I recently received an inquiry from a law student in Hungary, who, after reading my essay Power of Moral Sanction, wanted to better understand how social networks today are applying that power to new visions and the creation of new communities–especially in regard to dealing with legal systems around the world.
In response, I noted my recent editorial Lesson in Civic Courage about American Indian nations opposing United States taxation of tribal resources as one example of exercising moral sanction. Since moral sanction is usually exercised in instances where modern states abuse their authority, moral sanction, I noted, is viewed as an effective means of engaging in what is called asymmetrical warfare (where one side has considerably more power than the other).
One means of engagement in asymmetrical warfare, I said, is to apply the principles of psychological warfare to one’s advantage. I have written on this quite a bit, most notably here and here and here.
I went on to say that American Indian tribes are attempting to use their treaties and international law as a means of constraining the more powerful federal government, and are thus on the cutting edge of the indigenous peoples revolution evident on all continents. Whether they will succeed or not depends in part, as it does in other locales like Chiapas and the Andes, on solidarity with civil society networks, some of which have been involved in anti-globalization demonstrations around the world.
While solidarity does not guarantee victory for those who exercise moral sanction, I noted, it sometimes curtails or circumscribes political violence and brutality, which is necessary before any democratic process can take place.
While not all readers are scholars of international law, learning to ask useful questions is something from which we all can benefit. In answering them, I find I always learn something in turn.