BOYCOTT: THE MOST POWERFUL SOCIAL WEAPON (1)
The verb ‘Boycott’ never existed until a land agent who was somewhat monstrous, hostile and one who perpetuated injustice to tenants was ostracized.
Charles Cunningham Boycott, a British citizen and a retired Army personnel, a farmer and later a land agent for Lord Erne’s estate. His duty as a land agent includes leasing land to tenants for farming, collecting rents and supervising activities ongoing in the estate. He believe excessively to please and execute his master’s command and that the feeling and wish of the people mattered less or probably didn’t matter at all.
In my words, Boycott was strict or should I say cruel. He could evict a tenant even after rent has been paid. The worst scenario, a tenant who unknowingly leaves the estate’s gate open or one who’s hen trespasses to Boycott’s property would have to pay a fine.
A certain time, the tenants were due to pay their rents. Boycott has resolved to reducing 10% of the rent due to the poor harvest, but all except two of his tenants rejected the 10% and insisted on a 25% reduction. Boycott told them that he has written to his master (Lord Erne) and he has refused the 25% discount. Subsequently, he issued demands for the outstanding rents, and obtained eviction notices against eleven tenants.
The tenant farmers to resist Boycott’s eviction and to fight against injustice had formed associations. The most formidable association amongst others was the Irish National Land League formed by Michael Davitt and led by Charles Stewart Parnell.
The associations in their campaign for Land reform and against injustice demanded for Three Fs;
1. Fair rent — meaning rent control: for the first time in the United Kingdom, fair rent would be decided by land courts, and not by the landlords;
2. Free sale — meaning a tenant could sell the interest in his holding to an incoming tenant without landlord interference;
3. Fixity of tenure — meaning that a tenant could not be evicted if he had paid the rent.
The leader of the Land League; Parnell, gave a speech while addressing the members of the League in their multitude, he asked; “What do you do with a tenant who bids for a farm from which his neighbour has been evicted?” The crowd responded, “kill him,” “shoot him.
Parnell however suggest a contrary strategy which he described as more Christian and charitable. His strategy was somewhat better as it at least gave the victim chances of repentance. He advised that when a man takes farm from which another has been unjustly evicted, the man should be isolated. “When a man takes a farm from which another has been evicted, you must shun him on the roadside when you meet him – you must shun him in the streets of the town – you must shun him in the shop – you must shun him on the fair green and in the market place, and even in the place of worship, by leaving him alone, by putting him in moral Coventry, by isolating him from the rest of the country, as if he were the leper of old – you must show him your detestation of the crime he committed.” Parnell said.
Unfortunately, Parnell’s strategy wasn’t executed on one who rented a land where another has been unjustly evicted, probably no one dared taking land that another tenant had been evicted from. The strategy had to be executed on the very cruel Land Agent; Charles Cunningham Boycott.
Boycott had, after disagreeing on the 25% demand made by the tenants, sent a ‘process server’ and a seventeen men escort of the police force, to serve eviction notice to the tenants.
The ‘process server’ successfully delivered notices to three of the tenants, but a fourth, Mrs Fitzmorris, refused to accept the notice and began waving a red flag to alert other tenants that the notices were being served. The women of the area descended on the process server and the constabulary, and began throwing stones, mud, and manure at them, succeeding in driving them away.
The crowd of tenants descended on the residence the ‘process server’ was seeking refuge and advised all Boycott’s employees to stop working for him. The advise was accompanied with disastrous threats that left the employees with no other choice than quitting their jobs.
Within days, Boycott’s employees has deserted him. His blacksmith, postman, laundress and all other employees has voluntarily or maybe fearfully stop working for him, leaving him alone to run the estate. His nephew volunteered to be his postman but soon quit after threats.
Boycott was alone, the shopkeeper around him as a result of warnings refused serving him. Boycott had to import foods and provisions. Even the telegraph messenger stopped their services as it wasn’t safe. The tenants used and abused the farm with impunity.
Helpless Boycott was compelled to write to ‘The Times’ and narrated his ordeal. It took the intervention of Britain before Boycott’s farm’s produce was harvested. Boycott due to the social ostracism, was compelled to travel out of the country with his family. In fact, the Carriage hired for the trip was driverless, no one agreed to drive Boycott, an army officer had to drive. The hotel Boycott initially stopped to rest and probably spend some weeks received threats from the Land League members and they had to ask Boycott to leave sooner.
The leaders of the League was charged to court and at the end were victorious. The Three Fs demands was subsequently signed and implemented. Can you now perceive the power of boycotting?
The word ‘Boycott’ was afterwards adopted from Charles Cunningham Boycott’s name as description to the actions of the league members.
After Charles Cunningham Boycott was successfully boycotted, more individuals, and groups has been able to boycott to show displeasure, and hate for injustice.
• Americans boycotted British goods during America Revolution
• Indians Boycotted British Goods, Education, and Services during the Swadeshi Movement.
• Chinese boycotted American products to protest the extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
• Chinese boycotted Japanese products during the May Fourth Movement.
I could go on and on listing historical but highly efficient boycotts. This boycotts often times was worth it. So tell me why Biafrans shouldn’t boycott Nigeria’s elections and more? Who says boycott doesn’t pay?
Nigeria has shown all form of marginalization, and injustice against Biafrans, even worst than what Boycott did to tenants yet some persons keep shouting go get your PVC, as if PVC would solve the problem. Seriously, what’s wrong with this people?
Bottom line is this: Only boycott which is mental and social ostracism can teach this fraudulent one cruel Nigeria an unforgettable lesson.