Metta’s Opinion

Disturbance at UC Berkeley: A Few Thoughts

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RESONATING as it did with widespread feelings of frustration and impotence, the “successful” action last week to prevent right-wing agitator Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at the invitation of student Republicans on the Berkeley campus has been met with a certain grudging admiration even by those in the peace and nonviolence fold. This, while understandable on the emotional level, I regard as a huge mistake (hence the quotes above around “successful”). It was feelings of frustration and impotence that after all brought us to this pass, where the “world’s oldest democracy” has fallen victim to a kind of pre-fascist takeover; nothing less than a “soft coup” that’s still in place.

What could have been done instead? (more…)

Notes on Nonviolence Strategy: Part 2

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This post is the second part of a two-part series. Part 1 looks at the outward aspects of strategy: creating a proactive, long-term nonviolent movement. This part turns to the inner aspects of strategy: exploring who we are as human beings and building meaningful lives.


Man appears to be the embodiment of want. Want is what he thinks about and want indeed is what he obtains. Contemplate your true being or else there will be want, wrong action, helplessness, distress, and death. ~ Anandamayi Ma

It occurs to me more and more as I listen to the arguments and discussions stirred up by the current crisis that in order to make sense of this crisis for ourselves and to one another we need to start much earlier, from something very basic. We need to ask ourselves, each one of us, three questions: (more…)

Notes on Nonviolence Strategy: Part 1

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This first post looks at the outward aspects of strategy: creating a proactive, long-term nonviolent movement. The second part considers the inner aspects of strategy: exploring who we are as human beings and building meaningful lives.


It has been heartwarming to see the passion with which many Americans have said their “No!” to the policies of hatred and intolerance put forward by this extremely unfortunate administration. We are not and never will be a land of hate.

At the same time, passion must be harnessed. Nonviolence advocates and scholars are very aware of the limitations of what we call “the effervescence of the crowd.” As Erica Chenoweth, George Lakey, and others are pointing out, to prevail against the current barrage of attacks on our democracy – and moral character as a nation – we must be sure to develop the resurgent movement, with the following guidelines: (more…)

In 2017, I resolve to…

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I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I am a big fan of daily resolve. Each day brings the opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been, to renew our intentions and ideals. Flowers that gently bust through concrete is an apt visual of resolve: lay down your roots, stay determined and you’ll get there eventually.

The Metta Center’s Pledge of Nonviolent Resistance offers a unique take on daily resolve. As the title implies, the pledge largely centers on resisting harmful forces with love-in-action. The word “resistance” can trigger strong reactions like fear and anger for many of us. I find it helpful to work through these energies by remembering that resisting injustices, untruths and authoritarian styles of leadership is rooted in personal-societal transformation. (more…)

Pledge of Protection and Nonviolent Resistance

To ensure continued progress toward a world of peace, justice, and dignity for all, I HEREBY PLEDGE with love and determination that, for as long as required and as long as I am able, I will:

PROTECT my home, Planet Earth, by RESISTING attitudes and actions that compromise the living systems that sustain all Life;

PROTECT the social fabric of my country by RESISTING attitudes and actions that marginalize others through prejudice, scapegoating, or other forms of hatred and division;

PROTECT and strengthen the security of my country by RESISTING violence and militarization, especially in the mass media and our cultural and educational institutions; and

LEARN nonviolence principles and practice them in all available forms, constructive and obstructive, as a guiding principle in my own life and the way to resolve these issues permanently and well, for all concerned.

Would you like a copy of this pledge, to keep you inspired? We’ve created a PDF for you—just download it (and feel free to share it!).

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A note from us on the above image:

The Abhaya mudra is a gesture that represents peace, protection, and the dispelling of fear, as ‘abhaya’ means fearlessness. Notice that the hand is unarmed and friendly. Resistance in its highest state offers these qualities. This gesture can be accompanied by another mudra, one of an open palm, reaching outward, signifying that while we will protect what we hold dear, we uphold a fundamental unity between us. In other words, “I am open to you as a human being.” 

 

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“I will not cooperate with your injustice, but I am open to you as a human being.”

-the late nonviolence scholar and activist Barbara Demming on the “two hands of nonviolence.

 

It’s Time to Take Action

By George Payne

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

To passively accept the Trump agenda is to cooperate with evil. By evil, Dr. King always implied the forces of selfishness, pride, ignorance, and mercilessness that arise when the virtues of wisdom, love, compassion, and courage have been silenced.

With King’s prophetic words in mind, now is the time for the peace and justice community to respond with a unified, unambiguous, strategic voice of dissent against Donald Trump. Now is the time for creative disobedience and loving confrontation. It is not the time for mere passive disapproval and veiled complicity.

Since most people who oppose Trump are feeling incapacitated right now, the best way to overcome this sensation of helplessness is to do something constructive, hope inducing, and goal oriented with others. For expert help, the most prolific source of information about active nonviolence resistance is the work of Gene Sharp. (See more about Sharp’s methods at 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.)

If I had to choose a few immediate actions from Sharp’s list, I would recommend assemblies of protest or protest meetings. Public assemblies empower those in attendance and send a message to the opposition that there is an active community which is working behind the scenes and on the front lines.

Secondly, I believe that ostracism of persons can be effective if done with the right intention. Social boycott of Trump’s products, selective social boycotts of companies that are in business with Trump, and a variety of symbolic nonaction days can all have a powerful effect.

Thirdly, I would recommend action by holders of financial resources. Withdrawal of bank deposits, refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments, refusal to pay debts or interest, severance of funds and credit, revenue refusal and even refusal of government money can be potent forms of resistance.

Last but not least, peace and justice organizations should be mobilizing their members and constituents to physically intervene by engaging in sit-sins, stand-ins, ride-ins, wade- ins, mill-ins, and pray-ins.

There are so many ways to actively oppose Donald Trump by using nonviolent civil resistance, that perhaps the most consequential act is to do nothing at all. As King put it: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

George Payne
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Finger Lakes Community College


A Note from Michael Nagler:

We are pleased to share this blog from our friend George Payne. We could not agree more that this is not a time for passivity. Indeed, Gandhi would call passivity a form of violence. To add to his apt quote from King, (I paraphrase) the problem is not that ill- intentioned people do so much but that well-intentioned people do so little.

However, there are several pretty major disagreements we at Metta would have with George’s article, some of which have no doubt already leapt out at our readers, and George and I agree that it might be instructive to list them here:

  •   Gene Sharp is no longer the “most prolific source of information about active nonviolence resistance.” Happily, a whole generation of top-notch scholars has become quite active, starting perhaps with the marvelous study of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works. A whole new genre has arisen, and it goes far beyond Sharp’s invaluable pioneering work.
  •   Sharp got some public attention to nonviolence, but to do so he paid a price we regard as unfortunate: he ignored the deeper principles of “the greatest power humankind has been endowed with” and presented not nonviolence so much as non-violence; not the presence of that power but the mere political expedient of withdrawing ordinary power, namely consent from political oppression. One consequence was to focus all attention on one only of the infinite applications of real (principled) nonviolence, namely overthrowing oppressive regimes. Modern history (think of Egypt, for one example) shows that with this “strategic non- violence” you often only swap one set of dictators for another. But the deeper consequence is to stay within the “old paradigm” framework, which we think cuts off nonviolence from its future.
  •   The famous 198 techniques listed by Sharp therefore have to be sifted by the criteria of principled nonviolence (PNV). Some dozen or so of them are completely unacceptable by those criteria, for example those that advocate humiliation of the opponent; and so when George recommends “ostracism of persons” in his second recommendation for action we would have to demur. The very core of nonviolent power, virtually all major practitioners and advocates would agree, is the separation of the person from the deed: to “hate the sin but not the sinner.” In strategic nonviolence (SNV) á là Sharp (in his later work) the goal is to defeat the opponent; in PNV it is to win him or her over, if at all possible in the given time.
  •   Back up to recommendation #1: “protest meetings.” 90% of protests today are too little, too late. They apply only in stage one of our escalation curve, and the conflicts we will be facing are well beyond, deep in stage two.

This means that we are in complete agreement with George’s last two recommendations, which in fact represent a constructive and an obstructive approach. On a final note, then, it is a great thing that we are able to have this cordial discussion, even about things that mean a lot to both of us but on which we have some substantial agreements. If only the political discourse in America could return to that cordiality!

(more…)

Spotlight: Miroslava Sobot

Currently dividing her time between Austria and Croatia, Miroslava Sobot is a multidisciplinary graphic designer.

miroslava_sobotShe has been working on Metta Center projects for the last couple of years, from laying out brochures to designing the cover and interior of Stephanie Van Hook’s Gandhi’s Search for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children. It’s simply too much for one person to both edit and design a 60-page magazine (I know, because I’ve been that said person), so we also brought her on board to take over the layout of Nonviolence magazine (stay tuned for our Winter/Spring 2017 issue—it’s coming soon, and it’s incredible!). (more…)

Faith in a Time of Shock & Sorrow

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“If you lose,” the Dalai Lama once said, “don’t lose the lesson.” What is the lesson we must try to learn from this devastating election setback?

First that the anger, prejudice, and self-centeredness in this country is more widespread and deeper than we wanted to imagine. Second, that in the days to come we will have to struggle against much steeper odds than we thought. (more…)