Metta’s Opinion

The Man From the North: Story 3

The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today,” when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution.

The story below is one of several written by the Man From the North. The article series is not included in the novel and was originally published on Dandelion Salad. We will feature a Man From the North story on a weekly basis through June 3, 2015. You can read the entire series at Dandelion Salad. The Dandelion Insurrection and a companion study guide can be purchased on Rivera’s website.


Shopping as an Act of Resistance

The holidays are at hand. Boycott Season is in effect. As the snow starts to fall, the commercial war of the season asserts its dominance. Our identities as citizens are quickly buried in a blizzard of advertising that defines us as consumers.

We are occupied territory for the corporate regime. Our option is to resist.

Across the nation, members of the Dandelion Insurrection are using the holiday season as an opportunity for active resistance. Due to corporate influence on politics, the struggle for effective political power has shifted out of offices and Congressional Halls and into the capitalistic marketplace. If we wish to undermine the strength of the corporations, we must look away from the corrupt seats of power where special interests are entrenched by campaign financing and lobbyists. Instead, we must look for the places where the corporations are vulnerable. We must study their blind spots and Achille’s heels. We must look deeply into the financial ties of one corporate entity to another. We must examine the consumer supports that prop up their economic power. We must also look for opportunities to aikido their weighty offensives and bring the corporations to their knees.

One of these is Christmas. The economic driver of a dozen names is a holiday season that embraces diversity as a commercial tactic, manipulating Jews, Christians, and atheists alike to spend money in the pursuit of happiness. Our shared virtues of generosity, charity, and gift giving are held hostage by corporate tyranny. The season sublimates our highest principles into strengthening the destructive, corporate elite. The holidays provide a pillar of support that prop up the year-round manipulations of corporations. We must consciously erode this support and build foundations of our own.

Local businesses, small enterprises, artisan goods, handmade gifts, home made presents, worker-cooperatives, and conscious businesses are the future of a just and equitable American economy. While we strive to end corporate control of politics, we must do our best to grow alternative businesses as a form of support. These kinds of enterprises not only strive toward a vision of sustainable economy, they also provide potential foundations of strength for the resistance to corporate tyranny. For this alliance to develop, shopping for holiday gifts in these alternative businesses must also be paired with a willingness to discuss the reasons for your actions.

We are not sanctimonious, conscious consumers patting ourselves on our goody-two-shoes backs.

We are a coordinated, strategic resistance to the rule of mega-corporations and the empowered wealthy class. We support these alternative forms of business not only out of moral reasons, but also for strategic purposes. We must be prepared to sustain the basic needs and necessities of the people: food, water, energy, shelter, capital, transportation, and communication. This is a necessity of waging successful struggle to shift political power back into the hands of the people. The entrenched corporate elite use economic sanctions and their control of law to repress our efforts. They will systematically attempt to impoverish us. They will cut off our access to support. They will strive to break our movement by demoralizing and “starving us out” both literally and metaphorically.

The establishment of strong alternative social institutions and organizations to provide basic necessities is a requirement for our success.

Furthermore, if we are successful at crumbling current corporate control of basic goods and services, then the alternatives must be ready to step forward and replace them. Our local businesses, regional farms, transportation, energy, and communications services must be able to fill in the vacuum left by crumbling mega-corporations.

The nuts-and-bolts of these lofty strategic ideals can be found in the context of our holiday shopping. Use the gathering of gifts as an opportunity to open dialogue with local businesses. Explain your reasons for supporting them. Tell them how your choices are rooted in an understanding that the socio-political rule of mega-corporations is causing destruction to people and the planet. Let them know that you consider small, local businesses an integral part of the movement to change our untenable situation.

And consider yourself fortunate to be resisting in this way.

This holiday season, our unfortunate – but powerful – ally in the efforts to undermine corporate rule is the grim figure of poverty too many of us face. Nearly 50% of our fellow Americans live at – or below – international standards of poverty. The starkness of this must be grasped. The United Nations statistics are based on “having enough to survive on and a little bit more”. Our country is considered one of the wealthiest nations in the world . . . yet half of our populace does not make enough to survive.

Despite this, corporate tyranny harasses the poor relentlessly during the holiday season. They are subject to shame and inferiority, accused of selfishness and cold-heartedness, humiliated by national leaders for being lazy and not working hard enough, subjected to lectures about fiscal management, and unjustly chastised for being wasteful of money during the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, the mega-corporations and the super wealthy proudly flaunt their charitable donations. They self-righteously laud themselves for providing “affordable options” for the average American. They throw galas and fundraisers and toast to the New Year, draping themselves in extravagance.

Never once do they mention the complicity of their corporations in causing the impoverishment of millions! Never once do they confess to the political policies that stretch soup kitchen lines down the block. Never once do the mega-corporations consider paying their workers a living wage. Never once do the super-wealthy propose tax measures that would reinvest their fortunes into prosperity for all Americans!

Instead, they perpetuate the abject lie that poverty is the result of laziness.

Fifty percent of Americans are not lazy, my friends. I can guarantee that. Poverty is the grim, austere ally in our resistance to corporate domination. Half of our populace can no longer afford to support Christmas. But although poverty has ended much of our nation’s willful participation in excess consumerism, the people have yet to give full support to the resistance. Poverty constrains them, frightens them, and forces them into subjugation to the power of the elite.

This is why I urge the conscious resisters of the Dandelion Insurrection to transform poverty’s constraints into an active boycott of mega-corporations for holiday shopping. A boycott may be largely symbolic for those who have nothing to spend . . . but if even a few souls avoid the enslavement of holiday credit card debt, then the reframing of poverty is worth it. A boycott of tyranny strengthens us all, empowering us through a simple switch in perspective. We are not ashamed to be poor non-participants in Christmas . . . we are proud to be actively resisting the corporations that subject millions to suffering!

And if we are fortunate enough to have some resources to spend, let us apply it to building the foundations for change. For all of us, the holiday season is a major opportunity to wage resistance to the corporate empire’s take-over of our nation. Let us not forfeit a moment, a dollar, or a single word of conversation during this time of active engagement.

If you have nothing, wage an act of resistance: boycott!

If you have something, wage an act of resilience: strengthen our allies for struggle.

And in every interaction during the holiday madness, remember the greatest resistance to tyranny. In all of your words, actions, and deeds . . . be kind, be connected, and be unafraid!

 


Rivera SunRivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to her most recent novel, The Dandelion Insurrection, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength. Learn more about Rivera and her work on her website.

 

The Man From the North: Story 2

The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today,” when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution.

The story below is one of several written by the Man From the North. The article series is not included in the novel and was originally published on Dandelion Salad. We will feature a Man From the North story on a weekly basis through June 3, 2015. You can read the entire series at Dandelion Salad. The Dandelion Insurrection and a companion study guide can be purchased on Rivera’s website.


Tis the Season to Wage Boycotts

Boycott Season is now upon us. Let every citizen take careful aim. Your target is the corporate empire. Your weapon is your wallet.

For decades, corporations have defined the battlefield of shopping malls, box stores, mail order catalogues, and online sites. They have set the timeframe back each year; Halloween currently kicks off the battles. You can see the preparations: the lights rolled out, the anthems played, the trees set up like cannons. The enlistment fliers have been posted far and wide: on billboards, in newspapers and magazines. The radio sends out the call: all shoppers to the front! Every family must support the effort and do their patriotic duty. The costs are high; savings must be sacrificed. The debts pile up like soldiers’ bodies, unspeakable.

But it can’t be helped – the holidays fuel our country. Like wars for oil, it’s unavoidable. The politicians break out patriotic speeches to sugarcoat the truth. They profess the noble sentiments of generosity, charity, the gift of giving; they tell us to show our love for home and country by buying useless, needless trinkets. The recruitment posters of Uncle Sam have been revamped; Santa – with the same white whiskers – in a suit of Coca-Cola red, now laughs and smiles, but delivers the same old message:

“I want YOU!” . . . to fight this war.

It’s a corporate war – like every war – fought for profit and commercial gain. Superficial sentiments pour out like propaganda, but the real reasons are the same. Behind the scenes of jolly storefront holiday displays, massive machinations control the spoils of the war. At the end of it all, there is no winner. We’re in the era of modern warfare now. Borderless, pointless, endless warring is a hallmark of our times. By New Year’s though, the casualties are high, and, as always, ordinary people pay the highest price. January finds us crippled, shell-shocked, broke, and not a jot happier or healthier or closer to our families.

And here it comes again . . . hear the little drummer boy calling you to the battle?

Come, they told me, pa-rump-pa-pa-poom.

Religion, remember, is the most touted reason for sending in the troops. You’ll be conscripted under the guise of many beliefs. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa . . . all the celebrations serve to get you shopping. Once you enlist, you give up all sovereignty as a citizen. You’re a consumer-soldier now, under orders to raise your credit card and fire the dollars out like bullets.

Grab your machine guns, shoppers! Black Friday is at hand! The big box stores open up at midnight to send forth the dogs of war! Cry havoc! Riot! See the people trampled, shelves plundered, looting, pushing, shoving, noble sentiments forgotten – that’s how it goes in war!

Does this appall you? Good. I call you to my side. An army of resistance is forming of citizens who refuse to take part in war. Our flag is the Dandelion Insurrection; our cause is the well being of all.

Life! Liberty! Love! That is our rallying cry.

Be kind, be connected, be unafraid! These are the principles that guide us.

We spring up in the cracks of corporate empire. We break through the concrete of control. When the wealthy order us to fight rich men’s war . . . we simply will not go. We boycott greed and tyranny. We put our wallets down. We have no ammunition in them. We refuse to borrow it from their banks. We won’t go into debt to line their pockets. We are citizens first; soldiers never; and consumers only when the cause is just. We remember the oft asked, never answered question: what if they held a war and no one showed up?

The Holiday Season is now upon us, but it’s Boycott Season for us. The corporations have lined up their legions. They have invested their billions in battle. They have poured in their efforts to prepare the parades, ready the marching tunes of carols, and arm the command of salespeople. But the Dandelion Insurrection is ready. Our trump card is in our hand. When they amass on the edge of the battlefield . . .

We simply will not be there.

 


Rivera SunRivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to her most recent novel, The Dandelion Insurrection, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength. Learn more about Rivera and her work on her website.

 

 

The Man From the North: Story 1

The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today,” when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution.

The story below is one of several written by the Man From the North. The article series is not included in the novel and was originally published on Dandelion Salad. We will feature a Man From the North story on a weekly basis through June 3, 2015. You can read the entire series at Dandelion Salad.


The War On Terror is a Typo

In the political arena of double-speak, outright lies, serpents’ tongues, appalling misnomers, and sins of omission, time alone stands up to champion truth. Time will tell, they say . . . so listen close to this report:

“The War On Terror” is a typo.

“The War Of Terror” is what they mean.

Paint the White House black with shame, or red with the murdered blood of innocents. Paint it silver for the lying tongues that sent the War of Terror around the world. Paint it dull gray for the drones that kill civilians by remote control, or ash-gray for the million soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. Dump sack clothes over the silk suits in Congress. For shame, America! For shame!

Let every citizen know: they did this in our name.

Time tells every truth but the silence of complicity. History won’t remember sentiments never spoken; it will forget idle comments and half-hearted complaints. Only action is remembered. Opposition is the only option for those who object to murderers and crooks. In silence, your name is lumped with all the others in a package of our politicians. The nation’s powerful don America’s mask and flash the identification of the United States. In your name, they wage illegal, unjust, unnecessary wars. In the name of your security and prosperity, they drum up sales for the military-industrial complex. Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iran, and Syria: door-to-door, they knock with their deathly wares. Sometimes they make a sale; sometimes they have to wait. It’s a regular circuit for America the Salesman, the Capitalist with Guns.

Back at home, he kisses babies, cuts the roast, regales the family with stories from the road . . . how he helped a customer ‘get rid’ of vermin; how he fixes women’s ‘plumbing’ and eats their pies for payment; how he teaches kids to shoot a gun – just like his little Johnny.

One day, he calls back home . . . little Johnny’s all grown up. Time to join the family business . . . so Johnny got his gun and proudly joined his Pop, enlisted, drafted, and put to work for America the Salesman, the Capitalist with Guns. Strong-armed, well-built, ready to help, Johnny looked around for the goods his Pop delivered: democracy, equality, prosperity, justice, security, safety, and freedom.

“Never mind those,” his old man said. “Just remember the sales pitch, The War On Terror Must Be Fought!”

“But Pop,” young Johnny said as he was reading up one night, “that’s not what it says. There’s a typo. Look here, the plan was for The War Of Terror!”

“Never mind that, son,” his old man said. “We can’t sell that. It’s the War On Terror, now . . . just you remember that!”

Johnny remembered alright. He remembered the terror in the children’s eyes, the terror on the women’s faces, the terror as he pulled the trigger, the terror of the fleeing villagers, the terror of the drones, the bombs, the kicking in of doors, the terrible disfiguring as white phosphorus fell on people, the terrifying insanity of the orders from his Pop, the senselessness, the outright lies, the burnt-out towns, the desperate men-turned-terrorists to stop America the Salesman, the hatred in their eyes, the guilt in Johnny’s chest, the despair that ate his heart – the lies from his Pop! – the gun in his hand, the barrel on his head, the trigger being pulled –

Here lies Johnny, son of America, killed by . . . the coroner pauses in his report. Terrorists didn’t kill him. He didn’t die in combat. Can’t report another soldier suicide, not with the rates skyrocketing like they are. Cause of death? Lies, the coroner snorts bitterly, but you can’t write that.

Cause of Death, Unknown.

Paint the White House black with shame; drape it deep in mourning. Stamp a drone across our flag of freedom. Replace the stars with surveillance eyes . . . but leave the stripes of red. Let them bleed across the white. Let the people weep to see the truth. The War On Terror was packaged up and sold, and only time will tell the truth of typos unless we confront our politicians’ lies.

 


Rivera SunRivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to her most recent novel, The Dandelion Insurrection, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength. Learn more about Rivera and her work on her website.

In Memoriam: Marshall Rosenberg (1934 – 2015)

Photo: Kirk Crippens

Marshall RosenbergI am typing this while listening in on a memory circle—a conference call joined by people all over the planet to memorialize Marshall Rosenberg, the late founder of Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Marshall passed from this life last weekend. I knew him best from the years he taught regularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, showing advanced students and newcomers alike how to skillfully use language to reconnect with ourselves and others when in conflict or despair.

Marshall authored several books, including the highly popular Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. In 1984, he founded The Center for Nonviolent Communication, which has been instrumental in spreading NVC education. There are hundreds of NVC trainers and trainings around the globe, and people from near and far are calling in to share their memories, gratitude and grief. This call has been going nonstop for over 50 hours by now, indicating the worldwide impact Marshall had through his work. The call also goes to show some of the power of NVC for creating something we could call Beloved Community. (You can join the ongoing call here.)

From my current perspective of having worked with NVC and learning principled nonviolence at Metta Center, I would say that Marshall popularized and made the ancient wisdom of nonviolence more user-friendly. His vision for peace follows the model of swadeshi, or localism, where we act from within first, then our relationships, then society:

I would like us to create peace at three levels and have each of us to know how to do it. First, within ourselves. That is to know how we can be peaceful with ourselves when we’re less than perfect, for example. How we can learn from our limitations without blaming and punishing our self. If we can’t do that, I’m not too optimistic how we’re going to relate peacefully out in the world. Second, between people. Nonviolent Communication training shows people how to create peace within themselves and at the same time how to create connections with other people that allows compassionate giving to take place naturally. And third, in our social systems. To look out at the structures that we’ve created, the governmental structures and other structures, and to look at whether they support peaceful connections between us and if not, to transform those structures.

Marshall’s goal was to develop a practical process for interaction, one rooted in Gandhi’s theory and philosophy of ahimsa, the overflowing love that arises when ill-will, anger and hate subside from the heart. In the video below, he envisions a “critical mass” of “re-educated people”—people trained to see one another’s humanity and our interconnectedness so that “the needs of everyone on the planet” can be  met, compassionately. May it be so.

Alice Paul: Not Just a Radical

Who really was Alice Paul?

This is the question that Zoe Nicholson, satyagrahi, feminist, scholar, and lifelong activist, spent over forty years nicholsonresearching and synthesizing to realize the woman from the sensationalized myth of a woman we have been taught about in school or that has been depicted in film. Through her research Nicholson found that many authors did not really know Alice Paul, and it showed in how they wrote about her. Nicholson has read countless books and recounts of Paul, and countless interviews and transcripts to create a more realistic, more true to who Paul was and what she did. She took it upon herself to write about her muse as accurately as possible-as an activist by an activist. Paul has not been recognized as an activist that uses nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience. Much of the rhetoric describing Paul is radical, feminist, and fighter for justice- she has not described as a tireless, cunning, and aggressive political strategist and effective satyagrahi.

 

 “Ultimately Miss Alice Paul showed us that creating change is all in the contrast, in the differential.   As activists, we are called to make an unforgettable spectacle of ourselves.  Anything less than novel will not do.  At an unexpected and/or unwelcome time, create what the opponent will perceive as chaos.  Always pressing for greater contrast from what was, what is and what is wanted.  All in the interest of the mission.  What do we have today to create the contrast?  What can we do to demonstrate the outcome we want while permanently breaking convention.  What can a person do that alerts them and all who see, that there is a possibility for a different Life?  Liberty? Justice?”

missalicepaulcover

In true Alice fashion, Nicholson is writing her latest book, Miss Alice Paul~ Heart of an Activist, in serial format as an ongoing public online project, uploading chapters as she writes them and updating as needed, providing a wealth of additional resources such as photos, references of over fifty books and articles, a PDF brochure and YouTube Video addition and some merchandise for Alice Paul admirers everywhere.

In the many beautifully written chapters, Nicholson retells Alice’s story, in careful detail, recognizing Paul’s strategy and its effects. In Chapter 3, Make a Spectacle of Yourself, she describes one of Paul’s most famous strategies, the 1913 Suffrage procession and pageant in great detail. She points out an important strategy used by Paul in which she created a spectacle as a method of demanding the public’s attention to her cause and simultaneously sending a message. A female protest of that size and organization was unprecedented. In her analyses, Nicholson seamlessly provides a narrative of Paul’s life as well as highlighting the many ways in which Alice Paul was a courageous visionary.

 suffragemarchLawyer Inez Milholland Boissevian leading the Suffrage Parade on March 3,1913. (theatlantic.com)

“This would be a visible collective, signaling a change that went far beyond the vote.  Her goal was not to sell suffrage to the nation but to demonstrate power to one another and the government. By leaving home, assembling in public, walking down this most famous street, they shed their own inequality, even if for that single day.”- Chapter 3

Nicholson provides a valuable resource on Paul, adding dimension and vivacity that paints a more holistic picture of one of America’s most revolutionary figures.

As Heard on PPR: Albanian Blood Feuds

As mentioned by Michael Nagler in “Nonviolence in the News” section on January 23, 2015 episode of Peace Paradigm Radio (PPR), The Art of Nonviolence, Operazione Colomba (Operation Dove) is a project by the Pope John Paul XXIII community to promote nonviolence, peacekeeping, and peace-building in conflict zones. Currently, Operative Dove is operating in several countries: Israel, Palestine, Colombia, and as Michael mentioned, Albania, a country suffering tremendously by the horrific culture of blood feuds.

Blood feuds are based on brutal eye-for-an-eye vengeance dictated by the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini, an ancient Albanian code of law. “The Kanun was transmitted orally for generations, and it served as a foundation of social behavior and self-government for the clans of Northern Albania for more than five centuries (it was collected and put in writing during the first quarter of the 20th century). The importance of the Kanun in the history of the Albanian people can scarcely be overestimated, and its precepts continue to exert a significant influence on a significant number of Albanian families living in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, as well as in other countries to which Albanians have emigrated.” (excerpt from Blood-Feud – Internally Displacing Because of Life Security Threat)

 

“Once  a bloodletting has set the wheel of vengeance in motion, only the annihilation of the other party could bring it to a stop, for obligations of badal passed from father to son. One vendetta in the province had claimed more than a hundred lives, yet no one could remember how it started.”

-Excerpt from: Nonviolent Soldier of Islam

Kanun had the role of strengthening the cohesion of Albanian people, which had been oppressed for centuries by external incursions and invasions, through the regulation of private and public relationships. This judicial code collects the history of the judicial and institutional tradition of Albanian people. It is important to highlight the central role honor plays in Albanian culture.  Honor is the constitutive factor of the relationship between individuals and membership community. To maintain intact one’s own honor became an absolute individual and collective prescription. According to the Kanun, the blood of a murder victim should be avenged with the blood of the killer. The resulting feuds can last generations and affect whole families. Affected families are confined to their homes, unable to leave for fear of immediate death and retribution. This violence is gender-based. Men hold the family honor and when murdered, the men of the family must get retribution through the killing of any male member of the perpetrator’s family. Women are also greatly affected through the Kanun. Traditionally exempt from retribution killing, women are expected to work and handle out of the house duties. This unusual gender responsibility adds another layer of conflict both within the home and out. Women are not provided the same opportunities as men. Part of familial honor in Albania is derived from the male’s ability to provide for his family: stripped of that honor men are subject to judgment of cultural and social norms. It has been observed by Operation Dove that women and children have become victims in retribution killing. The effects of blood feuds particularly affect children, who are confined to their homes, unable to receive education unless a home tutor is provided by the school. The devastating ripples of blood feuds cannot be overstated.

The Albanian state acknowledges the prominence of blood feuds in Albanian society, but cannot provide protection or justice to those threatened by the phenomenon. The Albanian National Reconciliation Committee was created to document blood feuds and offer professional mediators to diffuse conflict, but there are not enough resources or trust in the system to provide adequate resolution. The lack of institutional protection has strengthened the power and influence of the Kanun as a rule of law. It has been largely left up to NGOs and the community to do the groundwork necessary to foster resolution and restorative justice. Operation Dove has been working in northern Albanian communities, particularly in the Shkodër area since 2010 to promote reconciliation and peace. Their practice is oriented in restorative justice, reconciliation, and community building. Operation Dove’s methods are diverse: they carry out monthly demonstrations against blood revenge in main social areas in the Shkodër area, provide medical support, ensure access to medical care via nonviolent escorts, education and activities for families living in isolation, hold roundtable discussions with local civil society members intended to collaborate against a culture of revenge. The organization focuses on providing opportunities for storytelling; for both victims and perpetrators to have a safe space where their stories can be heard. There is a “Youth Group” that creates short films on revenge and  reconciliation, promoting the importance of knowing the other in order to overcome prejudice. Through Sisters of Ravasco, nonviolence trainings are available for students of Operation Dove so they can independently pursue the path of reconciliation within Albania. Empowering individuals by building skills in nonviolence and reconciliation are essential in fostering foundational changes in conflict practices. Operation Dove also provides accompaniments, a very successful and vital peacekeeping strategy world wide in which a third party accompanies a person in danger. This has been a very powerful tactic as it raises the stakes of an attack against the threatened individual. An accompaniment is a powerful nonviolent tactic because the presence of a third party, especially one risking their own safety for the sake of peace in an impartial (non-partisan) spirit, changes the psychological dynamic of a dualistic, victim/victimizer situation.  There may be additional costs due to public or international exposure.

The Khudai Khidmatgars or "Servants of God" were the world's first "army of peace". (Wikimedia).

The Khudai Khidmatgars or “Servants of God” were the world’s first “army of peace”. (Wikimedia).

Moves towards constructive program in Albania are critical to heal the violence of blood feuds and redefine a culture without violence. With government failing to adequately address the situation, Albanians themselves must own and create new systems in order to move towards a society ingrained with empathy and nonviolence. The story of Badshah Khan comes to mind. From Utmanzai, a town also ruled by cultural rules, called Pushtunwali (the unwritten law of the Pathan). Pushtunwali dictated a strict revenge code, Badal, that obligated a Pathan to avenge at the slightest insult. Eknath Easwaran describes in Nonviolent Soldier of Islam,

Badshah Khan was able to elevate the Pathan culture through constructive program mainly in the areas of education and gender equality. Through a foundation of constructive program, Khan was able to found the Khudai Khidmatgars (Servants of God), a successful nonviolent army to rid India of British rule. Khan also promoted svadeshi (local development) as a way to furnish strength as people develop self-reliance and solve their own problems better than a distant government. Creating parallel institutions that serve the community is a powerful and successful method of peacebuilding.

By promoting svadeshi, individuals and communities can develop a capacity for self-reliance based on human dignity and empathy, leading to a sense of community which would be a strong protection against internecine feuding, especially when coupled with restorative methods of resolving inevitable conflicts.

While the work of Operation Dove in N. Albania deals with a specific kind of vengeance, we feel that much of their work could be applied to the phenomenon of vengeance as a whole. Revenge practices have dictated world conflict culture. When I reflect on history, and current headlines, I see harmful cycles of revenge in many areas. The vengeance that occurs on a much larger scale could be addressed through some of the mechanisms listed above, as the fundamental dynamics of vengeance obtain everywhere.

_________________________________________________________________________

[1] Resta P. (2000), Il Kanun, Nardò: Besa editrice; Martucci D. (2009), Il Kanun di Lek Dukagjini, le basi morali e giuridiche della società albanese, Nardò: Besa editrice.

UNESCO’s Global Citizenship Education Forum

UNESCO GCE

Nonviolence on the International Education Agenda

From January 28-30, 2015, I had the opportunity to participate in UNESCO’s Second Forum on Global Citizenship Education (GCED), which was held in the lead up to the World Education Forum (WEF). At the WEF, the educational goals for the post-2015 development agenda will be established, following the Millennium Development Goals that end this year. Over 250 participants from all regions of the world, including educators, academics, policy makers, government officials, civil society representatives, gathered at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris to discuss recommendations for how global citizenship should be included in the international education agenda.

In the working draft of the proposed Framework for Action, Goal 4 deals with education, and states that member states should ensure “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Global citizenship – and nonviolence – are specifically mentioned in target 4.7:

“By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”

But what do we mean by global citizenship education? UNESCO describes GCED as “values, knowledge and skills that are based n and instill respect for human rights, social justice, diversity, gender equality, and environmental sustainability and that empower learners to be responsible global citizens.” This may also sound like peace education or sustainable development education, or one of the many fields of education which strive for transformation of oneself and the world. In the UNESCO guide on GCED, Toh Swee-Hin explains it as such:

“Important entry points for GCE are peace education, human rights education, education for international understanding, and education for sustainable development. They are like a river with many tributaries: in this river we can mix and learn from each other.”

Rather than viewing these as separate fields of education, they are interrelated and overlapping, all seeking the outcome of transformation towards a just, peaceful, sustainable, nonviolent world. While they may differ slightly in approach and focus, they share greatly in what they offer in terms of knowledge, skills, values, and also the pedagogy through which they are taught. They also emphasize lifelong learning, and the need for education opportunities at the formal, nonformal  (community-based) and informal (media, parenting, etc.) levels.

Right now, there is energy and enthusiasm for global citizenship education at the United Nations among some member states, notably South Korea, Austria and Oman (who supported the meeting). UNESCO is in the process of developing a guide of teaching and learning objectives for policymakers and educators that will help them implement GCED at the national level.

SKC UNESCO GCE

As the policy rapporteur for the meeting, I was responsible for taking extensive notes during the plenaries and concurrent sessions, and then summarizing the key recommendations in a ten-minute presentation on the last day of the conference, along with the rapporteurs on implementation and partnerships (you can find the slides here).

One of the key findings for policy that came up repeatedly was the need for teacher training (both pre- and in-service) to be included and emphasized in policy, and to support this, the need for creating institutes and programs for GCED leadership (such as masters  degrees in GCED). Another strong theme throughout the conference was the meaningful, authentic inclusion of youth in all levels of decision making regarding their education. Additionally, there was a call for a broader base of stakeholders to be included in the policymaking process, such as teachers, parents, students, and other members of the community. We heard of one example from Central America of how this was conducted over a period of 8 years, which gives hope that such an inclusive process can in fact be implemented in spite of challenges.

One of the most inspiring parts of the event for me was hearing from representatives from different countries that have related national policies, such as for peace education. Kenya, for example, has a national policy for peace education that came about after the 2007-2008 election violence. Colombia also recently mandated that peace be taught in all schools. Both of these initiatives came about in light of violence experienced in those countries (the post-election violence and civil wars, respectively), and I found myself wishing that in the US, we could respond to our own violence in such a constructive way. These examples provide us with many lessons learned, from how the policies came to pass, to what has worked well, as well as the challenges. While gaps remain between the policy and implementation, these policies are still quite new and give hope for the potential of mainstreaming peace education (and related education) in schools.

One of the highlights of the conference for me was a comment during our last open session Q&A from Dr. Peter deSouza of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, who opened the forum’s first plenary with his thought-provoking talk on “Revisioning Education in Today’s World.” Dr. deSouza brought to our attention that it was the anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination, and we should explicitly commit to nonviolence as one of the universal principles for global citizenship, and better yet, to use the original Sanskrit in the document, as some of the meaning gets lost in translation. While nonviolence is included in target 4.7, it had not been discussed at the forum in the context of GCED. Throughout the forum, participants had agreed that a set of universal principles for GCED needed to be established (such as gender equality, respect for human rights, etc.), which could then be adapted for local contexts.

The gap between policy and practice was a persistent theme, and at times I think we were all wondering what such lofty goals mean if we always fall short of reaching them (we have not fulfilled the MDGs, for example). However, one participant pointed out that although we may not reach the goals in the time we had hoped, these policies point us in the right direction and tend to hasten change to that effect. If we are able to take steps closer to making Target 4.7 a reality, I truly believe we will also be on our way to a more just, peaceful, sustainable world.

Introducing… Mercedes Mack

Mercedes MackAs an intern at Metta Center, Mercedes Mack supports our mission in a variety of ways: she writes insightful, context-filled posts for our History blog; provides event and administrative assistance; contributes research and project ideas. She juggles quite a lot (and we’re incredibly grateful for her capacity to do so!).

Mercedes is currently working on her BA of Science in Political Science, at Sonoma State University in California, where she also participates in National Model United Nations (NMUN). With a passion for international cooperation, Mercedes applies nonviolence philosophy to her NMUN experiences, both in resolution writing and caucusing. Approaching solutions with the intention of preserving human dignity, she says, gives her a win-win perspective on international issues.

In 2012, Mercedes interned for Rep. Lois Capps (CA, 23rd District). Then in the fall of that year, she served as the regional political director for Gary G. Miller’s congressional campaign (R-CA13, 2013-2014).

Mercedes is with the Metta Center team for two semesters. It’s no secret to us that she makes many positive contributions toward a nonviolent culture, and that she has a bright career ahead of her. We thought you might like to meet her for yourself.


How did you first hear about Metta Center?

One of my professors, Dr. Cynthia Boaz in the Political Science department at Sonoma State University, introduced me to Metta Center when I expressed a serious interest in learning the theory of nonviolence. She has worked with Metta Center before. I checked out Metta on the web, I had an interview and the rest is history!

When did you start your internship, and what inspired you to join us?

I started in August of 2014. I joined the team with little expectation of what it would be like and an open attitude to serve. I was very ready to learn about principled nonviolence, Gandhi and how an organization would even start to spread the word about nonviolence.

What personal and/or professional goals might you like to accomplish through your internship?

I want to develop and strengthen my meditation practice. This was not a goal I had entering the Metta Center, but in my time here meditation organically grew into a personal goal. I have begun to understand the deep connection between meditation and nonviolence and feel it is both a service to myself and to others to practice meditation. Metta has been a very supportive environment to experiment with and grow in my meditation practice.

As a student of political science, I am absolutely fascinated by politics, law and human nature. Revisiting topics through a nonviolent lens has been eye-opening, to say the least. By studying nonviolence, I intend to integrate it in my career in international politics and represent the nonviolent perspective in government and politics. With knowledge of nonviolence from Metta, I could one day be a candidate for work as a peacekeeper, diplomat or in some capacity with the United Nations.

Are there any particular skills and knowledges you’ve developed as a direct result of your internship thus far?

I have developed skills in meditation, writing, event organizing and research. In writing History blog posts, I have learned how to find information on under reported events in nonviolence and explain the events in greater detail and technicality. I have found that many times the strategy behind, and the effects of, nonviolent phenomenon are not appropriately reported. Being able to expand on under-analyzed nonviolent events has allowed me to further “learn by doing” by explaining nonviolent strategies and outcomes in the context of each movement.

Through my service and involvement I have learned how a nonprofit works. By participating in roundtable discussions I have learned how to better clearly communicate thoughts and ideas to a large group in an open and collaborative setting. I’ve learned how tasks and projects are delegated among multiple people and layers of responsibility are established and maintained. It’s an aspect of nonprofits that I have never been exposed to before, and it’s very rewarding to learn from the nonviolent work ethic demonstrated within Metta.

Describe your internship experiences—what do you find most challenging and/or rewarding about interning for a small nonprofit on a big mission?

I find it most rewarding to work in a nonviolent environment, surrounded by people who are committed to the New Story, to uplifting human dignity to redefine our human experience. It is so great to see the breadth of involvement by Metta members, from all over the world and California, connect and work together in their respective communities.

A great challenge, and probably the most important challenge, is figuring out how to teach nonviolence to a larger audience, or an audience that is unfamiliar with nonviolence. Through my time here, I’ve realized that it’s not that we don’t know about nonviolence, it’s that we don’t consciously know we already know about nonviolence. So it’s not so much to teach, but to re-awaken what is already a part of our natural being. It is sometimes a trial and error process requiring patience and flexibility.

How do your studies and practices of nonviolence benefit you?

The benefits of cultivating a meditation (or yoga)  practice are a powerful daily benefit. It is so important to be intentional and present in everything I do.

Through my study of nonviolence, I am able to approach conflict from a place of understanding rather than response. I have also learned that conflict itself is inevitable and neutral. Conflict itself is not the “enemy”. I won’t continue life without encountering it; but how I handle it makes all the difference and that has been incredibly empowering.

What’s your favorite nonviolence quote?

“So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?” ~ Dr. MLK Jr., in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

To give some context, Dr. MLK Jr. was responding to the criticisms that his strategies in Birmingham were too extreme. This is a common criticism that many social justice movements get, and I loved his response because it highlighted that it’s not being extreme that was the problem, it was being passive and cooperative by compliance to practices that do not honor human dignity that was the problem.


Feel free to leave questions or comments for Mercedes below. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.