Metta’s Opinion

Ferguson: this is what losing democracy looks like

(orig. posted in Tikkun online)

by: Michael N. Nagler on August 21st, 2014

Ferguson police and protestors

Some time back in the early fifties the U.S. Navy conducted an “exercise” to test bacterial warfare…in San Francisco!  They sprayed bacterial agents into the fog over the Bay to “see what would happen.”  Sure enough, some people got sick, and one elderly gentleman died.  When Norman Cousins, editor of theSaturday Review, discovered this through the Freedom of Information Act he wrote a stinging essay in the magazine.He said, “We are outraged, and we should be; but we have to realize that these are the wages of violence.  You cannot authorize a group to go out and defend you with military force and expect that that force will never come home to roost.”

This is the lesson we again seem to not to be learning from the violence – all of it, on both sides – unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri.  Yes, what Officer Wilson apparently did on the night of August 9th was outrageous, inexcusable.  I say “apparently’” because at this time controversy and contradictory reports are still swirling and it may be a while before we know – if we ever do – the truth.  But even when we do, and no matter what it is, there is a deeper truth to which the mainstream media will never direct us to, and will, in fact, obscure by their attention to details and particulars of this event as though it occurred in a vacuum.  What I’m thinking of here goes even beyond the racial tensions underlying the scenario of the white officer and black victim.

The deeper, uncomfortable truth is, we will never see the end of these confrontations and this violence and this anguish (if you have seen the interviews of Michael Brown’s mother you know what I mean) until and unless we realize that we are creating a violent culture and set our faces against it.  The militarization of our police force is but one inevitable step in a long process that involves the promotion of violence for “entertainment,” violence as the only escape from the unfulfilling, if not hopeless lives that many lead in a materialistic culture, and violence as the means to stem the tide of that violence which is thus created.  Once you let the genii of violence out of the jar you cannot order it to attack only this or that person, within this or that guideline.

The only real escape from the wrenching destruction of the social fabric of Ferguson, of the lives of Michael Brown’s parents and so many like them, is to turn away from unleashing the influence of violence in the first place.  And the only way that I know of to do that, realistically, is to create its alternatives on every level: media that celebrate the spiritual potential of the human being, the wonders of creation, and the innate longing for and capacity for peace in every one of us.

Israel and Palestine Can Never Be Secure Until Both Are Secure

Published on Truthout on August 4, 2014.

Palestinian children try to pull a praying carpet out from the rubble of the Imam Shafi’i Mosque in Gaza City, Aug. 2, 2014. (Photo: Sergey Ponomarev / The New York Times)Palestinian children try to pull a praying carpet out from the rubble of the Imam Shafi’i Mosque in Gaza City, Aug. 2, 2014. (Photo: Sergey Ponomarev / The New York Times)

In The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, the short story by Ursula Le Guin about an imaginary paradise, when its happy residents come of age, they are let in on a horrific secret: The idyllic life they’re leading depends on one innocent child being imprisoned forever in a basement room. Some of the Omelans can’t take it, and they walk away.

Wherever I went in Israel last month – speaking to Rabbis for Human Rights in Jerusalem, visiting my relatives near the Lebanese border, staying with my friends outside of Tel Aviv – I could not get the image of Omelas out of my mind. For underneath the outdoor pools, well-appointed museums, universities, and popular cafés lurks the terrible suffering, not of one child, but of 1.8 million people trapped in “the world’s largest open-air prison,” Gaza. Many of them children; for in that densely crowded entity, the average age today is 17. And some Israelis do walk away – if not out of the country, out of the mindset of fear and hatred that at present prevails there.

The question is, is that enough? Is it enough that they are one in spirit with the incredibly courageous Palestinians who have been resisting the West Bank version of this occupation, for example in the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani, which has been the scene of a good deal of relatively successful nonviolent protest, mostly thanks to a man I greatly liked and admired, Hafez Jawal, sometimes called the “Gandhi of the South Hebron Hills.” Is it enough, given that my Israeli friends could not accompany me even into Bethlehem, where I gave workshops to very appreciative Palestinian and international supporters, much less into the villages of South Hebron?

The Jewish refugees who came flooding back to their ancient homeland after the Holocaust were traumatized, perhaps more deeply than we can readily imagine. This is a very bad state in which to remain. He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me; in those who harbor such thoughts, hatred will never cease. These words of the Buddha sound a serious warning: “If hatred will never cease, peace will never begin.” To cite an uncomfortable parallel (this will offend many Israelis, but I’m going to say it anyway), I once had the chance to study German popular magazines from the run-up to World War II, and was startled to see that the dominant tone in all of them was, “We are victims.” Never mind of whom.

Whether it’s based on reality or paranoia, or both, to be frozen in a posture of victimhood is to invite disaster. It means that anyone who attacks you is immediately demonized as the Ultimate Enemy – and sadly many Palestinians (not to mention five wars) have stepped into that role. No one has ever dealt with the trauma of those early refugees; there has been no healing. On the contrary, the right-wing majority that defines Israel’s present policy have deliberately perpetuated it as, to quote one statesman, “the defining event of the Jewish state.” (Whether there’s anything particularly Jewish, in any meaningful sense, about the modern state of Israel is another question).

Operating from this self-definition, Israel has reduced the Palestinians, and in particular the Gazans, to a state that would be recognized by sociologist Ted Gurr, who in Why Men Rebel showed that even the most placid populations will fight back when the alternative is extinction, or a humiliation that murders hope. This is the very state that was eloquently described by one Gazan recently, Um Al Ramlawi: “They are killing us all anyway – either a slow death by the siege, or a fast one by military attacks. We have nothing left to lose – we must fight for our rights, or die trying.” Murder is murder. As Gandhi said, “It little matters to me whether you shoot a man outright or starve him to death by inches,” exactly what the murderous, senseless blockade of Gaza accomplishes.

In this situation of clashing desperations, real and imagined, reason will have little purchase. Where, then, is the hope? Let’s start with those who walk away. On this trip I learned that there are more of them than I had thought: one-off experiments like the Palestinian-Israeli soccer club depicted in the film Promises; dialogue and reconciliation groups; and long-standing schools with students from both communities like the famous “Oasis of Peace” Neve Shalom/ Wahat al-Sala’am. And now, of course, social media gets into the act. #JewsandArabsrefusetobeenemies, with 7,000 friends and over 10,000 tweets so far this month.

But what we need to do now is close the gap between these personal reconciliations and real policy. “Maybe that will change the policy eventually?” says the curator of the hashtag just mentioned; but that “maybe” and that “eventually” are not good enough. In Promises, you may remember how the Palestinian boy weeps when, summer over, he realizes that his new Jewish friends will go back to join the IDF while he and his friends go back to their hopeless village – or refugee camp. One-on-one friending and reconciliation work is the sine qua non, to be sure, the psychological foundation on which a healthy society could be erected. But now we have to erect it.

It should not be impossible. The well-being of Israel doesn’t really depend on the suffering of Palestinians; quite the contrary. And a phrase I heard on both sides was, ‘the tail is wagging the dog’; in other words, there are extremists on both sides – there will probably always be extremists everywhere – but aside from the 500,000 Jewish settlers on Palestinian land, they are not a majority. They just act like one. It is alleged, for example, that the killing of the three Jewish teenagers that triggered the present violence was done by a rogue element, the Qawasameh clan of Hebron, known to act counter to the policies of Hamas and deliberately disrupt their ceasefires and other arrangements. (Of course, one could even argue that the Israeli tail is wagging the United States dog, but that again is another question.) Israel is still a democracy and the people still have some agency. I say this knowing that in their present state of panic, 95 percent of the Israeli public recently voted that the attack on Gaza is “just.”  They reached that state through systematic propaganda, and, unlike the extremists, their minds could changeHow, then, can we create a climate in which the destructive fury of these elements on either side does not resonate with the larger public and unduly amplify their influence?

We might take a clue from the climate that prevailed in Montgomery, Alabama, at the successful conclusion of the famous bus boycott, in 1956. To disrupt the progress won at such cost, some Klan members set off a bomb; but instead of panicking, people just ignored it and the try fell flat. That’s the power of nonviolence. And there are ways that the nonviolence that’s been a bright spot on both sides of the struggle could be amplified. It could be reported on (what a concept) and otherwise supported. More and more Israelis could be made to understand that, while it frustrates some of their projects for taking over land and demolishing homes and farms, it is not something that ultimately threatens them. (Think of the way they deported Mubarak Awad, an architect of nonviolent resistance in June, 1988, but Sheik Yassin, a founder of Hamas, was left free to operate until they finally assassinated him (and nine others) in Gaza in 2004.)

We should never ask that the Israelis, or Palestinians for that matter, renounce security. Nor do we need to. We might instead be able to help them rethink what they mean by security. “They define security as only military. We (Palestinians) define security as human security – not just personal, but territorial, economic, geographic, historical, identity, existential; there are all sorts of different aspects to human security.” And the critical aspect to human security is what’s called common security, where one sees that her or his real security comes when the other is equally secure, not a threat held in check. How long can the Israelis rely on intercepting missiles and blowing up fighters the minute they emerge from their tunnels? To have any meaning, “security” can only mean a state where there are no rockets or tunnels – and thoughtful people can surely understand this, especially as the failure of military “security” becomes more evident.

As the ferocity of the present conflict makes clear, we are running out of time to find a permanent solution. The hatreds on both sides are like molten lava (in the words of my friends at Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem), which has already spilled over into the West Bank, where about nine Palestinians have been killed so far, and is ready to explode into even wider violence in that region’s turmoil.

Prior to the slaughter of innocents (and some combatants) now going on in Gaza, two things had changed for the worse in the last few years. Israeli police and military more or less dropped the pretense of staying within the four corners of their own (already biased) law, sometimes operating with brazen disregard of that law; and in uncivil society, a kind of “brown shirt” element acting like racist thugs has emerged, three of them having murdered Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir and helped precipitate the present outbreak.

In a very real sense, no one can stand apart from this violence. Let me give the last word to Meir Margalit, a founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

“We are demonstrating not only for Gaza, but to try and save the human condition.”

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


Why Being Human Matters, for the People of Gaza and the World

Published on Saturday, August 02, 2014 by Waging Nonviolence

By Stephanie Van Hook


The Xhosa concept of ubuntu, combined with the Arabic word intifada — as seen in  this graffiti on the “separation” wall in Bethlehem — roughly translates to mean: uplifting human dignity through nonviolence. (WNV / Van Hook)


Dr. Mona El-Farra, medical doctor and associate of the Middle East Children’s Alliance recently made headlines on Democracy Now! with her plea to end the military assault on Gaza with one powerful statement: “We are human beings.” She is, of course, absolutely right. Human beings live in Gaza, and it seems like nothing could be more obvious — if not human beings, then who or what does? And why are we paying attention? Of course, what she is really saying is something much deeper. She’s saying, that to the people in Gaza, it seems like we have somehow forgotten that human beings are there — and that raises more questions. For example: How could one forget the humanity of another and what does it tell us about who we really are?

For insight into these questions, we might first explore the basic dynamic of conflict escalation. Conflict, in itself, is not at issue — it’s the image we have of the human beings with whom we engage in conflict. Michael Nagler, president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, maintains in his 2014 book, The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action, that conflict escalates — that is, moves increasingly toward violence — according to the degree of dehumanization in the situation. Violence, in other words, doesn’t occur without dehumanization.

Nagler’s thinking about violence was partially influenced by sociologist Philip Zimbardo, who famously conducted an experiment in controlled dehumanization at Stanford in 1971. What happened? He and his students created a prison scenario where some students took the role of the guards and the others as the prisoners. Zimbardo told the guards to make the prisoners feel isolated and that “they had no power.” In six days, he used his better judgment and called off the experiment because the situation had become too psychologically real, even close to torture for some involved. One minute, they’re regular Stanford students ready to cooperate with one another for a project. The next, they’re locked in a victim-aggressor dynamic where common humanity was cast aside, making violence possible.

In order to see human beings — to humanize — we need the conditions for it. When you think of human beings in the world, what do you see? Do you see a “friendly universe,” as Albert Einstein called it? He understood the utter practicality of this question, arguing that if we see an unfriendly universe, we see unfriendly beings living in it. In a dehumanized world of scarcity and competition we will use all of the tools and inventions we have to protect ourselves from one another. It’s hard in a world of separation to “remember your humanity and forget the rest,” as Einstein said. Why is that?

Look around you — at advertisements, television programs, and the news — and you will find that there is one image of the human being that dominates, and he’s not very friendly. He is violent, greedy, hateful and only happy when things are going well for him. He’s really quite superficial — his face is ecstatic when he saves on his car insurance and his voice is monotonous when he reports on war. He’s obsessed with violence, and hungry for more. We see and hear these images, some say between 2,000 and 5,000 times a day in urban areas worldwide. Eventually, we internalize it. We come to think that this is who we are too. We see it so often, our minds stop distinguishing between ourselves and what is being projected at us.

Dehumanization, again, is a backdrop making violence possible — both directly, like a bomb, and structurally, like exploitation. By constantly imprinting that negative image of the human being in our minds, even if we don’t perpetuate direct violence, we certainly can’t deny that we live under the institutions that inflict violence on others for us, be it corporations, the military or the police. These violent structures do not go away because they appear to fulfill necessary functions, like protecting us from each other. In this framework, there is little need for discussion about the alternatives — such as unarmed peacekeeping or restorative justice — because they are simply not telling the story we believe about who we are and what makes us safe.

A low human image is dangerous precisely because it manipulates our sense of well-being and security. It is also extremely profitable for some. Ask anyone who sells weapons, builds prisons, or convinces women to wear makeup that covers their “imperfections.” We’ve been made desperate: We’ll do or buy anything that promises to restore our humanity to us, so long as it’s convenient. We’re lazy, too, you know, or so we’re told.

Taking a cue from Einstein, then, the most urgent struggle of today is to reclaim the human image and restore its dignity. Listen to what Meir Margalit, former elected member of the Jerusalem City Council for the Meretz Party and a founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, said only a week ago: “We are demonstrating not only for Gaza, but to try and save the human condition.” And violence, unfortunately, just can’t do that. If it could, we wouldn’t be where we are today, believing that while a war unfolds this is just the way that human beings operate. Sorry, there is nothing you can do but pull up a chair and watch if you’d like. Nonviolence, on the other hand, is a different story. If dehumanization is the background for violence, a higher human image is the necessary condition for nonviolence.

The story begins when we recognize that we suffer when others suffer. Psychologist Rachel MacNair expanded upon the widely known Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, diagnosis to include what she named Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress, or PITS. She makes this distinction because PTSD, she argues, is generally thought to include the victims of violence and those who have been party to what one might think of as a “gruesome act” or “atrocities,” though it tends to stop short of the analysis of what she refers to as “the ordinary killing of traditional combat.” In other words, she is showing that violence cannot be fully normalized — it registers somewhere in our psyches as trauma, and not only in the most extreme cases. Call it what we want, PITS or PTSD, the fact that we experience deep anxiety and traumatize ourselves when we inflict suffering on others is actually an extremely hopeful comment. It shows that our interconnectedness with, and sensitivity to one another, is ennobling. It shows that while human and dignity sometimes seem like an oxymoron today, they are actually synonymous. And it’s time that we recognized them as such.

Despite it being, as I argue, native to our human condition, nonviolence is a new meme. Gandhi saw this when, in 1908, he coined the word satyagraha. It had a practical value, being a new term that would serve to distinguish the form of resistance in which he was engaging from conceptions of passivity. Satyagraha was something new, something more deeply transformational and tied to an implicit faith in human nature. The Sanskrit word was built of two parts: satya, which means truth, that which is, or even more simply, reality; and a-graha, to grasp, hold to oneself. In nonviolence, we are clinging to our shared dignity as human beings. We are grasping, not illusion, but reality itself.

What is that reality? Indigenous wisdom often recognized it. The Xhosa conceptubuntu popularized by Desmond Tutu during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990s in South Africa is roughly translated, “Through other human beings, I become human.” This is restoring a fuller sense of what it means to be human. It is not a question of our physical characteristics; instead, it takes a person and elevates her nature from “all you can understand is violence” to “I can only affirm my humanity through other people,”which is not possible through violence. This is more than a political uprising, or intifada, it’s a call to uplift human dignity through nonviolence. To quote from graffiti I saw this past June on the so-called security wall in Bethlehem, it’s an “ubuntifada.”

We may need to draw strength from our imaginations as we resist dehumanization, keeping our eyes on the problem without demeaning the person. But what greater purpose can the imagination serve than to help us do that? Carol Flinders affirms that it is one of the most powerful tools of our nature when she writes, “Imagination seems to be a vital component of genuine nonviolent resistance, for it allows us to hold on to a positive view of ourselves no matter what the world tells us we are.”

The world is telling us that we have no power, that we only care about ourselves and that we can only get dignity through violence; in effect, we are not human beings. Don’t believe it. We are human beings and that makes us powerful, because only human beings working together are capable of transforming the violence that degrades us all.

Michael Nagler address to 2014 FOR Seabeck Conference

We are grateful for the Fellowship of Reconciliation who just sent us this link to Michael Nagler’s keynote at their annual Seabeck conference.


We are living in the wrong story,” says Michael Nagler, founder & director of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, during his keynote address to this year’s 56th annual FOR Seabeck conference in Washington State earlier this month.

This story, Nagler argues, tells us that our world consists of limited resources and “we are radically separate from one another, and we are doomed to compete for those ever-scarcer resources. And therefore the devastation of the planet, and war, and economic imbalance, and all the rest of it, all comes from this one story.”

This humor-filled presentation includes a multimedia Powerpoint address.

Tragedy and Humanity in Hebron

colomba-manifestare-25-11-2010-12-44-40A little over a week ago I stood in the South Hebron Hills not far from the spot where, we now know, three Israeli teens had been put to death, assumedly by operatives of the Palestinian organization Hamas (though that is far from proven at this time). I was visiting a prominent nonviolent Palestinian activist from the village of At-Tuwani, where successful actions have been carried out against various provocative measures of the Israeli police and soldiers, just as I had visited their counterpart some days earlier, Rabbis for Human Rights, in Jerusalem.

Not only my host, Hafez, but many of the Palestinians I met and many whom I knew from one connection or another before are of like mind with their Israeli counterparts: strong, peace-loving, generous. Why can they not prevail against the madness that inflames the region now? Why, on the Israeli side, does the “tail” of settler fanaticism wag the “dog” of Israeli society, as one of my rabbi friends put it? Why does the fanatical group Hamas so easily drag Palestinian society as a whole into the maelstrom of violence?

In my search for an answer to this question I remembered a reflection that had come to me after 9/11 when I asked myself how one terrorist act (assuming, for now, that the official story of those responsible is correct) could have wrought such a devastating change in the democratic fabric of America. The answer is that acts of terror, an extreme form of violence, resonate with an atmosphere of violence, when that’s present, and it multiplies their effect. It does not have to be that way. Just recall how, at the successful conclusion of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956, a Ku Klux Klan bomb went off to virtually no effect, where attacks like that had previously wrought havoc. The powerful nonviolent atmosphere of the campaign overcame the cowardice of the attack, smothering its effect. People just ignored it.

Such an atmosphere, alas, is rarely present anywhere. Certainly it was not present in the United States on 9/11, and thus the attack’s effects were amplified, perhaps beyond the attackers’ wildest dreams.

2014-06-21 23.53.00

The day we left At-Tuwani Hafez took us on a tour of the village. I will never forget how, as we stood looking back at his side of the valley and the simple concrete structures strung out across the hills, he shared with us some of the ongoing harassment he and his people had to endure. I said, at one point, “They’re trying to provoke you into violence.” For a long time he stood silent and I thought he was searching to understand the word, but that wasn’t it at all. With great passion he looked at me finally and burst out, “They will never provoke me into violence.”So it is in Israel/Palestine today. The seeds of peace are there where we need them, but the conditions that would nurture those seeds are not. It is this that we must somehow change. One way would be to understand and support the courageous activists who embody them – just as we are reaching out right now in support, quite appropriately, to the parents of the three teens who just met their end in the grinding conflict.

Hafez, if there were more like you, think of the bloodshed we would be spared; think of the human dignity we would reveal.


First posted at Tikkun Daily on July 1, 2014.

Pre-boarding to Tel Aviv: a lesson in nonviolence

“There is no real security except for whatever you build inside yourself.”

Gilda Radner -


“You’re not going to change the world from the airport,” my friend wryly counseled me at the Metta office, just a few weeks before we left for Israel-Palestine. “Focus on getting into the country–keep your answers short and to the point. Don’t offer information. You’re a tourist and you are going to go to the Holy Sites.” I didn’t want to fully agree with her–I was traveling for other reasons, too.

My friend, like most Israelis, completed her military service after high school, so she knew the drill. Not to mention, even as an Israeli traveling to the United States on a regular basis, she also at times is subject to intense questioning from airport security. So I decided to trust her.

And I am glad that I did because the moment that we entered the highly armed ticket counter at the Rome airport (there were soldiers standing with rifles ready on the second floor), Michael and I were separated and subjected to a two-hour line of questioning about our intentions in traveling and our personal lives, each one of us required to produce emails–and in my case, photos, attesting to what we told them. Neither of us told them that we run a nonviolence education organization; that we were planning to attend the Bet’lahem Live Festival, hosted by the Holy Land Trust; that we were going to present nonviolence workshops at the festival; that we had intended to travel to At-Twani village, in the Occupied Territories in the West Bank. We stuck to one story: we were simply two friends, which is true, traveling together on what was a pilgrimage for myself, also true, and a last visit to his family in Israel, for Michael, true, true, true.

The question bothered me: Was it being nonviolent not to tell the security officers about the real reason behind our invitation to Israel-Palestine? On the one hand, nonviolence requires that we are transparent and truthful–and accept the consequences willingly of that act of truth. (It takes a lot of courage to do that…) On the other hand, there is always leeway to that principle when the other party is trapped in a false situation. For example, a German Catholic priest hid Jews during the War and never disclosed their whereabouts, arguing that at that time, “the whole society was a lie.”  Truth, in other words, is not always the same as facts. But as far as facts were concerned, we did tell part of the truth, or even the entire truth if you were to look at it from a certain angle: I was on pilgrimage–to see the living struggle, not simply the historical locations, to feel the experience in my own body. The main problem was that I might not have been admitted to the country if I did tell them up front that we would be meeting with Palestinian activists among other activities. . .

While many people might have found it tenuous or even angering to be held at security for two hours before being allowed to board a flight, I felt a strange sense of appreciation about it. The encounter gave me an opportunity to realize right away the deep level of paranoia, fear and anxiety in the minds of the Israeli security force. And right away, I was able to relax, breathe, repeat my mantram to draw upon the deeper kind of security we talk about so often in nonviolence. It gave me the opportunity to smile at the officers, and mean it, even if they weren’t allowed to smile back; to read a book, and concentrate on it, even while they were tearing my bags apart in another room; and to see the security members as human beings, who clearly didn’t like what they were doing (the more relaxed I was, the more I was able to see this).

Imagine being in a situation like this. Ask yourself, what would a response fueled with hatred or unharnessed anger, or simple self-righteousness look like? Do you think that I had it in me? I think I did. But I was able to channel it at the strategic advice of my friend. What effect do you think that it had?

We made it onto the plane. We were the last to board. It’s funny in a way, but the tagline of the airline we happened to take was “It’s not just an airline; It’s Israel.” Would that mean that paranoia and fear are as much a part of the experience of Israel as the music, food and traditions? And if so, what was its cause and what is my role in all of it? What could I offer personally?  (I will be blogging more about this later…)

And so our journey began. It was at a time of heightened insecurity due to the then alleged kidnapping of three Israeli youth in the Occupied Territories just a few days before we left, leading to an underreported yet massive, “collective punishment” directed toward the Palestinians including arrests, limits on movement, gun fire and even murders by the Israeli forces, as well as rockets launching between Gaza and Israel. .  .


Roadmap: A 500 Year Plan

We all know by now that Roadmap is a long-term plan for movement strategy and unity within the realm of nonviolence (for those who have not yet seen this ambitious–and beautiful–model, click here). But just how long-term of a plan should it be? 5 years? 20 years? How about 500 years?!

Sarvodaya, a Sri Lankan organization dedicated to bridging conflicts through nonviolent intervention and preventative strategies, offers us a brilliant guide that will thrill the futurists among us, and we hope, liberate the imagination of those standing in the midst of nonviolent struggles for a more just and more dignified humanity. This organization took the time to create what is known as the Sarvodaya 500 Year Plan for Peace. One of its key features include recognizing the impact of the decisions made today on generations in the future (very much like the very real concept of “Seven Generations” thinking in indigenous cultures to what they called Turtle Island (North America)).  Other features include recognizing ones efforts in relationship to the evolution of consciousness in the future, as well as creating a new legacy, a new line of tradition that can be carried out into the future, giving real, deep change a fighting chance, instead of demanding deep changes be immediate. Not to mention, when we think of 500 years in the future, we are offering our humble intentions to be around as a species in that time!

Roadmap mandala

On one hand, the Roadmap itself can be seen as a 500 year plan in itself–looking into the mandala, we can see the future of a just, regenerative, and holistic/intersectional society, well-grounded in the principles and strategies of nonviolence as a way of life, in all aspects of life. However, let’s work together to mature the plan by imagining together each segment of the Roadmap (6 sectors and 3 circles, so 9 in total) will need to do to achieve its entire fulfillment in 500 years. This breakdown brings the enormity of the thing into the realm of the manageable — but not the compartmentalized.  Overlaps, resonances, and intersections will naturally emerge (and we will be on the lookout for them).

We spend so much time as a movement working to resolve present crises, pitting us in a never-ending battle. But what happens when we are successful? What are we going to do after the revolution, as we move into the evolution of our movement? What does that look like?

Looking so far down the road has the effect of liberating our imaginations and giving ourselves permission to imagine — anything!  We get the power of the ideal unfettered by the sordid realities of the present real.  But at the same time, we work the plan with realistic, achievable steps:  after we envision the world in 500 years as though the movement has achieved its total fulfillment we step it back: where do we have to be in 450 years to achieve the ideal? In 400? In 240? in 100? in 50? In 4 months? etc.

The British historian Arnold Toynbee said (and at Metta we often recall) that “Apathy can only be overcome by enthusiasm; and we can only rouse enthusiasm with two things: an idea that takes the imagination by storm and a concrete, intelligible plan for putting that idea into practice.”  The Sarvodaya model has both.

This is a very creative process–full of power and excitement.

We invite you to participate in the 500 year planning discussion happening now through the Roadmap Compass (click here to get started).

What can you expect from the Metta Center in this process? Our team of interns and volunteers (and we invite you to participate) will support and facilitate discussions to keep the process inspiring, edging toward what we can all do right away to get started.


Nonviolence and the New Story: Daring to Explore the World Within Webinar

This webinar features a presentation and conversation with Professor Michael Nagler on “Nonviolence and the New Story: Daring to Explore the World Within,” which was originally given as a TEDx talk in Fremont, CA. The 30-minute presentation is followed by Q&A with participants in the Metta Center Certificate in Nonviolence Studies program (total running time 1:03).