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when we must act. In this situation, what should sane and responsible
citizens do?
Should we simply give up and go with the flow? Should we accept
an intolerable reality because it is so difficult to fight against it, and
more strangely, because even a victory would come too late? Not at all.
Looking back at the era of slavery, how tolerant are we of a hypotheti-
cal slaveholder who argued that because liberating his slaves wouldn't
change the system overall, there would be no point in doing so? Or look-
ing back at Nazi Germany, would we accept the plea of a citizen who
claimed she cooperated with the policy of extermination because it was
not in her power to buck the system? Do we accept excuses like this? No,
we don't. The American refusal of the Nuremberg defense during the war
trials shortly after World War II says it all: evil action, even when commit-
ted under orders, is not acceptable.
Our thoughts in this regard say a lot about what we value. We affirm
the necessity to act justly even if doing so requires us to risk our lives.
We also affirm that we must do so even if there are no guarantees that
our action will lead to the results we desire. The same is especially true
in a situation of dire extremity, when the future of civilization seems to
be at stake, when nobody knows whether the future for which we sacri-
fice ourselves will even come to pass. Judging by our response in these
examples, it's clear that for us, just action is never about calculating the
consequences, but about doing the right thing, just because it is right .
If that is the case, we don't really follow Aristotle at all. For us, politics
is really the art of the im possible. If we do not wish to use the equiva-
lent of the Nuremberg defense, we have to admit that even if a revolution
against the current system seems to be impossible, we must fight for it any-
way. We must act, and we must act now. We owe the Earth and future gen-
erations far too much to pursue only reasonable actions, only strategies
that have a high probability of success. Instead of complying with con-
ventional wisdom, we must transform it, reconceiving as well of familiar
understandings of self-interest. The crisis of our time is unprecedented; our
response must be so too . We must have the courage to break our society's
taboos, to crack open the conventions of our political life, to expose the
fundamental illegitimacy of any government that belitles the future of
the biosphere. If this demand requires us to gather in vast crowds to hold
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