Collective Disappearance

One form of social withdrawal that has been used to avoid participating in a practice that is considered repugnant is to simply disappear. Amazingly, this act has been orchestrated not only by individuals but by entire populations. While the populations in question are generally small—a rural village for example—the fact that it involves a number of people can make a powerful statement. It can also cause a bit of havoc for the opposing faction.

One example of collective disappearance reportedly occurred in central China many, many years ago. An Official who attempted to take a census of a particular area was frustrated in his efforts as he found the area empty. The inhabitants of the area in question dispersed out of fear that the official’s real purpose was to levy an oppressive tax on them. The official ended up hanging himself in order to avoid punishment.

Another instance also occurred in China, although this one happened during the Japanese occupation in 1939. When Japanese soldiers approached the village they were forced to bring with them everything that they needed. The people were so well organized that they were able to pack or hide all of their belongings and disappear into the nearby hills.

A more recent incident involves the online community. In protest of legislation in the U.S. congress, websites such as Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing will all “go black” or disappear for 24 hours. Proponents of the proposed legislation say that it is designed to protect intellectual property from being pirated by overseas entities. Critics, such as the above mentioned websites, insist that the legislation is too far-reaching and threaten freedom of speech as well as the internet industry as a whole. The temporary disappearance is both a symbolic gesture of protest as well as a practical one. The disappearance is designed to show what life would be like without the previously mentioned websites. Critics say that if the current legislation passes it could result in the permanent disappearance of many websites. Those protesting the legislation hope that the fall out from the 24-hour disappearance of even a few large websites will give pause to those in positions to make decisions about the fate of the proposed legislation.

Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.

Also check out The Politics of Nonviolent Action Part One / Part Two / Part Three.

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