Metta’s Opinion

Signing Off (But No Coming, No Going)

Dear Metta Community,

In the spirit of what my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh would call “no coming, no going,” as of the end of March, I am taking leave from my work at Metta to prepare for the birth of my first child, who is due in May. I will also be turning my attention to completing my doctoral studies in Community, Liberation and Ecopsychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute.

As I reflect back on the past five years as the Director of Education at Metta, I am grateful for the profound education I received in my time here. My understanding of nonviolence has deepened along with you, through our conversations and interactions, and I am continually inspired by the way folks in the Metta community are living their lives and taking action for a peaceful, nonviolent world.

I am very happy to see the main program I worked on, Metta’s Certificate in Nonviolence Studies, continuing to be offered in new and innovative ways. Registration is now open, and the course starts May 2. This program has been “my baby” – its creation was the initial reason I joined Metta’s staff – and it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to watch the program grow as I step away to take care of a new baby :).

As my roles and hats change, I’ll be carrying you with me!

With love and gratitude,
Stephanie Knox Steiner

 

Summer Internship for Petaluma Youth

 

Six-Week Leadership Intensive in Nonviolence

for Petaluma High School Youth

Dates: June 15-July 20, 2018

Stipend: $100/week

The Metta Center for Nonviolence is a Petaluma-based non-profit organization founded by UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus Michael Nagler, co-founder of UC Berkeley’s Peace and Conflict Studies Program. Our specialty is nonviolence: what it is, how it works, and how to draw upon its power for building healthy communities of empowered individuals. Key projects include our online Certificate Program in Nonviolence Studies and Nonviolence Radio. We work with individuals and movements from around the world and have consultative status at the United Nations.

Program Overview:

Our Leadership Intensive in Nonviolence is a six-week program for Petaluma youth created to educate and train local youth leaders to face personal and societal conflict with practical life-and community-affirming skills. We also aim to prepare students to find more opportunities for training and higher education in areas explored during the program.

Students will learn the basics of nonviolence and have on-going in-depth exploration and training in conflict tools such as constructive dialogue, conflict de-escalation and by-stander intervention, restorative practices, and self-care. Youth will also work on a final project in which they will assess a conflict in their life or community and make a plan of action for transforming it with the skills they have acquired.

The Ideal Candidate is someone who wants to make a difference in their life and community. This person has had experience with violence and is committed to ending it, but feels that they lack inspiration or guidance for how to do it in a safe and effective way.

Location and Time:

The program will take place at the office of the Metta Center at 205 Keller St. Suites 202D/B. Program time runs from 9:30 am until 2 pm, Monday and Wednesday, with program starting promptly by 10 am, and lunch at 1 pm. Fridays are optional “office hour” days from for individual research and questions.

205 Keller St. Suite 202D, Petaluma, California 94952

The Application Process:

Interested candidates should send a letter of interest, including the following information:

1. Why they are applying to the program and what they hope to achieve through it for themselves and their community.
2. A story of how violence has affected their life and what they want to learn.
3. Name three resources they have explored from the Metta Center’s website.

Please include at least one recommendation.

Send all material to Stephanie Van Hook (Stephanie@mettacenter.org) by April 15, 2018.

 

 

“We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence.”

–M.K. Gandhi

Is this #Enough?

If this is #enough, then what’s next?

“Protests come and go, almost no matter what the scale and entrenched regimes of violence and injustice wait them out.”

 

There have been far too many pious clichés in response to all these tragedies, but I’m going to risk one more: if – and it remains to be seen – this one will lead to a wave of awakening and permanent, significant changes to the culture of violence we are suffering through, then the violent death of those seventeen people may not have been entirely in vain.

What will it take to make that kind of difference?

We have very happily reached a point now where this is not an idle question. Enough systematic studies of nonviolence have now been done – a mere beginning, but what a difference it makes when until recently there was practically nothing – that we can be confident about some ‘best practices’ for many kinds of nonviolent resistance. One thing is clear: the walkout, in which something like 3,000 high schools across the country saw students taking action, with or without the support of their teachers and administrators, was a great beginning.

No less, but no more.

Protests come and go, almost no matter what the scale and entrenched regimes of violence and injustice wait them out. We need three things to parlay the solidarity and concern they evince into real change: continuity (what Latin American activists call firmeza permanente), determination, including the willingness to sacrifice, and of course strategy. To rely on some kind of atrocity (which this is) to galvanize our reaction is a recipe for sure, painful defeat. Look at Egypt, or almost any country that experienced “Arab Spring.”

Let’s do them in reverse order.

For an action to become a campaign and a campaign a movement (thanks to thoughtful activist George Lakey for those terms) it must have a credible path forward from the “effervescence of the crowd,” as we call it, step after step, to victory. Victory itself should be visionary to really work – remember Gandhi’s proud appellation for himself as a “practical idealist.” But the steps should be progressive, and realistic. In broad terms, for example, we have been working with ‘giant steps’ from institutionalizing restorative justice in the nation’s schools to our overstuffed prison system to – why not? – the deconstruction of war. In nonviolence, as in war itself, you have these steps but life happens: you have to be flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities and regroup in the face of setbacks. Classic example: Gandhi fell back on non-confrontational forms of Constructive Programme, like spinning, when the regime blocked any path of resistance.

Determination is often the nonviolent answer to ruthlessness. Contrary to a popular misconception, nonviolence is not weak; it does not crumble in the face of stark repression, does not, as mentioned, shrink back even from sacrifice and suffering where that must be undertaken to awaken the opponent.

Firmeza or continuity means two things (as I see it). The first is more obvious, the second more important. The first is simply staying the course; not, even in the face of setbacks, giving up, going back to business as usual. For students, in particular, this can be difficult. Gandhi only called them out when he felt he absolutely needed them and their contribution to the movement was more meaningful than their studies.

As Martin Luther King put it, “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering,” and thereby wear you down by the love-in-action that is nonviolence.

And nonviolence is the other dimension of this steadfast continuity: maintaining nonviolent discipline. Power comes from nonviolence in proportion to its depth and continuity. We may never be perfect at it; that’s Ok; but we should never stop trying to engage that spirit in deed, word, and as far as humanly possible even in thought. It is possible.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. The rest is emergent: we will discover it as we go.

 

Here I am at a local high school where I was invited to speak on a panel with students on March 14. I was joined by two Metta staff members, Stephanie Van Hook and Kimberlyn David (on a rare visit from the Netherlands). Here is the article issued from the local press about the event.

 

 

We also recommend checking out:

I Exercise My Right NOT to Bear Arms by Todd Diehl

Terrorism and Nonviolence, a New Story Animation

Grief is Not Enough by Michael Nagler

Love at the Barrel of a Gun by Michael Nagler

THE POST: A (Somewhat Biased) Film Review

For full disclosure: I’m a long-term friend of Dan and Patricia Ellsberg, and I was a more distant friend but also admirer of Ben Bagdikian. I lived through the era depicted in The Post, and since I see very few movies I tend to have strong reactions to those I do.

That said, I had a very strong, very positive reaction to this Stephen Spielberg film about the decision by Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), supported by her editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), to publish the devastating “Pentagon Papers” in 1971. I cannot remember being so engrossed in a movie, and while it was not as transcendentally inspiring perhaps as Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, it was uplifting and spell-binding for me. It depicts a “finest hour” of American democracy, which itself would make it more than relevant to our America’s present dismal time; add to this, however, the superb treatment of the women’s issue and the just plain great acting.

Advisory: If you go in expecting the film to be about Ellsberg and his struggle with himself to risk everything to release the devastating news to the public, or the role Patricia played in supporting him, you will be disappointed. That story is in the superb documentary by Judith Ehrlich, “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” as well as Dan’s book Secrets and many other histories. The mark of a great filmmaker (or novelist, for that matter) is to have the restraint to tell one story at a time. I appreciate that enormously, as one who has yet to find that kind of restraint.

Now for the Metta Center angle: What does the film say about nonviolence? A lot. First of all, how raw courage and the power of that act of will by which a man or woman, seeing beyond the ordinary vision of personal gain and loss, decides to risk even perhaps their life for a higher cause. In Dan’s case, his career and his very freedom, e.g. to be with the wife he loved. In Ms. Graham’s case, the paper she loved and lived for, along with the rebuttal of the stereotype against women that they can’t compete in the “real world” of business or places of cutthroat competition.

Then there’s the glimpse it offers of what Johan Galtung named the “Great Chain of Nonviolence:” the way people low on the social/political ladder, seemingly without access to power, can reach the seats of the mighty through those near them, who know others on up the chain. In this case, the spectrum goes from street protestors (as I was) to an insider like Dan who “saw the light” (itself a lesson in the humanity and convertibility of our opponents) to the upper echelons of journalism and government. Then, a larger lesson of the more sobering type. Would a whistle-blower on that scale enjoy the protection of the Supreme Court today? What must we do to capitalize on these moments of brilliant courage to make sure they ratchet up to a permanent and beneficial change?

What a Satyagrahi Knows

This guest post was contributed by George Cassidy Payne, the founder of Gandhi Earth Keepers International. He is also a writer, a domestic violence counselor, and an adjunct professor of philosophy. George lives and works in Rochester, NY. You can follow him on LinkedIn.


The most powerful force in the universe is not electromagnetism, gravity or time. The greatest force in the universe is Satyagraha, which technically means a firm or steadfast adherence to Truth. Satyagraha is the most powerful force in the universe because it is the universe. It is the moral dimension of the universe revealing itself through social and political action.

Mohandas Gandhi coined the term in 1906 while leading a nonviolent resistance movement against the British. He wrote:

None of us knew what name to give to our movement. I then used the term “passive resistance” in describing it. I did not quite understand the implication of “passive resistance” as I called it. I only knew that some new principle had come into being. As the struggle advanced, the phrase “passive resistance” gave rise to confusion and it appeared shameful to permit this great struggle to be known only by an English name… I thus began to call the Indian movement “satyagraha,” that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase “passive resistance” in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word “satyagraha” itself or some other equivalent English phrase. This then was the genesis of the movement which came to be known as Satyagraha, and of the word used designation for it.

Tactically, there are four main components that must be in place to activate Satyagraha. Firstly, a Satyagrahi must comprehend that all life is interconnected. From the ant to the aurora borealis, all life forms-including physical, mental and spiritual-are one at the source of their creative purpose.

The second principle is that persuasion overcomes coercion. That is to say, there is a long term advantage to convincing an adversary to understand and empathize with your perspective. Compelling opponents through intimidation or bribery is only temporarily effective, and it always has unintended consequences.

Thirdly, a Satyagrahi knows that ends and means must be aligned. Mohandas Gandhi referred to a surgeon who uses contaminated tools and expects a successful operation, which is an attitude that is both illogical and irresponsible.

Fourthly, a Satyagrahi is transparent in all matters. In any struggle the truth is pursued in good faith, with an open mind, and with sincerity. Gandhi once wrote, “Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.”

Underlining each of these four components is a conscious belief in the spectacle of bravery—the type that can only be manifested through voluntary acts of suffering. If you would conquer another do it not by outside mechanisms but by creating inside their own personality an impulse too strong for his/her previous tendency. In this way Satyagraha taps into the “Law of Reversed Effect,” which states: “The greater the conscious effort, the less the subconscious response” or understood another way: “Whenever the will (conscious mind) and imagination (subconscious) are in conflict, the imagination (subconscious) always wins.”

A Satyagrahi knows that our ancestors from the dawn of life have suffered pain and deprivation-it is part of our collective nervous system. When others see bravery in action, there is an imagination-stimulus that gets galvanized. Of course this impulse may be crusted over by custom, prejudice and hostile emotions, but it is still ingrained in all of us. Inevitably, a nonviolent resister submitting themselves to bodily suffering for the sake of a noble cause rouses people’s moral conscience. Since feelings are more contagious than appetites, no other strategy is more effective in combating injustice.

When these four components are in place, there is almost nothing that the force of Satyagraha cannot achieve. It literally has the power to bring down dictators without firing a single shot. Satyagraha can make the proud see the plight of babes and it can make children mightier than the most formidable systems of oppression. Satyagraha brings refreshing aid to the sick and it uses the healing qualities of nature to bring health to the masses. Older than the hills, Satyagraha is an infinite, everlasting goodness that makes constellations burn with passion and the eyes of the poor glow with dignity.

A Word from Volunteer Lamisa Mustafa

Dear Metta Center Friends,

I first learned about the Metta Center last December, when my mentor and I were looking into UC Berkeley’s Peace & Conflict Studies program, which was of course founded by the Metta Center’s Michael Nagler. After I came across a call for volunteers on Facebook this summer, I asked if I could help remotely, as I’m living out my human rights journey at Southern Methodist University, in my hometown of Dallas, Texas.

Since June of this year, I’ve been volunteering as a research assistant for Dr. Nagler and Stephanie Van Hook, the organization’s executive director. I’ve also helped edit/format a book chapter on nonviolence and the economy.

My volunteer work makes a difference in my life, because I get to soak up the wisdom of nonviolent practitioners.

It has also given me opportunities to share my own voice. I’ve published an autobiographical poem through the web version of Nonviolence magazine, and my essay about living as a Muslim in the US will run in the Winter/Spring 2018 issue of the magazine.

Changing hearts and minds is the hardest work, but it is so rewarding. My peers, friends, family, and mentors help me realize that in this process of giving to the world, I am giving so much to myself. Social justice starts with each of us—we are our own human selves.

The human rights champions around me—and those who are their true, unapologetic selves—fill me with hope. I feel at peace knowing that there are so many people fighting the good fight. I am hopeful, too, because all our journeys come together to form one human story. I appreciate being able to share some of my story with you here.

Volunteering is one way to support the Metta Center’s work. Donating is also a powerful form of support.

At the Metta Center, our community’s work is grounded in transforming ourselves, our relationships, and our world (no small tasks!). Any amount you can give will help the Metta Center reach more hearts and minds with the nonviolence resources the world desperately needs. Donate today!

Thanks in advance for giving us a hand. I wish you and your loved ones the very best for the rest of 2017.

Kindly,
Lamisa Mustafa

P.S. I’m passionate about the power of narratives in social justice. So I’m putting together a poetry anthology to celebrate human diversity and the human experience. I’m welcoming submissions til December 17.