“Some people naively think that if they simply assert their goal strongly and firmly, for a long enough period, they will somehow achieve their goal. Others assume that if they remain true to their principles and ideals, and witness to them in the face of adversity, then they are doing all they can to achieve their objectives. Some believe if they act courageously and sacrificially, there is nothing more they need to do. Still others simply repeat the type of action they have used in the past, or which they believe is required by their political doctrine, and have faith that they will eventually succeed.
Assertion of desirable goals, remaining loyal to ideals, and persistence are all admirable, but are in themselves grossly inadequate to achieve significant goals. Mere repetition of actions that have failed in the past often makes success unachievable. The technique of nonviolent action has special characteristics, and there are important factors that contribute to its effectiveness.
People in conflict situations often allow themselves to be distracted from their main goal by focusing on trivial issues, repeatedly responding to the opponents’ initiatives, and aiming only at short-term activities. Sometimes, too, people do not even attempt to develop a plan to achieve their goal, because deep down they do not really believe that they can succeed. These people–despite the impression they may offer–see themselves as weak, as helpless victims of overpowering forces. Therefore, they believe, the best they can do is to assert and witness, or even just die, in the faith that they are right. Consequently, they do not even attempt to think and to plan strategically about how to accomplish their objective.
This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you do not believe you will succeed, and therefore do not take deliberate steps to increase your chances of doing so, you will usually fail.”
–Gene Sharp, from Waging Nonviolent Struggle, p. 441.
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