Metta’s Opinion

Seeing Nonviolence?

The Metta Center–especially our founder, Michael Nagler–has been interested in the science of nonviolence for several decades. So the other day, I sent this article out to our awesome volunteers to see if it would spark some cool insights about how we understand nonviolence:

Hi everyone, 

The Metta Team has started exploring questions related to nonviolence every week, and so here is one! What do you think: 

Here’s an article from the NYT about the phenomena of perception and expectation. 

My question for you all is whether you think that we might be able to extrapolate some insights about how nonviolence works–or what it is–from these (non)observations. 

Looking forward to hearing from you! 

Stephanie 

Here are some responses. After reading, you are warmly invited to add your own insights in the box below. We’d love to hear from you!

 

LOU:  As a magician and photographer, I am very aware of how misdirection and composition can hide things.  Both of these attributes are operating in the sample images in the article that made me “miss” seeing the big toothbrush, and less so the parking meter.

The strongest way this relates to nonviolence for me is how people often don’t “see” nonviolence because we are culturally conditioned to focus on conflict and who’s to blame for it. Like the toothbrush, we’re looking for what we are expecting – someone or something to be wrong.  If we’re more in the habit of seeing the basic human needs being expressed in a conflict then we would see human beings struggling, feel compassion, and maybe our imaginations would be sparked with something new.

 

Annie: Hi everyone, and thank you, Lou, for your (very clear!) response. I completely agree that our current culture conditions us to see violence, which in turn tends to cause us to be blind to actions — even movements — of nonviolence. Unfortunately, in most mainstream media, unlike in the images of the big toothbrush and parking meter, the stories about nonviolence are simply not there.

That said, one aspect I liked about considering parallels between this and the workings of nonviolence is the fact that we seem to be particularly unaware of ‘out of scale’ objects. My hope is that, like the toothbrush and the parking meter, nonviolence is, in fact, enormous in our world, we just need to learn to ’spot’ it. If this is the case, we should try to think about what might trigger our capacity to do this, to see the truth which is in front of us, One way might be to think about the fact that it was easier to identify the parking meter because we’d been alerted to its presence. So perhaps then part of spotting NV is having its presence suggested. This is a pretty…unexciting conclusion and I’m sure there’s more we can draw from this example, but simple awareness raising seems pretty important.

 

Thuy: Thanks, Stephanie, for bringing forth this interesting article and food for thought for the day. Lou and Anne, thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts on this issue of bringing awareness to nonviolence and how to make it part of our daily expectation rather than something that seemingly does not ‘fit’ in our vision of what we see in the world.

The author states, “People have a tendency to miss objects when their size is inconsistent with their surroundings.” I would say this is consistent with the amount of violence that has been mainstreamed into our daily lives versus that of nonviolence.

Anne brought up the issue of being alerted to the presence of nonviolence to create simple awareness. But, how do we know what we don’t know? And so, like Anne, that is my question for those of us practicing nonviolence or for organizations working in this field…how can we collectively ‘mainstream’ nonviolence in order to alert people to its presence so that the scale of nonviolence is no longer diminished within our vision? It almost seems like we need a national campaign, similar to a lot of public health campaigns around seat belts, drunk driving, quitting smoking, etc. so that nonviolence becomes normalized and practiced.

Thanks again for the illuminating discussion!

 

What do you think?

A Really Inconvenient Truth

Climate change is real. It is also essential.

“I like storms.”  -M.K. Gandhi

 

Eleven days without violence. This was the stunning result after the California Institute for Women (CIW) joined in Compassion Games, a worldwide experiment in social uplift drawing from Karen Armstrong’s work with the Charter for Compassion. The CIW is not a privileged feminist utopia– it’s a 120-acre prison in Chino, California.

Violent institutions rarely, if ever, promote the true well-being of those within its walls, and prisons are a prime example. Dehumanized people will treat each other with cruelty and violence, and CIW was no exception. So when a volunteer chaplain brought the games to the inmates, no one was certain how or if the experiment would work. But the women rose to the challenge–strategizing, resolving tensions, and taking care of one another in a way that affirmed the humanity of their sisters and themselves in the process. Simple acts like taking food trays to harder ones like holding back a fist ready to hit.

Maybe they’d try it again next year? (more…)

Join a Peace Team in Palestine

Meta Peace Team seeks potential members for its upcoming Peace Team work in Palestine.

Meta Peace Team (MPT) has been creating nonviolent alternatives to militarism and violence through empowered peacemaking since 1993. As part of their practice, they have been placing peace teams in places such as Iraq, Haiti, Bosnia, Egypt, Panama, Mexico, Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and within the US.

MPT’s peace teams act to reduce and prevent violence, utilizing a practice known as third-party nonviolent intervention, which includes tools like protective accompaniment; human rights monitoring/reporting; a peaceful presence; and interpositioning (getting in between conflicting parties to deter them from using violence against one another).

The Palestine Peace Team will depart for the West Bank on January 21, 2018, and the program will run 4 – 6 weeks. Team members must have completed MPT’s basic 8-hour Nonviolence Training and the preparation process (includes a 5-day intensive training November 9 – 13, 2017, in Michigan).

Estimated cost per person is $3,800 for 4 weeks, $4,600 for 6 weeks. Fundraising is done as a team.

Apply by October 11, 2017. Learn more on the MPT website and in the program flyer. Download an application.

Metta Center in the New York Times

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an op-ed about—get this—nonviolence. Published in the wake of the horrible expressions of white “supremacy” in Charlottesville, VA, the piece extols the effectiveness of humor and nonviolence principles/strategies to dispel displays of racist hatred.

The op-ed, written by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, quotes two members of our Metta Center staff. Here’s the snippet featuring Michael Nagler, our founder and president:

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Should I go to the Neo-Nazi rally to fight back?

Members of white-supremacist groups are met by counter-protestors in Charlottesville, VA

When we hear that the Neo-Nazi movement is coming to our town, most of us naturally feel called—or pushed—to some kind of action. But not every action is going to be effective, especially if we are walking into a situation where the level of dehumanization is extreme—where people are prepared to harm or kill others. How then can we draw from the power of nonviolence in a situation of escalating violence? (more…)

The Community in the Forest

I spent last week visiting friends who live on a mountain in Northern California. Two years ago a massive forest fire tore through the community, burning 9 out of 10 homes. While the black skeletons of singed trees still dot the landscape, the forest’s regenerative energy fills every niche.  What I have seen is not a collection of individual trees and shrubs struggling to claim their spot in a barren land, but a forest community in regeneration.

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Why Wednesday was Awesome

Training with Meta Peace Team’s Mary Hanna at the Metta Center…

 

Lou leans into the kitchen, “If we need more room, we can do this training at my house.”

“We’ll be fine,” I reply with a grin.

Walking back into our office, I see that all the chairs have been filled, and some people have moved to the floor. About 16 people, and one or two people spilling out of the door. We’ve all gathered in about a week’s notice to spend four hours with Mary Hanna of the Meta Peace Team who kindly offered to train us in skills related to unarmed peacekeeping (the work of MPT) as well as bystander intervention while on an important visit to our headquarters in Petaluma.

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