courtyard, and order the eldest one to lead the others to the mountains to gather fruits from bushes and trees. It was the rule that each monkey had to give one-tenth of his collection to the old man. Those who failed to do so would be ruthlessly flogged. All the monkeys suffered bitterly, but dared not complain.

One day, a small monkey asked the other monkeys: “Did the old man plant all the fruit trees and bushes?” The others said: “No, they grew naturally.” The small monkey further asked: “Can’t we take the fruits without the old man’s permission?” The others replied: “Yes, we all can.” The small monkey continued: “Then, why should we depend on the old man; why must we all serve him?”

Before the small monkey was able to finish his statement, all the monkeys suddenly became enlightened and awakened.

On the same night, watching that the old man had fallen asleep, the monkeys tore down all the barricades of the stockade in which they were confined, and destroyed the stockade entirely. They also took the fruits the old man had in storage, brought all with them to the woods, and never returned. The old man finally died of starvation.

Yu-li-zi says, “Some men in the world rule their people by tricks and not by righteous principles. Aren’t they just like the monkey master? They are not aware of their muddleheadedness. As soon as their people become enlightened, their tricks no longer work.”


For several examples of other great thinkers’ similar insights regarding this major source of government power, see the How to Achieve A Free Society section of the Quotes page.

Also recommended is Gene Sharp’s 2011 documentary How to Start a Revolution.


1 Comment

Derrick J’s Victimless Crime Spree

Here is my review for the documentary Derrick J’s Victimless Crime Spree (2012):

In a TED Talk titled “Pay attention to nonviolence” filmmaker Julia Bacha said:

If we don’t pay attention to these efforts [nonviolent protests], they are invisible, and it’s as if they never happened. But I have seen first hand that if we do, they will multiply. If they multiply their influence will grow…. These leaders have proven that nonviolence works in places like Budrus [in Palestine]…. Let’s give them attention so they can prove it works everywhere.

Derrick J’s Victimless Crime Spree shines a bright light on the activism that Free State Project participants are doing in New Hampshire to increase awareness of the many injustices perpetrated by government today.

In the film we get to meet many members of the growing liberty community in New Hampshire and get a sense that they are very kind and welcoming. Derrick J says in the film how surprised he was to find that he felt right at home only a few days after moving to New Hampshire.

This film was made on a very low budget using a lot of amateur footage, but is still an enjoyable watch and contains some very powerful scenes.

One memorable moment was Derrick J getting arrested for his act of civil disobedience in which he held a small amount of marijuana and sang John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”

In my view it is insane that people still let “government officials” get away with committing these crimes (arresting peaceful people) without facing any consequences whatsoever.

Let’s pay attention to the nonviolent activism being done in New Hampshire by watching this film and sharing it with others so we can create a more just and peaceful world.

Purchase the Director’s Cut DVD at AMAZON for $8.99

1 Comment

How to Start a Revolution (2011)

Gene Sharp

The 2011 documentary How to Start a Revolution introduced me to Dr. Gene Sharp, one of the world’s leading thinkers on strategic nonviolent action, also known as nonviolent resistance or nonviolent struggle.

Sharp’s ideas have been implemented in many anti-government uprisings around the world in the past few decades. His book-length essay From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation has been “circulated worldwide and cited repeatedly as influencing movements such as the Arab Spring of 2010–2012.[3][4][5][6].”

A few of the leading activists who recently successfully overthrew (or rather, undermined) dictators in the Middle East and elsewhere were interviewed in the documentary explaining the influence that Sharp’s work had on their actions.

One of these activists visited Gene Sharp in Boston for the documentary. One of the first things Sharp said in the documentary after they greeted each other was:

There’s one thing that’s been ‘learned’ maybe from Tunisia and Egypt that I think is a mistake, a major mistake. And that is that the existing ruler has to resign. He doesn’t have to resign. You take all the supports out from under him; he falls. No matter what he wants to do. This is the distinction in the analyses between nonviolent coercion in which he has to resign, but he’s forced into it, and disintegration when the regime simply falls apart. There’s nobody left with enough power to resign. [1:14:51 of full film; 46:18 of the 52-minute abbreviated version of the film]

Jamila Raqib

Today 84-year-old Gene Sharp works as Senior Scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution in Boston with his one colleague Executive Director Jamila Raqib. Both Sharp and Raqib were interviewed extensively in the documentary about the work they are doing to advance the study and use of nonviolent action in conflicts around the world.

I had never heard of Gene Sharp until Ademo Freeman recommended the documentary on Facebook. The first time I mentioned Sharp to someone else (online) was in a comment on one of Wendy McElroy’s articles. While McElroy did not know about the documentary, she was very familiar with Sharp’s writings. She recommended Sharp’s three-volume work The Politics of Nonviolent Action in one of her comments, mentioned that she met him before in another comment, and in a third comment said, “Gene Sharp is pivotal. If you have a choice between reading him and reading me…I want him to win out.” Other people in the comment section had at least heard of him too. Apparently he is more well-known than I thought.

Gene Sharp’s “From Dictatorship to Democracy”

Of course Gene Sharp deserves to be even more well-known than he is now. At one point in the documentary Jamila Raqib says that she believes that one day Gene Sharp will be a household name. I would say the reason is because his writings have had a great effect on several uprisings, revolutions, and nonviolent undermines of dictators, yes, but also because his ideas can be applied to effectively undermine all unjust governments. All of us who passionately want to achieve a free society ought to read and understand his work so that we can know how to most effectively reach our goal.

A list of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action is published on the Albert Einstein Institution’s website.

UPDATE 03/27/2013: I have finally finished reading Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy. I will write a post on it in the next few days. In the mean time, I have posted one of my favorite parts of the essay: The “Monkey Master” Fable. Check it out.

UPDATE 08/04/2013: I never got around to writing a post on “From Dictatorship to Democracy.” My interests have lead me elsewhere. I just remembered this blog post today when I saw that the last chapter of Michael Huemer’s book “The Problem of Political Authority” which I bought today is called “From Democracy to Anarchy.” That sounds exciting.