Ask Metta

From Metta Mandir: Part 2

*During our first virtual hope tank, looking for upsides to the shelter in place rule affecting those of us in California and subsequently much of the nation we remembered that Gandhi actually relished his prison terms as times from meditation and R&R — and Reflection.  He published weekly articles under the title From Yeravda Mandir, since for him Yeravda Prison was a temple (mandir).

Last time we touched on what can be considered the most important single action an individual — any individual — can take to begin to restore a sane direction to our culture, which we regard, in turn, as the most important project to restore a sane direction to humanity.  We can read more details on how our media went off the rails in The Third Harmony; one aspect not touched on there is what one journalist has called the “journalism of deference” in which the White House and the military control the presentation of war-related news, creating, in other words, the ‘military-industrial, media and entertainment complex.’

Here, for a breath of fresh air, let’s look into Step Two:

“Learn all you can about nonviolence.” 

 On the psychological level any positive news will help us, as common sense, personal experience, and a lot of science confirm; but we believe that news about nonviolence — and anything we can learn about nonviolence, is particularly effective, since we regard nonviolence as the most positive thing that can be said about the human being, and about our possibilities in this world.

Raising this consciousness is precisely Metta’s project, of course, which we try to carry out with all our projects that are aimed both at the level of particulars and their overall meaning for our culture and life, in other words, facts about nonviolence itself and efforts to build a culture based on that principle.  Accordingly, we suggest that people go to our website, books, courses, etc. as our default recommendation for anyone who wants to begin or deepen their journey to that discovery.

  When Metta was born (in 1981) you could read just about everything available on the subject of nonviolence, leaving aside Gandhi’s enormous contribution, in a few years.  Now it would take a few lifetimes. Academic programs were nearly nonexistent; now there are several within the peace studies fold that do a creditable job on nonviolence, like the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford and the Endowed Chair in Resistance Studies at UMass, Amherst held by our good friend Prof. Stellan Vinthagen.  (Since there is virtually no funding in post-secondary education for anything outside science and technology an endowed chair, which I tried in vain to establish at Berkeley, is about the only way to open the field).

Outside the universities, we have free-standing institutes like the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in Washington, DC and specifically nonviolence-oriented non-profits like Metta: Nonviolence International, The Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz, the MK Gandhi Center for Nonviolence in Rochester, and others.

All these resources are useful in themselves, and most useful as preparations for the best learning tool: our own experiences.  Nonviolence begins within us (the ‘third harmony’) and can express itself in almost any situation on any scale from one-on-one interactions to global politics.  

We have an unfailing “library” of experiences to learn from, then, once we know what to look for.  For example, we don’t just look at immediate, tangible results but also for processes going on under the surface that may show up far down the road, not infrequently in better results than we were aiming at.  

At Metta we call this “work” vs. work, and the classic example is Gandhi’s salt campaign of 1930 which actually achieved very little in terms of relief from the oppressive salt laws but which many recognize as the end of British colonial rule that was formalized 17 years later.  Spot some of your own! It’s a lot of fun.