David v Goliath: How solidarity can help small movements win big

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People take part in a protest on Sinjajevina. One participant is on horseback
A protest against the military training ground on Sinjajevina
Author(s)
Milan Sekulovic

In my country, there is a saying: "a hornless ram does not fight with a horned one", which is advice to avoid a fight when your opponent has a significant advantage over you. We have something similar in the biblical story of David and Goliath, which portrays adversaries of unequal strength. Goliath is a giant, strong, ruthless, and merciless, while David is a boy, weak and feeble, and still fights for a just cause and emerges victorious. An important detail for me is that David is a shepherd, which reflects a part of my life. Even though I am now a journalist and activist, I used to guide my family’s sheep on the pastures of Mount Sinjajevina in Montenegro. It was during that time that I read the story of David and Goliath. Can you guess whom I was rooting for?

In the 21st century, social movements are the modern Davids, fighting for justice and fairness. Unfortunately, states have become Goliaths. Despite their formal concern for the people, they end up disregarding them and acting according to their own interests. Large corporations, driven by profit, have also become Goliaths, consuming the planet and its inhabitants. Goliaths have money, power, and weapons, but they are outnumbered because they are not willing to increase their numbers and divide the spoils. The only "weapon" David has in the fight for survival today is solidarity. And it is precisely this strength of solidarity that Goliath will always attack, using the cunning tactic of "divide and conquer." Therefore, solidarity must be the key to our fight today because it holds the power. We are often perceived as small and weak, unprepared to confront a force clearly stronger than us, in the fight for justice and truth.

For the people of Sinjajevina have used their land as animal pastures for centuries. We have shaped the land, enriching the biodiversity, but the governmentwants to take it from us so it can be used as a training ground by the most powerful military alliance in the world, NATO. Powerful decision makers are acting as if we are not there, and these where not the lands that feed us and Montenegro. But at least one person will always step forward against this, and then others will follow. This is the case of Sinjajevina today, where a few started a movement against the military ground when it was inaugurated in Sinjajevina in 2019, and which today encompasses practically all Sinjajevinans and thousands of people around the world! If we are not united and in solidarity today in the fight for justice, tomorrow we will all become Goliath's slaves. We must bury our axes of war, which are reflected in minor differences and short-term interests, for the sake of a higher goal: the triumph of justice, human rights, and the conservation of planet Earth.

The Government of Montenegro declared Mount Sinjajevina a military training ground in 2019. This decision triggered protests from the local community, who demanded the mountain be declared a protected area. We were labeled as anti-state elements, foreign agents who wanted to destroy the country and the army. The government openly lied to us, claiming the new training ground was solely for the use of the Montenegrin army (Montenegro has just a few more than 2000 soldiers, and the training ground covers an area of 7,500 hectares). It is not an exaggeration to say that they lied, given that in 2023, we heard from the government that "our country has obligations towards the NATO alliance", even if they said they would not use Sinjajevina anymore as a military ground. Unfortunately, out of roughly 20 ministers in the Montenegrin government, not one mentioned their obligations towards the citizens of Sinjajevina, or of Montenegro.

We have been aware for years that we are in an extremely unequal battle. Our strength lies in the fact that we are fighting for a just cause, together with many others in our country, in the Balkan region and around the world, who have been offering us the solidarity that help us to keep going. The shepherds of Sinjajevina, like David the shepherd, stood up against Goliath and did not give up. We are united and determined because we know that only through unity can we succeed. Our struggle, like the struggles of hundreds of similar movements, is difficult but just. We want to preserve our land as a territory of life, as it has been for centuries thanks to the local community, and not let it become a territory of death and destruction. Sinjajevina has been a shepherd to its shepherds for centuries, and now is the time to repay the debt.

Today, the greatest strength of humanity lies in small movements that bring together individuals, local communities, and indigenous peoples who are true defenders of planet Earth. Isn't it hypocritical to search for life on Mars while wars and irrational exploitation of natural resources destroy thriving life on Earth?

For indigenous peoples, planet Earth is a core part of their identity, but this cannot be said for members of other nations. This will increasingly conflict with the dominant social system: neoliberal capitalism, with the ruling paradigm of "living to consume", even if this means consuming the land and nature that feeds others; in this case us Sinjajevinans. Today, every person is one voice, every individual is a movement in themselves, and each of us should have one mission and vision: the preservation of planet Earth and peace within it. "I" alone cannot achieve this, but "we" can. United, gathered around one goal that seeks a just society, equality, tolerance, peace, and of course, a healthy environment, because only in such an environment we can survive. We must live in harmony with nature, not against it. We should prioritize preserving nature over gaining knowledge about it. There is always time for knowledge, but there is no more time left for saving our planet - it is a matter of life and death.

If we treat nature as a person, we will be able to have conversations with plants, animals, and things, not just with humans, and save us all as the one that we are. A person can be a companion to everything, every object or being, which is why they must learn the secret language of nature. Nature cannot lie, but it loves to hide, so humans never stop asking, and nature keeps answering, "nature speaks with few words, hence a hurricane does not last all morning, nor does a downpour last all day." (Lao Tzu)

If we do not live in peace with the Earth, with ourselves, and in solidarity with each other, I fear we will not get a second chance, not even on Mars.

Let us declare peace on war, fight it nonviolently to truly eliminate it, and become warriors for peace. Let solidarity be our weapon, striking directly at the core of evil. Only our solidarity can be the stone that defeats Goliath, just as David did.

 

Author information

Milan Sekulović is a Montenegrin journalist, environmental and peace activist. He was born and raised on the pastures of Mount Sinjajevina, for whose protection he is fighting today. He graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Podgorica with a journalism program. In his professional journalistic career, he predominantly deals with topics related to human rights and social justice. Since 2018, he has been a civil activist and fights against the militarization of Mount Sinjajevina, as well as the protection of mountain areas in Montenegro.

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About the authors

Milan Sekulović is a Montenegrin journalist, environmental and peace activist. He was born and raised on the pastures of Mount Sinjajevina, for whose protection he is fighting today. He graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Podgorica with a journalism program. In his professional journalistic career, he predominantly deals with topics related to human rights and social justice. Since 2018, he has been a civil activist and fights against the militarization of Mount Sinjajevina, as well as the protection of mountain areas in Montenegro.

Milan Sekulović is a Montenegrin journalist, environmental and peace activist. He was born and raised on the pastures of Mount Sinjajevina, for whose protection he is fighting today. He graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Podgorica with a journalism program. In his professional journalistic career, he predominantly deals with topics related to human rights and social justice. Since 2018, he has been a civil activist and fights against the militarization of Mount Sinjajevina, as well as the protection of mountain areas in Montenegro.

Milan Sekulović is a Montenegrin journalist, environmental and peace activist. He was born and raised on the pastures of Mount Sinjajevina, for whose protection he is fighting today. He graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Podgorica with a journalism program. In his professional journalistic career, he predominantly deals with topics related to human rights and social justice. Since 2018, he has been a civil activist and fights against the militarization of Mount Sinjajevina, as well as the protection of mountain areas in Montenegro.