The Week in Nonviolence

I interrupt my usual sequence (resources, news, events) with a PSA:  Metta is hosting two events this coming week: the talk by impressive Palestinian activist on Tuesday, Feb. 22 and the strategy discussion cum fundraiser at Aqus Café the following evening.

OK, back to schedule.


To start with a bit of human interest: Arthur Harvey, the blueberry farmer of Canton, ME, who stocks a wide collection of books by and about Gandhi is still in business (both, blueberries and books).  I have sent many seekers his way over the years.  Happy to add that Arthur has led a successful fight for organic standards.

Here’s something we can all use today:  a guide to reliable news!

There are so many calls to action we cannot list them all here, but Pace e Bene is keeping track of them. Remember also the Nonviolence Training Hub.


Last week at UC, Berkeley “antifas” (anti-fascist activists) used disruptive tactics like breaking windows and launching fireworks at the police to shut down an impending talk by the extreme right agitator, Milo Yiannapoulos, raising many questions about free speech and “diversity of tactics.”  See my blog about it here, but I want to quote the words of one of them (who wishes to remain nameless): “We get a lot of heat for physical confrontation but that’s the sort of language that is spoken by neo-Nazis,” he said. “That’s the only thing they understand.”  The part I italicized is said by every actor down the ages to justify his/their use of violence.  Hitler, in Mein Kampf, warned that Gandhi would never succeed (!) because ‘we Germans have learned to our cost that the British understand nothing but force.’  There is no human being who cannot be reached by nonviolence; that is basic to our vision.

The People’s Climate Mobilization or People’s Climate Movement is organizing a country-wide arc of action, culminating on April 29th in Washington DC.  From the Austin, TX webpage: “We will put hundreds of thousands of people in the streets to oppose Trump’s fossil fuel agenda and show that there’s massive momentum behind a 100% clean energy economy that works for all.”

These are tense times at Standing Rock.  As expected, the new President, himself invested in big oil and a denier of climate change (more in a second), moved swiftly to authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to drop their environmental impact study and Energy Transfer, Inc. to proceed with the final hookup of the pipeline.  Tribal elders have called on remaining protectors to leave the area and switch to legal battles – a fair example, I guess, of going over to Constructive Program when satyagraha is not a good option. Yet others vow “every day a day of action” and still others claim that built or not built, oil will never flow through that pipeline.  Nonviolent Peaceforce has, I think, built up its team of twelve and we await reports as things continue to unfold.

The present crisis has called forth organization and resistance from an amazing variety of groups, some of which for the first time ever: scientists e.g. the Union of Concerned Scientists; also hundreds of academics signed an open letter to Trump calling for action on climate change, and others are planning a march on Washington in April.  Bookstores around the country are seeing themselves as hubs (cells?) of resistance, etc.  A group of distinguished healthcare professionals has written a letter, published by the NY Times, diagnosing a dangerous instability in the President.  This is an unheard of and essentially unethical thing to do by the standards of their profession, and that raises and interesting question: would it be more unethical in a larger sense to not use their expertise to warn the public of a clear and present danger?

Speaking of the President’s denial of climate change and much broader rejection of science itself, we are strongly reminded that for Gandhiji nonviolence itself was a close second – to Truth.  It is in the honest, unswerving search for Truth that we discover the necessity of nonviolence.  Conversely, alas, the sweeping dedication to violence in the present administration involves them in a total disregard for truth.  Fifty years of powerful advertising, in my view, has drawn us away from the habit of truth to an extremely dangerous degree.

On a happier note: our own Stephanie Steiner (née Knox Cubbon?) attended the 11th annual Moral Monday March in Raleigh, NC.  80,000 Stephanie reports, “This year, the Moral March focused on our moral duty to stand against the repeal of the life-saving Affordable Care Act, gerrymandering, the repeal of HB2 (the bathroom bill), and the extremism of …” you know whom.  “The movement has made a number of legislative gains over the years and is committed to the 14-point People’s Agenda, which you can find on the website”

In keeping with our commitment to follow Nonviolent Peaceforce, this just in from Mel Duncan, co-founder and Director of Outreach: “I have just returned from the field where I have had the opportunity to visit some of our field sites and see our civilian protectors at work.  Amid extreme violence and chaos they are saving lives.…We have a team of 21 at Bentiu (South Sudan) where 129,000 people have fled violence.  The majority are women and children.  My heart has broken many times on this trip.  Yet, there are glimmers and rays of hope as embodied by the women’ groups … who are organizing women’s peacekeeping teams. Their Spirit is strong.  I am convinced that women will build the road to peace here.”

And the final word is from Ariel Dorfman, the courageous journalist who (barely) lived through the nightmare of Chile’s dictatorship, writing for in the NYT last week (the mainstream does come through from time to time): “The mountains of Chile tell us that if we are brave enough, resourceful enough, imaginative enough, then nothing in this miraculous world is impossible.”

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