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From Metta Mandir: Part 2
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).
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.
From Metta Mandir: Part 1
There are parts of the Bhagavad Gita that I take literally, and among them two verses from Ch. Four stand out at any time, but particularly one like this:
“Whenever dharma declines, and unrighteousness swells forth, I incarnate myself from age to age . . .”
If there was ever a time that fits this description, when human degradation menacingly raises its ugly head, it’s this one. Where, then, is our incarnation?
I can imagine the Supreme Being answering, “What did you do with the last one?”
Or perhaps s/he is yet to come; or perhaps, and this is the safest interpretation, we are (to be) that incarnation, that saving power.
Our response, in addition to everything else we’re doing, is to lift up the five points for Personal Empowerment embedded in the core of our Roadmap.
They deserve some elaboration, and accordingly, we decided to follow up on our recent article in Waging Nonviolence, which introduces Roadmap in general, with five pieces over the next five weeks dedicated to each of the five points in turn.
Point Number One: Use extreme caution with violent and degrading media.
How pertinent, when so many of us are “sheltering in place,” our kids out of school, desperate for wholesome entertainment on the one hand and of course glued to the news! A hard time to tell people to back away from the media.
Yet, when you develop some sensitivity to what a human being really is and some skill in reading the “subtext” in an advertisement or a piece of “entertainment,” you begin to realize that there’s very little left in the commercial world of media that does not in fact trivialize, misrepresent and degrade us.
It does not have to be an action movie or an ad message like “Our pain is your gain” (seen on a recent Petaluma billboard) to try to tell us we’re small-minded, competitive fragments caught in a nexus of violence.
So, one objection this suggestion meets with is, ‘There’ll be nothing left to watch.’ Point number two in the inner circle, and all of them in their own way answer this objection.
The next one is, ‘How will I know what’s going on in the world if even the news is slanted toward violence and firmly embedded in the Old Story (which it is)? Fortunately, there are more and more resources now to fill that gap; the field is expanding so rapidly that even the Appendix to my new book, The Third Harmony will soon be out of date!
Don’t let anyone tell you that they “like” violence, and it doesn’t do any harm. There are thousands of studies proving that watching violence makes us more violent in attitude and eventually behavior, and a growing awareness that while we may have been so far conditioned that we get a rush of some kind seeing it, violence alienates us and sickens the mind.
It’s a part of what the military calls “moral injury” (and tries to ignore). While breaking an entrenched media habit is unquestionably going to be a struggle for many of us, it really doesn’t take long for our sensitivity to return so that we enjoy peace of mind, and not at all its disturbance.
Go at your own pace: a periodic “cleanse,” cold turkey, a gradual reduction to just about zero — whatever works for you. The benefits are their own reward; who wants to be conditioned, really — to anything.
Toward the end of last month, Stephanie Van Hook and Michael Nagler participated in The Shift Network‘s Politics of Love & Justice Summit, which was a free online event integrating spirituality and activism.
Over the course of a few days, 25 of the world’s most visionary spiritual leaders convened online and shared their wisdom, offering guideposts for building a sustainable, caring world. Presenters included such prominent voices as Marianne Williamson, David Korten, and Rabbi Michael Lerner. Stephanie and Michael spoke about nonviolence as an act of love.
Hear what Stephanie and Michael brought to the discussion in this recording of their session. Please note that while we are offering the recording here, it is ultimately a copyright of The Shift Network.
Please feel free to share the link to this web page with anyone who may appreciate the discussion.
I am in search of a K-8 non-violence/diversity education curriculum that can be incorporated into my school district. Can you recommend anything, or do you know of any organizations that offer grants to schools that want to incorporate this kind of curriculum? Any information you have would be appreciated.
I believe a more modern edition has been prepared.
— Ian Harris
Dear Metta, I thought to share a news paper article with you about the *Palestine Papers*, that I think you won’t read in the US. I’m not sure if the suggestion that it’s the PA who leaked the documents is likely or true, but I do agree that: “the Palestine Papers prove that this “peace process” just allows Israel to build more settlements and grab more Palestinian land. And the papers also prove that *Israel is unlikely to make the sacrifices that Palestinians are willing to make*.”
As a peace activist in the Catholic Church I’ve been having an ongoing talk with a number of my nonviolent colleagues and we’ve begun to be somewhat critical of the stance of religious institutions towards gays and lesbians. Since I usually only look at nonviolent literature from a Christian perspective, I was wondering what other nonviolent activists think about this? It seems to me that the acceptance of a nonviolent lifestyle would automatically support those who are undergoing persecution. Any thoughts? Also… do you know of any literature on this subject?
I hope that you’ll allow me a serious question about non-violence. A friend of mine is committed to your perspective. Here is my question: “Do you advocate local, state, or national police personnel carrying and using weapons? If not, why not? If so, when & how? Does weapon use contradict maintaining a perspective of nonviolence?”