GANDHI TECH(TM) V. HUBBARD TECH, MARCH 8, 1997
L. Ron Hubbard, found of the church of Scientology, taught methods to deal with problematic people. These methods I call generally the Iron Fist approach, where you pummel the person into silence or into stopping what you want them to stop. For instance, "The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody... will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly." (Magazine Articles on Level 0 Checksheet, p. 55)
Gandhi, on the other hand, taught to peacefully confront the problematic people and let them show their true colors or character, and then publicize their actions. I call this Gandhi Tech. Gandhi's methods were to help all humans equally. "Often, in fact, Gandhi was more interested in improving the human means than in attaining political ends." (Gandhi, by Louis Fischer, p. 23). Gandhi called his method "Satyagraha" which he defined as "the vindication of truth not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but on one's self," or as one author said "It returns good for evil until the evildoer tires of evil." (ibid., p. 35). While I don't follow Gandhi's methods precisely and I do have disagreements, I believe in Gandhi's general theories.
The March 8 1997 picket of the church of Scientology in Clearwater Florida was in the planning stages four months before the event. As one of the organizers, my goal was to have a peaceful picket of the church at their most sacred site and let them respond. At most pickets I've done the person or organization being picketed basically ignored us. We had our voice of complaint and went home, and that was that. But from reading Hubbard Tech, it was pretty certain that this is not how the church would react. So we did all we could to make sure we had a peaceful event, planning for any possible reaction and keeping the local police and media informed of our plans. This was, in a way, to be a contest between Gandhi Tech and Hubbard Tech [please note that this is my opinion of the event and not necessarily that of the other picketers].
Sure enough, on the night before the picket, a Clearwater policemen came to our sign making session and told us what the church had suggested for the day. They would be washing their hotel building on one side of the sidewalk where we might be picketing, and they would be having a kid's event on the empty lot along the sidewalk on the other side of the street where we had been all along planning to picket. They had not informed the police of these events until one day previous. On top of that, if we did picket where we planned and did not instead go to their suggested picketing site for us that would have taken us around non-Scientology businesses, they would come out with 500 counter protesters. Obviously, the goal was to shut us down before we even started. Hubbard Tech was swinging into action. By the end of the evening, we had agreed not to change our plans.
When we arrived to picket, we were indeed faced with hoses and cleaners in front of the hotel and an "Anti-Drug Awareness Day" event on the other side of the street. I arrived a few minutes after the picket started and had a hard time finding any of us 30 picketers! We had thinned out along the sidewalks on both sides of the street and most of us were surrounded by Scientology counter protesters. The method the church members used against us was to surround us, badger and harass us with inane statements [like one guy said to me "do you take videos of naked kids?"], get in our way, and try to hide our signs from view with their signs. From 11am to 3pm we absorbed this abuse. Their signs accused some of us of being porno kings, deadbeat dads, or child molesters. By listening to the church radio frequencies we could hear that this was a highly organized event on the church's side. They were ordering people around to picketers whose signs could still be seen so that counter picketers could hide our signs.
At the candlelight vigil for Lisa McPherson that night, we came with only candles, we didn't even bring any signs. This time the church's tactic was to fill the sidewalk with probably 300 people so that we would have to wade through this sea of antagonists for the whole time that our candles burned down. As we slowly tried to wind our way through this tight tangle of people, we were again cajoled, made fun of, bumped, blocked, and often had our candles blown out. We, on the other hand, were mostly silent and continued walking back and forth through the crowd until our candles had dwindled to little stubs. We then left and a great cheer came up from the crowd of Scientologists.
Now we can ask, which worked better on March 8, Hubbard Tech or Gandhi Tech? First, what did Hubbard Tech accomplish? It did not stop us from doing anything that we planned on doing. It did prevent passersby from seeing our signs. It also showed to the world how cruel and unethical Scientologists can be. They seemed to view us as some lower form of life instead of as fellow human beings. Their iron-fisted approach did not work this day, in my opinion, except to hide our signs.
What did Gandhi Tech accomplish? Exactly what Gandhi taught it would. It exposed to the world (with the help of the media) just how evil Scientology can be, how intolerant they are of free speech, how willing they are to attack, and how uncivilized their moral code is. Their facade of being a persecuted nice religion was shattered. We succeeded this day.
Gandhi Tech worked in India, Czechoslovakia, the Philippines, and in the US with the civil rights movement. I believe it can be successfully used to stop the Church of Scientology's evil policies and actions that hurt people. Again, I don't follow Gandhi's theories completely, but this protest demonstrated to me that his basic ideas do indeed work.