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NONVIOLENCE SUMMARY October 1, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Democracy, Human Rights, Humankind/Planet Earth, Natural Environment, Peace.
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The Metta Center has produced a concise summary of the principles and practices of nonviolence. Of course there is more to nonviolence than contained in a summary and more than meets the eye.

A large amount of work has gone into this distillation.The summary is as follows:

Nonviolence is a great power which, when used correctly, can overturn empires. You will be drawing on that power, the full extent of which comes into our hands when we adopt it deeply and consistently, not because it’s our only option but because it’s the option that allows us to preserve our humanity in the process of struggle, i.e. to not further create the problem we’re trying to solve. Just ends and nonviolent means are a powerful combination, and that becomes clearer the longer the struggle goes on. We also get closer to the full potential of nonviolence when we have trained ourselves to the point where nonviolence is practically a way of life, offering unyielding resistance to injustice but never hostility to the true well-being of any person. Nonviolence is strategically the most effective approach in any situation of oppression particularly; however, its full power comes out when we:

have set a determination to identify core issues for which we are willing to make great sacrifices (and compromises on everything else);
have a well developed program of self-improvement and constructive work, building the world we want without demanding that others give it to us;
have a strategic plan that can carry us forward for the long term, using constructive program whenever possible and active resistance when necessary.
Points for Consideration:
I. Nonviolent Strategy Curve
Image 1:

II. Anger Under Discipline

Nonviolence is not passivity; it is a power in and of itself. There are three faces of power, according to Kenneth Boulding: threat power, exchange power and integrative power. Threat power is the power of a military force; exchange power is the power of money. Unlike military/threat or economic power, nonviolence is integrative power or love in action. In order to use its power on any scale–small or large–we must as Dr. King said, “harness anger under discipline for maximum effect.”

Anger, like other emotions, is a powerful force. But it does not need to be expressed in destructive or short-sighted action. Anger can be transformed into the fuel for nonviolent, constructive action with a long-term positive effect. What are some ways to “harness anger under discipline?”

1. Respect yourself and respect the goals of the movement by using the means that will achieve the end for the benefit of everybody (aka nonviolently).
2. Never humiliate another human being; all who watch and participate are potential allies, including perceived opponents.
3. Make your movement irresistible, not alienating, through education, professionalism, dialogue, restorative practices and nonviolence trainings.
4. Be willing to take on suffering and insult if necessary rather than inflict it onto others, at whatever the cost to yourself.
5. Be able to articulate clearly and effectively the goals of the movement and see the media as a way to persuade others to join your efforts. This takes reflection and serious strategic planning. Keep the message focused, clear and easy to understand.
6. Take time each day to take care of yourself spiritually. You need to be at your best when emotions and anger are running high. Take time to meditate and enjoy that you are working for a higher purpose.

III. Three Components Needed

Nonviolent struggle has three primary dimensions:
Constructive Programme: This means building the world you want without waiting for others to give it to you, e.g. alternative institutions, local economies, nonviolent leadership models.
Obstructive Program: This is what Dr. King called “non-cooperation with evil.” This includes tactics such as reverse and general strikes, marches, sit-ins, boycotts, etc.
Strategic Overview: In order to have the maximum effect, a movement needs to know when to switch between CP and OP, when to walk away from the police or when to allow for confrontation, etc.. Strategy can be strengthened by an overall commitment to nonviolence, a coherent message to share with those involved and those watching, and disciplined action.

IV. Learning

Take the time to watch other movements. Do not merely imitate but learn from them: understand what worked and why it worked. For instance, if protesters on Wall Street provoked a police struggle, how effective was it for an overall nonviolent goal and how might a different strategy work better?
Constantly assess and re-assess the situation in light of new information and new situations.
Stay in contact with other movements. Share the lessons with one another.

V. Tips for a Long-term strategy:

Sometimes in nonviolence we don’t get what we immediately set out to change, but in the long-term, the situation is more pliable, flexible and change comes more easily. Do not see short term failures as a failure of the method of nonviolence, and do not let anyone convince you that violence would be a better strategy to take. It isn’t. If one needs greater strength, one can “purify” one’s efforts. A simple way is to increase one’s commitment to nonviolence in thought and word. At this point, other practices such as meditation will be tools.

Statistics show that even if violence “works” in the short run, in the long term, it never makes a situation better. As Gandhi said, “violent revolution will bring about violent self-rule.”
The more comprehensive our nonviolence, the greater effect it can have. This means that instead of focusing all of our efforts on outward change, we can learn to deepen our awareness of how nonviolence works, not only on the level of the deed, but in our words and thoughts.
Nonviolence is a form of persuasion and dialogue, not a one-sided form of coercion. Respect the escalation curve model and always try to deescalate a conflict; avoid using the wrong strategy at the wrong time (this is where a strategic overview is essential).
Satyagraha is a last resort strategy for a discussion (looking for a win-win outcome) and can lead to the need for self sacrifice at the highest degree possible. Do not make this sacrifice before it is necessary e.g. promises of fasting unto death without first a willingness to try other strategies are always ineffective. Satyagraha is a method which “compels reason to be free.” We must be reasonable ourselves to awaken the reason of another; we must be willing to take risks and sacrifices (even to our ego) to open the heart of another.

Meanwhile Chris Hedges makes the case that action is imperative. Fascism, to which societies can tend, is never a government in a box. The problem is not the lack of media presence, which at best is likely to be incidental and irrelevant. As Truthdig, Chris Hedges writes:

There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.

To be declared innocent in a country where the rule of law means nothing, where we have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no longer exists, where you, as a citizen, are nothing more than a commodity to corporate systems of power, one to be used and discarded, is to be complicit in this radical evil. To stand on the sidelines and say “I am innocent” is to bear the mark of Cain; it is to do nothing to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet. To be innocent in times like these is to be a criminal.

The planet may not be able to be saved. We might have gone too far. The same applies theoretically to democracy and the rule of law. We have to act as if there is time, and that we can be successful. We might have to step aside from our egos and see without any “optical delusion of consciousness”. Nonviolence is our only positive human power and it shows us what we can be as human beings.

Knowing that death will come, we should be able to declare in the face of any threat or expression of violence, “We are not afraid, I am not afraid”.

UPDATE:

Consistent with their constitutional heritage enduring oppression and without assurance of final success as the nonviolent struggle begins, the General Assembly in Liberty Square, New York have set out their grievances as was done in another place and time:

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them. They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

ELSEWHERE:

Democracy Now reported on the protest in New York.

Angus Johnson reports on his experience. He writes:

. . . For many on the chattering left “what’s their plan” is the rhetorical leadup to a dismissal, as if it’s the job of five hundred strangers in a park to come up with a concrete step-by-step proposal for reforming (or overthrowing) global capitalism. But here it wasn’t that. Here it was a real question: “What can be done?”

If Occupy Wall Street is as marginal as its liberal-left critics assume, then no answer to the guy at the table’s question would make any sense at all. Five hundred strangers in a park will never themselves be the engines of any profound societal transformation. But if what I saw last night is real, if OWS is offering a critique that resonates in content — if not necessarily in form — with a broader and more eclectic swath of the country, then maybe those five hundred strangers are pounding on a door that’s a bit less well-armored than it looks.

Maybe what they have to offer isn’t a plan so much as an opportunity to have a bigger conversation, or even just an invitation to continue and expand a conversation that’s been going on in small ways in small places for a long time.

And that’s a conversation I’m really eager to see continue.

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