Transformative nonviolence https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/13235/all cached version 25/05/2018 18:01:56 en Fifty years later, the spirit of the Catonsville Nine lives on https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/frida-berrigan/fifty-years-later-spirit-of-catonsville-nine-lives-on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Those who burned hundreds of draft files to protest the Vietnam War deserve to be honored, remembered and emulated.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="wp-caption-text"><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/catonsville-nine-50-years-later/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/FridaBerrigan4.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Frida Berrigan stands in front of the newly unveiled Catonsville Nine historical marker in Catonsville, Maryland with her children. Credit: Waging Nonviolence. All rights reserved.</p> <p>It was a big moment. More than a hundred people watched as a college professor held one end of a heavy vinyl cover, helping an 88-year-old woman, pull it from the top of a tall metal sign. Together, they unveiled a familiar looking historic marker—the kind that draws attention to battlefields drenched in centuries-old blood and the birth places of famous men all over the country.</p> <p>This one, however, was different.</p> <p>It read: “On May 17, 1968, nine Catholic activists raided the selective service office in Catonsville and burned hundreds of draft files to protest the Vietnam war.” It now stands on Frederick Road in Catonsville, Maryland—about a block from the building that housed the young men’s draft files.</p> <p>The 88-year-old woman was&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=16">Marjorie Melville</a> one of those nine Catholic activists and, along with&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=14">George Mische</a>, one of only two still living. After the unveiling, which took place on May 5, she shared recollections of the action at a nearby church, including a funny story about her husband,&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=17">Thomas Melville</a>, who responded with a rousing and immediate “I’m in,” when invited to join the action. The two had recently married after leaving the Maryknoll order, where they served as a priest and a nun. “I was mad,” she recalled. “He didn’t consult me, but then I thought about it and decided, ‘I’m in too.’”</p> <p>In its few sentences of block letters, the historic marker only mentions “priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan” by name. It doesn’t capture Melville’s motivation to join the Catonsville action and draw attention to U.S. military involvement in Guatemala as another Vietnam. She and Thomas shared their experiences in that Central American country in searing testimony captured in my uncle Daniel Berrigan’s play, “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine.”</p> <p>The Melvilles brought&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=18">John Hogan</a>—a former Maryknoll brother who they had served with in Guatemala—into the action.&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=15">Mary Moylan</a>, another one of the nine, had been a nurse in Uganda, while George Mische had worked in the Dominican Republic. They all said that part of their radicalization, part of the journey that led them to Catonsville, was a result of seeing the far-flung damage wrought by U.S. foreign policy.&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=13">David Darst</a>, a Christian brother, and&nbsp;<a href="http://c9.digitalmaryland.org/page.php?ID=19">Tom Lewis</a>, an artist and recidivist, had both lived in the inner cities and saw a less exotic version of the same brutal dynamic.</p> <p>The hallmark of so much of our political expression is reactive outrage. It was then too. “Hell no, we won’t go,” was a slogan to be chanted by the young men who were drafted. There is so much to be outraged about, and our outrage matters. But the members of the Catonsville Nine were not outraged. And their action was not a response to the massacre du jour, but to the whole of U.S. foreign policy. </p> <p>As John Hogan said at the trial, “I just want people to live. That is all.” And it was not carried out by those most affected by the draft. In fact, every member of the action was personally exempt from military service by their age, gender or profession, as priests and brothers. It was nine people stepping out of comfort and into commission and conscience.</p> <p>My father knew he was but one of nine; he was moved by Mary Moylan and Marjorie Melville and her husband. He learned from David Darst, John Hogan and Tom Lewis—his dear friend and co-conspirator in many actions. He was challenged and inspired by George Mische and his brother Daniel Berrigan. He would be quick to point out that the Catonsville Nine was not just the “Berrigan Brothers.”</p> <p>I don’t have any recollections of the action, since I wasn’t born until six years later. My father also wasn’t one to sit around and tell the peace movement’s “war stories.” But I learned the lasting impact of this one action by listening. Strangers would come up to my father—men of a certain age—while he was pumping gas, buying a newspaper or attending a demonstration to confirm his identity and then share some version of this: “I’m alive today because you destroyed my file. My card was at Catonsville. I was about to be sent to Vietnam. Thank you.” </p> <p>My father would accept their thanks with discomfort and pride. Now, from a greater distance, I can understand the discomfort as part of a veteran’s process of atonement, a life saved from war after so many lives lost in war, and an affirmation of the path—narrow, rocky, grueling and lonely—that he had chosen for himself.</p> <p>And then there were the friends, fellow community members—people as close as family. One was a young mother on Long Island, raising five boys. On May 17, 1968, she was sitting in her kitchen, listening to the radio, busy with some household task. The news announcer reported that nine Catholic antiwar activists were arrested after destroying draft records. She was a devoted Catholic, and this was an action involving two priests, a brother, a former priest, a former nun and four lay people. “I was sitting down, and I stood up. I haven’t sat down since,” she said. She went on to be a Catholic Worker, peace activist and a dear friend. I have heard that story countless times, from her and many others who were similarly catalyzed into activism by the Catonsville Nine.</p> <p>Learning about this one day in May through the prism of the transformations of both strangers and friends has helped me see the draft board raid as living and continuing. It may have been 50 years ago that my father was one of nine who broke the law to prevent a greater crime, but it was only a month and a half ago that my mother, Liz McAlister, was one of seven, acting in that same spirit. As a member of the Kings Bay Plowshares, she&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/kings-bay-plowshares-resisting-nuclear-weapons-racism/">gained access to the Kings Bay Trident Base</a>&nbsp;in Georgia and symbolically disarmed the warheads, marking them as criminal.</p> <p>From the Camden County Detention Facility in Woodbine, Georgia, she sent me a statement to share with those who gathered in Catonsville for the unveiling: “May the disarmament continue.” This was in keeping with the message the Kings Bay Plowshares carried onto the naval base, which&nbsp;<a href="https://www.kingsbayplowshares7.org/action-statement/">read, in part</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“We come in peace on this sorrowful anniversary of the martyrdom of a great prophet Martin Luther King, Jr. Fifty years ago today on April 4, 1968 Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee as a reaction to his efforts to address the ‘giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.’ We come to Kings Bay to answer the call of the prophet Isaiah to ‘beat swords into plowshares’ by disarming the world’s deadliest nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine.”</p></blockquote> <p>For this action, they face more than 20 years in prison. It seems like a very long time.</p> <p>The Catonsville activists were sentenced to two and three year prison terms, which is also a long time. How do we use our time? My uncle, Dan Berrigan wrote in “Portraits of Those I Love” that “on the one hand, I do not want to live in a world without anger; on the other hand, I am not interested in dying just yet. But I don’t want anger to burn uselessly as a waste flame from an oil stack. Living on, nursing my flame I write. It is a way of surviving. It tells me my soul is my own.”</p> <p>Action, community, collective courage—that’s the spirit of the Catonsville action. It is a way of survival. It tells us our souls are our own. So, thank you, Brother David Darst, John Hogan, Thomas Melville, Marjorie Melville, George Mische, Tom Lewis, Mary Moylan. Thank you Uncle Dan. Thank you Dad.</p> <p>And thank you, Kings Bay activists, friends, family: Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, Father Steve Kelly, Patrick O’Neil, Mark Colville, Carmen Trotta. Thank you Mom.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/how-do-you-tell-kids-that-grandma-is-in-jail-for-resisting-nuclear-wea">How do you tell the kids that Grandma is in jail for resisting nuclear weapons?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/making-our-movements-work-for-kids-and-families">Making our movements work for kids and families</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/preparing-for-long-haul-under-trump-administration">Preparing for the long haul under the Trump administration</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Frida Berrigan Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 25 May 2018 10:46:07 +0000 Frida Berrigan 117946 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can antifa build an effective broad-based anti-fascist movement? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/brian-martin-sue-curry-jansen/can-antifa-build-effective-broad-based-anti-fascist-mov <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Using violence and suppressing free speech is no way to build a just society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/antifa-effective-broad-anti-fascist-movement/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MollyWallace_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Antifa graffiti. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/old_olsen/7875897238">Flickr/Oliver Wunder</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>In March, Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist, cancelled his speaking engagements at U.S. universities, saying he was deterred by “antifa,” a loose international network of radical anti-fascist groups that aims to shut down far-right talks and rallies. For antifa members and supporters, Spencer’s capitulation was both&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/03/17/richard-spencer-college-tour-antifa-alt-right/">vindication of their aggressive tactics</a>&nbsp;and a sign of their success in opposing fascism.</p> <p>These confrontations between far-right activists and antifa groups—on the rise since the election of Donald Trump—are often presented as involving two opposing values: free speech on one side and the danger of allowing fascists to appear in public on the other. What is missing in this framing, however, is an understanding of the dynamics of censorship and of nonviolent action as an alternative.</p> <p>At the forefront of this clash of values is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mhpbooks.com/books/antifa/">Mark Bray’s 2017 book</a>&nbsp;“Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” which provides the most comprehensive justification for antifa tactics available. It has sold briskly and received considerable attention among its target audience of antifa activists.</p> <p>Bray readily acknowledges that “Antifa” was written “on the run” during the early days of the Trump era to meet the demand for information about newly visible anti-fascist activists.</p> <p>The immediate catalyst was the assault on Spencer by a masked man in 2017, which generated a&nbsp;<a href="http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/richard-spencer-punched-in-the-face">popular meme</a>&nbsp;and had many news outlets asking the question, “<a href="http://www.newsweek.com/richard-spencer-punch-nazi-ethicists-547277">Is it okay to punch a Nazi</a>?”</p> <p>Responding in the affirmative, antifa activists believe that the ends (“stopping fascism before it becomes unstoppable”) justify the means: violence. The more thoughtful members of antifa add the qualifier “when necessary.” </p> <p>As Murray, one of Bray’s anonymous U.S. informants puts it, “You fight them by writing letters and making phone calls so you don’t have to fight them with fists. You fight them with fists so you don’t have to fight them with knives. You fight them with knives so you don’t have to fight them with guns. You fight them with guns so you don’t have to fight them with tanks.” Beyond punching Nazis, antifa tactics drawing significant media attention include “no platforming”—or blocking or disrupting speeches—and “doxxing,” which consists of publishing private information about a target on social media to encourage harassment.</p> <p>Despite its genesis as instant history, “Antifa” is a serious book that raises fundamental questions about the viability of liberal tenets of free speech and the role of violence in political protests. Bray, a historian, visiting scholar at Dartmouth College and an Occupy Wall Street organizer, used his radical credentials to gain access to the antifa network, which generally operates in secrecy. He interviewed 61 active or former members of antifa groups from 17 countries. </p> <p>Supportive of the goals of antifa, but open to criticism of the movement, Bray argues that “militant anti-fascism is a reasonable, historically-informed response to the fascist threat that persisted after 1945 and that has become especially menacing in recent years.” The authorial voice he projects is humane and reflective, occasionally punctuated with references to his personal history and activist experiences.</p> <p>The first two chapters are devoted to the history of fascism and anti-fascism, from the 1899 founding of the anti-Dreyfusard League to the early 2000s when antifa groups began to rethink their strategies in light of the rise of new far-right parties in Europe. While historical contextualizing is essential to understanding antifa’s “never again” rationale for preventative violence, Bray packs too many facts into too little space for readers without a deep background in European history to readily absorb and retain, making these crucial early chapters a hard slog. </p> <p>This is unfortunate because the subsequent chapters are accessible and illuminating. Chapter Three addresses the recent emergence, in response to the refugee crisis in Europe, of “pin-stripe Nazis”: nationalists who cover their underlying fascist tendencies with a veneer of respectability. They claim to be protecting democracy against its enemies while providing a cover for racism, Islamophobia and restoration of patriarchal gender regimes.</p> <p>The remaining chapters focus on the theory and politics of antifa at more pragmatic levels: lessons to be drawn from history; no platforming and free speech; strategy, including internal criticism within some antifa groups; the dangers of machismo within antifa; fetishization of violence; feminism and antifa; nonviolent antifa tactics; militant anti-fascism and public opinion; antifa groups functioning as reserve police in some Nazi encounters; popular culture’s relation to antifa (via punk, hipster and hooligan subcultures) and much more. There are two appendices: One offers advice to recruits from veteran antifa activists, while the other provides a bibliography on North American and European works on anti-fascism. Unfortunately, the book lacks an index.</p> <p><strong>The conundrum of no tolerance for intolerance.</strong></p> <p>Bray defends no-platforming, saying one of history’s lessons is that “it doesn’t take that many fascists to make fascism.” Mussolini and Hitler demonstrated that once fascism is legitimized, it can expand rapidly and quickly consolidate its power. Another is that, historically, fascists gained power legally. Therefore, Bray concludes that fascism must be stopped at its source.</p> <p>He contends that most antifa groups do not reject freedom of speech in principle, but they maintain that the struggle against fascism takes precedence. On this point, he quotes Joe, one of his respondents, who says, “The idea that freedom of speech is the most important thing that we can protect can only be held by someone who thinks that life is analogous to a debate hall.” Bray argues that no one actually lives up to the absolutist free speech standard that liberals use to condemn antifa. History, he points out, is full of examples of liberal abridgments of free speech, including some systemic ones, such as wartime press censorship, incitement-to-violence prohibitions, obscenity laws, copyright infringement and incarceration.</p> <p>Bray argues that the liberal Enlightenment ideal of the best, most rational, argument prevailing in a free and open debate does not take into account the irrational and emotional appeal of fascism. Citing appeasement in the 1930s, Bray contends that liberalism has failed to provide a reliable bulwark against fascism. To be sure, free speech is fragile and liberalism’s failures are legion. That is why these positions do require radical interrogation in struggles for social justice. Free expression is, however, a fundamental feature of participatory democracy, whether liberal or socialist.</p> <p>When Richard Spencer announced on Twitter that he was canceling his “college tour” because antifa had escalated its efforts and—in his view—police were not responding adequately, it seemed like a victory for antifa. If so, it was pyrrhic. Antifa’s tactics, which attracted hostile media coverage, did little to advance struggles against racism, patriarchal gender regimes, ableism and the other causes the movement supports. Intentional bureaucratic obstructionism by various university administrators may have done as much to undermine Spencer’s tour as antifa. For example, he decided to quit the tour when only 12 people showed up for his appearance at Michigan State University, which scheduled his talk during spring break when most students were away from campus.</p> <p>Bray faults liberal free speech theory for its failure to live up to an absolutist standard of free speech and for its hypocrisy. Yet, in doing so, he unwittingly encounters the conundrum that has dogged free speech theorists for centuries: what Karl Popper referred to as “the paradox of intolerance” in his 1945 work “The Open Society and Its Enemies.” Any system that legally valorizes tolerance, regardless of its ideology, must—by logical extension—resort to intolerance of the intolerant. Like liberalism, antifa and Bray are also caught in this logical trap. As Bray puts it, “An anti-fascist outlook has no tolerance for ‘intolerance.’” Yet, antifa is founded upon aggressive intolerance of fascists.</p> <p>Presumably Bray means no tolerance for racism, misogyny, homo- and transphobia, etc. Intolerance of intolerance is the socio-logic, if not the formal rationale, for the European Union’s controversial 2007 measure outlawing Holocaust denial. That precedent also points to the possibility of legalistic tactics that antifa could use in some national jurisdictions, although it does not have the machismo appeal of violent confrontation.</p> <p>Democracy has always been aspirational. Free speech is a desired goal, though very unevenly realized in practice. Bray persuasively chronicles some of the many failures of liberal democracy and free speech, and underscores the importance of radical struggles for greater economic and social justice. Antifa’s binary framing of choices—speech or violence—does seem to give Bray pause at times, as it should. He contends that the society that anti-authoritarians seek to create would offer more opportunities for free expression than the liberal status quo. For antifa, that is a society inspired by revolutionary socialism; for Bray, preferably one that is anti-authoritarian and non-hierarchical.</p> <p>Suppression of free speech is a method fascists use to consolidate power and amplify the reach of the irrational emotional appeals of their propaganda. Hitler, for example, quashed opposition, banning trade unions and opposition parties, and established the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, which controlled German media and cultivated anti-Semitism and the Aryan myth, most famously through films like “The Eternal Jew” and “Triumph of the Will.” Antifa, by seeking to suppress the speech of fascists, actually mimics their own techniques rather than providing an alternative.</p> <p><strong>Justifying violence on moral, not strategic, grounds.</strong></p> <p>Bray’s history of fascism and anti-fascism gives the most attention to violence on both sides. Fascists in inter-war Italy and Germany used violence and so did their opponents. Bray recounts clash after clash. From the 1940s to the present, he portrays anti-fascism as a continuing attempt to prevent fascists and neo-Nazis from being able to organize in public, with anti-fascists assaulting right-wing protesters and speakers. In some cases, this goes further, with anti-fascists assaulting anyone just wearing fascist garb, or bombing the offices and homes of prominent right-wingers. Bray recounts these events, presenting no reservations about any tactics used.</p> <p>Bray argues that fascists need to be cowed into submission before they gain any sort of profile, arguing that the failure of the left in the 1920s and 1930s was letting fascism grow without sufficient resistance, though his claim is&nbsp;<a href="https://theconversation.com/how-should-we-protest-neo-nazis-lessons-from-german-history-82645">questionable</a>. Most of Bray’s arguments concerning violence are about justifying it. The limitation of this approach is that even if one believes a violent action might be justified, morally or politically, it still may not be the most effective approach.</p> <p>Bray presents violence as the alternative to liberal approaches, which rely on rational discourse and policing. Certainly, liberalism has often failed to deal with right-wing threats. However, there is another alternative: nonviolent action, the strategic use of petitions, rallies, strikes, boycotts, sit-ins and a host of other methods. This alternative has a rich history—including, for example,&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/nazis-afraid-clowns/">countering fascists</a>&nbsp;using clowning. Bray can hardly avoid discussing nonviolent action because it is now used widely in contemporary social movements.</p> <p>To his credit, Bray addresses nonviolent action. He spends much of his treatment countering the arguments about fascism presented by Erica Chenoweth, a leading nonviolence scholar and co-author with Maria Stephan of the acclaimed study “<a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">Why Civil Resistance Works</a>.” Bray cites particular cases in his attempt to counter the findings of Chenoweth and Stephan. This is strange because Chenoweth and Stephan do not claim violence is never effective, but rather that a statistical analysis of violent and nonviolent anti-regime campaigns shows that nonviolent movements are more likely to be successful and to lead to freer societies years later.</p> <p>More seriously, Bray does not come to grips with the assumptions underlying nonviolent action. As Chenoweth and Stephan show, and many others have argued, a key reason why nonviolent action is effective is because it enables participation by most sectors of the population, including women, children, elderly and people with disabilities. Anyone can participate in a boycott.</p> <p>A second key reason for the effectiveness of nonviolent action is precisely its avoidance of violence. Many people see violent attacks on peaceful, non-resisting protesters as unfair, even inhumane. As a result, such attacks can recoil against the attackers, generating greater support for the protesters. This effect, called political jiu-jitsu, is reduced or nullified when protesters are themselves violent.</p> <p>Bray is quite right to point out that many campaigns, categorized as primarily nonviolent, used some violence. But this does not mean the violence helped the campaigns. By the logic of political jiu-jitsu, it may have weakened them.</p> <p>Throughout “Antifa,” Bray actually gives examples of when fascist violence was counterproductive for the fascists and examples of when anti-fascist violence was counterproductive for the anti-fascists. For example, in Sweden in the 1990s, “neo-Nazi violence provoked a harsh societal backlash.” Then, in 2000, a Swedish neo-Nazi, Daniel Wretström, “allegedly was killed in a fight with immigrant youth,” and was seen as a martyr for his cause. The neo-Nazis subsequently held an annual march in his memory. However, Bray does not dwell on cases in which violence is counterproductive and does not link them to a backfire process.</p> <p>In terms of nonviolence theory, one of the shortcomings of much anti-fascist campaigning is that the use of violence limits participation. Bray notes the challenges that antifa groups have with excess machismo and the rise of feminist antifa (fantifa) groups in response. He gives no information about the demographics of antifa groups, in particular their age and ability profiles. It is reasonable to assume that most antifa activists involved in physical confrontations are young fit men, the same profile as most military forces and combatants in any armed struggle.</p> <p>“Antifa” succeeds in its primary mission: providing English-language readers with an overview of the antifa network, its purpose, diverse international groupings, ideology and tactics. The book is an informed and revealing, yet one-sided, account of efforts against fascism. What it omits is a sustained discussion of strategy to counter fascism by any means except using force to deter or fight the presence of the far right in public spaces. This one-dimensional approach limits the potential for participation of many sympathetic people. Furthermore, it can even alienate potential supporters who might be won over and involved using less confrontational tactics.</p> <p>Using violence sends a message that the way to oppose those with whom you disagree is to silence their speech. This can legitimate use of the same methods by opponents. Ultimately, suppressing free speech and using violence are not good ways to build the sort of free society Bray desires, because they fail to foster the attitudes and skills necessary for such a society to develop and flourish.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/strategic-naivet-of-antifa">The strategic naiveté of Antifa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/david-standen/is-it-ok-to-punch-nazis-in-face-thats-beside-point">Is it ok to punch Nazis in the face? That&#039;s beside the point</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler/six-principles-of-nonviolence">Six principles of nonviolence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sue Curry Jansen Brian Martin Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 03 May 2018 20:07:57 +0000 Brian Martin and Sue Curry Jansen 117545 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The US teachers strike in historical perspective https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/steven-parfitt/us-teachers-strike-in-historical-perspective <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Previous waves of unrest offer clues to the possible regeneration of the American labor movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/StevenParfitt.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Teachers with the Chicago Teachers Union picket outside of the Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago, Illinois, on Monday, September 10, 2012. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/50864803@N03/16503056070/">Flickr/TMT photos</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>. </p> <p>In the US, a teachers’ strike is spreading from one red state to another. It began in West Virginia when 34,000 teachers walked out on February 22 2018. They stayed out until March 7, against the advice of their own union leaders, until they received a deal that they could live with from the state government. They were soon joined by tens of thousands of teachers in Oklahoma, who struck from April 2 to April 12, and then their colleagues in Arizona followed them on <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/04/arizona-teachers-strike-unions-charter-schools">April 26</a>. </p> <p>Now there are rumbles of teachers’ strikes in the blue and purple states of Illinois and New Jersey, and in states elsewhere. NBC News reports a “<a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/red-state-teacher-rebellion-hits-oklahoma-grows-arizona-n861851">Red-state Teacher Rebellion</a>.” There is no telling whether the rebellion will spread to more states and occupations. </p> <p>The teachers’ strikes come at a difficult time for American unions. Their total membership has <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm">fallen</a> from 17.7 million people in 1983 to 14.8 million in 2017, and the proportion of union members in the workforce has fallen even more dramatically, from 20.1 percent in 1983 to 10.7 percent in 2017. Unions continue to fund the Democratic Party, but their investment has seen few legislative gains. This is a story of failure, softened only by the occasional victory. </p> <p>Yet the teachers’ strikes may offer American unions a road back to health. Historians have long known that unions seldom grow at a slow, steady pace. They tend instead to push forward in a series of leaps, in a kind of chain reaction where a strike in one industry inspires strikes in others. The growth of unions in one part of the country leads to the growth of unions in other parts, and to use the British historian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/oct/01/eric-hobsbawm">Eric Hobsbawm’s</a> term, the labor movement recruits “in lumps” as striking workers join unions <em>en masse</em>. The American labor activist Kim Moody, in his recent book <em><a href="https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1106-on-new-terrain">On New Terrain,</a></em> describes this process as a “labor upsurge.” Could the strike by teachers in West Virginia be the spark for just such an upsurge in 2018?</p> <p>To answer this question it’s useful to look back to previous waves of strikes in the US like the <a href="http://isj.org.uk/1934-year-of-the-fightback/">rising of 1934</a>, when striking workers laid the groundwork for the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_of_Industrial_Organizations">Congress of Industrial Organizations,</a> or the mass strikes in coal, steel, the railroads and other industries during or immediately after the First World War, or the militancy of auto and other workers in the 1970s. </p> <p>We could also look to more recent <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2012/12/one-two-many-chicago-teachers-strikes-2">strikes in 2012</a> by the Chicago Teachers’ Union, the near-ousting in 2016 of President James P. Hoffa of the powerful Teamsters Union by the <a href="http://www.tdu.org/">Teamsters for a Democratic Union</a> (a rank-and-file movement), and the victories of <a href="https://fightfor15.org/">Fight for $15</a> in the last two years. But I would go <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/02/trump-fascism-gilded-age-knights-of-labor">even further back</a> to understand what an upsurge could mean for today’s American labor movement, to the ‘Great Upheaval’ of 1885/87. What happened then?</p> <p>American workers in the 1880s lived, as we do today, in the aftermath of a global financial crisis: in their case, the ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1873">Panic</a>’ of 1873. The ensuing depression wiped out many American unions. As today, the survivors faced a highly unequal society and a political system beholden to big money. In this historical picture, the infamous financier <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Gould">Jay Gould</a> substitutes for the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_family">Koch Brothers</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Carnegie">Andrew Carnegie</a> stands in for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Gates">Bill Gates</a>.</p> <p>Wages stagnated in nominal terms, at least for the rest of the 1870s and into the 1880s. Immigrants faced widespread discrimination, and Chinese immigrants were even excluded from the United States altogether from 1882 onwards. Black Americans endured the end of Reconstruction and the imposition of Jim Crow. American women faced exclusion from much public space and, when they worked for a wage, they faced a gender pay gap larger than that of today. Grievance piled on grievance.</p> <p>However, union organizing started to expand again at the start of the 1880s, when economic conditions improved. A working-class movement, the Knights of Labor, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00236568408584743?journalCode=clah20">rose from 10,000 to 70,000 members between 1878 and 1884</a>. Telegraph operators, glass workers and railroad workers waged bitter strikes, sometimes successfully, and the final spark was lit in 1885 by workers on the Wabash railroad and the Southwestern rail system. Both railroads were owned by Gould. </p> <p>In strikes during March and August, railroad workers twice forced him to reinstate strikers, grant overtime pay, reverse wage reductions, and tolerate their representatives, the Knights of Labor. Few strikes had ever succeeded against such a powerful adversary, and their victory over Gould gave workers in other places and industries the confidence necessary to down tools themselves. The Great Upheaval had begun.</p> <p>This is the stage that some commentators think we’ve also reached today: on the cusp of a strike wave, this time sparked by the teachers of West Virginia. In the 1880s version of a labor upsurge, the strikes on Gould’s railroads opened the floodgates to industrial action. In 1886, <a href="http://libcom.org/history/strike-jeremy-brecher">499,489 American workers engaged in 1,411 recorded strikes at 9,891 establishments</a>. This was more than double the number of strikers in 1885 and far higher than the <a href="http://libcom.org/history/strike-jeremy-brecher">129,521 strikers recorded in 1881.</a> </p> <p>Membership in the Knights of Labor <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Knights-of-Labor">rose to nearly a million in 1886</a>, including tens of thousands of black and women workers. In the same year, the movement for the eight-hour working day pushed forward the cycle of strikes, boycotts, and protests. It reached its height in May 1886, when tens of thousands of workers across the country struck simultaneously for eight hours.</p> <p>Workers pressed their case at the ballot box as well as in the workplace. Local labor parties sprang up to contest elections at local, state and federal levels. The radical economist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_George">Henry George</a> ran for the mayoralty of New York on the United Labor Party ticket in 1886. He came a respectable second to the Democrat, Abram Hewitt, and beat the Republican candidate into third place—one <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/roosevelt_theodore.shtml">Theodore Roosevelt</a>.</p> <p>Across the United States, workers elected labor mayors, state legislators and even congressmen in Washington DC. The two-party system briefly faced challenges that have seldom been seen since. In this strange time, Eleanor Marx, the daughter of Karl Marx, and her husband Edward Aveling <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/eleanor-marx/works/wcia.htm">could argue</a> that “the example of the American working men will be followed before long on the European side of the Atlantic. An English or, if you will, a British Labour Party will be formed, foe alike to Liberal and Conservative.”</p> <p>We are certainly not at&nbsp;<em>that</em>&nbsp;stage yet. The <a href="https://go.berniesanders.com/page/content/join-us/">campaign of Bernie Sanders</a> in 2016, which saw a self-proclaimed socialist come agonizingly close to the Democratic Party presidential nomination, may have given new strength to the American left. A widely-cited Harvard University poll in 2016 may have found that most younger Americans now <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/get-rid-of-capitalism-millennials-are-ready-to-talk-about-it">prefer socialism</a>—whatever they think it means—to capitalism. But an electorally successful labor party is not likely to emerge in the next few years. If it does, it will take more time and require enormous energy on the part of the left, forces within the unions, and a wide cross-section of American workers.</p> <p>Yet we should not discount the possibility of a labor upsurge in the meantime. The grievances that are leading teachers to strike in state after state are shared by millions of public and private workers across the country. Like teachers, these workers have less and less to lose by industrial action, and falling unemployment means that finding replacements for them becomes more difficult. International events might further fan the flames that the teachers have set alight. Strikes by Amazon workers in <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-spain/spains-amazon-workers-call-two-day-strike-over-wages-rights-idUSKCN1GP13L">Spain</a>, for example, could spread to the <a href="https://theconversation.com/modern-capitalism-has-opened-a-major-new-front-for-strike-action-logistics-89616">great logistics clusters</a> of the United States and set off a chain reaction across the American heartland—much as the railroad workers did in 1885.</p> <p>There is, of course, a cautionary side to this tale. The Great Upheaval of 1885-87 ended in defeat for the unions and for the new labor parties. When railroad workers struck again in 1886, after Gould reneged on his promises, they lost. In May 1886, anarchists at Chicago’s Haymarket Square were accused of throwing a bomb at police. The events that followed set off America’s first ‘<a href="http://www.chicagohistoryresources.org/hadc/intro.html">Red Scare,</a>’ and the labor movement became one of its main victims. The Knights of Labor shed hundreds of thousands of members. The labor parties soon disappeared or were absorbed into the Democrats and Republicans. The labor upsurge of 1885/86 became the headlong retreat of 1886/87. Historians now see the Great Upheaval of 1885-7 as a great step forward, followed by an even greater step back.</p> <p>There are things we can all do to ensure that the rebellion of 2018 does not end in the same way. You can join the strike wave. You can show your face and your solidarity at the nearest picket line, or the nearest pro-strike protest. You can donate to strike funds, tweet support, sign petitions, and get involved in any movement that supports the strikers and tries to unite the different strikes under the same banner of political change. Each time you do these things, it becomes more likely that future historians will refer to the Great Rebellion of 2018 as a landmark in the renewal of American unions, and not as another episode in their long-term decline.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ernest-anemone/badass-teachers-and-future-of-american-democracy">Badass teachers and the future of American democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/alex-nicoll/intimidation-new-normal">Intimidation: the new normal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Trade unions Steven Parfitt Transformative nonviolence Activism Economics Tue, 01 May 2018 19:12:48 +0000 Steven Parfitt 117556 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sacred activism: a movement for global healing https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/martin-winiecki/sacred-activism-movement-for-global-healing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our natural sense of interdependence has been replaced by an addictive focus on personal short-term profit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Leila Dregger_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Participants in the&nbsp;<em>Defend the Sacred</em>&nbsp;gathering on Odeceixe beach in Portugal, August 12 2017. Credit: Copyright Tamera Institute/Yuval Kovo. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Humanity is at the pinnacle of a historic death cult. Late last year, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries issued a dramatic “<a href="http://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/">warning to humanity</a>” over biodiversity loss due to overconsumption of resources. They agreed that if we continue “business as usual,” we’ll shortly approach a point where it will be too late to shift our apocalyptic trajectory; worldwide ecosystem collapse will be inevitable.</p> <p>In its compulsion for unending growth, capitalism has developed a vampiric mechanism of planetary proportions, sucking the lifeblood out of the Earth’s body. In its addiction to mining, oil drilling, deforestation, the exploitation of billions of lives and the mental enslavement of humanity, today’s global economic system precisely embodies&nbsp;<a href="https://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/seeing-wetiko-on-capitalism-mind-viruses-and-antidotes-for-a-world-in-transition/" target="_blank"><em>Wetiko</em>, an Algonquin word for “cannibalism</a>” that illustrates the insanity we’ve fallen prey to. Wetiko is the psycho-spiritual “disease of the white man” which makes amnesiacs of us—our natural sense of basic interdependence with other beings is obliterated and replaced with an addictive focus on personal short-term profit.</p> <p>Through an insidious history of colonization, genocide, and imperialism, the Wetiko virus has gradually infected (nearly) all of humanity, brainwashing us into a mode of thought that proclaims that “the Earth is a dead exploitable resource,” “animals and plants have no soul,” “life is a game of competition and fight,” “love always ends in disaster,” “either we kill our enemies or they will kill us,” “we will be punished for our mistakes” and so on. </p> <p>Under the spell of this subconscious conditioning, we are sleepwalking towards an abyss, lacking the psychological and spiritual capacities needed to make sense of and respond to the crisis we’re facing. With our collective survival on the line, we need a wholly different vision of ourselves and our relation to the living world that’s able to awaken our primordial love for life and our desire to serve it without reservation. Only with a unifying narrative that addresses the human disconnection at the root of our global crisis will the many social, political and ecological movements converge into a relevant power for global system change.</p> <p><strong>The seeds of Standing Rock.</strong></p> <p>What is sacred? It might seem cynical to speak about something “sacred” after millennia of unspeakable atrocities committed in its name. Yet, living in a civilization that has defiled virtually everything, emptied this world of meaning and processed it into commodities, our longing for the sacred might, after all, be the crucial guide out of our dead end.</p> <p>When about 30 members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe confronted the fossil fuel industry and the U.S. government, setting up a camp at their burial ground which was to be bulldozed for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, they did so to “defend the sacred.” Ladonna Bravebull Allard, founder of the Sacred Stone Camp affirms, “We stood up because we had no other choice. Water is life. If there’s no water, we will die.”</p> <p>Such “sacred activism” comes as a deep re-membering:&nbsp;<em>We are of this Earth. There is no salvation outside of it.</em>Patriarchal religions told of some out-of-Earth entity making covenants with exceptional people and asking us to renounce this world. Yet the original covenant of all people is&nbsp;<em>with the Earth</em>&nbsp;and is therefore of an Earthly, sensual nature. Activism doesn’t become “sacred” merely because it works “on behalf of” something sacred; but by recognizing, honoring, embodying and celebrating the inherent sacredness of all that lives—which isn’t anywhere beyond this world, but right here. </p> <p>Sacred activism challenges us to make a choice at every moment, to decide for life, for solidarity and for trust despite the temptation of an overwhelming field of fear, greed and hatred. It was this clear orientation that fueled the resistance at Standing Rock – and drew in people from all directions to join it. Representatives of over 300 Indigenous cultures, black bloc anarchists, environmentalists, spiritual seekers and over 2500 army veterans banded together beyond their usual ideological divisions, because they were united by something more fundamental than ideologies – a shared spiritual center.</p> <p>Standing Rock inspired similar resistances globally. Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota People, writes in February 2018, “People all over the world are now beginning to understand that [water] is a living spirit: it can heal when you pray with it and die if you do not respect it. (…) Standing Rock has marked the beginning of an international movement that will continue to work peacefully, purposefully, and tirelessly for the protection of water along all areas of poisonous oil pipelines and across all of Mother Earth.”</p> <p>Around the world, movements are arising towards decentralizing power, culture and economies, leaving the mega-systems of nation states and globalized corporations behind and building a society based on autonomous regions in which people can reclaim their sovereignty while caring for each other and the Earth again. There are remarkable movements in the Global South, such as the Indigenous Zapatista movement in Mexico, the Rojava revolution in the Kurdish zones of northern Syria, the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil, peace communities, such as San José de Apartadó in Colombia and many more. In the Global North, we see a revival of socialist ideals and the emergence of municipalism.</p> <p>It’s worth noting that this revolution is feminine in essence. Women are the heart of many of these movements. From Rojava to Chiapas, from Standing Rock to Barcelona, we’re seeing the resurgence of feminine power fostering community, self-determination, healing and care for the Earth, shaking the foundations of patriarchal dominance.</p> <p>How can this revolutionary impulse succeed? Trump defeated the Standing Rock movement, Erdogan is cracking down on Rojava and Colombian peace communities are severely threatened by paramilitaries. Running up against a globalized trillion-dollar economic, political and military system, every group and place resisting will face the same destiny as long as they remain on merely the local, regional or even national levels. The victory over capitalist globalization can, logically, only be global. In other words, either we form an unbreakable global alliance or we’re bound to fail. Yet, in this struggle, failure is not an option.</p> <p><strong>A starting point for a global alliance?</strong></p> <p>As I see it, a global alliance bringing together the many movements in the North and South, and mobilizing the many millions wanting radical change, could emerge around the following five shared thematic areas:</p> <p>1) Fierce nonviolent resistance against the fossil fuel industry</p> <p>Stopping the fossil fuel industry before it’s too late is the first demand for our collective survival. As people stood up against the pipeline at Standing Rock, people must come together and stand up everywhere to both impede new fossil fuel projects and shut down existing ones. At the same time, let’s increase the pressure on municipalities, countries, companies and banks to divest from fossil fuels and end subsidies. </p> <p>The divestment movement reached a historic milestone in the first days of 2018 when New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced his city would divest from fossil fuels and sue leading oil companies over climate change. Activist and author Naomi Klein, who assisted the announcement, comments that “What felt politically impossible yesterday suddenly seems possible.”</p> <p>2) Transition to decentralized, clean energy and large-scale ecosystem restoration</p> <p>Let’s establish regenerative energy systems based on the inexhaustible sources of sun and wind. We must ensure the transition will be decentralized, instead of staying stuck in the corporate framework. Let’s organize to create a decentralized infrastructure for energy-autonomous cities and regions.</p> <p>Additionally, let’s rehabilitate ecosystems worldwide, as desertification, droughts, wildfires and misery aren’t only the results of carbon emissions but also of the destruction of ecosystems and natural water cycles. By creating systems of local rainwater retention, we no longer only need to adapt to climate change, we can actually restore and rebalance our destabilized climate.</p> <p>There are powerful examples to follow, such as India’s “Water Gandhi” Rajendra Singh and his NGO&nbsp;<a href="http://tarunbharatsangh.in/">Tarun Bharat Sangh</a>&nbsp;that mobilized villagers in Rajasthan to restore thousands of square kilometers of degraded land, through which they’ve revived several rivers, rebalanced rainfall, ended extreme weather events and secured an abundant self-sufficient water and food supply for about 100,000 people in less than 25 years. Following a&nbsp;<a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">New&nbsp;</a><a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">Water&nbsp;</a><a href="https://dev.tamera.org/wp-content/uploads/The-New-Water-Paradigm.pdf">Paradigm</a>, let’s organize in communities united around watersheds for natural and decentralized water management wherever we live. “<a href="https://www.rainforclimate.com/">Rain for Climate</a>,” a movement initiated by the Slovakian hydrologist Michal Kravčík, offers a corresponding global action plan.</p> <p>3) Ethics of universal solidarity</p> <p>To truly heal this planet, we need the power of community, which is much more than simply a political coalition. Whenever people come together around a shared goal and practice solidarity, they connect with a power greater than the sum of their individual efforts. Thus, they’re unified and driven by meaning, trust and possibility, able to overcome any obstacle.</p> <p>We must recognize the crucial role of community, not just as an accidental side effect of camps or occupations, but as a vital aspect of post-capitalist society and so consciously engage in building and maintaining it. Thereby, politics becomes a matter of social design, because the divisions we’re suffering in our movements, most of the time, result from a lack of trust and solidarity among human beings. </p> <p>We all carry a wound that expresses itself as fear or anger, attack or retreat in one situation or the other. So far, this wound has mostly been more powerful than people’s will for change. Systems of domination have prevailed by exploiting this human weakness, sowing discord among activists and setting them against each other.</p> <p>A planetary community of sacred activists relies on living, breathing trust among its members. It will grow in power to the extent that we cultivate universal solidarity, truthful communication and mutual support. Instead of propagating moralistic heroism, let’s create places of encounter and new forms of coexistence that will allow us to heal our wounds and rebuild trust.</p> <p>4) A common focus on an emerging vision for humanity</p> <p>The world seems ready for radical change. The majority of the population in the West no longer supports the dominant economic and political system and is turning away from it in what journalist Chris Hedges calls the “invisible revolution.” Recent years have seen massive outbreaks of public anger and longing for a different society. Yet, little has changed. According to the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, we’re stuck in a state which most recognize as beyond insane, simply because no one can see a credible alternative.</p> <p>The necessary global shift begins by radically reimagining our civilization. If we have an authentic vision for a nonviolent and regenerative way of life, a culture of solidarity and trust, we’ll be able to midwife the global transition. This isn’t anything we can make up; a true vision is something fundamentally different from a constructed idea, wishful fantasy or ideology.</p> <p>As we abandon the mainstream mentality of dominant culture, we also overcome the drought of creativity which blocks people from imagining an alternative. We recognize that our spirit is deeply creative and that we always carry vision—this is why we’re alive. When a vision touches our heart and we allow it to guide our life, we’re driven by our deepest purpose and have enormous energies at our disposal. Yet we carry vision not only individually but also collectively. </p> <p>As Ladonna Bravebull Allard of Standing Rock puts it, “The shared vision for humanity exists, whether we see it or not.” Our task is to become receptive for it, to see it, make it visible and activate it, using all means of communication, so that our collective imagination will no longer be driven by dreams of downfall, but elevated by the possibility of worldwide healing and unification.</p> <p>5) A different principle of power</p> <p>The fight between capitalism and those defending life is a power struggle. We need to seize power, but we need a different kind of power than the one usually deployed by revolutionaries. We have no chance of trying to overcome a globalized system of violence by constructing a counter-force through mass mobilization and fight alone. Many attempts to overthrow the dominant systems didn’t originate from power, but powerlessness, because activists let themselves be corrupted by the fear and hatred those systems propagated.</p> <p>Native American activist Winona LaDuke writes, “Part of the mythology that they’ve been teaching you is that you have no power. Power is not brute force and money; power is in your spirit. Power is in your soul. (…) Power is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.”</p> <p>Despite terrible injuries, all life still automatically strives towards healing, regeneration and convergence, as this is necessary for its continuity. In nature, we find universal patterns at work, which operate according to what sociologist and futurist Dieter Duhm calls the “sacred matrix.” He writes:</p> <p>“The sacred matrix is the cosmic pattern which forms the basis for the organization of life. It steers the information and energies necessary for the evolution and maintenance of life. When the individual connects with this guidance, channels for healing open up. When humanity organizes itself in accordance with the sacred matrix, channels for global healing powers open up.”<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Beyond all alienation and division, there’s something all beings have in common, something we all deeply love. This something carries no name and is beyond description, but it is what people of all ages have experienced as “sacred.” When the veil of separation falls, we face the animated, eternal and truly sacred character of existence. </p> <p>When people enter into this resonance, they experience healing, regeneration and convergence and often find themselves under great protection. Studying and learning to live according to the principles of sacred power will allow our movements to succeed in ways that previously looked impossible. The key to this power doesn’t primarily lie in external activities and strategies, but in a conscious shift of the whole way we live, think, speak and act – from the matrix of fear and violence to the sacred matrix.</p> <p><strong>Utopia or oblivion?</strong></p> <p>Ultimately, our success will result from unprecedented collaboration between the different organs of the emerging global alliance. A key part of this is to establish experimental centers that concretely model post-capitalist societies on a small scale, developing social and ecological structures that invite in and no longer systematically block off the healing powers of life. Such centers (at Tamera, we call these “<a href="https://www.tamera.org/healing-biotopes-plan/">Healing Biotopes</a>”) as well as still-existing Indigenous communities could provide all those wanting to step out of the current system with the necessary knowledge to create functioning communities of trust and cooperation.</p> <p>More and more places could break out of the dominant system, creating autonomous regions, and so give rise to a new system based on a local sovereignty rooted in global interdependence. While social movements slow down the pace of destruction through their resistance, they could also restore ecosystems and implement the infrastructure for post-capitalism. </p> <p>Inventors could contribute new technologies to an ever-increasing number of regenerative communities and regions, donors could support them financially, journalists could provide the necessary public attention and allied progressive governments could create “free zones” for them to operate in. Guided by a shared global vision, an ever-increasing number of people would help birth a new era. Once a global alternative becomes realistic for a critical number of people, we would have created the conditions for the dominant system to implode and give way to a new one.</p> <p>This is no longer only a dream. As dystopian scenarios become imminent, “utopia” remains as the only realistic way out. We mustn’t forget that it has always been through existential necessity, vision, community and surrender to spirit that people have made the apparently impossible possible. Let’s come together to build a world where creativity, cooperation and mutual support become the foundations of a sacred way of life.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.kosmosjournal.org/news/sacred-activism-movement-for-global-healing/">Kosmos Journal</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Sacred activism: the story of Tamera</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/culture-shift-redirecting-humanity-s-path-to-flourishing-future">Culture shift: redirecting humanity’s path to a flourishing future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-catastrophe-only-cure-for-weakness-of-radical-politics">Is catastrophe the only cure for the weakness of radical politics? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Martin Winiecki Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Love and Spirituality Tue, 24 Apr 2018 20:06:42 +0000 Martin Winiecki 117458 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How do you tell the kids that Grandma is in jail for resisting nuclear weapons? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/frida-berrigan/how-do-you-tell-kids-that-grandma-is-in-jail-for-resisting-nuclear-wea <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Wait, these nuclear weapons…They are war things?” Seamus asked. “Yep, they are war things bud.” “Good for grandma.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><em>This article was first published in&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/kings-bay-plowshares-resisting-nuclear-weapons-racism/?pf=true">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/FridaBerrigan3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></span></span></p><p class="image-caption">The seven members of the Kings Bay Plowshares, who entered the Georgia naval base on April 4 2018 to protest&nbsp;nuclear weapons, white supremacy and racism. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Kings Bay Plowshares. All rights reserved.</p> <p>“Our grandma is in jail,” Madeline tells a woman wrestling a shopping cart at Target.</p> <p>“She went over a war fence and tried to make peace,” Seamus adds helpfully. “They arrested her, and she is in jail now.”</p> <p>“Where?” the woman asks, looking from them to me in disbelief and maybe pity.</p> <p>“We don’t remember,” the kids say, suddenly done with their story and ready to make passionate pleas for the colorful items in the dollar section over the woman’s shoulder.</p> <p>“Georgia,” I say, but I don’t have a lot of energy to add detail to my kids’ story. They hit all the high points.</p> <p>“There’s a lot going on these days,” she says. I agree, and we move on into the store and our separate errands.</p> <p>I was happy not to say more at that moment, happy to avoid a sobbing breakdown at Target, happy to wrestle one little bit of normal out of a very abnormal day.</p> <p>My mom, Liz McAlister, who turned 78 in November, had been arrested deep inside the King’s Bay Naval Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Along with six friends, she carried banners, statements, hammers and blood onto the base. They started their action on April 4: the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination.</p> <p>Their statement made connections between nuclear weapons, white supremacy and deeply embedded racism. It is a long statement, but given that they were carrying it into a free-fire zone—where military personnel are authorized to use deadly force—there was no particular need for brevity: “We come to Kings Bay to answer the call of the prophet Isaiah (2:4) to ‘beat swords into plowshares’ by disarming the world’s deadliest nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine. We repent of the sin of white supremacy that oppresses and takes the lives of people of color here in the United States and throughout the world. We resist militarism that has employed deadly violence to enforce global domination. We believe reparations are required for stolen land, labor and lives.”</p> <p>They walked onto King’s Bay Naval Station just hours after&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/nyregion/police-shooting-brooklyn-crown-heights.html">Saheed Vassell</a>&nbsp;was shot and killed in a barrage of bullets by New York City police officers, just hours after&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article207935124.html">hundreds of demonstrators</a>&nbsp;filled the streets of Sacramento for another day, shouting “Stephon Clark, Stephon Clark, Stephon Clark” and demanding accountability after the young father of two was killed by police officers on March 18. These seven white activists know that when you are black in this country, your own corner, your grandmother’s own backyard, is a free-fire zone more dangerous than any military base.There is indeed a lot going on these days.</p> <p>The statement continues: “Dr. King said, ‘The greatest purveyor of violence in the world (today) is my own government.’ This remains true in the midst of our endless war on terror. The United States has embraced a permanent war economy. ‘Peace through strength’ is a dangerous lie in a world that includes weapons of mass destruction on hair-trigger alert. The weapons from one Trident have the capacity to end life as we know it on planet Earth.”</p> <p>Kings Bay is the largest nuclear&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Submarine_Base_Kings_Bay">submarine base</a>&nbsp;in the world at about 16,000 acres. It is the home port of the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet’s Trident nuclear-powered submarines. There are eight in total, two guided missile submarines and six ballistic missile submarines. These submarines were all built in Groton, Connecticut—right across the river from our home in New London. Each submarine, my mom and her friends assert, carries the capacity to cause devastation equivalent to 600 of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima, Japan.</p> <p>“Nuclear weapons kill every day through our mining, production, testing, storage and dumping, primarily on indigenous native land. This weapons system is a cocked gun being held to the head of the planet. As white Catholics, we take responsibility to atone for the horrific crimes stemming from our complicity with ‘the triplets’ [of evil]. Only then can we begin to restore right relationships. We seek to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons, racism and economic exploitation.”</p> <p>That is not the end; you can read the whole statement and their indictment of the United States on their&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/1558500837566350/">Facebook group</a>. These sorts of actions—called Plowshares— have a nearly 40-year history, since my father and uncle and six others broke into the King of Prussia plant in Pennsylvania in 198o to “beat swords into plowshares.” They struck at nosecones with hammers and marked the weapons with blood to reveal the human costs and mess and suffering the weapons are built to wreak in the world.</p> <p>My father participated in five of these Plowshares actions in his lifetime and helped organize countless others. Committed conspirers, steeped in active nonviolence, have carried out more than 100 of these actions since 1980. This is my mom’s second action. She and her current co-defendant Clare Grady, were part of the 1983 Griffiss Plowshares in upstate New York.</p> <p>My parents estimated that they spent 11 years of their 27-year marriage separated by prison, and it was mostly these actions that kept them apart and away from us. Countless life events in our family—birthdays, graduations, celebrations of all kinds—were stuttered by the absence of one of our parents. I say this with pain and loss, but no self-pity. Dad was able to attend my high school graduation, but not my brother’s. We went straight from my college graduation to visit my dad in jail in Maine. </p> <p>I missed all the raging keggers, sweaty dance parties and tearful goodbyes that marked the end of college for my friends to sit knee-to-knee with my father in a cramped and soulless room. On chairs designed for maximum discomfort, I tried to share my momentous day and all my 22-year-old big feelings while ignoring the guards and the room crowded with a dozen others doing the same thing. We wrote thousands of letters. They often crisscrossed each other so that there was a constant weaving of story and sharing across the miles.</p> <p>So, when I explained that grandma was in jail to my kids—11-year-old Rosena, 5-year-old Seamus and 4-year-old Madeline—I felt the weight of a lifetime of missing and provisional family experiences, frequently lived in prison visiting rooms and through urgently scrawled letters.</p> <p>I tried to figure out a way to talk to them that would make sense and, in thinking it through, I realized that none of this should make sense to anyone! Nuclear weapons? Absurd! Police brutality and white supremacy? Senseless! Plowshares actions with their symbolic transformation and ritual mess-making? A foolhardy act of David versus Goliath proportions!</p> <p>So, I didn’t try to make it make sense. I just forged ahead, grateful that they had some context: We had participated in the Good Friday Stations of the Cross organized by Catholic Worker friends at our local submarine base a few days earlier, and—the night before—we had gone to hear a dramatic reading of Dr. King’s “<a href="http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html">Letter from a Birmingham Jail</a>.”</p> <p>“Hey guys, know how we went to the sub base on Friday? Grandma was arrested in a place like that late last night. She is in jail now. She and her friends broke onto the base to say that nuclear weapons are wrong. Remember how Dr. King talked about just and unjust laws?” They nodded and remembered that King said “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” I told them that Grandma thinks that nuclear weapons—things that can destroy so much life on our planet—shouldn’t be built and protected and paid for when so many people are hungry, so many kids don’t have good schools to go to, so many people don’t have good homes. I went on and on.</p> <p>“Wait, these nuclear weapons…They are war things?” Seamus asked.</p> <p>“Yep, they are war things, bud.”</p> <p>“Good for grandma,” he said, and that was the end of our serious conversation.</p> <p>Mom and her friends are charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass and two felonies: possession of tools for the commission of a crime and interference with government property.</p> <p>The kids and I didn’t talk about the kind of jail time that could mean for their grandma. It is all I am thinking about right now, but they moved on, imagining out loud and with a lot of enthusiasm how grandma got by the attack dogs and police officers they had seen at the Groton Submarine Base. They were sure there was a similar set up in Georgia. “Grandma needed a ladder and a cheetah,” said Madeline. “A cheetah is the only animal that can outrun dogs and police officer’s bullets.”</p> <p>I am pretty sure no cheetahs were involved in the Kings Bay Plowshares, but I am happy my daughter sees her grandmother as a fierce and powerful anti-war activist astride a wild cat.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/social-movements-need-imagination-which-is-why-i-m-not-buying-my-kids-">Social movements need imagination, which is why I’m not buying my kids any more toys</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/to-remain-in-prison-for-rest-of-my-life-is-greatest-honor-you-could-g">To remain in prison for the rest of my life is the greatest honor you could give me: the story of Sister Megan Rice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/john-dear/life-and-death-of-daniel-berrigan">The life and death of Daniel Berrigan</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Frida Berrigan Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 19 Apr 2018 18:56:44 +0000 Frida Berrigan 117278 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What Standing Rock gave the world https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jenni-monet/what-standing-rock-gave-world <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Indigenous struggle that goes hand in hand with protecting the Earth was made visible for everyone.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JenniMonet3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A winter blizzard descends on the camps just outside of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. The gathering has been the largest meeting of Native Americans since the Little Bighorn camp in 1876. Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images via YES! Magazine.</p> <p>&nbsp;At the height of the movement at Standing Rock, Indigenous teens half a world away in Norway were tattooing their young bodies with an image of a black snake. Derived from Lakota prophecy, the creature had come to represent the controversial Dakota Access pipeline for the thousands of water protectors determined to try to stop it.</p> <p>It was a show of international solidarity between the Indigenous Sami and the Lakota. “They got tattoos because of the Norwegian money invested in the pipeline,” said Jan Rune Måsø, editor of the Sami news division of Norway’s largest media company, NRK.</p> <p>Rune Måsø said the story about the tattoos was just one of about a hundred that his team of journalists covered over the course of the months-long pipeline battle in North Dakota. One of them, “The War on the Black Snake,” was awarded top honors at a journalism conference held in Trømsø in November. That story revealed large investments Norwegian banks had made to advance the $3.8 billion energy project, spurring a divestment campaign by the Sami Parliament.</p> <p>The backstory can be told simply. As early as April 2016, Indigenous activists protested<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/this-land-is-our-land-all-sides-dig-in-as-pipeline-nears-the-river-20161106" target="_self">&nbsp;the pipeline’s threat to the Standing Rock Sioux’s primary water supply,</a>&nbsp;the Missouri River. While battles were fought in federal courts, representatives of hundreds of Indigenous groups from around the world—the Maori, the Sami, and the Sarayaku, to name a few—arrived. Temporary communities of thousands were created on the reservation borderlands in nonviolent resistance against the crude oil project. </p> <p>Police arrested more than 800 people, and many water protectors faced attack dogs, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and, once, a water cannon on a freezing night in November. Last February, armored vehicles and police in riot gear cleared the last of the encampments. Recently, investigative journalism by The Intercept has documented that the paramilitary security firm TigerSwan was hired by DAPL parent Energy Transfer Partners to guide North Dakota law enforcement in treating the movement as a “national security threat.”</p> <p>Oil now flows through the pipeline under the Missouri. But this Indigenous-led disruption, the awakening resolve that was cultivated at Standing Rock, did not dissolve after February. Rather, it spread in so many different directions that we may never fully realize its reach. The spirit of resistance can easily be found in the half-dozen or so other pipeline battles across the United States. Beyond that, the movement amplified&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/standing-rock-joins-the-worlds-indigenous-fighting-for-land-and-life-20160930" target="_self">the greater struggle worldwide:</a>&nbsp;treaty rights, sacred sites, and the overall stand to protect Indigenous land and life.</p> <p>To be sure, post-colonization has always demanded acknowledgment of Indigenous autonomy. It’s what spurred months of international advocacy when Haudenosaunee Chief Deskaheh attempted to speak before the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1923. He wanted to remind the world that European colonizers had honored Iroquois Confederacy nationhood upon entering treaty agreements under the two row wampum.</p> <p>The stand at Standing Rock, then, was not anything new—just more modern.</p> <p>Google the words “the next Standing Rock” and you get a smattering of circumstances, mostly posed in the form of a question: Bears Ears, Line 3, Yucca Mountain. “The Next Standing Rock?” the headlines ask.</p> <p>The story of White Clay, Nebraska, is indicative. When the last tipis came down at Standing Rock, Clarence Matthew III, a middle-aged Sicangu Lakota man better known by his camp nickname, Curly, spared little time migrating to the South Dakota–Nebraska border. There, another fight for justice was mounting, for families living on the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This one focused on a decades-long dispute over beer sales targeted at Native American customers mostly prone to alcohol addiction.</p> <p>Demands turned to broader issues: investigation of dozens of unsolved crimes in White Clay against Native Americans. “Once we got down there, they started telling us about the problems they’ve had, more than just alcohol, the murders, the rapes, and everything that was on the bad side of that alcohol problem,” Matthew said. “It just broke my heart to hear all that.”</p> <p>Matthew had been caretaker of one of the main communities at Standing Rock, and he settled right in at Camp Justice at the edge of Pine Ridge. He was there with his “water protector family,” others who have adopted camping as an active form of protest.</p> <p>For all the momentum that the resistance at Standing Rock brought, the Indigenous rights movement in the 21st century faces increasing challenges. Tribal nations tread cautiously under the administration of Donald Trump. Internationally, the militarized protection of extractive energy projects and theft of land persist, despite glaring media attention paid to the rising number of Indigenous peoples killed or jailed for their activism in the face of it.</p> <p>In a final push for re-election last fall, Standing Rock’s Dave Archambault II gave what would be his last interview as chairman to tribal radio station KLND. Archambault used the airtime to speak matter-of-factly about how the movement had shifted the tribe’s potent public image away from the reservation. “It used to be cool to be Indian; now it’s cool to be from Standing Rock.</p> <p>“This movement was significant, not just for Standing Rock, but for all of Indian Country and around the world. We made some noise and now we’re starting to see other Indigenous communities rise up and say, Let us all speak now, and it’s pretty powerful and moving,” he said.</p> <p>Less than a week later and on the same day that the state of North Dakota accepted a $15 million gift from Energy Transfer Partners, Archambault was unseated by former council member Mike Faith, who has said publicly that he believes the overall movement hurt Standing Rock’s economy and neglected daily life for tribal members.</p> <p>The difference of opinion between the two leaders is a conflict that often lies at the heart of tribal community: protecting the Earth or protecting the Indigenous peoples.</p> <p>On the eve of Thanksgiving 2017, when the Keystone pipeline ruptured and spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in neighboring South Dakota, the newly elected Faith remained notably silent while water protectors responded with outrage, most loudly, closest to home.</p> <p>&nbsp;“Ironically, this week most Americans will be sitting down and giving thanks when last year at this time my people were being shot, gassed, and beaten for trying to keep this very thing from happening,” Chairman Harold Frazier from the neighboring Cheyenne River Sioux tribe said in a statement. Like Archambault and other tribal leaders, Frazier was arrested for participating in the Standing Rock occupation.</p> <p>Leadership in the Indigenous world is not only a difficult balance, but also dangerous. In Honduras, activist Bertha Zuniga Cáceres is fighting for Indigenous rights in one of the most militarized regions in the world. She is the daughter of Berta Cáceres, the Indigenous Lenca woman who was assassinated after leading a successful campaign to halt construction of the Agua Zarca Dam. Now she is seeking justice for her mother’s death.</p> <p>The 26-year-old Cáceres is also campaigning to suspend all U.S. military aid to Honduras. In July, she survived an attack by a group of assailants wielding machetes. Just weeks earlier she had been named the new leader of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, the nonprofit organization formerly led by her mother.</p> <p>“Many organizations, many NGOs, many Indigenous groups are struggling in how to sustain the work that they are doing in the face of these attacks,” said Katharina Rall, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.</p> <p>Last year, after the military-style assaults on the camps at Standing Rock, Human Rights Watch expanded its agenda to include a program focused on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/this-moment-at-standing-rock-was-decades-in-the-making-20160916" target="_self">the environment as a human right.</a>&nbsp;“The fact that we now have an environment and human rights program at our organization is a reflection of this reality that a lot of people face,” Rall said.</p> <p>Meantime, the organization Global Witness reports that it has never been deadlier to take a stand against companies that steal land and destroy the Earth. In 2016, the watchdog group found that nearly four activists a week are murdered fighting against mining, logging, and other extractive resource development.</p> <p>As disturbing as this reality is, it is unsurprising then to recall the military-style violence at Standing Rock: the rows of riot police pointing their guns at unarmed activists standing in the river; tanks shooting water in freezing temperatures at a crowd of people gathered on a bridge. In this one regard, Standing Rock was not unique in the world. It had become crucially important. Americans saw the global struggle faced by the estimated 370 million Indigenous people—the violence, stolen resources, colluding corporations and governments that go hand in hand with protecting the Earth.</p> <p>Sustaining this awakening is the next great task. Climate change poses one of the most serious reminders of why the sacred fires ignited at Standing Rock must continue to burn: Indigenous peoples and their knowledge and value systems matter.</p> <p>At November’s COP23 climate conference in Bonn, Germany, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim was dressed in traditional Mbororo regalia when she stood in a conference hall demanding that Indigenous knowledge systems be properly acknowledged in Paris Agreement negotiations. The girl who once tended cattle in the region of Chad bordering northeastern Nigeria has now become a bridge for her people and government officials making decisions impacting the fragile ecosystem of Lake Chad, the lifeline for the Mbororo.</p> <p>“Traditional knowledge has kept us from century to century to be in harmony with Mother Earth,” Ibrahim said. “These knowledges will make for all the difference, but we cannot wait years and years, because climate is changing, and it’s impacting the Earth.”</p> <p>Other members of the Indigenous Caucus at Bonn say inserting traditional knowledge into the climate talks doesn’t go far enough. Jannie Staffansson, a representative of the Saami Council, wants what Chief Deskaheh had petitioned to the League of Nations nearly a century earlier: sovereign recognition for Indigenous Peoples on an international scale. It would allow equity at the negotiating table—a level playing field to fairly deal with the consequences of a warming planet in the face of land grabs and natural resource extraction.</p> <p>“Why is it always that Indigenous peoples need to pay for other people’s wealth?” said Staffansson. She paused to check the Snapchat account she had been using to engage with a young Sami audience while at COP, a demographic similar to the teens who got tattoos of the black snake.</p> <p>“I had friends that went to Standing Rock,” said the 27-year-old. “I was envious of their trip to support self-determination. Self-determination and a just transition is what we have to take into account.”</p> <p>“We need climate justice in everything we do.”</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/decolonize/what-standing-rock-gave-the-world-20180316?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180316&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180316+Version+A+CID_de7353e921641a2965b31c38caaca5db&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=her%20article%20for%20The%20De">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/climate-justice-meets-racism-standing-rock-was-decades-in-making">Climate justice meets racism: Standing Rock was decades in the making</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/why-indigenous-civil-resistance-has-unique-power">What can be learned from the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/sheriffs-refuse-to-send-troops-to-standing-rock-as-public-outrage-mounts">Sheriffs refuse to send troops to Standing Rock as public outrage mounts</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jenni Monet Transformative nonviolence Activism Wed, 11 Apr 2018 19:36:08 +0000 Jenni Monet 116766 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Where are all the leaders? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/where-are-all-leaders <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today marks the 50<sup>th</sup> anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination—a good time to reflect on leadership and moral courage.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/leadership.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Martin Luther King at the podium of the Concord Hotel, Kiamesha Lake, New York, March 25 1968. Credit: Rabbinical Assembly Archives, New York. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Ten days <a href="https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/martin-luther-king-jr-is-assassinated">before he was shot to death</a> on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. answered questions from the audience at the old Concord Hotel in New York’s Catskill Mountains. It was his final public appearance before he arrived in Memphis to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDl84vusXos">deliver the words</a> that seemed to presage his own assassination: “I have been to the mountaintop,” he said, “and though I may not get there with you, we as a people will get to the Promised Land. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”</p> <p>The Concord was located just down the road from where I live in the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht_Belt">Borscht Belt</a>” of Sullivan County—the place where Jewish comedians from Danny Kaye to Jerry Seinfeld honed their skills and now the site of a <a href="https://rwcatskills.com/">shiny new casino</a>. King wasn’t upstate for the slot machines or the jokes of course; he was there to speak about leadership at a meeting of the <a href="https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/">Rabbinical Assembly</a>—an annual convention of orthodox Jewish leaders—though he was introduced by the radical Rabbi <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Joshua_Heschel">Dr Abraham Joshua Heschel</a> who was celebrating his sixtieth birthday.</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/assets/public/resources-ideas/cj/classics/1-4-12-civil-rights/conversation-with-martin-luther-king.pdf">his opening remarks Heschel spoke</a> about the need for a particular kind of leader in the struggle for justice, freedom and equality:</p> <blockquote><p>“Where does moral leadership in America come from today? The politicians are astute, the establishment is proud and the market place is busy. Where in America today do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel?”</p></blockquote> <p>In <a href="https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/assets/public/resources-ideas/cj/classics/1-4-12-civil-rights/conversation-with-martin-luther-king.pdf">the wide ranging question-and-answer session</a> that followed, members of the audience probed King on who he actually ‘represented’ in the black community, how racism and anti-Semitism were connected, whether activists should seek alliances with members of the ‘establishment,’ how issues like war and poverty intersect, and how he navigated the different tactics of nonviolence and Black Power—all issues that resonate just as loudly in politics and social activism today.</p> <p>Heschel answered his own question by calling King “a voice, a vision and a way,” though even in the 1960s this overestimated the influence of a single individual. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people ask ‘what would King do if he was still alive’ or ‘who’s the next Martin Luther King.’ These questions are invidious. There was only one, and he was killed fifty years ago today. New leaders are all around us if we have the foresight to see them, but they may not fit a standard template or occupy positions of formal power.</p> <p>Think of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2018/mar/24/emma-gonzalezs-powerful-march-for-our-lives-speech-in-full-video">Emma Gonzalez</a> from Parkland High School in Florida for example, who electrified the crowds on Pennsylvania Avenue during the March For Our Lives in Washington DC last week, or Rio de Janeiro councilor <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/breno-bringel/marielle-franco-and-brazils-future-hope-or-barbarity">Marielle Franco</a> who was murdered in Brazil on March 14, or the many leaders of <a href="https://blacklivesmatter.com/">Black Lives Matter</a>, or the hundreds of thousands of less famous examples that you could name in your own communities.</p> <p>We can’t clone leaders and we shouldn’t try, but we can encourage and protect them from co-option and attacks. Against that background it’s more useful to ask what <em>kind</em> of leader was Martin Luther King, what kept him from being silenced or captured by vested interests, and what conditions encouraged his remarkable personal example—all things that we can learn from more broadly. What is it that distinguishes visionaries and change agents from the parade of overpaid administrators that pass for leaders in most government positions, political parties, businesses and charities today?</p> <p>I’d start with <em>authenticity and moral courage, </em>which are difficult to describe but you know them when you see them—or rather when you <em>feel</em> them. In the few times I’ve encountered visionary leaders that’s how they’ve come across, as people who combine all forms of intelligence into one and strive to ‘be the change they want to see.’ It’s an emotional connection as well as one of strategy or politics. These are leaders who have something that you and I don’t, and who use it to inspire courageous action among large numbers of other people.</p> <p>Inspiration creates waves of change that go way beyond a particular policy or party platform or incremental reforms. King had that quality. So did nonviolence trainer and theorist <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/timothy-gee/remembering-gene-sharp-philosopher-of-non-violent-action">Gene Sharp who Timothy Gee remembered recently</a> on openDemocracy. Sharp inspired large-scale nonviolent uprisings the world over but he never lost his sense of humility and grounding, his open mind, his willingness to listen, and his commitment to make time for others however famous he became or however ‘unimportant’ they might be.</p> <p>Sharp, King and other civil rights leaders like <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-RoVzAqhYk" target="_blank">Fannie Lou Hamer</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://ellabakercenter.org/about/who-was-ella-baker">Ella Baker</a> represent the mirror image of the fakes and faux radicals who rise to the top in most areas of life today. New York Times columnist <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/opinion/sunday/spicer-anthony-scaramucci-mooch-trump.html">Maureen Dowd gave a perfect description</a> of such people’s <em>in</em>-authenticity when describing ex-Trump spokesman <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Scaramucci">Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scaramucci</a>: “a self-promoter extraordinaire and master salesman who doesn’t mind pushing a bad product—and probably sees it as more fun.”</p> <p>By contrast—and here’s the second important marker—visionary leaders are deadly serious about <em>accountability</em>—the willingness to hold yourself responsible for your actions and be held to account by others, even if you outrank them. Any movement that wants to achieve large-scale change has to motivate a great body of people into action, so leaders have to be willing to share power rather than accumulating it to themselves.</p> <p>That’s one of the lessons learned by the current iteration of King’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert-kyle-moore/great-society-versus-poor-people-s-campaign">Poor People’s Campaign</a> led by Reverends&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/06/29/woe-unto-those-who-legislate-evil-rev-william-barber-builds-a-moral-movement/?utm_term=.26562dc1d5bd">William J. Barber</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thenation.com/authors/rev-dr-liz-theoharis/">Liz Theoharis</a>, which has adopted a more decentralized and distributed leadership model. It’s the opposite of current realities in which leaders spend more time avoiding accountability than embracing it, especially if it comes from the bottom up or the outside in.</p> <p>Behind every institutional scandal is a failure in accountability, when individuals or groups of leaders look the other way, bow to pressure, accept financial inducements or cover up mistakes. Their moral clarity and courage fails them at crucial moments, and the higher you rise in a hierarchy the stronger the temptations become. That’s because the costs of falling are that much greater.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/joms.12177">2016 article in the Journal of Management Studies</a> called “Why the Assholes are Winning,” Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer describes how proximity to wealth and power can lead to “moral rationalization and decoupling” when the boundaries between honesty and deceit, altruism and self interest are seemingly dissolved. That’s a lesson that business figures like <a href="https://gizmodo.com/mark-zuckerberg-declines-invitation-to-testify-in-uk-b-1824103772">Mark Zuckerberg</a> still have to learn. Visionary leaders accept it and act accordingly.</p> <p>Accountability is also a key to my third marker of leadership which is <em>self-sacrifice</em>. Prototypical leaders are everywhere, but few of them make it to positions of formal power and influence, and many of those who do are muzzled or co-opted along the way through a process of elite capture. The reasons are pretty obvious, especially in times of rising precarity and repression when the risks of speaking out are so much higher.</p> <p>Remember <a href="https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-29/quote-day-larry-summers-elizabeth-warren-insiders-dont-criticize-other-insiders">the advice that establishment economist Larry Summers gave to now-Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2009</a>?</p><blockquote><p>“You have a choice. You can be an insider or an outsider. Outsiders can say what they want but people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don’t criticize other insiders.”</p></blockquote><p>Visionary leaders find ways through these dilemmas by accepting the costs of that outsider status but maintaining various kinds of dialogue and interaction with those on the inside of mainstream institutions—much as King did with President Johnson and his Administration in the 1960s. That’s why such examples are instructive; they show how the trend towards co-option can be countermanded through a mix of continuous self-reflection, external accountability, intellectual clarity, sacrifice and moral courage.</p> <p>Self-sacrifice is important because leadership positions (even informal ones) bring with them potential personal benefits which can act as another platform for co-option—prizes and awards, foundation grants, seats on corporate boards, power over staff and supporters, and access to the revolving doors of the establishment. Setting these things aside in order to stay focused on the mission of a movement and honor the democratic structures of decision-making and accountability requires a willingness to say no to these temptations—just as King did when he <a href="https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/1014.html">turned over his Nobel Peace Prize money to the civil rights movement</a>.</p> <p>An unbroken line stretches from before King to <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/24/us/martin-luther-king-granddaughter-trnd/index.html">his oldest granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, who also spoke at the March For Our Lives</a>, but such leaders remain the exception rather than the rule. Closing that gap is partly a matter of structures and training and incentives—or at least more security and protection since so many of them have been targeted or killed—but mostly an issue of moral courage, which is something that exists inside each one of us but is normally suppressed.</p> <p>Goodness knows we need many more such people to help us find our way out of the mess we’ve created for ourselves. Where are all the leaders? Just as Heschel said 50 years ago, “The politicians are astute, the establishment is proud and the market place is busy.” We can look to others for inspiration and example, but if we really want to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King we should look to ourselves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/timothy-gee/remembering-gene-sharp-philosopher-of-non-violent-action">How to start a revolution - remembering Gene Sharp</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert-kyle-moore/great-society-versus-poor-people-s-campaign">The Great Society versus the Poor People’s Campaign</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation leadership transformative leadership Michael Edwards Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 03 Apr 2018 22:17:56 +0000 Michael Edwards 116977 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Great Society versus the Poor People’s Campaign https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert-kyle-moore/great-society-versus-poor-people-s-campaign <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What can we learn from contrasting efforts to combat poverty and injustice in 1960s America?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SarahFreemanWoolpert6.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">President&nbsp;Lyndon B. Johnson&nbsp;meets with&nbsp;Martin Luther King, Jr.&nbsp;in the White House Cabinet Room, 18 March 1966. Credit: Yoichi Okamoto (Public Domain), via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMartin_Luther_King%2C_Jr._and_Lyndon_Johnson_2.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p> <p>A dramatic scene is unfolding this month in Washington, D.C. Angry activists march and chant outside the White House demanding an end to the violence that’s killing America’s youth. Politicians squabble and point fingers, assigning blame and deepening divisions. A chasm has opened within the Democratic Party, exposing the disconnect between wealthy, white party elites and the hardships faced by poor people in small-town America.</p> <p>This story is not, however, about high schoolers pressuring for gun reform or Congressional deadlock on passing the national budget. It’s the story of <em><a href="http://www.arenastage.org/shows-tickets/the-season/productions/the-great-society/">The Great Society</a></em>, a theatrical performance which premiered at The Arena Stage in Washington in February 2018. The play tells of President Lyndon Johnson’s vision of <a href="http://www.pbs.org/johngardner/chapters/4c.html">poverty reduction</a> through massive government programs aimed at improving access to basic needs like education and health care, and the interplay between Johnson’s efforts and the struggles of civil rights leaders for racial and economic equality.</p> <p>Written by <a href="http://www.robertschenkkan.com/">Robert Schenkkan</a> and directed by <a href="http://theatre.ucsd.edu/people/faculty/acting/KyleDonnelly/index.htm">Kyle Donnelly</a>, the play explores how, as the Vietnam War escalated, Johnson felt forced to divert funding from anti-poverty programs to the war effort, as protesters demonstrated outside the White House in outrage at the killing of young Americans for a seemingly-endless conflict.</p> <p>While Johnson’s vision of “The Great Society” was initially <a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/At_Canaan_s_Edge.html?id=uAa2Znbml_sC">supported by Martin Luther King Jr</a>. and other civil rights leaders, it was later denounced as top-down and out of touch with the realities that faced the American poor. This eventually led King to declare a different approach to addressing economic inequality by announcing a <a href="http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_poor_peoples_campaign/">“Poor People’s Campaign”</a> led by the poor themselves. He was assassinated shortly thereafter, and the Campaign is often regarded as a major unfinished part of King’s work.</p> <p>The play could not have opened at a more opportune moment. Indeed, much of the drama on the Arena Stage can be seen unfolding in US politics today. The show depicts the growing sense of anger and urgency that was felt among youth activists and organizers as the corruption and in-fighting surrounding the Great Society prevented funds from reaching people in need.</p> <p>This is mirrored today in the explosion of grassroots organizing around injustice and inequality that’s taking place across the country, including the <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/02/22/parkland-survivors-started-movement-when-they-took-gun-violence-heres-how-happened/361297002/">youth-led mobilization</a> around gun violence that captured national attention during February 2018. It also coincides with the <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/poor-peoples-campaign-revives-king-dream-challenging-class-divide/">re-launch of King’s Poor People’s Campaign</a>, led by Reverends <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/06/29/woe-unto-those-who-legislate-evil-rev-william-barber-builds-a-moral-movement/?utm_term=.26562dc1d5bd">William J. Barber</a> and <a href="https://www.thenation.com/authors/rev-dr-liz-theoharis/">Liz Theoharis</a>, which re-traces King’s steps through communities across the country and is gearing up for 40 days of mass civil disobedience in May.</p> <p>Examining the reasons behind the failure of Johnson’s Great Society and how King’s Poor People’s Campaign embodied a different vision provides important historical context that is often omitted from the narrative surrounding the Civil Rights Movement. It also puts the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign into perspective, illuminating the ways in which today’s grassroots organizing both follows in the footsteps of the past and tries to overcome some of the challenges that social movements have faced.</p> <p><strong>Understanding the split between Johnson and King’s approaches to inequality.</strong></p> <p>When President Johnson originally proposed the idea of the Great Society, King welcomed it—he was excited about the idea of uplifting the poor, and saw poverty as a crucial issue underlying racial inequality in the United States. In pursuit of this vision, Johnson sought to wage a “War on Poverty” by passing the <a href="http://acsc.lib.udel.edu/exhibits/show/legislation/esea">Elementary and Secondary Education Act,</a> <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Medicare-United-States-health-insurance">Medicare and Medicaid</a>, and the <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act">Voting Rights Act</a> of 1965.</p> <p>Yet in February of that year Johnson initiated <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/operation-rolling-thunder">airstrikes on Vietnam</a>, enlarging America’s military presence in the country and diverting billions of dollars away from anti-poverty programs. Even before this diversion, King saw that the Great Society espoused an inherent contradiction—reliant as it was on powerful, predominantly white lawmakers devising solutions. Eradicating economic inequality would threaten the power of wealthy elites, but those elites were the same people charged with devising the programs. King became more critical of the broader economic system itself, and how capitalism creates and upholds the structures of inequality.</p> <p>One example of the Great Society’s flawed programs is embodied in its approach to education through the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, whose resources were largely diverted to wealthy, white suburbs and not the inner cities that were in greatest need. Chicago’s <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/richard-daley">Mayor Richard Daley</a>, a prominent figure in the Democratic Party at the time, received substantial funding from the Johnson administration for poverty reduction but focused the money on white government workers in the city who were Daley’s political supporters, with no real benefits reaching the urban poor. Chicago Superintendent Benjamin Willis was <a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Unraveling_of_America.html?id=nOd_ka8KakYC">accused of earmarking</a> some of the $32 million for non-poor white children rather than the children of the poor.</p> <p>Senator <a href="http://www.history.com/topics/robert-f-kennedy">Robert Kennedy</a> was critical of the local implementation of poverty reduction through the Great Society program, and he was not alone. Riots and demonstrations erupted around the country as people demanded economic opportunities for survival. In the summer of 1965, a riot broke out in <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/watts-riot-begins">Watts, California</a>. King spoke at the rally before it turned hostile. A man in the audience <a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/At_Canaan_s_Edge.html?id=uAa2Znbml_sC">shouted at him</a>, “All we want is jobs! We get jobs, we don’t bother nobody. We don’t get no jobs, we’ll tear up Los Angeles, period.”</p> <p>Similar feelings spread across urban America. While Johnson denounced the riots and supported the imposition of ‘law and order’ by police, King was confronted with the reality of economic hardship that was pushing people to the brink. He began to criticize Johnson’s approach to poverty reduction and the war in Vietnam, and started to develop an understanding which united the <a href="http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy">“Triple Evils”</a> of poverty, racism and militarism—a trio he articulated in his speech at the <a href="http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_beyond_vietnam/">Riverside Church</a> in Manhattan on April 4 1967.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube,” King said in his speech, “So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”</p> <p><strong>Inspiring the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign.</strong></p> <p>Much of King’s vision for a movement that was led by the poor, for the poor is embodied in the contemporary revival of the Poor People’s Campaign. The problems that emerged in the split between Johnson and King—including political corruption, the draining of domestic resources for social services by militarism, and divisions within the Democratic Party’s leadership—are just as relevant today.</p> <p>The current Campaign focuses on four central issues: racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation, three of which King focused on during the original movement. But it’s not only ideological similarities that tie the two Campaigns together. Reverend Barber is retracing the same route that King took through impoverished communities, holding <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/us/politics/politics-religion-liberal-william-barber.html">“barnstorming” events</a> along the way to hear people’s personal stories and spread the word about joining the movement.</p> <p>In a single day in March 1968, King barnstormed the state of Mississippi, traveling from small impoverished towns to Hattiesburg. Rev. Barber’s barnstorming drew even larger numbers than King did. King spoke to a crowd of 600 people in Chapel Hill, but only two signed up for the journey to Washington. In October 2017, hundreds of people volunteered to risk arrest after Barber’s barnstorm event in Binghamton, New York.</p> <p>On February 12, 2018, leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign marched with fast food workers in the $15Now movement in Memphis, Tennessee. Marchers walked the same route taken by workers in the <a href="http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_memphis_sanitation_workers_strike_1968/">1968 sanitation worker strike</a>, when 1,300 people walked off their jobs demanding the right to join a union, higher safety standards and a living wage. For the 50th anniversary of the strike, a crowd of low-income, non-unionized workers led clergy, union workers and allies, while sanitation workers who had been part of the 1968 strike spoke to the crowd alongside fast food workers demanding changes in the racism and poverty that plague Memphis to this day.</p> <p>In several ways, the Poor People’s Campaign of today is poised to overcome some of the challenges that stifled the movement fifty years ago. One key difference is the dispersal of power to state and local chapters. When King organized the campaign in 1968, staff at the <a href="http://nationalsclc.org/about-us/history/">Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)</a> were tasked with organizing most of the logistical details, including the planning of caravans to travel simultaneously across the country to Washington. Today’s movement incorporates more decentralized local branches of organizers, and embodies a more horizontal leadership structure behind the scenes.</p> <p>Of course, the contemporary campaign has the advantage of being a product of a longer history, one in which King’s personal transformation in how best to combat poverty eventually led to the grassroots mobilization which is mirrored around the United States today. King’s journey to launch the original Poor People’s Campaign—illustrated through the arc of his relationship with President Johnson and the Great Society—tells an important story about the power of local organizing in comparison to a top-down policy approach to social change. It also shows how grassroots movements respond to shifting circumstances like escalating tensions, public outrage and political deadlock by shifting leaders away from an ineffective establishment.</p> <p>During 2018, the Poor People’s Campaign holds the potential to pick up where King’s left off by addressing many of the same problems he faced in the 1960s—while elevating the voices of the poor across the country through mass mobilization for systemic change. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/renewed-poor-people-s-campaign-revives-king-s-dream-of-challen">A renewed Poor People’s Campaign revives King’s dream of challenging class divides</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-reconciliation-and-redemption-are-central-to-countering-wh">Why reconciliation and redemption are central to countering white supremacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-are-nazis-so-afraid-of-clowns">Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Kyle Moore Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Activism Economics Tue, 13 Mar 2018 20:32:28 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert and Kyle Moore 116491 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gun violence has dropped dramatically in three US states with very different gun laws https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mike-males/gun-violence-has-dropped-dramatically-in-three-us-states-with-very-differe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To have an honest, nonpartisan discussion about gun violence, we must look at what happened in New York, California, and Texas.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MikeMales1.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Kristi Gilroy hugs a young woman at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman on February 15, 2018 in Parkland, Florida.&nbsp;Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images via YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>On February 15 2018, 17 teachers, students, and visitors died in a Florida high school, in a country where&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2018/feb/14/what-we-know-about-mass-shootings/">mass shootings</a> have been devastatingly routine. This was followed by another day of despairing, angry furor over guns, schools, and shootings that replayed the same reactions from dozens of past shootings.</p> <p>Once the warring factions settle into their talking points and scapegoats, the debate rages on for decades with little sign of progress. America’s gun debate is like a Greek tragedy, with predetermined lines plodding to inevitable doom.</p> <p>The Right, represented by the National Rifle Association and Republicans, shows no interest in reducing the gun killing epidemic beyond prayers that the “good guy with a gun” (who never seems to be around) will save the day when a “bad guy” opens fire.</p> <p>Liberals’ dishonesty is more nuanced. Background checks and gun control have proven effective at&nbsp;<a href="https://everytownresearch.org/infographic-background-checks-save-lives/">reducing gun suicides and domestic shootings</a>(both very worthwhile goals), but not the gun homicides or mass shootings such remedies are invoked to redress.</p> <p>On both sides, destructive scapegoating of young people, whether they are suburban school shooters or immigrant gangsters, present blatant falsehoods. FBI tabulations show half of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/activeshooter_incidents_2001-2016.pdf/view">active mass shooters&nbsp;</a>are 35 and older, a large&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/476456/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-shooter-s-race/">majority are white</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newsweek.com/white-men-have-committed-more-mass-shootings-any-other-group-675602">nearly all are men</a>. One middle-aged white shooter&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/19/us/las-vegas-attack-shooting-paddock.html">murdered more people in Las Vegas&nbsp;</a>in 10 minutes than the best available count of documented&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS-13">murders</a>&nbsp;over the last 15 years that have been attributed to the Latino&nbsp;<a href="http://time.com/4783163/ms-13-gang/">MS-13 gang</a>, a favorite target of President Donald Trump.</p> <p>We can keep on quarreling over myths and prejudices, or we can start looking for new approaches, as many communities are doing in the face of national default. The hopeful thing is there is plenty new to say—if anyone is willing to say it.</p> <p>Let’s begin with one of the most hopeful and obvious: the massive decline in gun homicides in the nation’s three biggest states, concentrated among young people and urban residents all sides claim to be concerned about—so long as the discussion doesn’t challenge pet positions.</p> <p>Over the last 25 years—though other time periods show similar results—New York, California, and Texas show&nbsp;<a href="http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2017.303782">massive declines in gun homicides</a>, ones that far exceed those of any other state. These three states also show the country’s largest decreases in gun suicide and gun accident death rates.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MarkMales2.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>These major states containing seven in 10 of the country’s largest cities once had gun homicide rates far above the national average; now, their rates are well below those elsewhere in the country.</p><p>The declines are most pronounced in urban young people. Among ages 15-24, gun homicide rates are down nearly 80 percent in cities of 500,000 or more in the three largest states, led by declines—approaching 90 percent in New York City’s central boroughs, more than 80 percent in Los Angeles, and 74 percent in Dallas.</p><p>Isn’t this what all sides have claimed to want: big reductions in gun killings, especially among young people? Why, then, aren’t researchers flocking to our three biggest states and their major cities to analyze what happened there—or, at least, talking about their stunningly hopeful trends?</p><p>Anyone familiar with the gun debate will see the political problem right away. California and New York have the nation’s strictest and fifth-strictest&nbsp;<a href="http://crimadvisor.com/data/Brady-State-Scorecard-2015.pdf">gun control laws</a>, respectively, in the country, earning “A-“ ratings from the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bradycampaign.org/">Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence</a>, and low rates of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/gun-ownership-by-state-2015-7">gun ownership</a>. So, gun-rights conservatives don’t like to talk about successes in those states—nor about the fact that those declines in violence correspond with an increasingly racially diverse young urban population, driven by Latino, Asian, and African immigration.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MikeMales3.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>On the other side, Texas has among the weakest gun laws in the country (“open carry” is its most recent gun-rights salvo, earning an “F” grade) and some of the highest rates of gun ownership. Gun-control lobbies are loath to acknowledge any success in Texas. So, we have to look beyond current gun politics and commentary to community-based initiatives.</p><p>Most major cities have gun violence prevention programs, but if these deserve some credit, we would need to study why they worked so much better in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Diego, and El Paso than in Chicago, Miami, or Philadelphia. If young Texans can show large declines in killings without tough gun controls, we need to understand what forces are at work in its cities.</p><p>Rather than jockeying for political advantage, we need to acknowledge young people of all races, who as a generation have sharply&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vpc.org/studies/ownership.pdf">lower levels of gun ownership&nbsp;</a>and numbers of gun killings despite continued high rates of poverty. White, Black, Latino, and Asian youth (Native American numbers are too small to determine accurate trends) each show much faster declines in gun homicide rates in the three largest states than do their national counterparts.</p><p>The pattern suggests a generational trend in the three major states’ cities—and to a lesser extent, nationwide—that urgently needs scrutiny. When youth homicide arrests in the city of Los Angeles fall from 680 in 1990-92 to 104 in 2000-02 to 17 in 2014-16, and the number of teenage girls&nbsp;<a href="http://homicide.latimes.com/">murdered</a>&nbsp;falls from dozens in the early 1990s to zero in the last 12 months ending February 15, 2018, it’s time to shake up everyone’s frozen thinking. Gun violence indeed remains an unspeakably tragic, American epidemic, but there is no excuse for recycling old futilities when dramatic and hopeful new information is at hand.</p><p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/gun-violence-has-dropped-dramatically-in-3-states-with-very-different-gun-laws-20180216?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180216&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180216+CID_b05a5cae1e6d28729ed9d8d569101cf7&amp;utm_source=CM">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-aziza/has-movement-to-prevent-gun-violence-hit-tipping-point">Has the movement to prevent gun violence hit a tipping point?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-clements/gun-violence-trump-america">How to fight gun violence in Trump’s America</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/transformation/preventing-gun-violence-without-just-talking-about-gun">Preventing gun violence without just talking about the gun</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation gun control Mike Males Transformative nonviolence Care Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:29:09 +0000 Mike Males 116233 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Radical happiness: moments of collective joy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/catherine-rottenberg/radical-happiness-moments-of-collective-joy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>True happiness is produced by cultivating our ties to one another: a review of Lynne Segal’s new book.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JaneyStephenson3_2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/sistersuncut/photos/a.1814453402116856.1073741847.1589626181266247/1814453455450184/?type=3&amp;theater">Sisters Uncut/Jade Jackman</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>In a recent Guardian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/homelessness-report-working-families-stable-jobs-local-government-ombudsman">expose</a>, Michael King, a London ombudsman, warns of a new phenomenon—the rise of homelessness in the UK among people who have stable jobs and a steady income. In 2017 it is not unusual to see nurses, taxi drivers, hospitality staff and council workers find themselves on the streets after being evicted by private-sector landlords seeking higher rents. The problem of homelessness, King continues, can no longer simply be ascribed to drug addiction or mental health issues; rather, the erosion of the social safety net is what is pushing an ever-increasing number of people into precarity. </p> <p>It is in the midst of these devastating new realities that Lynne Segal’s book <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2576-radical-happiness">Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy</a> has appeared on the literary scene. In her new book, Segal adamantly refuses despair. Instead, she insists that we must never stop imagining and struggling for alternative—and, yes, even utopic—spaces and futures. This urging could not come at a more opportune time. </p> <p>As study after study has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">shown</a>, levels of individual misery, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation are at all-time highs in the Anglo-American world.&nbsp; Meanwhile, the billion-dollar happiness industry—that&nbsp; “culturally orchestrated ideology of individual happiness with its ubiquitous commercial incitement to pleasure” as Segal puts it—continues to thrive, from positive psychology to mindfulness and the wellness movement: think Gwyneth Paltrow’s <a href="https://goop.com/whats-goop/">GOOP</a> and the explosion and popularity of <a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are">TED talks</a> endlessly exhorting us to foster a positive outlook. </p> <p>In her book, Segal posits radical happiness as the antidote, not only to the ersatz happiness that is sold to us via pills, apps, and self-help guides but also to the more general sense of despondency. Happiness, Segal gently reminds us, is not something we find; nor can it be bought on the market. Unlike the dominant ideology of individual felicity—with consumerism and individuated sexual desire mixed up with ideals of romantic love at its core—radical happiness is produced by cultivating and reaffirming our ties to one another and to the world. </p> <p>Thus, while love is central to happiness (both individual and collective), love is also infinite in its variety, making it imperative to expand notions of attachment and care well beyond heteronormative coupledom. As the title of the book suggests, radical happiness is therefore most accurately defined in terms of moments of collective joy, moments that are created when we are moved to go beyond and outside ourselves to act together with a plurality of others. Crucially, for Segal, these moments emerge as we forge communities that struggle together to ensure the creation of social conditions and infrastructure that would enable the greatest number of people possible to thrive. </p> <p>Much of <em>Radical Happiness</em> charts how and why this movement beyond oneself has become more difficult in the contemporary era. Despite the Anglo-American obsession with happiness and the thriving happiness industry, the populace is increasingly miserable. Segal draws on a range of thinkers from <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Durkheim">Émile Durkheim</a> to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Arendt">Hannah Arendt</a> to underline the point that that such widespread misery, even though it may be experienced at the individual level, has deep roots in social context and structures.&nbsp; </p> <p>One of these roots—and the preponderant one for Segal—is the rise of neoliberal governance, which has, since the 1980s and the era of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US, seen the steady dismantling of the welfare state and the social safety net. This has, as the book details, translated into increasing economic insecurity for ever more people. Not only has work become increasingly precarious over the past few decades but employees are also putting in more hours for less money, which, in turn, leaves people less time for leisure and, often, the ability to fulfill care commitments. Furthermore, neoliberal governance erodes any sense of social responsibility while fostering intensified individualism, which merely exacerbates feelings of isolation and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/graham-peebles/pain-of-loneliness">loneliness</a>. </p> <p>This deepening cultural crisis is the direct result of on-going policies of austerity and privatization, which siphon wealth upwards at a staggering pace while eviscerating public resources, spaces, and community life. The <a href="http://wir2018.wid.world/">World Inequality Report</a> recently published data showing that the richest 0.1 per cent of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth so much that they currently have as much as the poorest 50 per cent, or 3.8 billion people. With rising rates of poverty and homelessness alongside deteriorating health and educational infrastructure, it really is no wonder that so many people are miserable and feel so alone. &nbsp;</p> <p>Radical Happiness is not, however, a gloomy book.&nbsp; Rather, after diagnosing the ills of the current Anglo-American political and social landscape it offers us hope, reminding us of the wealth of resources on which we can draw in order to continue struggling for alternative futures. Taking us back to the ancient Greeks, Segal underscores Aristotle’s notion of happiness or <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/eudaimonia">eudonomia</a> as a form of human flourishing; it derives from activities we desire to do for their own sake, which are both noble and good. Happiness was thus conceived as <em>activity</em>, not a static emotional state. This is a crucial insight and one that could potentially reorient our understandings of pleasure and joy in the present. &nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, throughout the book, Segal taps into the resistance archive, drawing on a wide range of resources from socialist visionaries like <a href="http://robert-owen-museum.org.uk/">Robert Owen</a> to anarchist and political activist <a href="http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/goldman/">Emma Goldman</a> to utopian feminist fiction like Marge Piercy’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_on_the_Edge_of_Time">Women on the Edge of Time</a>. These dreamers and their political engagements serve as key resources for the on-going struggle to create a more egalitarian world, even as this task appears more daunting today than ever before. </p> <p>Segal also recounts her own participation in the woman’s movement in the 1970s, underscoring how her involvement in such a movement was utterly transformative, personally as well as politically. Collective resistance to oppression in its various forms—with its shared sense of agency—symbolizes for Segal the very essence of radical happiness. These movements or moments of collectivity are often fleeting, but they make us feel alive and hence happier. </p> <p>In other words, whether or not these struggles for a more egalitarian world ultimately succeed—and historically they most often have not—the very struggle to cultivate and (re)build a sense of the commons compels us to move beyond ourselves while reaffirming our connection to each other. It is precisely this kind of “acting in concert” to create a more just and better world that facilitates these life-affirming moments of collective joy. </p> <p>While Segal herself is perhaps best known for her feminist interventions—particularly her <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1770-straight-sex">Straight Sex</a>, and for her more recent critical musing on ageing, <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1634-out-of-time">Out of Time</a>—in the neighborhood of Islington in London (where she lives) she is renowned for her decades of radical activism as well as for her indominable spirit. Radical Happiness is a panoramic yet exquisitely detailed book, erudite but extremely accessible, and cautiously optimistic while scathingly critical. It is a tour de force and a vital light in these dark times. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/janey-stephenson/subversive-power-of-joy">The subversive power of joy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/veena-vasista/wise-fools-for-love-arts-activism-and-social-transformation">Wise fools for love? Arts activism and social transformation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Catherine Rottenberg Transformative nonviolence Activism Care Culture Sun, 11 Feb 2018 21:48:54 +0000 Catherine Rottenberg 115999 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why reconciliation and redemption are central to countering white supremacy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-reconciliation-and-redemption-are-central-to-countering-wh <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sammy Rangel, director of Life After Hate, talks about his work with violent extremists.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="wp-caption-text"><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/2018/01/life-after-hate-sammy-rangel-countering-white-supremacy/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SarahFreemanWolpert3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Life After Hate Executive Director Sammy Rangel at a TEDx conference in 2015. Credit: Youtube/TEDx Talks.</p> <p>It’s been a roller coaster year for Sammy Rangel, the executive director of Life After Hate—a non-profit organization that encourages people to leave violent extremist groups by offering them support and a community of other “formers.” From&nbsp;<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/katharine-gorka-life-after-hate_us_59921356e4b09096429943b6">losing its government funding</a>&nbsp;when the Trump administration took office to experiencing a surge in media attention after Charlottesville, Rangel’s organization has become a go-to source for its unique perspective on the motivations compelling people to join extremist groups—and how to get them out.</p> <p>As former members of extremist groups themselves, Rangel and his colleagues at Life After Hate bring an insider’s understanding to their work. They know why people embrace hate and understand the pain and vulnerability fueling their violence. As a child, Rangel was abused, raped and tortured by family members. He ran away from home at age 11, and began using hard drugs and having sex, leading to more traumatic experiences when his young girlfriend gave birth to a stillborn baby. Rangel’s sense of fear and abandonment turned to anger, leading him to join the Maniac Latin Disciples gang and spend years engaged in violent crime and cycling through prison.</p> <p>Over time, Rangel’s life slowly began to change for the better. After undergoing drug abuse rehabilitation, he started doing community outreach to reduce violence, earned a master’s degree in social work, and began training law enforcement agencies on reducing violent extremism. When I spoke to Rangel, he discussed his belief in peoples’ potential to change—even those engaged in violent extremism. He challenged the way such people are condemned and dehumanized by the very people who claim to stand against hate. For Rangel, nonviolence requires the recognition of each person’s humanity, and countering violent extremism must begin with trying to understand what leads a person into a life of hate in the first place.</p> <p><strong>A recent&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/25/us/ohio-hovater-white-nationalist.html"><em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;story</a>&nbsp;profiling a neo-Nazi sympathizer in Ohio sparked a heated debate about the line between giving extremists a platform to spread their beliefs and trying to understand them as people. Could you tell me how you see that distinction in your own work?</strong></p> <p>For us, it’s not a fine line. We’re not conceding anything, nor are we relinquishing anything in our position. We just know how to develop a dialogue with the person who needs the help. One of the things we have to be mindful of is whether we are adopting the same narrative about the people we say we are protesting against. If I were to look in the mirror, do I look and sound fundamentally like the person I’m challenging, in how much I hate and condemn that person and want to cause harm to that person? That’s what the other side is trying to do. They think, “That person is so different from me that I could never relate to them.” But whether you dehumanize someone because of their race or ideology, it’s still the same process. It leads to the same thing: violence and extremism. You can be against a behavior and still see value in a person.</p> <p>The<em>&nbsp;New York Times</em>&nbsp;article minimized and glamorized. It went too far in how it depicted this person. But underneath the story is the truth: This person eats and sleeps like everybody else does. He has feelings and relationships. We’re not dealing with Nazis, we’re dealing with people who embrace the propaganda of white supremacists and the alt-right. They’re still a person, not an animal, not a sub-human. We’re dealing with people, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping that in the forefront of your mind.</p> <p><strong>How do you think we can try to understand where someone’s coming from without condoning their beliefs and ultimately resembling the same dehumanizing narrative we’re trying to oppose?</strong></p> <p>Both sides have two things in common: They have grievances, and they want to be validated. They like to talk and be heard and feel they are important. By saying “We understand,” [some left-wing groups] think we’re conceding our position. We haven’t. What we’re saying is: “I see how you got to that point in your life. I can see your process and start to dismantle that process through a lens of understanding, which is only focused through compassion and empathy. I see the suffering. I don’t agree with how you’re managing your suffering, but I see it.”</p> <p>Is a white supremacist wrong when he says the middle class is shrinking? No, but where it gets radical is who they blame and how they carry that out. They blame the government and then take it out on minorities. They should take it out on the government, but not with bombs and tiki torches. What’s amazing is that when you listen, they actually calm down and listen in return.</p> <p><strong>What sorts of things can people do to build better understanding with members of extremist groups, particularly those of us coming from left-leaning activist circles and who aren’t in a position to reach out from personal experience?</strong></p> <p>We see a lot of counter-protests, and while protests serve a purpose, they shouldn’t be equated with the idea of dialogue. You’re not going to a protest to listen to anyone—you’re preaching to the choir. In many ways a silent protest would be more powerful in my mind, because we’re there to hold our position and show the nation that this won’t go unnoticed—not to challenge their ideology. We’re not trying to win anything, but we are trying to maintain and restore balance.</p> <p><strong>A lot of left-wing groups have been celebrating the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2017/jan/31/the-punch-a-nazi-meme-what-are-the-ethics-of-punching-nazis">“punch a Nazi” meme</a>since the violence at Charlottesville. What are some ways groups can oppose ideology that’s not going to alienate people even further and lead to more violence?</strong></p> <p>We don’t need to oppose ideology. It’s not the ideology itself [that’s the problem], it’s the radicalization and ultimately the extremism. It’s not unconstitutional or illegal to be a radical in your thinking. [It only becomes those things] when you take those thoughts and act out on them violently. What we want to be promoting or ensuring is a place where people can have their differences of views without feeling that they can impose those on other people. You can only oppose a person’s ideology when you have mutual respect in the relationship, and that mutual respect normally comes when you are willing to listen. Listening is often mistaken for conceding something, but it’s not conceding.</p> <p>The second thing a person can do is to get behind organizations that are doing a good job on this. We’ve raised $700,000 this year, but we’ll run through that in a couple of years doing the work we’re doing—it’s not sustainable. We need people to get behind it. Other people have been&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/nazis-afraid-clowns/">innovative</a>&nbsp;in helping to raise funds [by donating to groups like ours when white supremacists come to their town]. These [white supremacists] know every minute they’re out there, they’re funding programs like ours. They hate that shit. There are innovative ways to do this—it’s not difficult. We have to spend more time learning from others about what’s working in the nonviolence world.</p> <p>We also need to let people know that nonviolent doesn’t mean non-dangerous. It’s one of the most dangerous paths that a person can walk. It’s actually probably more dangerous [than using violence] because we’re walking into dangerous situations where people are willing to be violent, and we’re putting our lives on the line to hold a position as it relates to humanity. If you’re going to represent your humanity and your values, you can’t do it by diminishing someone else’s—that’s not how that works.</p> <p><strong>How might future white supremacist rallies be countered without leading to the kind of violence we saw in Charlottesville?</strong></p> <p>We’ve talked about the value of holding a protest, but not holding it where these guys show up. Let them talk to themselves while we hold our rally over here at another place. What if no one was there to pay attention? For their movement, any press is good press. We’re lending our light to their light, and that’s not what we intend to do. I’m not saying we shouldn’t protest at the same time, I just don’t think we need to engage with them directly. I think that’s counter-productive on every level. What you’re trying to do is to intimidate them, but you’re actually going to embolden them.</p> <p><strong>In an&nbsp;<a href="https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/2/27/14738170/former-neo-nazi-dont-ignore-threat-of-white-extremism-picciolini">interview</a>&nbsp;with [former Life After Hate co-founder] Christian Picciolini, he said it’s identity, community and purpose that drives radicalism—not ideology. What are some of the ways that we, as a society, can work on addressing the underlying issues of identity, community and purpose, in order to create more space for people who feel rejected or are looking for validation?</strong></p> <p>Let me ask you this: If we’re protesting the way we protest, where is the safe place for someone who is second-guessing their membership? What are we doing in our community to create a space for those people? Right now, Life After Hate is the only place to go, which is a shame because we can’t be everywhere all the time. But if the community took that stance, they might actually win some of those people right there on the spot, who say, “You know what, I want more of what you have.” When they look out their window beyond their group, they see a raging, angry crowd with nowhere to exit.</p> <p>As for identity, when we won’t allow them to have a voice or a grievance, we also rob them of their identity. What’s more, we don’t let them change their identity. Once a Nazi, always a Nazi [is so often the mentality], which is why people shame, isolate, fire and remove them from their homes. We’re not even allowing them to try and create a new identity. [Nor are we allowing them to find new purpose.] What purpose can they serve in this community when all their opportunities are being squandered because of who they used to be?</p> <p>This movement has forgotten that there are things like reconciliation and redemption. I think we’re so violent because we’ve lost faith in our own ability to be effective in this fight. If you’re skilled at what you do, you don’t burn out like this. You don’t become violent and adversarial. You only do this shit when you get so frustrated that you abandon ship, you abandon your own moral high ground. We have to do better at being strong in our position without having to condemn people. Do not concede, but do not condemn. You can do that without sympathizing with anybody who is willing to act out on hate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics">Why Redneck Revolt says deal with racism first, then economics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-are-nazis-so-afraid-of-clowns">Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/renewed-poor-people-s-campaign-revives-king-s-dream-of-challen">A renewed Poor People’s Campaign revives King’s dream of challenging class divides</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Activism Intersectionality Thu, 01 Feb 2018 22:18:22 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert 115786 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A renewed Poor People’s Campaign revives King’s dream of challenging class divides https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/renewed-poor-people-s-campaign-revives-king-s-dream-of-challen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can a new fusion of movements reignite the search for freedom and equality in America?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/poor-peoples-campaign-revives-king-dream-challenging-class-divide/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SaraFreemanWolpert.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Rev. William J. Barber speaks to the crowd gathered at Pullen Baptist Memorial Church in Raleigh, North Carolina on New Years Eve 2017. Credit: WNV/David Freeman.</p> <p>The air in Raleigh, North Carolina was bitterly cold on New Years Eve, but the chill did not stop hundreds of people from gathering for a mass community meeting at the Pullen Baptist Memorial Church. Inside, the band was warming up on stage and friends called out greetings to each other as they went into the main hall.</p> <p>A group of Raging Grannies filled a pew at the front, wearing floppy hats adorned with activist badges. Locals from North Carolina greeted activists who had traveled from around the country to attend. Some of them had recently been arrested together for protesting the tax bill on Capitol Hill.</p> <p>As speakers began addressing the audience, people in the crowd linked arms and audience members flocked on stage to sing “We Shall Overcome” and chant “Forward together! Not one step back!” Together, the crowd assembled in Pullen rang in 2018 with a commitment for the coming year: to lead a nationwide campaign to save the “heart and soul” of American democracy.</p> <p>Officially titled “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival,” the campaign’s objective is to train a massive network of grassroots activists to spark a multi-fronted movement challenging four systemic “evils” in American society: poverty, racism, ecological devastation and the war economy.</p> <p>One of the key faces of the campaign, former North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William J. Barber, delivered a fiery speech to those gathered in the church on New Years Eve. His voice boomed through the congregation, calling on everyone to “speak truth to power and love to hate in the name of God and all that is holy.”</p> <p>“What we face is not new,” Barber then told the cheering crowd. “But when you get scared, remember the folks in power are scared too. They’re having nightmares!”</p> <p>Barber read biblical passages in which the marginalized citizenry—the so-called “stones the builder rejected”—rise up together to face the “wolves”—or politicians—to save their society. In doing so, he added, sometimes they even “save some of the wolves.”</p> <p>A towering, imposing figure, Barber has been described by activist and professor Cornel West as a modern-day Martin Luther King, Jr. It is easy to draw the parallel, as the Poor People’s Campaign itself is named after an initiative King announced months before his assassination. The campaign is considered an unfinished part of his legacy — a movement seeking to unify people across racial lines around the shared poverty and structural inequalities they experience.</p> <p>The formal launch of the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign was held exactly 50 years after King announced the campaign in 1967 and is gearing up to be the largest nonviolent mobilization in the United States this year. Building on years of organizing within the state of North Carolina, leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign will spend the next five months training, educating and mobilizing communities around the country. Then, on Mother’s Day, the campaign will begin 40 days of widespread civil disobedience, nonviolent direct action and voter education.</p> <p>The movement aims to draw in labor unions, farm workers, civil rights groups and marginalized communities from around the country, focusing each week on a specific issue of injustice. Each week will include specific policy demands and voter education programs at the state and federal levels, as well as training in nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience. By organizing through local and state chapters, the campaign will maintain a relatively decentralized structure guided by a set of core principles and targets.</p> <p><strong>Reviving King’s dream of challenging class divides.</strong></p> <p>One of the major strengths of the Poor People’s Campaign is its potential to appeal to Americans across party lines. It aims to unite the grievances of the marginalized white working class with marginalized communities of immigrants and people of color throughout the country. Barber says this division has kept poor whites and people of color from coming together in common cause for generations. Organizers of the campaign promote a narrative that reaches out to rural or working-class whites—a discourse often employed by politicians on the right, while also emphasizing opposition to sexism, homophobia and racism that are more traditionally territory of the left.</p> <p>North Carolina activist Tony Quartararo explained his support for the movement in terms of its unifying potential, saying, “[Trump] used xenophobia to play poor whites off against poor black and brown and Muslim people. That’s what the 1 percent has always done, played the 99 percent off against each other and allowed themselves to stay in power.”</p> <p>Quartararo and his wife Elena Ceberio said they are willing to be involved in supporting the campaign in any way, and have both already been arrested for civil disobedience actions with Barber and others. They say they prefer to stay “in the background” and out of the spotlight, and they enthusiastically promote the movement within their social circle. This year, for example, the couple’s Christmas card featured a photograph of themselves with their son, all clad in black Poor People’s Campaign T-shirts, with a message asking their friends to lend their support. King’s dream was “to bring everybody together,” Quartararo said, and he hopes to draw in people from all walks of life to participate.</p> <p>References to King are frequent among national and state-level campaign leaders, and much of the movement’s popular legitimacy draws on this connection. The original Poor People’s Campaign, spearheaded by King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, sought to bring together people living in poverty across the country in a new March on Washington. The march was intended to pressure Congress and the Johnson administration to pass comprehensive anti-poverty legislation, as well as demand jobs, healthcare and affordable housing. Unlike previous campaigns to fight for the civil rights and voting rights of African Americans, the Poor People’s Campaign addressed issues affecting poor people of all races.</p> <p>In April 1968, just weeks before the march was scheduled to take place, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Rev. Ralph Abernathy was put in charge of organizing the march in his place, along with a group of other civil rights leaders, such as Rev. Jesse Jackson. The march began on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1968, when Coretta Scott King began a two-week-long protest demanding an Economic Bill of Rights. Five thousand protesters descended on the National Mall during the campaign’s first week and built a protest camp called “Resurrection City.” But the encampment was plagued by ceaseless rain, and its inhabitants were ultimately expelled in the middle of the night on June 20. As a result, the campaign has since been considered an unrealized part of King’s dream.</p> <p>Today, the Poor People’s Campaign aims not only to revive this decades-old dream, but also to reenergize many of the activists who were engaged in the anti-war and civil rights movements in the 1960s and ‘70s. David Freeman, who dropped out of high school to join the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, has played an active role in other Barber-led campaigns. “I know of no organization, past or present, which engenders the same passion and commitment over as broad a coalition as [the Poor People’s Campaign],” Freeman said.</p> <p>The campaign also represents a second chance for those who played a less active role in social justice struggles of that era. At 78 years old, Fran Schindler laments “missing her chance” to participate in the social movements of the 1960s, having spent those years raising small children. But after attending the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., she felt the time had come to take a stand. “It was an awakening, if you want to call it that,” Schindler said. “It wasn’t my time to do it back then, when I wanted to be doing it so much and felt I was being left out. But now’s my time.”</p> <p>Having had a double mastectomy, Schindler has gone to protests with slogans like “This is what a preexisting condition looks like” painted across her chest. After the inauguration, she said she was grateful to find a way to “let it out” by “going topless and screaming” at the top of her lungs. “I’ve got some feminist stuff in me,” she laughed. “Just because a woman’s got no breasts does not mean she is any less of a woman.”</p> <p><strong>Roots in North Carolina’s progressive resistance.</strong></p> <p>Supporters like Schindler, Quartararo and Ceberio learned about the Poor People’s Campaign through a series of actions in North Carolina targeting reforms on the state level, which had been organized by Barber and other progressive groups around the state. After the Republicans won a majority in North Carolina’s state legislature in 2010 and the governorship in 2012, Barber launched the Moral Mondays movement in April 2013. He led protests bearing “moral witness” to the state legislature’s far-right agenda, which included attacks on health care, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and voting rights throughout the state.</p> <p>The movement gained momentum when 17 people were arrested at the first Moral Monday demonstration in the summer of 2013. Within months, there had been over a thousand arrests, sparking more actions throughout North Carolina. These included the “Tuesdays with Tillis” demonstrations outside Sen. Thom Tillis’ office in Raleigh and the “Air Horn Orchestra” demonstrations every Wednesday outside Gov. Pat McCrory’s mansion, protesting issues like gerrymandering and environmental degradation.</p> <p>Barber became a leading figure of progressive resistance in the North Carolina NAACP, the organization’s second largest state chapter, while serving as its president for 11 years. Barber stepped down in May 2017 to join Presbyterian Rev. Liz Theoharis in co-chairing the Poor People’s Campaign. Theoharis runs the New York-based Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice and is the founder of the Poverty Initiative. Although Theoharis often speaks at mass meetings and Poor People’s Campaign events, she is less visible in the public spotlight than Barber, who was more involved in state-level organizing in the years leading up to the campaign launch.</p> <p>Barber is also known for his role as head of the non-profit organization Repairers of the Breach and for leading the “Forward Together” movement, which began organizing the annual Moral March to the Raleigh statehouse every February, also known as the Historic Thousands on Jones Street, or HKonJ. The march is put on by the HKonJ People’s Assembly Coalition, a group comprised of over 125 North Carolina NAACP branches, youth councils and college chapters, as well as representatives from over 200 other social justice organizations. The march has produced some of the largest civil rights gatherings in the South since Selma and Birmingham, and will take place again this February.</p> <p><strong>A fusion of movements.</strong></p> <p>One of the campaign’s strengths, aside from a strong foundation in grassroots organizing, is its aim to draw together many smaller organizations and campaigns into what Barber calls a “fusion of movements.” Back in 2014, in the early planning stages of the campaign, over a hundred leaders from more than 40 organizations began holding strategic dialogues to plan the Poor People’s Campaign, and it has been seen as broadly encompassing many other movements ever since.</p> <p>The campaign has so far succeeded in drawing in many smaller groups, like the Pennsylvania-based March on Harrisburg. Community organizer and march leader Kyle Moore was inspired to join the coordinating committee for the Pennsylvania state chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign after he was arrested with Barber in July. Moore was a key organizer of the March on Harrisburg, a group that held a 105-mile march from Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania state legislature in Harrisburg in May 2017. The same group was also arrested in November, when they dressed up as the “Where’s Waldo” character to make the point that it is easier to find Waldo than elected officials. They were also drawing attention to issues of gerrymandering, voter suppression and political corruption at the state level.</p> <p>&nbsp;“What we did with the March on Harrisburg is very similar to what the Poor People’s Campaign is doing,” Moore said. “If you don’t have voting rights, you’re going to have people in office voting for things that a majority of people don’t support.”</p> <p>The Pennsylvania Coordinating Committee will be organizing state-wide “barnstorming” efforts with the Pennsylvania chapter from January until March, hosting trainings in Unitarian Universalist churches on citizen lobbying and civil disobedience. Moore, who is also a trained civil rights historian, said he became passionate about the campaign after watching Barber speak to thousands of people at a church in New York City. “He’s so much like Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Moore said. “My feet started dancing a little bit. The way he talks is like a rhythm, it’s like a prophet. You’re willing to follow him down any road that could restore democracy in this country.”</p> <p>While the campaign is garnering substantial enthusiasm in local and state chapters, as well as painting a compelling narrative of unity among marginalized and disenfranchised groups in America, many hurdles remain. Organizers will be pressed to forge a movement among diverse interest groups, develop a clear strategy with attainable goals, and maintain the enthusiasm of early supporters while also drawing in new participants. What’s more, they face the same problem as the original Poor People’s Campaign: having a single charismatic leader as the face of the movement. If such figures become unable to lead, as we have seen, the campaign can lose momentum and direction.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the Poor People’s Campaign has already laid the groundwork for major mobilizations in 2018, drawing in numerous stakeholders and whipping up a frenzy of enthusiasm from supporters across the country. “Yes, we need to keep checking ourselves critically, to improve outreach to youth,” Freeman said. “But all progressive organizations are struggling with these issues. The Poor People’s Campaign is the most hopeful, most powerful coalition we have going. Nothing compares to it in breadth.”</p> <p>For now, Barber’s leadership remains a strong asset for inspiring dedicated participants and drawing the campaign into the national spotlight. As Schindler boldly declared, “I am definitely throwing what’s left of me in with his mission. Wherever he goes, I will follow him.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mary-mountcastle/moral-mondays-new-face-of-protest">Moral Mondays: the new face of protest? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-are-nazis-so-afraid-of-clowns">Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-transformation-0">Welcome to Transformation </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 18 Jan 2018 21:33:41 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert 115610 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After Erica Garner’s death, I can’t breathe through the tears https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/after-erica-garner-s-death-i-can-t-breathe-through-tears <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In praise and memory of a great advocate for peace and social justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ZenobiaJeffries3.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, leads a march of people protesting the Staten Island, New York grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in July, on December 11, 2014 in the Staten Island Neighborhood of New York City. Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images via Yes! Magazine.</p> <p>Three weeks before her death, anti-police violence activist Erica Garner spoke in an interview of the trauma and struggle that caused&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv6gSl4JcFA">Kalief Browder</a>’s mother to die of heart problems—literally, a broken heart. Browder was the 16-year-old boy from the Bronx accused of stealing a backpack in 2010 who then spent three years in an adult prison, often in solitary, without being convicted. After he was released, he struggled with mental health and eventually took his own life.</p> <p>In the&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/BenjaminPDixon/status/946436687588192257">interview</a>, Erica discussed her own trauma of seeing her father, Eric Garner, killed by a New York police officer, her own health struggles, and the stress of fighting injustice since that summer day in July 2014.</p> <p>“This thing, it beats you down,” she said to podcast and YouTube show host Benjamin Dixon. “The system beats you down to where you can’t win.”</p> <p>Erica shared that she felt her father’s pain watching the viral video that shook the nation, showing New York police officer Dan Pantaleo putting her father in an illegal chokehold, killing him. “That same pain when he said he can’t breathe. That same pain when he said he was tired of being harassed” by police officers.</p> <p>But the self-proclaimed daddy’s girl, the oldest daughter of Eric Garner’s children, stated emphatically, “It’s hard, but you have to keep going. No matter how long it takes, we deserve justice, and I want to get justice for other people.”</p> <p>Erica was tireless in fighting for justice for her father, whose death was ruled a homicide, although no charges were brought against Pantaleo. She died fighting for police accountability and justice for others.</p> <p>Like so many others’, my social media feeds were flooded with the news of Erica’s death on Saturday. People expressed their own pain, anger, frustration, and sadness.</p> <p>But I had no words. I could barely make out my own emotions. I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon of quick sentiments. I didn’t know Erica personally or professionally. I didn’t follow her work. My reaction was similar to when I saw the “I can’t breathe” video of her father’s killing, similar to when I saw the killing of Philando Castile, the killing of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/when-they-shot-terence-crutcher-this-time-i-watched-20160922">Terence Crutcher</a>, the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.</p> <p>There was only numbness.</p> <p>But now the tears won’t stop.&nbsp;<em>I can’t breathe </em>through the sobs.</p> <p>I remember the fatal chokehold that took Erica’s father’s life. I remember the image of a Black child being gunned down by a police officer at the park. I remember the image of a Black driver being shot while reaching for his identification, his girlfriend screaming when he dies on camera, the sound of their 4-year-old daughter consoling her mother. “It’s OK, Mommy, I’m right here with you.” Pleading with her mom to stop “’cause I don’t want you to get shooted.”</p> <p><em>I can’t breathe&nbsp;</em>through all this remembering.</p> <p>My tears will not bring her back, and they will not get the justice that she fought for so personally and passionately. But maybe these tears, along with these words, can touch a few hearts.</p> <p>And maybe many words and many tears can spark a lot of people—tens of thousands, millions—to join the movement to end the oppression of marginalized people in their communities.</p> <p>And maybe those people will propose legislation that refuses to give police violence a pass, and that fully prosecutes wrongful acts of policing. This is something the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/the-call-to-end-the-war-on-black-lives-starts-with-accountability-20161103">Movement for Black Lives</a>&nbsp;has already begun.</p> <p>And maybe out of that will come the Eric Garner Law or the Tamir Rice Law, or pick a name—maybe just the Black Lives Matter Law, which sees to it that police officers are not allowed to just retire following an act of violence. Maybe this law will instead suspend them without pay during an investigation of a killing, a rape, harassment—any form of police violence. Maybe this law will encourage just and appropriate charges. And maybe convictions, too.</p> <p>And maybe all the programs that have been proposed to actually train police officers in implicit bias and de-escalation will be mandated for every policing agency in the smallest town to the largest city—rural, urban, suburban, county, state, and federal.</p> <p><em>I can’t breathe&nbsp;</em>through all these maybes.</p> <p>Erica died fighting for justice. Like her father, her heart gave out from the task. She died seeing the person who killed her father not be held accountable for taking his life unjustly.</p> <p>I do not want to die knowing that I said nothing. Did nothing, knowing that oppressed people every day are dying unjustly at the hands of police, moving along with my days numb, as if that is just the normal way things are. It is not normal.</p> <p>So I will fight through the numbness and the tears, and offer my words.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/after-erica-garners-death-i-cant-breathe-through-the-tears-20170103?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180105&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180105+CID_c325be1d4f4e3aa12eddef67b19b729b&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=After%20Erica%20Gar">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics">Why Redneck Revolt says deal with racism first, then economics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/alexis-buchanan/blacklivesmatter-makes-some-people-angry-isn-t-that-good">#BlackLivesMatter makes some people angry. Isn’t that good?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/what-dna-ancestry-testing-can-and-can-t-tell-you">What DNA ancestry testing can and can’t tell you</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Zenobia Jeffries Transformative nonviolence Activism Care Intersectionality Thu, 11 Jan 2018 22:12:17 +0000 Zenobia Jeffries 115577 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The strategic naiveté of Antifa https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/molly-wallace/strategic-naivet-of-antifa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why violent protest rarely works.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article first appeared in <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/2017/11/violent-flank-effects-strategic-naivete-antifa/">Waging Nonviolence</a> and was published in collaboration with the Peace Science Digest, which summarizes and reflects on current academic research in the field of peace and conflict studies.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MollyWallace.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Antifa graffiti. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/old_olsen/7875897238">Flickr/Oliver Wunder</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>We’ve all heard the argument before: However “nice” the use of nonviolence may be, in the real world violence is necessary—and ultimately more effective, so the thinking goes—for challenging a brutal regime, fighting injustice or defending against an armed opponent. But what are the actual effects of adding violence to a movement’s repertoire of resistance strategies?</p> <p>Previous scholarship has been inconclusive on this question of so-called “radical flank effects,” as studies tend to focus on individual cases and also reflect collective confusion over what is meant by “radical.” Does it, for instance, refer to the means used or the ends sought?</p> <p>Focusing, therefore, on violent—as opposed to “radical”—flanks, researchers Erica Chenoweth and Kurt Schock sought to bring clarity and systematic analysis to bear on this question of positive versus negative violent flank effects. In a 2015&nbsp;<a href="http://iip.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/doc/CHENOWETH%20%26%20SCHOCK%20(2015)%20Contemporaneous%20Armed%20Challenges.pdf">article for the journal Mobilization</a><em>,&nbsp;</em>they examined all nonviolent campaigns from&nbsp; 1900-2006 with radical (i.e. “maximalist”) goals—such as the “removal of an incumbent national government, self-determination, secession, or the expulsion of foreign occupation”—to see how the presence or absence of armed resistance affected the success of these nonviolent campaigns. Their findings offer compelling evidence that violence is not generally a helpful addition to nonviolent resistance movements.</p> <p>How did they arrive at this conclusion? Using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, the authors begin by generating three hypotheses. First, nonviolent campaigns with violent flanks are more likely to succeed than nonviolent campaigns without violent flanks. Second, nonviolent campaigns without violent flanks are more likely to succeed than nonviolent campaigns with violent flanks. And third, violent flanks have no impact on the success rates of nonviolent campaigns.</p> <p>To test these hypotheses, they search for any significant statistical relationships that might exist between the presence of violent flanks and the success or failure of nonviolent campaigns. They find none, thus providing no support for either the first or second hypothesis. As the authors note, this could mean either that the presence of violent flanks has no discernible effect on outcomes or that it has mixed positive and negative effects that cancel each other out when taken together. </p> <p>When they compare the effects of violent flanks that emerge from inside a nonviolent movement to those of violent flanks that develop parallel to a nonviolent movement, they find that the former are associated with failure, suggesting that negative violent flank effects are more pronounced when a nonviolent campaign cannot distance itself from its armed counterpart. Moreover, they find that mass participation is the strongest determinant of nonviolent campaign success and that the presence of violent flanks has a negative effect on participation levels, suggesting that violent flanks may indirectly decrease the likelihood of success.</p> <p>To flesh out how violent flanks operate within individual cases, Chenoweth and Schock examine four cases where violent flanks were present: Burma in 1988, the Philippines from 1983-1986, South Africa from 1952-1961 and South Africa from 1983-1994. Two campaigns were successful (the Philippines and South Africa from 1983-1994) and two were not (Burma and South Africa from 1952-1961). Meanwhile, two had violent flanks outside of the nonviolent movement (Burma and the Philippines) and two had violent flanks associated with the nonviolent movement (the two South Africa cases).</p> <p>After examining the histories of these nonviolent campaigns—and the ways they interacted with armed resistance—the authors find mixed results. Violent flanks had negative effects in the two unsuccessful cases, no net impact in one of the successful cases (the Philippines) and a weak positive effect in the other (the later South African case). Overall there was greater evidence for negative violent flank effect mechanisms than for positive ones.</p> <p>In the one case where a violent flank had a weak positive effect (South Africa from 1983-1994), Chenoweth and Schock argue that that effect was mostly symbolic—energizing activists around the revolutionary mystique of violent resistance—rather than instrumental to gaining power over the apartheid regime (something that was accomplished, instead, by the nonviolent resistance movement).</p> <p>However, in the two cases where violent flanks had negative effects, these effects were seriously detrimental. The presence of an armed movement, according to the authors, diminished “chances of success for otherwise nonviolent campaigns by legitimating repression, demobilizing participants, shifting to violent strategies where the state [wa]s superior, and discrediting regime opponents.”</p> <p>Notably, the armed movements were consistently shown not to protect nonviolent activists but rather to put them at greater risk, as authorities used the presence of armed actors to justify widespread repression against all resistance movements, violent and nonviolent alike.</p> <p>Chenoweth and Schock find evidence in the case studies, then, that violent flanks do actually influence the outcomes of nonviolent campaigns, despite the earlier quantitative findings suggesting otherwise. Negative and positive effects simply appear to cancel each other out when taken together over a large number of cases, with negative violent flank effects being somewhat more prominent than positive ones. The authors argue, therefore, that “on average, maximalist nonviolent campaigns often succeed&nbsp;<em>despite</em>&nbsp;violent flanks—rarely because of them.”</p> <p><strong>Contemporary relevance.</strong></p> <p>Despite recent scholarship demonstrating the greater effectiveness of nonviolent resistance (see Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s 2011 book, “<a href="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">Why Civil Resistance Works</a>”), assumptions about the effectiveness of violence—along with its supposedly radical and/or revolutionary nature—stubbornly persist. When faced with a brutal or blatantly unjust opponent, many people are inclined to believe that only violence will bring about needed change or be able to protect and defend one’s community or fellow activists. </p> <p>We have seen this recent thinking everywhere from Syria to Venezuela, but for those of us in the United States struggling against the Trump administration and the white supremacist and neo-Nazi forces it has unleashed, we need look no further than the presence of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifa_(United_States)">Antifa</a> (anti-fascist groups who do not rule out engaging in violent confrontations) in our own protests to see this same logic at work—as well as its counterproductive effects. Such groups see themselves as a necessary counterpart to white supremacist or neo-Nazi groups who come armed to demonstrations, ready to engage in street battles with left-wing activists.</p> <p>Although this logic of needing to use violence to defend against violence is so widespread and deeply ingrained as to be almost intuitive, the problem is that such moves feed into and reinforce narratives on the right that inspire—and provide cover for—their own claims to self-defense. Just as the presence of a violent flank in an anti-regime nonviolent movement can provide necessary or further justification for government security forces to fire on protesters, so too can it create a similar dynamic among non-state groups, including neo-Nazis and white supremacists, mobilizing more recruits and ultimately increasing the vulnerability of anti-racist and anti-fascist activists and the marginalized and targeted communities whom they wish to defend.</p> <p><strong>Practical implications.</strong></p> <p>In the wake of recent events in Charlottesville, outrage has rightly focused on the neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups who came armed and even killed one of the counter-protesters. Their goals of racial supremacy and purity, fueled by hate and fear and devoid of empathy, have no place in a country that values equality, pluralism and human dignity, and their ascendancy&nbsp;at the moment&nbsp;is nothing short of terrifying.</p> <p>For the sake of effectively challenging these groups and their repulsive vision, however, those of us who consider ourselves part of the resistance must also engage in critical&nbsp;inward reflection, especially with regards to the strategic implications of the presence of&nbsp;Antifa&nbsp;affiliates who also came armed to Charlottesville, among otherwise nonviolent counter-protesters.</p> <p>Although their work to expose and tirelessly organize against fascism is admirable and necessary, those who identify with&nbsp;Antifa&nbsp;and its full range of tactics appear to endorse at least two flawed assumptions. First, they assume that truly radical action to effectively challenge fascism must include violence—what is often termed “physical confrontation”—and that nonviolence equals “dialogue” or “normal politics,” which&nbsp; implies acquiescence, submission or cooptation. Second, they assume that violence is also necessary to protect activists and targeted communities.</p> <p>But, in fact, here&nbsp;is what we know from recent social scientific research: Nonviolent resistance is twice as likely to be effective as violent resistance when used for radical goals such as the removal of an authoritarian regime or national liberation, cases with no shortage of brutal, unreasonable opponents. Furthermore, nonviolent resistance strategy is all about analyzing and dismantling an opponent’s sources of power, including through direct action. Finally, as noted in Chenoweth and Schock’s research above, instead of protecting nonviolent activists, the presence of a violent flank frequently creates justification for&nbsp;<em>further&nbsp;</em>repression against them, making them&nbsp;<em>more</em>&nbsp;vulnerable to violence.</p> <p>It is time, therefore, that we untether violence from its “radical” and “protective/defensive” associations. Not doing so—and hanging on, as&nbsp;Antifa&nbsp;does, to these tired old assertions that violence is a necessary response—is, quite simply, poor strategy. It gives white supremacists and neo-Nazis exactly what they want, reinforcing their “we’re embattled” narratives, thereby strengthening their movement. It muddies the waters by giving commentators on the right something to point to when they try to create ludicrous moral equivalencies between white supremacists/neo-Nazis and anti-fascist activists. And, in doing so, it does nothing to&nbsp;actually diminish&nbsp;the strength of white supremacism.</p> <p>Furthermore, the continued presence of armed elements like&nbsp;Antifa&nbsp;has negative effects&nbsp;within&nbsp;the resistance. Speaking from personal experience, as the mother of a three-year-old, it makes me, for one, feel more vulnerable to violence and therefore less likely to show up to demonstrations with my daughter. I can only assume that many others—not just parents—feel and act similarly, resulting in diminished mass participation in the movement and thereby a decrease in its power and effectiveness.</p> <p>For all these reasons, if&nbsp;Antifa&nbsp;activists care—as they no doubt do—about challenging resurgent fascist, white supremacist forces effectively, they must think more strategically, considering the short- and long-term effects of their actions. Although “punching a Nazi” may feel like effective action due to the immediate, physical consequences of violence—someone’s bloody nose, someone’s body on the ground—what actually matters for the strategic value of an action is how others respond to it afterwards.</p> <p>Does it strengthen the opponent group—reinforcing its narratives, drawing more recruits and unifying them against a more easily vilified adversary—or weaken it? Does it strengthen one’s own side—drawing a broader array of activists of all ages and from all walks of life to the resistance movement, unified around a common vision—or weaken it? Does it bring uncommitted third parties to one’s side or alienate them? These—not the number of individuals punched or bludgeoned on the other side—should be the metrics of a strategic response to fascism.</p> <p>The dangers of white supremacism and fascism are real, and the stakes for American democracy and values are high. It is precisely for these reasons that activists&nbsp;need to engage in discussions about the strategic merits and radical credentials of disciplined nonviolent resistance (both for movement effectiveness and for protection), together strategizing about those actions that will best diminish the power of the opponent to realize its white supremacist, fascist agenda. A few points, in particular, are worth raising.</p> <p>First, despite common-sense associations of violent action with defense and protection, nonviolent discipline has a&nbsp;better&nbsp;chance of keeping activists safe than armed resistance does, even—counter-intuitively—in the face of a violent adversary. There is no guarantee of complete&nbsp;safety with either type of resistance, but armed resistance is much more likely to elicit further—not less—violence from the other side.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nonetheless, assumptions about arms and their role in defense or protection are so engrained that this is a tough point to get across. If presented with a scenario where a few unarmed activists in a completely nonviolent movement are killed by armed opponents versus one where a greater number of unarmed activists are killed by these opponents while joined by fellow armed activists fighting back, most of us are likely to characterize the unarmed activists in the first instance as “defenseless” and those in the second instance as being “defended,” despite the fact that they were, in fact, better protected in the first instance. These deeply engrained—and flawed— assumptions about the defensive or protective value of weapons must be brought to the surface and critically examined.</p> <p>Second, there is a strategic logic to nonviolent&nbsp;resistance that most Antifa adherents seem to not know (as demonstrated through the&nbsp;<a href="http://rosecityantifa.org/faq/">claim</a>&nbsp;on one Antifa website that “only popular self-defense, not simply debate, has succeeded in stopping fascism” or&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/us/antifa-left-wing-faction-far-right.html">statements</a>&nbsp;made by various Antifa activists in the&nbsp;<em>New York Times </em>suggesting that our choice in response to fascism takes binary form: use violence or “do nothing.”)</p> <p>Far from being synonymous with “debate” or inaction,&nbsp;nonviolent resistance&nbsp;involves the dismantling of an opponent’s sources of power through a range of methods, including various forms of disruption and direct action, and&nbsp;is twice as likely as violent resistance to succeed in achieving radical goals. In other words, the success of nonviolent resistance does not depend on the presence—and persuasion—of a “nice” adversary.</p> <p>Contrary to mainstream belief, there is a historical record of successful nonviolent resistance against fascism in countries under Nazi control, including the Rosenstrasse demonstrations in Berlin where wives saved their Jewish husbands, Denmark’s rescue of most of its Jewish community, resistance to the Nazi policies of the Quisling government in Norway, and so on. Jacques Semelin’s 1993 book “Unarmed Against Hitler” is one resource that examines these and other cases throughout Europe.</p> <p>Third, only by maintaining nonviolent discipline can the resistance dramatize and capitalize on the clear contrast between its activists and the white supremacists or neo-Nazis they confront. Stooping to the level of armed hooligans on the other side, engaging them on their own terms, weakens the anti-fascist cause by surrendering the high ground in media representations of demonstrations, providing cover for commentators who wish to draw a specious moral equivalency between the two sides, and alienating people who would otherwise ally themselves with an anti-fascist movement.</p> <p>Finally,&nbsp;violence is less—not more—“radical” than nonviolence is, especially insofar as it is less effective in achieving radical goals and less likely to dismantle white supremacism and fascism than nonviolent resistance. Far from&nbsp;embodying a radical challenge to fascism, Antifa affiliates&nbsp;are doing exactly what&nbsp;neo-Nazis and&nbsp;white supremacists&nbsp;are hoping they will do—this is precisely the reaction that will energize the very fascists they are hoping to shut down, reinforcing their embattled narratives and strengthening their ranks. </p> <p>Only by disassociating one’s radical credentials from participation in violence will we ultimately move away from these knee-jerk responses to racist violence that do nothing to minimize the draw and strength of white supremacy—and instead move towards more strategic, effective action that&nbsp;actually has&nbsp;a chance of advancing the cause of a diverse, inclusive, just&nbsp;society.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/brian-martin/what-can-be-learned-from-recent-studies-on-nonviolent-action">What can be learned from recent studies on nonviolent action?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler/six-principles-of-nonviolence">Six principles of nonviolence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/why-indigenous-civil-resistance-has-unique-power">What can be learned from the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Molly Wallace Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 04 Jan 2018 13:09:05 +0000 Molly Wallace 114731 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Living prayer at Standing Rock https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chelsea-macmillan/living-prayer-at-standing-rock <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="BasicParagraph">We are more powerful when we live together as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BasicParagraph"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/chelseamacmillan1_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Ellen Davidson. All rights reserved.</p><p class="BasicParagraph"><em>This article was originally published in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.anchormagazine.org/">Anchor&nbsp;by Still Harbor</a>.</em></p><p class="BasicParagraph">In April of last year, people from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota began to physically block Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), an oil company, from constructing a pipeline under a river that provides drinking water to the reservation and millions of people downstream. After the mostly white citizenry of Bismarck rejected the original path that would bring the pipeline close to their own water source, ETP made plans to drill on reservation land that has been so-called “disputed territory” between the U.S. government and the Lakota Sioux since the 1800s—land that was granted to the tribe by treaty. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">Since the 2016 Presidential election, this situation has soured for the Sioux and their allies and, at the time of this writing, ETP had already begun to drill under the water. With my partner, Leo, and a caravan of a dozen activists from Chicago, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and NYC, I visited the main camp, Oceti Sakowin, built by protesters in November, 2016.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">About 45 minutes out from Standing Rock, our little caravan stopped for gas. I went into the station to pee and as I walked back out to the car, a man held the door open for me. Having experienced only super-friendly Midwesterners on the trip thus far, I was a little surprised when he answered my cheery “thank you!” with a curt, silent nod, but I didn’t think much of it. But, as I crossed the lane to our car, I felt the eyes of another man, wearing flannel and a ball cap, staring at Leo and me. He began to curse at us. “You fuckin’ lowlifes. Get outta here, you longhaired hippies. No one needs you here.” We sensed the darkness in his tone and quickly got into the car and drove away.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">As we got closer and closer to the camp, I began to visualize our little caravan as white blood cells rushing toward an infection, staving off bacteria along the way. Better yet, we were like the imaginal cells that transform a cocooned caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. At the beginning of metamorphosis, a few of the imaginal cells appear in the caterpillar’s body—they are treated as foreigners, intruders in the system, and the caterpillar cells begin to actually attack the butterfly cells. Yet, against all reason, the imaginal cells grow in number, urged on by some ancient knowing.</p><p class="BasicParagraph"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/chelseamacmillan2_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Ellen Davidson. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">We arrived at Standing Rock on that chilly morning, the day that happened to be when most Americans would celebrate Thanksgiving. Though I felt certain of my calling to join the Water Protectors, I was still a bit nervous. A few days before our trip, the protesters had encountered a violent offense from law enforcement. Many were injured, some seriously. I had heard about constant drone surveillance and menacing planes zooming overhead and had seen photos of armed police officers keeping watch from a hill in the distance. I expected there to be danger and revolution in the air. Yet, when we drove into the camp, everyone seemed focused and calm.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">The woman who greeted our car told us that this was a place of prayer and ceremony and that “we take care of each other here.” She asked no questions of us, all non-natives ourselves. I sensed that trust was given, not earned; everyone was held to high standards of integrity, hard work, and cooperation. Her directness and warmth helped ease my anxiety; thoughts of the angry man at the gas station began to fade. I immediately began to settle into the spirit of camp. I felt like I knew everyone I passed on the makeshift roads of camp. Folks smiled and acknowledged each other. I heard dogs barking. I saw children playing. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">Much of my time was spent cleaning and organizing piles of donations, serving nourishing food, and building <em>tipis</em> and <em>yurts</em> to prepare for the brutal North Dakota winter. Eventually, I would find myself covered in bits of hay as I sewed together panels of burlap for insulation. Working toward justice is messy, maybe, but simple. Everywhere I looked, I saw people jumping up to help one another without hesitation.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">One evening, Leo and I sat on the cold ground, patiently waiting for a can of soup to warm over a Sterno stove. Beyond our little campsite, I could see the menacing glare of floodlights shining upon Oceti Sakowin. Policemen, like clumps of black ants, weaved around armored vehicles. <em>What was it like for them over there?</em> Tears rose to my eyes as I thought of their hearts, tender as my own, beating beneath bulletproof vests. The same arms that hug children and wives were wrapped around lethal weapons. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph"><em>What causes the cocooned caterpillar to resist its own beautiful, transformed future as a butterfly? Fear of flying too high or losing a grubby, slow-moving body for a form as light as air? Anger at not being able to chew leaves anymore and being relegated to a life of drinking sweet nectar from fragrant flowers?</em> How scared those officers must have been to respond to prayerful, unarmed protesters with such violence and hatred! I felt an urge to reach out to the men and invite them into camp, wishing them to witness and experience the deep care with which everyone there treated each other. I imagined their surprise at being referred to as “brother” or “relative.”</p><p class="BasicParagraph"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/chelseamacmillan3_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="BasicParagraph"><span class="image-caption">Credit: Ellen Davidson. All rights reserved.</span></p><p class="BasicParagraph">The elders told us constantly, “You’re here to pray.” Pray? This used to be such a loaded word for me as someone who grew up and became disillusioned with the idea of asking an old white guy in the sky to wave his magic wand and give me what I want. But that’s not the kind of prayer the elders were talking about. Of course, the Sioux pray petitionary prayers, but they’re not one-sided demands or requests. Those prayers come from a deep understanding of relationship <em>with</em> Mother Earth and offerings are made to Her as appeals are made. Body, mind, and heart must be prepared beforehand. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">I was instructed to always wear a skirt, the traditional sign of a woman in ceremony, as everything I did in camp, from cooking to sewing to carrying water, was part of our prayer. I came to know prayer as a dynamic embodiment, the place from which my whole life is meant to arise. The new world my heart knows is possible already exists. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people, native and non-native alike, praying peace, equity, and reciprocity. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">Praying, like justice, is simple, but simple does not mean easy. Living in this way is to live in relationship—it requires constant awareness and attentiveness to ourselves, each other, Spirit, and Mother Earth. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">In Howard Zinn’s oft-quoted essay, <em>The Optimism of Uncertainty</em>, he says, “Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises…We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">Revolution may be made of mere moments, but they’re organized moments. I can’t tell you how many times since Election Day, 2016 that I’ve heard acquaintances and friends and family members ask, “What can we do?” In other words, as we face one of the most potentially dangerous presidencies in American history, what actions will truly be effective in making any waves of change? We are each being faced with the sense of inadequacy that comes with being one individual on a planet of seven billion people. But, together, our strengths multiply and complement each other’s weaknesses. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.</p> <p class="BasicParagraph">Justice looks like a stranger lending a hand to another stranger and sounds like a brown-skinned man calling a white-skinned woman “sister.” Justice is living as simply as possible, taking only what you truly need and then sharing that. Revolutionary change is the convergence of a few thousand people upon the tiniest speck of a point on a map, coming together to stand for justice. This becomes a collective prayer, embodying the qualities of a world we know is not only possible, but also true. </p> <p class="BasicParagraph">We are heard when we join our voices in a chorus of resistance. As Zinn teaches, we are more powerful when we live together “as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us.” At Standing Rock, I learned that revolution is people praying together, arm linked in arm, in an unbreakable and undeniable chain of justice and love.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/why-indigenous-civil-resistance-has-unique-power">What can be learned from the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/climate-justice-meets-racism-standing-rock-was-decades-in-making">Climate justice meets racism: Standing Rock was decades in the making</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/james-rowe-mike-simpson/lessons-from-front-lines-of-anti-colonial-pipeline-resistance">Lessons from the front lines of anti-colonial pipeline resistance</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Chelsea MacMillan Transformative nonviolence Activism Love and Spirituality Tue, 02 Jan 2018 13:08:54 +0000 Chelsea MacMillan 115359 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ken Burns’ powerful film on Vietnam ignores the power of the anti-war movement https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/robert-levering/ken-burns-powerful-film-on-vietnam-ignores-power-of-anti-war-movement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Vietnam peace movement was inspirational. Its story deserves to be told fully and fairly.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article first appeared on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/ken-burns-vietnam-war-ignores-anti-war-movement/?pf=true">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RobertLevering2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Anti-war march in Chicago, 1968. Credit: By David Wilson <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0">CC BY 2.0</a>, via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:19680810_20_Anti-War_March.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p> <p>Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s PBS series, “The Vietnam War<em>,</em>” deserves an Oscar for its depiction of the gore of war and the criminality of the warmakers. But it also deserves to be critiqued for its portrayal of the anti-war movement.</p> <p>Millions of us joined the struggle against the war. I worked for years as an organizer for major national demonstrations and many smaller ones. Any semblance between the peace movement I experienced and the one depicted by the Burns/Novick series is purely coincidental.</p> <p>Two of my fellow activists,&nbsp;<a href="http://ronyoungviews.blogspot.com/">Ron Young</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Vietnam-antiwar-movement-had-a-bigger-voice-than-12250664.php">Steve Ladd</a>&nbsp;had similar reactions to the series. Historian Maurice Isserman&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/ken-burns-lynn-novick-vietnam-war-review">says</a>&nbsp;the film is “both anti-war and anti-antiwar movement.” Another historian Jerry Lembcke&nbsp;<a href="http://www.publicbooks.org/burns-and-novick-masters-of-false-balancing/">says</a>&nbsp;the filmmakers use the technique of “false balancing” to perpetuate myths about the anti-war movement.</p> <p>These criticisms are valid. But for today’s resisters, the PBS series misses the most relevant story of the Vietnam era: how the anti-war movement played a critical role in limiting and ultimately helping to end the war.</p> <p>You would never guess from this series that as many Americans took to the streets to protest the war on one day (October 15, 1969) as served in Vietnam during the 10 years of the war (about two million for both). Nor would you realize that the peace movement was, in the words of respected historian Charles DeBenedetti, “the largest domestic opposition to a warring government in the history of modern industrial society.”</p> <p>Instead of celebrating the war’s resistance, Burns, Novick and series writer Geoffrey C. Ward consistently minimize, caricature and distort what was by far the largest nonviolent movement in American history.</p> <p><a href="https://vva.org/arts-of-war/the-ken-burns-documentary-a-review/">Anti-war vets</a>&nbsp;are the only participants of the peace movement that Burns and Novick relate to with any sympathy or depth. John Musgrave, a former Marine who joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, describes his transformation. We also hear anti-war vet John Kerry’s moving testimony before Congress: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” And we see and hear from war veterans who threw back their medals at the Capitol steps. The filmmakers would have done well, however, to describe the extent of that GI resistance movement, such as the 300-plus underground newspapers and dozens of GI coffeehouses.</p> <p>It’s disconcerting that the filmmakers did not interview even one draft resister. Had they done so, we could hear why tens of thousands of young men risked up to five years in prison rather than fight in Vietnam. The filmmakers would not have had difficulty finding any as there were at least 200,000 draft resisters. Another 480,000 applied for conscientious objector status during the war. In fact, more men were granted CO status in 1971 than were drafted that year.</p> <p>Even worse, “The Vietnam War” fails to tell the story of the organized movement of draft resisters that grew to such proportions that the draft itself became virtually unworkable and that was a major factor why Nixon ended the draft. In “Jailed for Peace: The History of American Draft Law Violators, 1658-1985,” Stephen M. Kohn writes: “By the end of the Vietnam War, the Selective Service System was demoralized and frustrated. It was increasingly difficult to induct men into the army. There was more and more illegal resistance, and the popularity of resistance was rising. The draft was&nbsp;<a href="https://www.boyswhosaidno.com/single-post/2017/08/03/Draft-Impact">all but dead</a>.”</p> <p>The movement’s crippling of the draft system was not the only major achievement of the anti-war movement omitted from the Burns/Novick epic. The film shows scenes from the March on the Pentagon in 1967, where more than 25,000 protesters confronted thousands of Army troops. But it does not tell us that the Pentagon demonstration and the increasingly radical anti-war movement were among the factors that led Johnson to refuse General Westmoreland’s pending request for 206,000 more troops and why the president himself refused to run for another term just six months later. (The Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vietnampeace.org/oct-21-event">holding a gathering October 20-21</a>&nbsp;in Washington, D.C. to mark the 50th anniversary of the march.)</p> <p>Likewise, the film shows footage from both the Moratorium on October 15, 1969 (demonstrations that drew more than two million people in hundreds of towns and campuses) and the Mobilization in Washington the next month, which drew more than a half-million marchers (the largest single demonstration in American history until the Women’s March earlier this year). Unfortunately, Burns and Novick do not tell us about the impact of the peace movement’s fall offensive: It forced Nixon to abandon his plans for bombing the dykes of North Vietnam and/or using tactical nuclear weapons. This story was not known at the time, but numerous historians have written about it based on interviews with Nixon administration officials, documents from the period and White House tapes.</p> <p>Another missed opportunity: We see scenes of the massive demonstrations throughout the country—and on college campuses—in reaction to the Cambodian invasion and the killings at Kent State and Jackson State. That eruption forced Nixon to withdraw from Cambodia prematurely, another point Burns and Novick failed to tell.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the scenes related to Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 do not make clear that Nixon’s reaction led directly to Watergate and his resignation. Had Burns and Novick also interviewed Ellsberg, who is alive and well in California, they would have discovered that the most significant individual act of civil disobedience during the war was inspired by the example set by draft resisters.</p> <p>Finally, the film does not explain that Congress cut off funds to the war largely because of the intensive lobbying efforts by such groups as the American Friends Service Committee and Indochina Peace Campaign, or IPC, led by Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda. Don’t take my word for it. In his testimony before Congress the year after the fall of Saigon, the last U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam blamed the peace movement’s lobbying efforts for eliminating the funds needed to forestall the final North Vietnamese offensive. Not mentioning IPC’s lobbying efforts is particularly puzzling since the only peace movement activist interviewed for the series was Bill Zimmerman, one of IPC’s principal organizers. We hear opinions from Zimmerman about a variety of other issues, but absolutely nothing about the organization he describes in detail in his memoir.</p> <p>All these omissions and distortions notwithstanding, we must credit this 18-hour epic as one of the most powerful anti-war films of all time. “The Vietnam War” certainly rivals “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Just as that World War I classic portrays the nightmare of trench warfare, Burns and Novick show horrific scene after horrific scene of mutilated bodies and corpses. Through the words of combatants on both sides, you can almost feel what it’s like having bullets and shrapnel flying at you and watching your buddies get hit while you’re trying to kill other human beings.</p> <p>You may find yourself emotionally drained after watching countless gruesome battles and stomach-churning scenes of mutilated Vietnamese peasants and torched villages. Several of my friends stopped viewing after two or three episodes because they found it too upsetting. Still, I encourage you to view it if you haven’t already. (PBS stations will air episodes on Tuesday nights through November 28.)</p> <p>Burns and Novick do more than immerse you in blood. They demonstrate the callousness, ignorance and hubris of the warmakers. You can hear tapes of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara revealing that they knew from the outset that the war was unwinnable and that more combat troops and bombings would not change the outcome. Yet they lied to the public and sent hundreds upon thousands of Americans into the fray, while dropping more tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia than the total tonnage of bombs exploded by all combatants in World War II. You can also hear Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger cynically plotting to prolong the war for four more years so that he could run in 1972 without the stain of losing Vietnam to the communists.</p> <p>Generals and battlefield commanders in Vietnam show just as little regard for the lives and limbs of their men as their bosses in Washington. Soldiers fight valiantly to capture hills, where dozens are killed or maimed only to have their leaders tell them to abandon their conquests.</p> <p>It’s no wonder then that, almost without exception, the American soldiers tell the filmmakers that they now believe the war was senseless and feel betrayed. Many voice support for the anti-war movement. Some even proudly became part of the GI resistance movement after they returned home. (My brother-in-law, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam and later joined the Secret Service, expressed the same sentiment when he told me, “We were suckers.”)</p> <p>Burns and Novick should also be applauded for incorporating numerous Vietnamese soldiers on both sides of the civil war. By humanizing “the enemy,” the film goes beyond a condemnation of American perfidy in Vietnam and becomes an indictment of war itself. Particularly touching is hearing a North Vietnamese officer talk of how his unit spent three days in mourning after losing over half of his men in a particularly bloody skirmish. (They did not do as good a job portraying&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/09/28/the-ken-burns-vietnam-war-documentary-glosses-over-devastating-civilian-toll/">the toll on Vietnamese civilians</a>, however.)</p> <p>We also see how North Vietnam’s leaders mirrored their counterparts in Washington by consistently lying to their citizens and by callously sending tens of thousands of their young on suicidal offensives that had little chance of success. Similarly, the filmmakers get beneath the surface enough to reveal who actually fought the war. Just as the overwhelming majority of American soldiers were working class or minorities, the North Vietnamese side was composed almost entirely of peasants and workers. Meanwhile, children of Hanoi’s elite went to the safe environs of Moscow to further their education. Back in the United States, children of the white upper middle class and the privileged found safety in their student and other draft deferments.</p> <p>Military recruiters would hate to have any of their potential enlistees watch this series. Those who sit through all 10 episodes will have a tough time discerning significant differences between the war in Vietnam and the ones in Iraq or Afghanistan. Common themes abound: lies, pointless battles, mindless violence, corruption, stupidity.</p> <p>Unfortunately, most viewers will justifiably feel totally overwhelmed and helpless by the end of this epic film. That’s why it’s important to spotlight the misrepresentations and underestimations of the peace movement. For the success of the anti-Vietnam war movement provides hope and illustrates the power of resistance.</p> <p>Rarely in history have citizens been effective in challenging a war. Other unpopular American conflicts have had their protesters—the Mexican, Civil and Spanish-American Wars, World War I, and more recently the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Opposition typically fizzled out soon after troops were sent into action. Not so in the case of Vietnam. No other antiwar cause has developed a movement nearly as massive, endured as long or accomplished as much as the struggle against the Vietnam War.</p> <p>The Vietnam peace movement provides an inspiring example of the power of ordinary citizens willing to stand up to the world’s most powerful government in a time of war. Its story deserves to be told fairly and fully.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/robert-levering/how-anti-vietnam-war-activists-stopped-violent-protest-from-hijacking">How anti-Vietnam War activists stopped violent protest from hijacking their movement</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/brian-martin/what-can-be-learned-from-recent-studies-on-nonviolent-action">What can be learned from recent studies on nonviolent action?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kazu-haga/violence-brought-us-trump-but-it-s-not-how-we-will-stop-him">Violence brought us Trump, but it’s not how we will stop him</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Robert Levering Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Thu, 07 Dec 2017 18:02:30 +0000 Robert Levering 114359 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Swords in the hands of children: an insider’s account of what happened to America’s New Left https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-lerner/swords-in-hands-of-children-insider-s-account-of-what-happened-to-ame <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How Weatherman confused violence with militancy and triggered the downfall of Students for a Democratic Society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/weatherman-confused-violence-militancy-sds/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jonathan Lerner.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Students for a Democratic Society logo. Credit: By Tim Lourd - Own work, via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30499445">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>.</p> <p>To those of us deeply immersed in the New Left in the summer of 1969, apocalypse felt imminent. Despite growing opposition, the war in Vietnam was still escalating, with no end in sight. There had been strikes and building seizures at scores of campuses. Demonstrations were increasingly confrontational and bloody. The civil rights movement was reeling from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. the year before, and the massive riots that followed, and from the emergence of separatist groups that rejected the goal of integration. Some of those were armed, including the Black Panthers, whose offices were routinely and lethally attacked by police.</p> <p>Within Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, the New Left’s principal organization, there was desperation to articulate a strategy in response—and to create the conditions for revolution, which many of us had convinced ourselves was necessary. Factions formed and competed bitterly. At the SDS convention in June 1969, the organization burst apart. Control was seized by a group called Weatherman, which eventually went underground and carried out a campaign of bombings. But in the months before doing so, we trashed SDS, abandoned the mass movement it represented, and dedicated ourselves to ultra-militancy and fighting in the streets.</p> <p>To many people today, apocalypse feels imminent once again. And activism feels mandatory. How to build organization, devise strategy and be effective are pressing questions. So is the distinction between militancy and violence. What follows is an excerpt from “<a href="http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/swords-hands-children-jonathan-lerner/">Swords in the Hands of Children: Reflections of an American Revolutionary</a><em>,</em>” the story of my path through SDS and the Weather Underground. For activists grappling with those questions, it should be a cautionary tale.</p> <p>Through the summer and into the fall of 1969, we forged ourselves into an infantry of swaggering kamikazes dedicated to the ideas in the Weatherman position paper. Every effort was aimed toward a series of demonstrations we called for Chicago in October. They became known after the fact as the Days of Rage, although in building for it we just called them “the National Action.” Our goal was to get tens of thousands of angry young people fighting the cops in the streets. In the event, only about 400 people actually participated, maybe fewer. There was an opening night salvo when our troops ran through a fancy neighborhood trashing things and attacking the cops, who responded with shotguns, wounding 11, and arrested more than 60. </p> <p>A couple of actions planned for the following days didn’t go forward at all—one was defused by the police as people were gathering, and we canceled another out of fear because the National Guard had been called out. The final day’s march was another melee, with numerous injuries and mass arrests. Altogether, considering our inflated vision of it, the Days of Rage was a spectacular failure. So, smarting from our abandonment by the movement we had alienated and from the failure of our fantasized masses of followers to materialize, we in turn abandoned the movement and the masses in a huff. Obviously, nobody else was as committed as we were! That’s when we began preparing to go underground.</p> <p>This spoiled-brat, feelings-hurt motivation for such a consequential step was obscured behind our overblown rhetoric about the need for armed action. We pointed for justification—and reflected glory—to revolutions, such as the Cubans’, that started with small, clandestine military ventures. We also rationalized the intention to go underground as a refusal to surrender. Many of our members accrued felony charges for things like mob action and assaulting an officer, and didn’t want to face trials and jail. But our unwillingness to admit that our strategy had been a farce—that is, our shame at having talked so big and delivered so little—would also be a powerful impetus.</p> <p>Over that summer leading up to the Days of Rage, we built a network of collectives in half a dozen cities; membership was somewhat fluid during those months, as some people bailed out and others were recruited, but I don’t believe there were ever more than 200 or maybe 250 members. They were disciplined to a leadership group that we cutely called the Weather Bureau. Not insignificantly, while there had been two women among the 11 signers of the position paper, Karin Ashley and Bernardine Dohrn, Karin was very quickly kicked off the Weather Bureau and Bernardine remained the only female member. (In the fall another woman was brought on, for cosmetic reasons I should think. She also didn’t last long, most likely because she was a nascent lesbian feminist.)</p> <p>The local groups that became Weather collectives had originally been meant as short-term organizing projects. Many who joined them were students expecting to return to college in the fall. But by fall our sense of reality was so skewed that for many, the idea of resuming life as a student would have been as inconceivable as volunteering to become a police informer. This first incarnation of Weatherman, as a public and visible organization, was nicknamed by someone—me, I think—the Weather Machine. This image gave us something to keep in mind as we subordinated our individual wills and learned to function like cogs and gears. We didn’t consider its other implication, the repetitive, controlled, mechanistic way we were thinking.</p> <p>At the SDS national office, where I was, there was a staff that fluctuated in number between perhaps half a dozen and a dozen people. From there, the transformation of the summer projects into the Machine only reached us in anecdotes and rumors of bizarre and thrilling and scary goings-on. We began to hear of marathon meetings, “criticism/self-criticism” sessions that lasted until dawn. This was a technique appropriated from the Cultural Revolution then going on in China, aimed at beating the bourgeois individualism and wimpiness out of each other. For example, out on the street you were supposed to “lay down” the correct “raps,” as if upon hearing the perfect formulation, strangers would magically abandon their own lives and join up. </p> <p>If your rhetoric hadn’t been perfectly congruent with what the leadership was promulgating at the moment, then that could be the focus of criticism. Whatever you’d said would be picked apart—along with your self-esteem—and you were expected to recant, repent and parrot back the right phraseology. Worse, perhaps, would be to have appeared weak. “A lot of those criticism sessions grew out of how you performed that morning leafleting, or in some confrontation with the cops. Everyone doubted themselves. I was really scared on the street,” one friend remembers. Of course, it would have been rational to fear physical combat with the police. But thinking rationally wasn’t possible, once you’d committed to meekly following orders and forcing yourself to be something you were not.</p> <p>We heard that collective members were learning karate. There were also tales of erupting promiscuity. And we would sometimes receive surprising news that a person who had been a trusted cadre had been “offed”—ghetto slang for “killed”—and was now a non-person with whom nobody should interact. Occasionally, following one of those torturous criticism sessions, the non-person was liable just as surprisingly to be rehabilitated. Then there was the campaign of “smashing monogamy.” Smashing monogamy was justified as a way to free girlfriends from the domination of their boyfriends, but it also had the effect of freeing previously attached women to be sexually available to the leaders, or any other guy who felt empowered to coerce them.</p> <p>What made us so willing to trash people no worse than ourselves, and take orders from people no smarter? The organization we created was a vehicle for our politics. But its peculiar nature was enabled not so much by the ideology as by the psychic crisis created within each of us by that ideology.</p> <p>Weatherman held that in making a revolution, not only would black people be the vanguard but that “the blacks could do it alone.” This was more than a challenge to the arrogance of white leftists, it was a profound invalidation: we weren’t only not primary—we weren’t even necessary. The acknowledgment of white privilege, an enormously important understanding that was new to most of us at the time, also permeated Weather thinking. But it became a club with which to beat ourselves: we were coddled, and whiteness would always give us an easy out; we were racists objectively and inevitably simply by dint of being white in a racist society. </p> <p>There’s truth to that, and value in realizing it. It makes possible an understanding of the nuances, and insidiousness, of racism both within us as individuals and in the structure of society. We, though, did not examine nuances. We leapt from this insight to judging ourselves to be worthless, along with every other white person in the country. Hence the despair and bitterness with which we took such crazy risks with our lives, and with the lives of others. But here was a group of people who were so confident—or unreflective or power hungry —that they could promulgate these ideas without themselves being similarly debilitated. Following their leadership would be our path to rehabilitation.</p> <p>No one involved, however—except the undercover cops—set out on a path of political activism with any less idealism and heart than I had at 13 when in my first political act I joined a picket line to integrate a segregated apartment complex. And at the core of the original Weatherman position paper were humane and passionate convictions. Its authors understood that the war in Vietnam—and unnecessary American military meddling in other countries, in general—was a tragic blunder. And they knew that for this country racism is central to the history, and the biggest challenge. </p> <p>Both observations remain demonstrably true today. The leaders I criticize were right to insist on these ideas. Their failure was not in their motivations to activism, or in their instinctive radicalism and boldness, or in their analysis—well, not in those two elements of their analysis. But they lacked humility. They liked being right way too much. They were not saints, as most leaders of most movements, even righteous ones, turn out not to be. They aren’t saints, and this isn’t heaven.</p> <p>So in the Weather Machine we created a structure that perpetuated repeated mood swings between cockiness and self-loathing, endlessly and with no possible resolution. We could strut around like bullies all day, and cower and pule before our hierophants in the evening. The breaking down of self-esteem, the abdication of critical judgment, the omnipotent leadership, the not-quite-free free love, the ever-present threat of banishment: We didn’t identify our organization as a cult, but I guess people in cults generally don’t.</p> <p>Reinforcing the separate reality of life in the Machine was the escalating state of confrontation with the cops, not all of which was directly provoked by us. People were routinely followed by plainclothes officers who made no attempt to be surreptitious, pulled over for the slightest real or concocted infraction of traffic rules, illegally searched and arrested. “I remember at least three or four times that summer when we were raided by the police,” my friend recalls. “We’d be sitting around in the collective house and they’d just come in, without any warrants, and terrorize us for an hour or so. Once they hung somebody out the window of a third-floor apartment by his heels.”</p> <p>In Chicago, as the days counted down to Oct. 8 and our National Action, we still had close ties with a local group of leftist lawyers, and with Rising Up Angry, a Chicago organizing project among working-class white kids started by some people from SDS. The radical Student Health Organization had agreed—reluctantly—to provide first aid during the demonstrations. But we had succeeded in alienating virtually everybody else. No matter; we knew that the masses of kids were with us. I was cited in the newspaper&nbsp;<em>Chicago Today</em>, as late as September 23, asserting that between 5,000 and 10,000 of them would be joining us in the streets.</p> <p>But the reality was that we had isolated ourselves almost completely. This is what happens when you insist you are totally right, belittle everybody else as wrongheaded and “objectively” counter-revolutionary, and deride them all as wimps. We acted as if we didn’t care that our ties to the larger movement were being severed. We pretended it proved our superiority. Driven by spite, it seemed easy to cut ourselves off from the rest of the New Left.</p> <p>The last issue of the SDS newspaper we published before the National Action had an unambiguous theme of armed revolution, with articles on four Latin American insurgencies.&nbsp;<em>New Left Notes&nbsp;</em>had often printed a roundup of short items of movement news. This time, under the headline “Insurrection!” we ticked off several militant street battles of the Weatherman type, and seven recent bombings of National Guard armories and federal buildings in various locations around the country. Weatherman hadn’t yet blown anything up, but that idea was in the air. Some people were beating us to it.</p> <p>It was right in the middle of those feverish Days of Rage that the Weather Bureau made the decision to transform the visible Weather Machine into an invisible underground. Perspective and composure were apparently not deemed essential for the taking of such a momentous decision. But we had gone far out on a limb and discovered that everybody else was ready to leave us dangling there, so I think we all felt that we might as well jump; it certainly wouldn’t do to wimp out on our commitment to ceaseless escalation. </p> <p>There is also the reading of this decision as an adolescent tantrum: If we were to die in the act of committing revolutionary suicide, it would serve everybody else right. And there is the psychological reading, in which it isn’t a surprise that the leadership made the decision to go underground when they did. What a spectacular way to repair their punctured collective self-esteem, given the colossal defeat they had ushered us to.&nbsp;</p><h2><em>&nbsp;</em></h2><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andrew-willis-garc-s/we-need-both-compassion-and-confrontation-to-defeat-donald-trump">We need both compassion and confrontation to defeat Donald Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/stephanie-van-hook/transforming-anger-into-nonviolent-power">Transforming anger into nonviolent power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mark-engler-paul-engler/transformative-power-of-democratic-uprisings">The transformative power of democratic uprisings</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jonathan Lerner Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 21 Nov 2017 22:06:12 +0000 Jonathan Lerner 114399 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to fight the global Wall Street landlords https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/cat-mcshane-yiannis-panagiotopoulos-pere-rusinol-esperanza-escribano/how-to-fight-glo <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Banks and vulture funds make money from ordinary people’s distress. The only way to fight back is to outsmart them.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/CatMcShane.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Activists from PAH in Barcelona. Credit: Esperanza Escribano. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="normal">“Thank you, for making the impossible, possible,” a beaming <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Colau">Ada Colau</a> told thousands of whooping supporters packed tight on the cobblestones of central St. James Square in Barcelona’s old town. It was June 13th 2015, and she had just been sworn-in as Mayor of Barcelona. </p> <p class="normal">Colau won on a wave of support for the way she had fought the housing crisis as founder of Spain's <a href="http://afectadosporlahipoteca.com/">Platform for People Affected By Mortgages</a> (PAH), an extraordinary movement that has mobilised thousands of ordinary citizens to take direct action against forced evictions and rising mortgage costs. </p> <p class="normal">Its target are Wall Street giants—the so-called ‘vulture funds’—that have been on a house-buying spree across Europe and the United States since the 2008 financial crash. According to the <a href="http://afectadosporlahipoteca.com/">New York Times</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldman_Sachs">Goldman Sachs</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerberus_Capital_Management">Cerberus Capital Management</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Star_Funds">Lone Star Funds</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blackstone_Group">Blackstone Group</a> and other US companies have bought more than €223 billion worth of troubled real estate loans in Europe in the last four years<em>.</em></p> <p class="normal">The profits made by these institutions from ordinary people’s distress have made them the target of a backlash that has bought together homeowners, renters and housing activists across the world. Campaigners have one common fight—to protect the right to decent and affordable housing for everyone. </p> <p class="normal">"Capital operates globally, as Blackstone does, and we must set up a global movement too. People have the same problems in Madrid, Dublin and New York and they face exactly the same actors," said Santi Mas de Xaxàs in an interview with us, a PAH activist and speaker for its international network. </p> <p class="normal">Blackstone and the others have quickly proved themselves to be ruthless landlords. Paquita Rivas, for example, is retired and is now a PAH activist. During the recession, her daughter was forced to sell the apartment she’d bought during the boom times but for a rock bottom price, leaving her owing €55,000<strong> </strong>to<strong> </strong>the bank. When Blackstone took over the mortgage, they came after her parent’s home as payment.&nbsp; "I spent day and night crying until a friend put me in contact with PAH. We were very afraid, but ultimately we decide to fight and we won. Yes, we can!" </p> <p class="normal">The PAH has sought to create alliances with groups like <a href="http://righttothecity.org/">Right to the City</a> in the USA, a network of grassroots organisations from some of the poorest communities in America. Blackstone began buying up the homes that were vacated by people no longer able to pay their mortgages in the aftermath of the 2008 crash cheaply and in volume—up to a 1,000 homes a day—and then rented them back to the newly dispossessed. Almost overnight, Blackstone became the biggest landlord in the United States. </p> <p class="normal">Tony Romano is Right to the City’s executive director. He told us that organising tenants is tough because Blackstone’s purchases were spread out across the country, but a visit to Spain proved transformative:</p> <blockquote><p class="normal">“We went to learn about the movement and their model of organisation. There are few examples of activist led movements that have reached scale. We made a partnership, and put that into a manifesto of seven international demands against Blackstone.”</p></blockquote> <p class="normal">This partnership turned into the first ever <a href="https://news.vice.com/article/activists-gather-worldwide-to-protest-against-housing-vulture-fund">day of action</a> against Blackstone in New York, Dublin and London, along with a drive to jam their phone lines and to speak to or email Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman with this message:</p> <blockquote><p class="normal">"Mr. Schwarzman, I stand with Blackstone tenants and community organizations around the world. Stop buying up our foreclosed homes and public housing, stop all your unjust evictions and make your rents affordable. I support this important struggle and will not let up until you meet the tenants' demands. Homes are NOT a commodity!"</p></blockquote> <p class="normal">Since then, Right to the City has acted more aggressively in mobilising tenants across the US. “We’re moving into places that are not organised and starting from scratch,” Romano told us.</p> <p class="normal">In September 2017 it held its first nationwide ‘Renters Week of Action,’ with groups across the country holding marches, staging sit-ins and confronting landlord lobbying associations with demands that included rent controls, the prevention of unjust eviction and the right of tenants to bargain collectively with landlords without fear of reprisals.</p> <p>Romano and his army of grassroots activists can expect no support from the current US administration. Blackstone founder Schwarzman is a close ally of President Trump and <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/trump-schwarzman-blackstone-influence-23734">donated $5.5 million</a> to the Republicans in the 2016 election. In January 2017, <a href="http://www.fanniemae.com/portal/index.html">Fannie Mae</a> (the US government agency responsible for expanding homeownership) <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/25/governments-fannie-mae-will-back-pe-giant-blackstones-rental-business-debt.html,">announced</a> that it would underwrite <a href="http://www.invitationhomes.com/">Invitation Homes</a>, the company Blackstone set up to purchase all of its new rental housing, so if Invitation goes bust, American taxpayers will bail it out.</p> <p class="normal">Romano is honest about his chances: “We’ve won some victories but the reality is that our power to influence is limited.” Since the beginning of the last recession a decade ago, the number of poor families in the United States struggling to pay their monthly rents or living in “deplorable accommodations” has grown by <a href="https://www.huduser.gov/portal/publications/Worst-Case-Housing-Needs.html">41 percent</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Across the Atlantic in Ireland, vulture funds now own 48,199 mortgage accounts, with one in ten homeowners behind with their repayments. Byron Jenkins is one of them, though he’s an unlikely hero—a construction boss who went bankrupt after the 2008 crash and faced eviction in 2013. He and his wife set up a non-profit organization called ‘<a href="http://www.thehub-ireland.com/">The Hub</a>’ above a shop in Dublin to help others like them by advocating for people to stay in their homes and fight proceedings brought against them by banks or vulture funds.</p> <p class="normal">The Hub gives people the tools to represent themselves at court and has also learned from the PAH. “We were watching other countries experience the same as us but it didn’t sink in what we could learn,” Byron told us, “we wanted to know how to bring a country together.”&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">In Ireland, he added, pride has prevented people from talking about their financial problems, often suffering in silence until eviction day looms. James and Kathleen, for example (not their real names) are being chased by a vulture fund for&nbsp; €150,000 despite receiving an original loan of only €55,000, the total escalating through interest and fees. Negotiating through official routes hasn’t worked.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">“It’s the mental strain of what those people do to you,” Kathleen sobbed down the phone, “they will chase you until the day you die.” We heard this refrain many times. This year, legal actions against borrowers in Ireland have rocketed: Goldman Sachs, Cerberus and <a href="https://carvalinvestors.com/">CarVal</a> (another US fund) have already <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/distressed-loan-funds-scale-up-borrower-enforcement-actions-qc0wncxgb">pursued 370 prosecutions compared to 160 in 2016</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">One of the first things The Hub did after its visit to Barcelona was to explore ways to help people feel less intimidated by a courtroom setting. They wrote a free guide and instigated role-plays of court scenarios for those representing themselves. Kathleen told me a visit to Byron was the first piece of hope she had of keeping the family home. Today they have a legal team and are fighting in the high court.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Renters too have found that the old ways of negotiating don’t wash in post-crisis Ireland, which has seen the private rental sector (PRS) become the target of large corporate landlords backed by international finance. “The PRS in Dublin is a home run,” said a US investor in a <a href="https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/asset-management/emerging-trends-real-estate/europe/emerging-trends-in-real-estate-2017.pdf">recent report</a> issued by accountancy firm PWC; equity is flowing into Europe “from all corners of the globe and all types of investors… residential is on the radar and is undervalued because it gives long-term, stable returns.” As a consequence of this growing power, rents have steadily risen, with Dubliners this year spending an average of <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/business/personal-finance/dubliners-spend-55-of-take-home-pay-on-rent-1.3267093">55 per cent of their income on rent</a>.</p> <p class="normal">When we met one of them, Mariana, in a busy cafe in Dublin, she was still reeling from losing her home after her apartment block was bought by a corporate landlord called <a href="https://www.iresreit.ie/">IRES</a>. Set up by a huge Canadian firm called <a href="https://www.caprent.com/">CAPREIT</a> to buy homes in Ireland in 2014, it’s now the country’s biggest private landlord. IRES raised her rent by nearly €300 a month and acted aggressively to remove her when she attempted to negotiate.</p> <p class="normal">“Their attitude was, we don’t care about you, you’re not a person, you’re just a number,” she told us. IRES argued that the rent increase was ‘in line with the local market,’ but the reality was that the company had distorted the local market through buying so many apartments and raising the rent every time someone moved out. The new rent would have taken up over half of her pre-tax pay packet.</p> <p class="normal">IRES forced Mariana to give three months notice at the new level of rent and took that extra money out of her deposit. She told us that she was too scared to fight them any longer. In the last year IRES has made 43 applications to the courts to evict people, mainly those refusing to pay the higher rents. These tactics are effective: in 2016, IRES’ profits <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/business/commercial-property/state-s-largest-private-landlord-enjoys-52-jump-in-profits-1.2976302">rose by over half to €47 million</a>.</p> <p class="normal">At the time we talked Mariana was sofa-surfing with friends’ until she could raise the money for a deposit, her belongings stored in a basement at work. “I know I’ll get through it but it’s embarrassing. You feel like you’ve failed at something but you’ve done nothing wrong.”&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">The <a href="http://irishhousingnetwork.org/">Irish Housing Network</a> (IHN) is a loose affiliation of activist groups that also went to Barcelona last year, where they heard about PAH’s “<em>Obra Social</em>”—direct &nbsp;action to help evicted people occupy empty apartments owned by bailed-out Spanish banks.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">IHN’s most notable success is “Home Sweet Home,” the occupation of an empty former government building called <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/01/speaking-homeless-dublin-apollo-house-170103094842868.html">Apollo House</a> in Dublin by 90 people without homes. When the Irish government threatened HSH with eviction they organised a rally to defend themselves.&nbsp; Apollo House was only returned to the government once its demand for every occupier to be properly housed had been met.</p> <p class="normal">Activists internationally will need to work hard over the coming years to defend the right to housing, since Wall Street has made clear that its appetite for real estate is undimmed. Over the last year, both Cerberus and Blackstone have made major incursions into the UK with the purchase of mortgages held by failed banks like Northern Rock and Bradford &amp; Bingley, with further sales pencilled in for 2018. In the United States, Blackstone has expanded into multi-family developments like Stuyvesant and Kip Bay.</p> <p class="normal">For most people, the economy has never recovered from the crash of 2008. Others are too young to have known a more financially secure way of life.&nbsp; Meanwhile, some of the richest people in the world like Schwarzman continue to profit handsomely. Now they want to make more money from our homes, and they’ll devise endless innovative tactics to do so. The only way to fight back is to outsmart them.</p> <p class="normal"><em>This article was developed with the support of <a href="http://www.journalismfund.eu/">Journalismfund.eu</a>.</em></p><p class="normal"><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/CatMcShane2.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="118" /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/marina-sitrin/%E2%80%9Cbeing-poor-is-not-crime%E2%80%9D-transforming-struggle-for-housing-rights-worl">“Being poor is not a crime:” transforming the struggle for housing rights worldwide</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/james-rowe-mike-simpson/lessons-from-front-lines-of-anti-colonial-pipeline-resistance">Lessons from the front lines of anti-colonial pipeline resistance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sophie-king/when-you-get-front-door-remember-to-leave-it-open">When you get a front door, remember to leave it open</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation housing Yiannis Panagiotopoulos Esperanza Escribano Pere Rusinol Cat McShane Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 07 Nov 2017 22:06:35 +0000 Cat McShane, Yiannis Panagiotopoulos, Pere Rusinol and Esperanza Escribano 114493 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Before the NFL took a knee: four lesser-known moments of resistance in sports history https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kevon-paynter/before-nfl-took-knee-four-lesser-known-moments-of-resistance-in-sports- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This isn’t the first time the world of professional sports has entered the fight for civil rights and racial justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Kevon Paynter.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The three winners of the Ladies 200-meter final at the Rome Olympics on September 6, 1960: from left to right, Britain’s Dorothy Hyman (bronze), the USA’s Wilma Rudolph (gold) and Germany’s Jutta Heine (silver). Credit: YES! Magazine/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images. All rights reserved.</p> <p>When NFL players, coaches, and owners took a knee during the national anthem Sept. 24, it ignited a nationwide discussion about the role of athletes in standing up for racial justice. Since then, teams and players have continued taking a knee during the national anthem. And the Seattle Seahawks have taken the symbolic act one step further by launching the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/seahawks/seahawks-players-start-equality-justice-for-all-action-fund/">Seahawks Players Equality &amp; Justice for All Action Fund</a>.</p> <p>But this is hardly the first time the sports and political arenas have become intertwined.</p> <p>“Sports has always been an important platform in which America’s ugly racial history has been challenged and where African-Americans have fought for full recognition and respect,” said Dr. Mark Naison, a History and African American Studies professor at Fordham University.</p> <p>Most people remember Jackie Robinson shattering major league baseball’s color barrier and John Carlos and Tommie Smith delivering a Black power salute at the 1968 Olympics. These are often heralded as moments in sports when athletes added a prominent voice to the fight for civil rights and racial justice.</p> <p>But there are many lesser-known examples in the history of sports when individuals and groups stood up against racism.</p> <p>Here are four of those moments.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>NBA star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf protests the anthem in 1996.</strong></p> <p>“What Colin Kaepernick is experiencing is nothing new,” Naison said. “Anytime you speak out if you’re Black, any time you’re a pioneer, you’re going to catch hell.”&nbsp;</p> <p>That was certainly the case with Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, whose national anthem protests more than 20 years ago received media and professional backlash much like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/kaepernick-remains-unsigned-but-nfl-anthem-protests-and-black-solidarity-continue-20170918">Kaepernick&nbsp;</a>is experiencing today.</p> <p>Not much has changed since Abdul-Rauf’s days as a high-scoring point guard with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. In a recent summer hoops tournament for retired stars, he showed he still possesses his patented quick release and sweet jump-shot. And at that tournament, during the national anthem, Abdul-Rauf stood, palms up, in silent prayer for the oppressed poor and people of color in America, just as he did as a NBA star in 1996.</p> <p>Then, Abdul-Rauf sat while the “Star Spangled Banner” played, causing the NBA to swiftly issue him a two-game suspension and stirring a national debate at that time. Abdul-Rauf said the American flag was a symbol of global “tyranny and oppression” that, therefore, didn’t represent his Islamic beliefs.</p> <p>Abdul-Rauf continued to face enormous backlash when in subsequent games to he chose to stand and pray to Allah during the anthem. But he did not waver.</p> <p>“My beliefs are more important than anything,” said Abdul-Rauf&nbsp;<a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1996-03-13/sports/sp-46409_1_mahmoud-abdul-rauf">at the time</a>. “If I have to give up basketball, I will.” Shortly after being reinstated Abdul-Rauf was traded away from the Denver Nuggets to the Sacramento Kings where he received significantly less playing time and then, unable to secure another playing contract, was effectively blackballed from the NBA.</p> <p><strong>Black Newspapers: The Unsung Heroes in the Jackie Robinson Story.</strong></p> <p>Today, statues of Jackie Robinson outside baseball fields in Los Angeles and Brooklyn honor the Hall of Fame career of the first African-American to play major league baseball.</p> <p>But Robinson didn’t do it alone. Black newspaper editors helped pave the way for Robinson and the integration of the major leagues.</p> <p>John Sengstacke, the managing editor at the Chicago Defender in 1943, called the ban against Blacks in organized baseball “neither wise nor practical” during a face to face meeting with the major league commissioner. He went on to criticize the “un-American, undemocratic implications which the gentlemen’s agreement imposed upon the face of this country.”&nbsp;</p> <p>And in 1938, Wendell Smith dedicated his column in the&nbsp;<em>Pittsburgh Courier-Journal</em>&nbsp;to chiding Black consumers for upholding the “institution that places a bold ‘not welcome’ sign over its thriving portal” each time they attended major league games.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Naison, a major part of the newspapers’ strategies to integrate baseball was to conduct interviews with White players after they played unorganized exhibition games against Black clubs, asking them to assess the talent level of Black players.</p> <p>In 1935, White MLB star Dizzy Dean told the&nbsp;<em>Courier-Journal</em>&nbsp;that if “big leaguers believed that they were better than the best Negro players they had another thing coming.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“It all began in the mid 1930s with campaigns by these newspapers [...] that finally [succeeded when Robinson broke the barrier] in 1947,” Naison said. “Jackie Robinson’s entry was after 10 years of agitation.”</p> <p><strong>Serena Williams at Indian Wells.</strong></p> <p>Serena Williams recently won her 23rd Grand Slam at the Australian Open, the most wins of any tennis player ever. It’s one reason why ESPN and The New Yorker have called Williams the greatest professional athlete of all time.</p> <p>But before reaching this height, Williams competed in her first major tournament at Indian Wells, California, in 1999 in front of a hostile White audience.</p> <p>“I looked up and all I could see was a sea of rich people—mostly older, mostly white—standing and booing lustily, like some kind of genteel lynch mob,” recounts Williams in her biography. “I don't mean to use such inflammatory language to describe the scene, but that's really how it seemed.”</p> <p>After her winning match against Steffi Graf at Indian Wells, Williams promised to boycott the tournament, and for 14 years she didn’t return.</p> <p>Since then, Williams has faced oppression as a Black woman in a majority White sport. But she has shrugged off lewd comments about her body shape and her curves with grace, class, and fierce determination.</p> <p>In 2015, Williams returned to Indian Wells, to the surprise of the tennis world, and she used the event to raise funds and&nbsp;<a href="https://eji.org/news/join-serena-williams-campaign-with-eji">media attention</a>&nbsp;for the Equal Justice Initiative, which works to end racism in the criminal justice system.</p> <p>“Galvanizing forces around recent police killings [of unarmed Black men and women] likely increased Serena’s want to speak out,” said Dr. Amira Rose Davis, an assistant professor of history at Pennsylvania State University. “She’s outspoken about not remaining silent in those moments.”</p> <p><strong>Olympian Wilma Rudolph faces Jim Crow America.</strong></p> <p>An African American woman, Wilma Rudolph, overcame childhood diseases including polio and left leg paralysis to become widely known as “the fastest woman in the world.” At the 1960 Olympics, Rudolph won the 100- and 200-meter races and helped the U.S. win the 4 x 100-meter relay.</p> <p>“Because of the Cold War it became very important to show sporting strength in the '50s and '60s, and it gave women like Wilma Rudolph platforms to be seen across the country and the world,” Davis said.</p> <p>Rudolph returned to the United States after her successful Olympic performance as a national heroine and a celebrity. But this did not exempt her from suffering the racism in her segregated hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee. On June 13, 1963, Jet Magazine published the headline, “Hometown Eatery Jerks Welcome Mat from Wilma.” Shoney’s, a local restaurant, had refused to serve Rudolph.</p> <p>So Rudolph and members of the Citizens Committee on Local Affairs began a month-long demonstration against the restaurant’s segregation.</p> <p>When Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington, a devout segregationist, planned Rudolph’s welcome home parade, she refused to attend the segregated event. Later, her hometown threw a parade and banquet in her honor. It was the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.espn.com/sportscentury/features/00016444.html">first integrated event</a>&nbsp;to be held in the town.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was funded in part by the Surdna Foundation and first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/before-the-nfl-took-a-knee-4-lesser-known-moments-of-resistance-in-sports-history-20171002">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/tristan-ahtone/how-ancient-singing-tradition-helps-people-cope-with-trauma-in-modern-">How an ancient singing tradition helps people cope with trauma in the modern world</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/daniel-fletcher/spectre-of-female-otherness-is-haunting-athletics">The spectre of female otherness is haunting athletics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mark-kernan/in-praise-of-melancholia">In praise of melancholia</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Kevon Paynter Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Thu, 02 Nov 2017 20:20:04 +0000 Kevon Paynter 114357 at https://www.opendemocracy.net I’m a Muslim—ask me anything https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/robert-azzi/i-m-muslim-ask-me-anything <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hearing Muslims being ignorantly targeted is like waking up to see a cross burning on the communal front lawn. I want to help put out that fire.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="xgmail-p1"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RobertAzzi.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/prophet-mosque-masjid-islam-muslim-2249733/">Pixabay/Abdullah_Shakoor</a>. CC0 Creative Commons. </p> <p>“May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land,”<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Ffounders.archives.gov%2Fdocuments%2FWashington%2F05-06-02-0135&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=8oXaejPqEk3izGHWm19RClZO8HaiLkwEjF%2Fa2k3ZLQo%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">&nbsp;wrote&nbsp;</a>President George Washington to Rhode Island’s Touro Synagogue in 1790, “continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”</p> <p>Today, as a child of the “Stock of Abraham,” as a Muslim whose faith tradition traces to Prophet Abraham and as a first-generation American, I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric I see in the United States. I’ve become increasingly distressed by witnessing individual and institutional&nbsp;actions that attempt to marginalize, delegitimize, and disenfranchise America’s diverse community of Muslims.&nbsp;</p> <p>To counter such un-American sentiments, and following the model of itinerant Methodist ministers—circuit-riders who journeyed from town-to-town preaching the Gospel in the 18th and 19th centuries—I’ve&nbsp;been traveling across New Hampshire and Massachusetts as an itinerant Muslim, from one public library, church and retirement community to the next, engaging with my neighbors in a program I call “<a href="https://theotherazzi.wordpress.com/ask-a-muslim-anything/">Ask a Muslim Anything</a>.”</p> <p>I’ve been traveling at the invitation of local communities to speak about my life, what it’s like to be Muslim in America today, and how&nbsp;I came to convert to Islam. I talk about Islam and its history—especially&nbsp;in America—and&nbsp;about the Middle East, terrorism and associated political and social issues.</p> <p>Nothing is off the table: I speak, to the best of my experience and knowledge, of faith, tradition, understanding, conflict and identity. All questions are welcome.</p> <p>I’m doing this not to proselytize but to reconcile—to&nbsp; reaffirm and strengthen bonds of comity and faith—and&nbsp; I am overwhelmed by the beauty and generosity of the responses I receive, all seemingly in reflection of the belief that, as the Qur’an&nbsp;<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fmuhammad-asad.com%2FMessage-of-Quran.pdf&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=8aN2rDiOa%2BQVnqScl8SWJbSItRpRevJcwzaux4KGT8Q%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">tells us</a>, “We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another” (49:13).</p> <p>We come together to know one another.</p> <p>I’ve found that, when engaged&nbsp;in small-scale or one-one-one conversations, my neighbors—even&nbsp;those who are critical of Islam and fearful of Muslims—are&nbsp;willing to&nbsp;listen and engage if engagement occurs in what are perceived to be safe or neutral places: houses of worship, libraries, schools and civic organizations.</p> <p>So those are the places I go to for conversation, and not a day passes when I’m not humbled by people’s courtesy and curiosity, even when they are speaking out of fear or out of not knowing what they don’t know.</p> <p>They ask about ISIS and Al Qaeda, about women and prayer. They ask about Shari’ah, Sufis, Sunni and Shi’a, about apostasy, honor killings, and terrorism—about&nbsp;issues that Muslims as well as non-Muslims struggle with.</p> <p>And I explain that the 9/11 attacks on the US—and&nbsp;subsequent acts of terrorism and violence committed in the name of Islam which have irrevocably scared the national psyche—are&nbsp;no more representative of Islam than the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan">KKK</a> or the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Branch_Davidians">Branch Davidians</a> or the <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/11/drinking-the-kool-aid-a-survivor-remembers-jim-jones/248723/">Peoples Temple at&nbsp;Jonestown</a>&nbsp;are representative of Christianity.</p> <p>Almost invariably, someone will ask me whether Muslims are required to practice&nbsp;<em><a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.britannica.com%2Ftopic%2Ftaqiyyah&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=1kOYiB5CCPtOLaq%2BYU4%2FJHJ%2BYJzGfn%2FiNgEJf%2BXlT4U%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">taqiyya</a></em>&nbsp;or dissimulation—deliberate lying to non-believers to advance the cause of Islam—and whether&nbsp;<em>I’m</em>&nbsp;practicing&nbsp;<em>taqiyya</em>&nbsp;in order to proselytize.</p> <p>I tell them no. I explain to them that I didn’t even know the&nbsp;word&nbsp;<em>taqiyya&nbsp;</em>until critics of Islam introduced me to it, but maybe they think I’m practicing&nbsp;<em>taqiyya&nbsp;</em>about&nbsp;<em>taqiyya!</em></p> <p>Indeed, I explain to my neighbors that Islam has been part of America’s religious and political fabric for generations, and that there was little anti-Muslim rhetoric in the early days of the Republic. Tolerance was clearly articulated in the 1797<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Favalon.law.yale.edu%2F18th_century%2Fbar1796t.asp&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=jVqSW3fHumMJtALTpaxRY2QAxMmuPjXUrV4dYhicsHg%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">&nbsp;Treaty of Tripoli,</a>&nbsp;for example, which stated:</p> <p>&nbsp;“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion—as&nbsp;it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen—and&nbsp; as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation ...”</p> <p>I tell them that&nbsp;<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FJohn_Quincy_Adams&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=6bihYhAHGa8HayQ%2F9RzzOy8bNdlXRhIV%2FzM2lLaCCEc%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">John Quincy Adams</a>&nbsp;had a copy of the first Qur’an printed in America with him (by Isaiah Thomas in 1806) when he defended the <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.poligonnational.org%2Fhistorical-action%2Fsengbe-pieh-cinque-and-the-amistad-revolt&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=o7JZ%2Fxe6%2BGzs4NNe3hjQe4hQfGZKQZ05Q%2FLm7vWJOjs%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">Amistad Rebellion</a>&nbsp;mutineers, many of whom were Muslim, and that Benjamin Franklin&nbsp;<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gutenberg.org%2Ffiles%2F20203%2F20203-h%2F20203-h.htm&amp;data=02%7C01%7Cedwarmi%40hotmail.com%7C7319c7421e3e4daf232408d51d4a72e3%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636447127947042671&amp;sdata=qO9dXTQBPEU6BbhKXoGUaRoO5%2FyvwfLcIKPsZJ%2BBG3o%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">wrote</a>&nbsp;in his autobiography that he wanted a meeting hall built in Philadelphia so inclusive “... so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”</p> <p>I cannot imagine any public figure voicing such sentiments today—and neither can most of the people I talk with in my conversations—even&nbsp; as we recognize that Muslim Marines, auto mechanics, artists, educators, photographers, doctors, scientists, writers and students live amongst us, pay their taxes, and fight, defend and die during America’s wars.</p> <p>My neighbors, most of whom have never knowingly met a Muslim before they meet me, come to understand that before 9/11, Muslims were so well assimilated that they only appeared every ten years—as part of the national census.</p> <p>Together, we recognize that the anti-Muslim demons that today roil America’s domestic tranquility were first released when Barack Obama decided to run for president, demons quite distinct from those that followed 9/11.</p> <p>Today’s demons emerged when <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_citizenship_conspiracy_theories">truthers, birthers, and assorted conspiracy theorists</a>, united by fear and ignorance, determined not only to disenfranchise Barack Obama but along with him anyone remotely related to “The Other”—primarily&nbsp; Muslims.&nbsp;</p> <p>Obama was identified as foreign, Kenyan—and&nbsp;Muslim—because&nbsp;his opponents couldn’t use the N-word any longer. As a result, the use of “Muslim” as a derogatory term that is meant to denigrate&nbsp;and diminish someone’s humanity has metastasized today into “Muslim” as a code word, not just for believers in Islam but for all those who are non-privileged,&nbsp;non-white, and non-Christian.</p> <p>As a result, for many Muslims today, hearing fellow Americans ignorantly attempt to disenfranchise, marginalize and target a faith community that’s been present in these lands for nearly 400 years for craven political purposes is not unlike waking up to see a cross burning on America’s communal front lawn.</p> <p>I want to help put out that fire.</p> <p>I want my neighbors to understand that, while it’s true that the Qur’an is the literal word of God, that doesn’t mean that all its contents are meant to be read literally; that Islam in not monolithic and Other; that Muslims are as fully within the Abrahamic tradition as are Jews and Christians; and like those other traditions we, too, are challenged by those who attempt to interpret scripture for privilege, profit, and power.&nbsp;</p> <p>I answer people’s questions because I want to be able to breathe freely again.</p> <p>Prophet Muhammad once spoke of a man who asked God why he was being punished. God answered, “You passed by an oppressed person but did not help him.” I travel from community to community because I want to find out how we can struggle to express solidarity with the oppressed and the occupied, and agitate for social justice regardless of ethnicity, color, gender or faith—so as to pass by no one.</p> <p>And I nurture conversation so that with my brothers and sisters we can struggle to find a path through which we can serve God and humanity with dignity and respect, and where together, we can all sit in safety under a communal vine and fig-tree.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/william-eichler/is-it-ok-to-criticise-islam">Is it ok to criticise Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/atiya-hasan/six-books-muslim-and-non-muslim-women-should-add-to-their-reading-list">Six books Muslim (and non-Muslim) women should add to their reading list</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/william-eichler/islam-and-future-of-tolerance">Islam and the future of tolerance</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation islam Robert Azzi Transformative nonviolence Culture Love and Spirituality Sun, 29 Oct 2017 22:55:03 +0000 Robert Azzi 114339 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to prevent nuclear war https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lisa-fuller/how-to-prevent-nuclear-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What can be done to build support for a peaceful resolution to the stand-off with North Korea?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LisaFuller.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/statue-of-liberty-mushroom-cloud-2629937/">Pixabay/geralt</a>. CC0 Creative Commons.</p> <p>Everyone from <a href="http://qctimes.com/news/local/government-and-politics/former-defense-secretary-sees-no-military-solution-in-north-korea/article_71976636-71ed-5c53-8693-03e26a1584cd.html">Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel</a> and <a href="///C:/Downloads/President%20Vladimir%20Putin">President Vladimir Putin </a>to <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/g00/news/nationworld/politics/ct-steve-bannon-interview-20170816-story.html?i10c.encReferrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmxrLw%3D%3D">Steve Bannon</a> and <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles-china/china-says-military-means-not-an-option-to-resolve-korea-situation-idUSKCN1C20NR">China</a> agree: war with North Korea would be so horrific that it simply can’t happen. Up to <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/north-korea/2017-09-10/korean-missile-crisis">one million people</a> could die on the first day of such a war. At that rate, it would take two months to match the death toll of the whole of <a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2017-10-30-0100/war-many-others">World War II</a>.</p> <p>According to <a href="mailto:http://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/people/paul-n-edwards">Paul Edwards</a>, an international security expert at Stanford University, the effect of a major nuclear war would be comparable to the “giant meteor believed to be responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs.” <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0096340212459127">Leading researchers Alan Robock and Owen Toon</a> warn that even “a regional conflict has the potential to cause mass starvation worldwide.”</p> <p>If it wasn’t for Donald Trump’s threatening rhetoric, his continual sabotage of diplomatic efforts, and his personal insults directed at Kim Jong-Un, the U.S. would not be on the verge of war. No other American president has elevated tensions so dramatically, but Trump shows no signs of changing track.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the U.S. still has alternatives: despite numerous reports to the contrary, <a href="http://www.38north.org/2017/08/rcarlin080817/">North Korea has said they would be willing to negotiate</a> about their nuclear program if the U.S. stops threatening to destroy it. In that case, what can be done to build pressure inside the U.S. to pursue a peaceful solution to the crisis, and how can ordinary people help?</p> <p>It’s here that historical precedent may be useful. When we reflect on the Holocaust, for example, we tend to vilify prominent Nazi leaders like Adolf Eichmann who were “<a href="http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/trials/eichmanntrial.html">just following orders</a>,” while extolling ordinary citizens like <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108052/?ref_=nv_sr_1">Oskar Schindler</a> who used creative strategies to prevent atrocities.</p> <p>Few of us believe we would have behaved like Eichmann. Many of us would like to think we would have acted like Schindler, and hundreds of others who have developed non-violent resistance when faced by the prospect of war and large-scale killing. The choice we face is the same today—<em>and</em> we have the strategies and tactics to make nonviolence work. But first we have to recognize the seriousness and urgency of the situation.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Several indicators suggest that Trump could be preparing to initiate a pre-emptive strike against North Korea in the second half of November.</p> <p>First, according to <a href="https://www.voanews.com/a/trump-tillerson-wasting-his-time-negotiating-with-north-korea/4051805.html">the State Department</a>, he has already said that he would launch a first strike if North Korea developed the capacity to deliver nuclear warheads to the continental United States.&nbsp;Last week, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41690253">CIA Director Mike Pompeo</a> announced that North Korea is “on the cusp” of achieving that goal and “it's now a matter of thinking about how do [sic] you stop the final step.” Pompeo’s statement is consistent with earlier predictions that North Korea would develop such capabilities by <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/26/politics/north-korea-us-intelligence-launch-missile-2018/index.html">early 2018</a>.</p> <p>Second, in early October <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/north-korean-hackers-stole-us-and-south-korean-wartime-plans-seoul-lawmaker-says/2017/10/10/036fb82c-adc6-11e7-99c6-46bdf7f6f8ba_story.html?utm_term=.322dabdd227f">Japan’s Minister of Defense</a>, Itsunori Onodera, implied to reporters in Tokyo that Trump would initiate military action in mid-November unless North Korea complies with US demands.</p> <p>Third, back in August of 2017, <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/09/politics/us-north-korea-war-signals/index.html">U.S. military officials</a> said that they needed a few months to prepare logistically for war. Then they began <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/north-korea-crisis-us-military-options-joseph-dunford-chairman-joint-chiefs-sanctions-fail-war-a7891961.html">preparations</a>. This timeline suggests that they will be ready to carry out a first strike in November.</p> <p>Fourth, on October 20th 2017, Trump declared a <a href="https://www.salon.com/2017/10/20/trump-signs-executive-order-to-draft-retired-pilots-back-into-military-service/">national state of emergency</a> and legalized a limited military draft.</p> <p>Even GOP members are reportedly “praying Trump doesn’t do something really, really stupid,”&nbsp;according to a <a href="https://www.salon.com/2017/10/16/is-trump-unraveling_partner/?ref=hvper.com">former Republican member of Congress</a> who wants to remain anonymous. His former colleagues have said that they would support Trump’s removal—potentially by invoking the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-fifth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution">25th amendment to the U.S. Constitution</a>—if the leadership of the Republican Party gave “the signal to everyone they can bail.”</p> <p>It seems that in this process, Republicans are just ‘obeying orders’—as with Eichmann’s defense of his actions in World War II. Perhaps they need a reminder that the <a href="http://remember.org/eichmann/sentencing">judge</a> in Eichmann’s trial ruled that “blind obedience” made him no less culpable when he found him guilty of war crimes.</p> <p>None of these developments guarantee that nuclear war is imminent, or that a preemptive strike against North Korea would necessarily be judged a war crime, but they do suggest that such a strike is highly plausible, if not probable. The stakes are high enough to make all Americans take the threat of war very seriously, and to organize immediately to prevent it. Yet large-scale activism has failed to materialize thus far. Why?</p> <p>The first problem is that there is little sense of urgency, largely because government officials never offer a time frame for when they expect hostilities to break out. It’s easy to become complacent when you’ve been hearing that we are “<a href="http://www.reuters.com/video/2017/04/14/north-korea-on-the-brink-of-war-as-us-sh?videoId=371491919">on the brink of war</a>” for months.</p> <p>A good example of this problem in another area was the failure of activists to mobilize people in response to the <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/04/republican-obamacare-replacement-bill-wins-enough-votes-to-pass-house.html">May 4, 2017 House of Representatives vote</a> to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite successfully doing so around other votes to repeal the ACA both before and afterwards.</p> <p>What made the difference? The May 4th vote wasn’t scheduled until one day before it took place, so people didn’t “realize how close the GOP [was] to repealing," and therefore it “didn’t feel like we were in an emergency,” according to <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/07/obamacare-activists-resistance-health-care-238042">Moveon.org’s Ben Wikler</a>.</p> <p>Conversely, a clear timeframe was a major factor behind one the biggest success stories in terms of resistance against the Nazis. In Denmark, 95 percent of the local Jewish population survived, in part because a <a href="https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005209">German diplomat leaked</a> the Nazi’s plan to remove them to death camps three days before the projected start date of the operation. That information was widely disseminated through the Danish population, who then organized to help the vast majority of Jews escape to Sweden in the span of 72 hours.</p> <p>The second problem is insufficient awareness about the potential consequences of nuclear war. According to Alan<a href="http://mashable.com/2017/08/09/north-korea-nuclear-war-climate-change-winter/#ahwi81X8yiqz"> Robock</a>’s research,&nbsp;“most people, including high-ranking defense officials, are unaware that a nuclear war occurring halfway around the world…could seriously harm the homeland.”</p> <p>Even Schindler didn’t act until he fully understood the magnitude of the Holocaust. In fact he was a member of the Nazi party himself, and only began his efforts to save Jews after he began <a href="http://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/stories/schindler">witnessing atrocities</a> against them.</p> <p>Third, there is no consensus on the best way to prevent a war. While there is general agreement that Trump is responsible for escalating tensions with North Korea, opinions are divided as to the best solution, and most of the suggestions that have been made are unviable.</p> <p>Many groups and individuals—including most recently Democratic House Minority Leader <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/defense/355186-pelosi-urges-new-law-to-limit-presidents-use-of-nuclear-weapons">Nancy Pelosi</a>—have advocated for legislation that would prevent Trump from launching a nuclear strike unilaterally. While such laws would (theoretically) pry Trump’s finger off the nuclear trigger, they won’t stop him from escalating tensions to breaking point.</p> <p>There have also been increasing efforts to instigate an impeachment process (so far with little sign of the necessary Republican support), but even if proceedings were initiated now, Trump would still have plenty of time to launch a nuclear strike. War could start in as little as four to six weeks, whereas historical precedent suggests that impeachment would take several months: <a href="https://partners.nytimes.com/library/politics/clintonlewinsky-documents.html">President Clinton's impeachment</a> process took over four months, and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Impeachment_Johnson.htm">Andrew Johnson's</a> more than three.</p> <p>The only remaining viable option is invoking the 25th amendment, which would remove Trump immediately, but that would still require the support of <a href="http://time.com/4692507/congress-remove-donald-trump-impeachment/">either</a> a majority of Congress or Trump’s cabinet, as well as Vice President Mike Pence. Pence’s acquiescence might not be as difficult as some imagine, especially under pressure from both the American public and Congress. Invoking the 25th would satisfy Pence’s<a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/softly-softly-mike-pence-signals-interest-in-top-job/news-story/cb84158cefbc8c8128645e47db8b3e9a"> presidential ambitions</a>, not to mention his suspected deep-seated but carefully concealed <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_nz/article/a3k5wb/trump-has-been-incredibly-nasty-to-mike-pence">resentment of Trump</a>.</p> <p>Even in this scenario, large-scale public pressure would be vital, so what kinds of actions might help to create it?</p> <p>The efficacy of activism is not predicated on the size of a protest crowd, but on the leverage that the public exerts on decision-makers’ interests. Members of Congress care about their re-election. Organizing locally and holding representatives individually accountable can be effective because they are afraid of losing the support of the people who would be voting for them in the next election.</p> <p>The grassroots activism that—so far—has prevented Congress from axing Obamacare is a great example of this strategy in action. Even though Republicans had spent eight years swearing to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act, many of them retracted their support because thousands of their constituents called their offices, turned up at <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBZr4n7SiMo">town hall meetings</a>, and <a href="https://www.mediaite.com/online/protesters-storm-graham-cassidy-health-care-hearing-kill-the-bill-dont-kill-us/">publically embarrassed them</a>.</p> <p>The obedience of Republicans in Congress is always politically motivated, since they fear that moving outside of party lines will cost them their jobs. But if they think that their obedience will actually lose them the next election they will be less likely to follow in Eichmann’s footsteps. That’s why large-scale public pressure is the key to preventing nuclear war.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/danger-there-s-centrifuge-in-white-house">Danger: there’s a centrifuge in the White House</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kathy-kelly/what-will-cure-us-addiction-to-war">What will cure the U.S. addiction to war?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mica-stumpf/future-of-security">The future of security</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Lisa Fuller Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 24 Oct 2017 22:22:15 +0000 Lisa Fuller 114222 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lessons from the front lines of anti-colonial pipeline resistance https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/james-rowe-mike-simpson/lessons-from-front-lines-of-anti-colonial-pipeline-resistance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ceremony, mindfulness and healing practices play a key role in radical social movements.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/lessons-front-lines-anti-colonial-unistoten-pipeline-resistance/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JamesRoweMikeSimpson1.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">A bridge leads to the entrance of the Unist’ot’en territory in British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Jeff Nicholls. All rights reserved.</p><p>The Standing Rock standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline was a reminder that colonization, and resistance to it, both exist in the present tense. Fossil fuel pipelines that despoil indigenous lands and waters have become key flashpoints in long-standing anti-colonial resistance.</p><p>An important precursor and inspiration for the Standing Rock camp is an indigenous occupation in northern British Columbia, Canada. For the past eight years, the&nbsp;<a href="http://unistoten.camp/">Unist’ot’en clan</a>&nbsp;have reoccupied their traditional territory. When the camp began in 2009, seven pipelines had been proposed to cross their territory, as well as their water source, the salmon-bearing Morice River. But thanks to Unist’ot’en resistance, oil and gas companies have been blocked from building new fossil fuel infrastructure. The lesser known but wildly successful Unist’ot’en encampment holds crucial lessons for anti-pipeline and anti-colonial organizers across North America, or Turtle Island, as many indigenous nations call it.</p><p>We visited the occupation this summer. Upon arriving, visitors must undergo a border-crossing protocol. There is only one way in and out of Unist’ot’en territory—a bridge that crosses the Morice River. Before being allowed to cross, we were asked where we came from, whether we worked for the government or the fossil fuel industry, and how our visit could benefit the Unist’ot’en.</p><p>We explained that we are both settlers, people living on and benefiting from indigenous lands. We also expressed our willingness to help in whatever ways were needed during our stay, such as kitchen duty, gardening and construction. Finally, we shared our commitment to decolonization and climate justice, and our appreciation for how Unist’ot’en land defense accomplishes both; it returns indigenous lands to indigenous peoples while blocking fossil fuel infrastructure that threatens the entire human estate. After a short consultation, clan members welcomed us to leave Canada and cross into Unist’ot’en territory.</p><p><strong>Five pipelines already defeated.</strong></p><p>The Unist’ot’en occupation has already contributed to the cancellation of five pipelines, including Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project—a multibillion-dollar development that would have pumped bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to Canada’s Pacific coast. The two proposed incursions onto Unist’ot’en territory that remain are both fracked gas pipelines: Chevron’s Pacific Trails and TransCanada’s Coast Gaslink.</p><p>Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson explained to us that the tireless work of supporters, including indigenous people from other nations along with settler allies, is a central reason why the camp has endured and grown, knocking pipeline proposals over one by one.</p><p>Despite these successes, Huson has been struck by the exhaustion of frontline occupiers—not just on the Unist’ot’en front line, but elsewhere, including Standing Rock. Since starting their occupation, the Unist’ot’en have hosted an annual action camp for supporters wanting to learn about the struggle. Huson dedicated this year’s action camp to the theme of healing. As she explained to us, “the health of the people is vital to keep the resistance moving forward. We believe that if we heal the people they will be healthy to make decisions to heal the land.”</p><p><strong>The action camp as a place of healing.</strong></p><p>This year’s action camp featured workshops on burnout, healing from trauma, indigenous approaches to conflict resolution, and, on the first day, an exercise in awareness.</p><p>This first activity was facilitated by Huson and her partner Smogelgem (a hereditary chief of the neighboring Likhts’amisyu Clan). During this exercise, we were blindfolded, spun around and then guided by a partner to a tree of their choosing. “Be with the tree, make a connection” were the simple instructions. After our partners returned us to our starting points, we removed our blindfolds and went searching for our newfound evergreen friend. Every single participant found their tree. Smogelgem then explained that the land is living and breathing. We are always in relationship to it, but our relations to the land can be intentionally deepened, so that we come to experience trees, water and animals as friends, even kin.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JamesRoweMikeSimpson2.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The pithouse on Unist’ot’en territory. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Jeff Nicholls. All rights reserved.</p><p>After completing the workshop, we walked to a traditional pithouse that was recently built on the precise GPS coordinates of Chevron’s proposed pipeline. Huson and Smogelgem plan to live in the pithouse once it is complete (and outfitted with comfortable furnishings and energy-efficient lighting and appliances). Their vision is for more Wet’suwet’en people to join them back on the land, living and renewing their culture. The Wet’suwet’en Nation is comprised of five clans, including the Unist’ot’en people.</p><p>Once the two remaining pipeline threats are defeated, Huson and Smogelgem will transition the camp into a full-time healing and cultural center for indigenous people recovering from the ongoing trauma of colonization. Indeed, the largest structure at the camp, a three-story building that includes a dining hall, industrial kitchen, and counseling spaces, is called “The Healing Centre.”</p><p>The Unist’ot’en Camp has always had a dual purpose: resisting pipelines while nurturing Wet’suwet’en culture. Like the water protectors at Standing Rock, the Unist’ot’en Clan has been careful to clarify that their settlement is not a protest. Rather, it is an occupation and assertion of their traditional territory—a site from which to resist further colonial extraction, while also practicing a culture and economy that is inseparable from the land.</p><p>According to Huson, “our people’s belief is that we are part of the land. The land is not separate from us. The land sustains us. And if we don’t take care of her, she won’t be able to sustain us.”</p><p>Huson explained to us that she lived away from her people’s territory for 20 years due to colonization. “I lived on reservation, got educated and worked as an economic development officer for 14 years,” she said. “Once I decolonized and reconnected to my territory, I felt my spirit come alive. When family visit they don’t want to leave.” She wants to share with others the healing that she has experienced by being back out on her people’s land.</p><p><strong>Indigenous resurgence and embodied social change.</strong></p><p>The Unist’ot’en Camp is exemplary of what indigenous scholars such as Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Jeff Corntassel (Nishnaabeg and Cherokee ancestry, respectively) call “indigenous resurgence.”&nbsp;<a href="http://decolonization.org/index.php/des/article/view/18627/15550">According to Corntassel</a>: “Being indigenous today means struggling to reclaim and regenerate one’s relational place-based existence by challenging the ongoing destructive forces of colonization.” He notes that ceremony is a key way to “reconnect to the natural world.”</p><p>There are deep resonances between indigenous resurgence and the focus on ceremony, mindfulness and healing practices that are emerging in radical social movements across Turtle Island. Settler activists are finding that&nbsp;<a href="http://escholarship.org/uc/item/46n2q8mg">different healing practices</a>, such as meditation and yoga, can help reduce burnout, heal the traumas caused by oppression and increase organizational effectiveness. Daily meditations, for example, played an&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/mindfulness-and-the-art-of-social-movement-maintenance/">important role at Occupy Wall Street</a>. These resonances between indigenous resurgence and the growing social movement interest in non-Western healing practices have the potential to facilitate new solidarities between indigenous activists and settler allies.</p><p>For example, Hajime Harold is a teacher, activist and longtime supporter of Unist’ot’en land defense. During this year’s action camp, he led daily exercises in qigong, a traditional Chinese healing system that integrates breathing, meditation and physical postures. As a Japanese Canadian, Harold experienced racism growing up in Kelowna, British Columbia. These painful experiences sensitized him to injustices, including those related to colonialism. His heart has been opened, too, he said, by learning qigong, which has increased his capacity to act in solidarity with those whose challenges are different from his. For Harold, qigong helps practitioners better connect with themselves, other people and the earth. He experiences qigong as resonant with the indigenous traditional teachings that he is familiar with.</p><p>Similarly, scholar Michael Yellow Bird (from the Sahnish and Hidatsa Nations) sees indigenous ceremonial practices as aligned with mindfulness meditation, and crucial to&nbsp;<a href="https://vimeo.com/86995336">what he terms “neurodecolonization,”</a>&nbsp;or transforming the embodied traumas that colonialism leaves in its wake.</p><p><strong>Building settler solidarity on stolen native land.</strong></p><p>Despite the similarities between indigenous resurgence and mind-body practices of settler social movements, there is still a vital element of decolonization that is regularly missed by settler activists: land. To whom does the land rightfully belong? Who has decision-making power over it?</p><p>Over lunch at the Unist’ot’en Camp, indigenous scholar Edward Valandra (from the Oceti Sakowin Oyate) asked us a simple question: “What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed each morning?” We immediately thought of our various morning rituals (meditation, yoga, a cup of coffee). Valandra patiently watched as we pondered his question; then he leaned in. “I can tell you exactly what you do each morning. You step out of bed onto stolen native land.”</p><p>The regular failure of settler activists to grapple with the land question means that even radical social movements are constantly at risk of reinforcing colonial structures and social relations. Consider Occupy Wall Street. The different occupations that sprang up across the continent in 2011 to protest profound disparities in wealth rarely acknowledged that they were happening on already occupied land.</p><p>Moreover, as scholars Eve Tuck (member of the Aleut indigenous community) and K. Wayne Yang have&nbsp;<a href="http://decolonization.org/index.php/des/article/view/18630">argued</a>, “the ideal of ‘redistribution of wealth’ camouflages how much of that wealth is land, Native land.” Without a focus on the repatriation of land to indigenous peoples, a seemingly radical call for redistribution can quickly become a continuation of colonial dispossession.</p><p>Decolonization may feel unsettling to some, as it means the return of land and governing authority and the renunciation of settler privileges. Nevertheless, indigenous-led front lines from Standing Rock to Unist’ot’en are drawing a growing number of settlers who grieve colonial injustices, feel anxious about climate destabilization and crave a deeper connection to the land upon which they live.</p><p> Julia Michaelis is the camp’s chef. If food critics visited front lines, the kitchen at Unist’ot’en would be brimming with five-star reviews. Julia explained to us that she loved being at camp because every step she takes while there—from chopping onions to facilitating nonviolent direct action trainings—is in the service of decolonization. For settlers, relating to the magnitude of colonial injustice can be overwhelming. But at a front line like the Unist’ot’en camp, a simple chore like washing dishes is transformed into an everyday act of decolonization.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JamesRoweMikeSimpson3.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A bunkhouse at the Unist’ot’en camp. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Jeff Nicholls. All rights reserved.</p><p>In a blog post about his experiences of healing at the camp, settler activist Will Falk&nbsp;<a href="https://sandiegofreepress.org/2015/02/unistoten-camp-the-best-medicine/">recently reflected</a>&nbsp;on how “every chore, every conversation, every action at the camp comes with a fullness of meaning I have never found anywhere else.” For Falk, this meaning is rooted in the traditional teachings that inform the camp.</p><p><a href="http://unistoten.camp/come-to-camp/healing/">According to Unist’ot’en Clan member Karla Tait</a>, many supporters (both indigenous and settler) have “come out to Unist’ot’en land and found it to be a healing experience, to live on the land and have a connection with the natural world and our teachings.”</p><p>Supporters at the camp are making a connection with Unist’ot’en people, whose ancestors have been in deep relationship with the land since time immemorial. Being in good relations with people whose living traditions emerge from thousands of years of reciprocal relationship with the land allows for a depth of environmental connection, a groundedness on the Earth, that many supporters have never before experienced.</p><p>As environmental educators, we have learned a variety of contemplative exercises designed to deepen human connection to the land and facilitate a desire for stewardship. But we learned at the Unist’ot’en Camp that there is no substitute for the groundedness that comes from being in good relationship with the specific peoples upon whose lands you are living. Developing that relationship means fighting for the restitution of indigenous lands and authority.</p><p><strong>Post-colonialism?</strong></p><p>The Unist’ot’en Camp offers a glimpse into what post-colonial relations between indigenous peoples and settlers could look like on Turtle Island. The land is Wet’suwet’en territory and governed by Wet’suwet’en law and systems of governance, but the camp welcomes visitors of all backgrounds who are keen to respect, abide by and learn from the laws of the land.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JamesRoweMikeSimpson4.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Members and supporters of the Unist’ot’en camp showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Unist’ot’en Camp. All rights reserved.</p><p><a href="http://unistoten.camp/come-to-camp/preparing-for-your-visit/">As stated on the Unist’ot’en website</a>: “People of all races, religions, nationalities, classes, genders, orientations and gender identifications are welcome to support the grassroots Wet’suwet’en people in defending their land.” This connection across difference is practiced actively, a key part of the healing ethos of the camp. Indeed, one of our favorite activities at camp was “Femme Friday,” when everyone was encouraged to wear makeup and nail polish to make the environment more welcoming and celebratory for two-spirit people and genderqueer allies. Indigenous resurgence can look like a hereditary chief in red nail polish.</p><p>After eight years of anti-colonial resistance and the defeat of multiple pipeline projects, the Unist’ot’en Camp is still building momentum. Their winning formula is this: indigenous land governed by indigenous people, with consistent support from settler allies. This approach, deployed at Standing Rock and other&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/09/07/news/indigenous-protesters-build-tiny-homes-path-trans-mountain-pipeline">indigenous-led front lines</a>, is helping to ensure a livable future by stopping the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, while also sowing seeds for a different world—one in which the deep wounds to land and people inflicted by colonialism can finally heal.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/molly-wallace/why-indigenous-civil-resistance-has-unique-power">What can be learned from the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/climate-justice-meets-racism-standing-rock-was-decades-in-making">Climate justice meets racism: Standing Rock was decades in the making</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/james-k-rowe/learning-to-love-us-versus-them-thinking">Learning to love us-versus-them thinking</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Mike Simpson James K Rowe Transformative nonviolence Activism Love and Spirituality Thu, 12 Oct 2017 23:01:32 +0000 James K Rowe and Mike Simpson 113946 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why are Nazis so afraid of clowns? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/why-are-nazis-so-afraid-of-clowns <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/nazis-afraid-clowns/?pf=true">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SarahWoolpert.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">English Disco Lovers protest against the English Defense League. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/timbuss/14091580865/in/photolist-nte33M-KNX5P1-nnLCrg-fLsDMx-nmS1gE-otnt3q-BHVJyG-ekhBkL-9JFWWs-dXg18b-oKQ2Y1-dXajBn-fM8bns-oyYBV2-noY5Lf-HQQ2Jp-oKA72P-5GkbYG-fkJocs-ekhyVY-oKRUpc-ekhBMS-dctsXE-fM8bvC-ef11qw-5jtYqL-ekhBpf-oHQ6">Flickr/Tim Buss</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0.</a></p> <p>Trolls chanted in the streets the day of a planned neo-Nazi rally in the small ski town of Whitefish, Montana earlier this year. But they were not the trolls that residents had been expecting—namely, white supremacists from around the country, who had been harassing the town’s Jewish community with death threats.</p> <p>These trolls wore bright blue wigs and brandished signs that read “Trolls Against Trolls” and “Fascists Fear Fun,” cheerfully lining the route where the neo-Nazi march had been slated to take place. Due to poor organizing and the failure to obtain proper permits, the demonstration had fallen through, leading to what the counter-protesters gleefully deemed a “Sieg Fail.” So locals held their own counter-event, gathering together to share matzo ball soup and celebrate the town’s unity, which—with a dose of humor and a denunciation of hatred—had&nbsp;<a href="https://www.yahoo.com/news/how-the-tiny-montana-ski-town-of-whitefish-defeated-its-neo-nazi-trolls-and-became-a-national-model-of-resistance-225557686.html">successfully weathered a right-wing anti-Semitic “troll storm”</a>&nbsp;and strengthened the community as a whole.</p> <p>Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich, from&nbsp;<a href="https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/0411.htm">jokes and cartoons employed by Norwegians</a>&nbsp;against the Nazi occupation to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8HdOHrc3OQ">“The Great Dictator” speech</a>&nbsp;by Charlie Chaplin. In recent years, humor has continued to be used as a tactic to undermine Nazi ideology, particularly in the unlikely form of clowns—troupes of brightly-dressed activists who show up to neo-Nazi gatherings and make a public mockery of the messages these groups promote. This puts white supremacists in a dilemma in which their own use of violence will seem unwarranted, and their machismo image is tainted by the comedic performance by their opponent. Humor de-escalates their rallies, turning what could become a violent confrontation into a big joke.</p> <p><a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/the-best-way-to-fight-neo-nazis-is-to-laugh/">Satirical imitation</a>&nbsp;was used in Olympia, Washington in 2005 when a dozen members of the National Socialist Movement paraded around the state capitol to recruit members for the coming “race war.” They were met with clowns mimicking the “Seig Heil” salute and goose-stepping in a public mockery that drew attention away from the Nazi demonstration and undermined their image to would-be supporters.</p> <p>In 2007, the group&nbsp;<a href="http://www.neatorama.com/2007/09/03/clowns-kicked-kkk-asses/">Anti Racist Action</a>&nbsp;staged a full-fledged clown performance at a neo-Nazi rally in Knoxville, Tennessee. The clowns feigned confusion at demonstrators’ cries of “White power!” and called back, “White flour?” as they threw fistfuls of flour into the air.</p> <p>“White power!” the neo-Nazi group shouted, and the clowns pretended they finally understood their mistake. “Oh, white flowers!” they cried out, handing white flowers to passersby, including some of the neo-Nazis themselves.</p> <p>“White power!” they yelled again. “Tight shower?” the clowns called back, holding a shower head in the air and crowding together in a ridiculous attempt to follow the directions of the white supremacist group.</p> <p>They tried once more: “White power!” And the female clowns exclaimed, as though they finally understood, “Wife power!” raising letters in the air to spell out the words and hoisting the male clowns in the air, running around and carrying them in their arms.</p> <p>The clowns stole the show, and continued parading through the streets with the police smiling happily at their sides while the neo-Nazi group called off their demonstration several hours early. This action inspired&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/white-supremacist-rally-clowns_n_2118890.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&amp;src=sp&amp;comm_ref=false#slide=more9277">clowns in Charlotte, North Carolina</a>&nbsp;to also yell “Wife power!” at a white supremacist rally. They also held signs that said “Dwight Power!” next to photos of the NBA player Dwight Howard.</p> <p>Anti-Nazi clowning can also turn into a wider community event, bringing local people together in solidarity and fun. A recent&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/17/opinion/how-to-make-fun-of-nazis.html?mcubz=0"><em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;editorial</a> highlighted an “involuntary walk-a-thon” in Wunsiedel, Germany, organized in response to an annual neo-Nazi march. The organizers drew chalk markers on the pavement marking the starting point, halfway point and finish line. Local residents and businesses pledged to donate 10 euros for every meter the white supremacists marched to a group called EXIT Deutschland, which is dedicated to helping people leave right-wing extremist groups.</p> <p>People came out to cheer the marchers the day of the event, flanking the route with signs that read “If only the Fuhrer knew!” and “Mein Mamph!” (or “My Munch”) by a table of bananas offered to the walkers. This turned the marchers into involuntary supporters against their own cause, and brought the community together in unity to counter the messages of white supremacy.</p> <p>Other European cities have employed clowns to counter anti-immigrant groups. For example, the “<a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-35343392">Loldiers of Odin</a>” formed in Finland to counter a citizen patrol called Soldiers of Odin. The clowns danced around the streets the same nights that the patrols went out in the community, bringing acrobat hoops and a hobby horse. They also danced around the “soldiers” while playing in the snow. Their actions countered right-wing propaganda of making the streets “safer” from immigrants by bringing humor and silliness to their actions.</p> <p>Clowning as a tactic of creative resistance was first developed by a group of U.K. activists who started the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fifthestate.org/archive/397-winter-2017/playing-in-the-key-of-clown/">Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army</a>, or CIRCA, in 2003. Mixing slapstick humor and improv theater with civil disobedience, the group had—at its height—over 150 trained clowns in Edinburgh, and their tactics were adopted by activists across Europe and the United States.</p> <p>Humor has wide-reaching potential beyond clowning in countering neo-Nazis. It can be employed in the form of a serenade, like the sousaphonist who played his instrument to a crowd of Confederate flag-wielding marchers in Columbia, South Carolina. There’s also the parody song “<a href="https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/us-couples-nazi-parody-song-performed-in-response-to-charlottesville-is-going-viral-a3615721.html">Tiki Torch Nazis</a>,” written and performed by a couple from San Francisco, that went viral after Charlottesville and hilariously undermines the serious image neo-Nazis strive to present. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, a group called the&nbsp;<a href="https://qz.com/1059410/disco-isnt-dead-its-being-used-as-a-secret-weapon-for-disarming-british-neo-nazis/?utm_source=qzfb">English Disco Lovers</a>, or EDL, uses its acronym along with dance music and 1970’s style wigs to subvert public gatherings of the racist English Defense League.</p> <p>To build on past successes of anti-Nazi clowning, activists and local organizers can draw on the creativity of the community to devise actions and events that mock white supremacist ideology and those who support it. This could be done in the form of a carnivalesque “Fascist Fair,” complete with a dunk tank and jousting match. It could take the form of dressing up in costumes that satirize the labels white supremacists have given counter-protesters, like vermin or Communists. Events can draw in various local groups, from marching bands to theater troupes to intramural sports teams so that resistance to white supremacy becomes a community expression of solidarity, like in Whitefish, Montana.</p> <p>Counter-demonstrations can employ a tactic called&nbsp;<a href="http://beautifultrouble.org/tactic/detournementculture-jamming/">détournement</a>, or culture jamming, to draw on existing cultural symbols that resonate with a wider audience. This could involve staging a humorous match in which one side represents neo-Nazis dressed as Death Eaters from Harry Potter, and the other side represents Gryffindor, or the Avengers, or Wonder Woman and the Amazon warriors. Their marches can be accompanied by a mass choir drowning out their chants with refrains of “You’re So Vain” or JoJo’s “Leave (Get Out).” They could also be met with “Flash Mobs Against Fascist Mobs.” The street where the march is planned could be covered in rainbow paint and glitter that will coat the bottoms of their shoes.</p> <p>Beyond the marches themselves, clowning can undermine Confederate statues and symbols when their removal would lead to an escalation of violence, as activist&nbsp;<a href="http://davidswanson.org/creative-anti-nazism/">David Swanson</a>&nbsp;has suggested. Dressing up Confederate statues as clowns or jokers with signs like “You must be joking!” mocks the statue itself and undercuts the veneration of historical figures who represent the country’s legacy of slavery.</p> <p>Other creative tactics can be used to counter neo-Nazi propaganda with less direct confrontation. Activists around the world have&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2H8LXIYv9w">turned Nazi graffiti into art</a>, like the #PaintBack campaign transforming Swastika’s into cartoon animals. These actions not only deflate the macho image of neo-Nazis to their own supporters—which is strengthened by violent confrontation—but they also engage the community in planning fun collective actions to counter hate and intolerance. Humorous counter-demonstrations unleash a storm of creativity, as activists and local groups collaborate to design creative actions together. In the end, the actions bring communities together against hate speech.</p> <p>Since humor and clowning can incorporate so many community members—children and the elderly, musicians and athletes, politicians and school teachers—they draw everyone into a joyful, silly expression of solidarity. That’s something a band of tiki torch-wielding neo-Nazis don’t stand a chance against.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler-karen-ridd/humor-but-not-humiliation-finding-sweet-spot-in-nonviolent-">Humor but not humiliation: finding the sweet spot in nonviolent conflict resolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/janey-stephenson/subversive-power-of-joy">The subversive power of joy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ira-chernus/trying-to-save-world-should-be-fun">Trying to save the world should be fun</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Thu, 14 Sep 2017 22:31:44 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert 113146 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sacred activism: the story of Tamera https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘We all were indigenous once. We have been waiting for you. Welcome back.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Leila Dregger.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Participants in the <em>Defend the Sacred</em> gathering on Odeceixe beach in Portugal, August 12 2017. Credit: Copyright Tamera Institute. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">There are people who think that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praia_de_Odeceixe_Mar">Odeceixe</a> is the most beautiful beach in the world. Nature has created a pearl in southern Portugal, a sandbank between the green meanders of the Seixe River and the blue of the Atlantic Ocean. Each day in summer, the sandbank is flooded with tourists, and on this particular day—August 12 2017—they expect nothing more spectactular than sunscreen, surfboards and sandcastles. They don´t yet know it, but today they will be part of a prayer. A widely visible prayer, formed with their bodies to protect the coastline from oil drilling by national and international corporations</p> <p class="WW-Standard">From early morning, a part of the beach is being separated, and people are working hard in the sun, forming a giant image in the sand. In the afternoon buses arrive, full with hundreds of indigenous elders from different cultures, activists, trade unionists, shamans from Latin America, Palestinians and Israelis arm in arm, musicians, and lots of young people.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“We know the world stood with us, so we come to stand with you,” a powerful mature woman says into a microphone. It is <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaDonna_Brave_Bull_Allard">LaDonna Brave Bull Allard</a>, one of the initiators of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_Rock_Indian_Reservation">Standing Rock</a> struggles. A young man adds, “Water is life. Water is sacred. Life is sacred. We must protect the very things that our lives depend on. For our NO to succeed, we have to know what we say YES to.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">This gathering—called <em>Defend the Sacred</em><em>—</em>is being hosted at <a href="https://www.tamera.org/index.html">Tamera</a>, a community dedicated to the task of finding alternatives that are both visionary and concrete, strongly rooted in its own place but working with activists from the wider region and across the global South. Tamera had invited activists to reflect on their experience from Standing Rock, <a href="https://sumudcamp.org/">Sumud Freedom Camp</a> in Palestine, the <a href="http://www.cdpsanjose.org/">peace village San José de Apartadó</a> in Colombia, and many others from around the world who actively protect what is sacred to them, whether water, nature, human rights or freedom. The idea of the gathering was to envision a global community of sacred activism and discuss how this movement could continue and succeed.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Situated a little more than an hour from Odeceixe, <a href="http://www.tamera.org/">Tamera</a> is an international peace research community of nearly 200 people from many different countries and age groups. The community was founded in 1978 in Germany and moved to Portugal in 1995. Its founders—the sociologist and psychoanalyst <a href="http://www.dieter-duhm.com/">Dieter Duhm</a> and the theologist and peace ambassador <a href="http://www.sabine-lichtenfels.com/">Sabine Lichtenfels</a>—intended to create a holistic model for a peaceful society.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“The issues of our time are so interwoven and so closely linked to each other,” <a href="https://www.tamera.org/basic-thoughts/community-research">wrote Duhm</a>, “that they cannot be solved individually. It will only be possible to carry out the tasks for the future on the basis of a well functioning community.” In his view, humanity has separated itself from the universal powers of life. In order to survive we need to reconnect, a process Duhm calls “human revolution.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“Trust is the most original and most efficient of all healing forces,” he continues, “The very first task of a community is therefore to create trust among the participants.” That’s why Tamera invests such large amounts of time, skills and care in building trust and truth among their members.</p> <p>On a daily basis they meet to reveal what they think and feel, to envision their common aims, to provide mutual support and to create transparency. This daily “Forum” is a crucial part of the community, without which it would not have survived for so many years. In all its activities, Tamera follows a plan of what it calls “<a href="https://www.tamera.org/basic-thoughts/the-healing-biotopes-plan/">global healing biotopes</a>”—model communities with autonomy over water, food and energy but strong regional and global linkages, and connected to the divine forces of life in everything.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Arriving in Tamera in summer after driving through a landscape threatened by desertification and woodfires is like arriving at an oasis. Bodies of water fill the valleys, surrounded by terraces with gardens and fruit orchards. Water has been a core topic in Tamera from the beginning. Under the guidance of mountain farmer and ecological visionary <a href="http://www.seppholzer.at/">Sepp Holzer</a>, Tamera created a natural ‘Water Retention Landscape’—a series of interwoven ponds, lakes and orchards designed to slow down rainwater runoff and give it time to filter deep down so the soil is fertile throughout the year. Other work focuses on decentralized energy solutions, holistic healing, alternative education, permaculture, biologic building and communication and cooperation with animals and plants.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">However the most crucial element of Tamera´s work is love, the core work of peace. “There will be no peace in the world as long as there is war between the genders” <a href="http://sabine-lichtenfels.com/en/projects/global-love-school/">says co-founder</a> Lichtenfels, “Our intention is to create a field for love free from fear. This also includes sexual love.” Every choice that somebody makes in Tamera—be it a monogamous, polyamorous or celibate lifestyle—is supported by the rest of the community so long as it is based on mutual respect and inner truth.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Sexuality and love are regarded as sacred forces which we cannot own. “Also, we cannot possess our partner", <a href="https://youtu.be/v7stErL3CtE">says Vera Kleinhammes</a>, a mother of two children. “Isn´t it strange how many couples find it normal to lie to each other on what they really feel or to whom they are attracted? But without truth, love cannot grow.” In Tamera, partnership and free love don´t exclude each other, they need each other. “However, I would not dare to try this outside of community.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">This approach found resonance among the participants at the gathering. Time and again, activists have faced internal conflicts and collapse in their communities and protest actions around the topics of jealousy, the suppression of women, and other gender topics. Social transparency on love and women’s empowerment are part of the remedy for these conflicts.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">As <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toda_people">Vassamalli Kurtaz</a> shared—a representative from the indigenous <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toda_people">Todas</a> tribe in India —“Before our communities were colonized, married women could choose one or two other sexual lovers if they wished. It was accepted by tradition also by their husbands. Now with having so many men without the chance to have sex we have tensions arising in the community. Colonization and Christianity harmed our lifestyle and the nature that we live from. We need to return to our traditions.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard"><a href="http://womanstandsshining.strikingly.com/">Pat McCabe</a> from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navajo">Diné (Navajo) Nation</a> added this: “According to our traditions, we look for balance and healing between fire and water, light and dark, the feminine and the masculine. I am impressed that this community works so deeply on this balance too. It is a profound experience to find a place in Europe which gives such a strong resonance to positions that have been crucial in indigenous cultures. I leave this place with the feeling that the wounds of colonizations can heal.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">At the gathering, the activists developed a sense of global community, envisioning how the movement for defending the sacred that began at Standing Rock could continue, supported by the emergence of decentralized alternatives to capitalism. As <a href="https://firstvoicesindigenousradio.org/node/7">Tiokasin Ghosthorse</a>&nbsp;said, a representative of the <a href="https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_River_Reservation">Cheyenne River Nation</a>, “We all were indigenous once. We have been waiting for you. Welcome back.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Meanwhile at the beach, the renowned activist and artist <a href="http://www.creativeresistance.org/artists/john-quigley/">John Quigley</a> had prepared an image that we will form with our bodies in the sand, filmed from the air by drones so that we can send it out to the world as a strong declaration of our will. The image consists of a huge dolphin and the words: <a href="https://youtu.be/0damGwctIi4">“Nao ao furo (‘no to the oil drill’)—Defend &nbsp;the Sacred</a>.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">We line up to enter the image, passing by a place of sacred water kept by Lichtenfels and a place of sacred fire kept by LaDonna Brave Bull. Everyone is led to a place in one of the letters of the declaration or—in my case—as part of the dolphin´s snout.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Soon it becomes clear: the image is too big to fill with the 400 or so people that have come from Tamera and the rest of the region, even with all the other activists. We need at least double. What to do? Do we have to give up like so many times before?</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“Be attractive” shouts Quigley, “attract people to join us.” And we do. We shout and sing and call the tourists on the beach to help us fill the image. They watch, but hesitate. After all it is their holiday. But then they come. Parents being pulled in by their kids. Couples and groups of friends, surfers and sunbathers leaving behind their daily business and joining in, happy and proud to be part of something bigger, each one being cheered on by the activists.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">And then we make it! In the end we are nearly 1,000 people. The last to join is <a href="http://sleepinglions.com/ordinary-heroes/13-year-old-takota-iron-eyes-is-standing-up-to-the-dakota-access-">Takota Iron Eyes</a>, aged 13, a Sioux youth leader from Standing Rock who forms the eye of the dolphin together with other teenagers.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">When she starts singing, the crowd becomes silent. Something resonates very deeply in me. It feels like a transformation point in my internal belief system. We really made it. And if we can be successful here then surely we can do anything—stop the oil drilling, change the track of history, and create peace on the earth.</p> <p class="image-caption">For more about Tamera click <a href="http://www.tamera.org/">here</a> and <a href="http://defendthesacred.tamera.org/">here</a>. </p> <p class="WW-Standard">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kelly-teamey-udi-mandel/are-eco-versities-future-for-higher-education">Are eco-versities the future for higher education?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes">The mysticism of wide open eyes</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Intentional communities Leila Dregger Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Environment Love and Spirituality Mon, 04 Sep 2017 23:20:01 +0000 Leila Dregger 113063 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What can be learned from the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/molly-wallace/why-indigenous-civil-resistance-has-unique-power <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why indigenous civil resistance has a unique power.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class="image-caption">This article was first published in&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/2017/07/indigenous-civil-resistance-dapl/">Waging Nonviolence</a>&nbsp;in collaboration with the&nbsp;Peace Science Digest, which summarizes and reflects on current academic research in the field of peace and conflict studies.</span></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Molly Wallace_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Stand With Standing Rock Nov 11-15 2016. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/99603156@N03/30396604493">Flickr/Leslie Peterson</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p>2016 saw the emergence of a powerful movement against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, through land vital to Native communities, especially the Standing Rock Sioux. For non-Native people who have not been paying attention to indigenous rights struggles over the past several decades, the #NoDAPL movement may have served as a wake-up call to some of the injustices still confronting these communities.</p> <p>For others, as Tom Hastings points out in “<a href="http://web.a.ebscohost.com/abstract?direct=true&amp;profile=ehost&amp;scope=site&amp;authtype=crawler&amp;jrnl=10951962&amp;AN=122655677&amp;h=I25Vct9XJy72BSbvdCxFpbCH/M/ExFpld5ve09sZVkpy2tV7+eEFlIYJiIbrLpsLdcHJ/KcxIK066Q1WVgC2rg==&amp;crl=c&amp;resultNs=AdminWebAuth&amp;resultL">Turtle Island 2016 Civil Resistance Snapshot</a>,” in the&nbsp;<em>Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict</em>, #NoDAPL is simply another in a long line of civil resistance struggles Native communities have mobilized, often successfully, to claim their rights.</p> <p>He highlights this recent history of Native American and First Nations civil resistance movements on Turtle Island—the name, from Lenape mythology, that refers to the landmass others call North America—and takes stock of their characteristics, challenges and successes, arguing that nonviolent resistance has been a more effective strategy than violent resistance in defending Native peoples and their “lifeways.”</p> <p>Hastings begins with the fact that, unlike other identity groups struggling for justice in the United States or Canada, indigenous groups can claim sovereign rights as nations with their own governance structures — which also means that activists often mobilize&nbsp;<em>in tandem with</em>, as opposed to&nbsp;<em>against</em>, their tribal governments. Practically speaking, this fact provides indigenous activists with an additional tool in their activist toolbox: the nation-to-nation treaties previously negotiated with the settler governments of the United States and Canada.</p> <p>Hastings notes that occasionally simply mentioning the existence of a treaty, and the fact that “tribal lawyers are standing by,” has been enough for action to be taken in favor of Native communities. In other cases, of course, the process is not so easy, but the existence of treaties as legal documents to which the federal government must be held accountable helps enormously.</p> <p>For example, Hastings recounts an incident in 1974 when two brothers from the Anishinaabe nation, upon realizing that they had treaty rights to do so, “purposefully and openly fished on off-reservation waters” and presented a copy of the treaty to the game warden who came to arrest them. The matter was taken up in the courts, who ultimately ruled in their favor. But although they had established their legal right to fish in these off-reservation waters, they still faced the wrath of angry mobs who met them with racial slurs and sometimes even violence as they were trying to fish.</p> <p>Hastings himself, along with other allies with the organization Witness for Peace, would, in the late 1980s/early 1990s, accompany them to the fishing spot as a protective presence. Eventually, media attention, which highlighted the contrast between the nonviolent Anishinaabe people simply fishing and the “inebriated racists” trying to stop them, shifted the opinion of the public and ultimately government officials in favor of treaty rights. </p> <p>This case draws out a number of elements of Native civil resistance that Hastings explores throughout the article, in addition to treaty rights leverage: the strategic importance of nonviolent discipline, the power of media in shaping the outcome, the key supportive role that can be played by non-Native allies (as well as by indigenous allies globally), and the ultimate need for broader public education and opinion change on Native history, rights and struggles.</p> <p>Beyond treaty rights (mostly regarding access to resources on land ceded in treaties—sometimes with dubious levels of consent—to which tribes have historical ties), Hastings mentions mobilization around a range of other issues: environmental protection, tribal health care, law enforcement, borders/boundaries, tribal dignity, consultation (on various policies affecting tribes), and basic sovereignty. </p> <p>Of these, he pays special attention to anti-nuclear and anti-pipeline (environmental) activism against attempts to store nuclear waste and extract or transport oil close to Native communities, noting how these movements have become “more effective at drawing [in] coalition partners and using their special sovereignty statuses to wield power disproportionate to their populations.”</p> <p>Throughout the article, the complex and multi-faceted nature of Native identity—and its relation to various forms of resistance—emerges as a common theme. First, Hastings brings attention to the importance of national (e.g., Sioux) and band (e.g., Brule Sioux) identities as opposed to the blanket identity of “Native American” or “First Nation,” which he says is more often used by non-Native people than by indigenous people themselves. He does, however, note the way in which a pan-Native American identity developed to some degree in the United States (through the emergence of American Indian Movement activism in the late 1960s and1970s) whereas it did not in Canada. </p> <p>Finally, he highlights the emergence of a complicated warrior identity, both in relation to participation in the U.S. military — often in the name of and to gain status for their tribal nations rather than out of allegiance to an oppressive federal government — and in relation to longstanding anti-settler resistance, including the resistance of nonviolent “warriors.”</p> <p><strong>Contemporary relevance.</strong></p> <p>From April 2016 until late February 2017, enduring a fierce winter, Standing Rock Sioux water protectors and their allies created an encampment where they gathered and prayed to resist the proposed construction nearby of the Dakota Access Pipeline under the Missouri River and across their sacred sites. The encampment and its acts of civil disobedience drew widespread media attention and support but also brought repressive responses from local police and&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/05/27/leaked-documents-reveal-security-firms-counterterrorism-tactics-at-standing-rock-to-defeat-pipeline-insurgencies/">private security companies</a>.</p> <p>Although President Obama temporarily halted construction in light of the Standing Rock people’s concerns, President Trump has since reinstated the project, and the camp has been dismantled. This article helps to situate the so-called #NoDAPL movement in the broader context and history of settler colonialism, broken treaties, exploitation and persistent indigenous civil resistance in North America. Understanding construction of the pipeline as part of this continuum of oppression, displacement and trust-violation endows the resistance movement with greater meaning—a movement that needs to be seen not as an over-reaction to an isolated incident but as a justified response to a steady onslaught of injustices.</p> <p>More broadly, this history focuses attention on the widespread modes of domination by which some groups of human beings interact with both other groups of human beings and the natural world—instrumentalizing both for self-centered gain with no regard for indigenous self-determination or ecological balance. It is becoming abundantly clear that such practices are neither socially nor environmentally sustainable. As climate change becomes a clear and present danger, non-Native folks have much to learn — and fast — from resistance movements and lifeways of indigenous peoples about how to live sustainably without obliterating the world or one another.</p> <p><strong>Practical implications.</strong></p> <p>For indigenous activists, this research highlights the importance of maintaining nonviolent discipline, while also thinking strategically about both the use of media and collaboration with global and local allies to facilitate shifts in public opinion and create broad-based movements that will be more resilient and have greater impact. </p> <p>For non-Native allies, it reminds activists of the broader historical context informing indigenous struggles and what that means for the significance of a specific movement itself but also for the role of settler allies in that movement—those who benefit in many ways from the forms of exploitation that have deprived Native communities of their livelihoods and sacred places but who also have access to particular forms of leverage that can put pressure on those spear-heading that exploitation and dispossession today. </p> <p>For example, allies of #NoDAPL can go right to the source and move their personal savings out of banks financing the DAPL project and into local banks or community credit unions that are not. Going a step further, they can mobilize their employers and cities to do the same. More broadly, non-Native allies can educate their families, friends, and communities on the historical and contemporary injustices facing Native communities so that indigenous civil resistance movements can be met with even greater empathy and support. </p> <p>Finally, activists should continue to draw out the connections between local struggles like #NoDAPL and the broader global climate justice movement. The former grounds and gives a human face to an issue as daunting as energy consumption and climate change, while the latter provides #NoDAPL and other such movements with additional urgency and wider relevance that can galvanize broader publicity and mobilization.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/climate-justice-meets-racism-standing-rock-was-decades-in-making">Climate justice meets racism: Standing Rock was decades in the making</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/sheriffs-refuse-to-send-troops-to-standing-rock-as-public-outrage-mounts">Sheriffs refuse to send troops to Standing Rock as public outrage mounts</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jim-shultz/pipeline-strikes-back-audacity-of-transcanadas-15-billion-suit-against-us">The Pipeline Strikes Back: the audacity of TransCanada&#039;s $15b suit against the U.S.</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Molly Wallace Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:09:49 +0000 Molly Wallace 112291 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The future of security https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mica-stumpf/future-of-security <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="graf">Healthy and healed relationships are the key to sustainable peace.<em> </em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Micastumpfnew.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Shepard Fairey’s Peace Goddess. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/58621196@N05/7186180428/in/photolist-bX245y-416a2X-oHHBQr-axvxST-gV1arx-9Yywft-4d3xXj-4beCRi-SK6vzy-2B5CiR-9AsdFm-qKQ3-26GGD-3UwMwN-47QPZU-36zwoH-RxjBvE-ato4Ut-h5HWH-34Ydj3-h5JPW-5tFwKC-RMipD7-nzVedx-2f3g9H-2cgt95-3c9nvH-teUq-">Flickr/Brian Donovan</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>Justifications for war are so rampant in our current paradigm that it can be hard to notice and prevent them from penetrating the subconscious. Mainstream culture would have us believe that war is our most effective means of security, but a new paradigm is emerging, with scientific studies that make it clear that a more humane way is indeed possible.</p> <p>Not only is there another way, but it is also safer and would cost a fraction of the US military budget. Here’s a look at war through the lens of the new story: True security is created by refusing to dehumanize any party in a conflict, and instead raising the human image to its fullest potential. This intention is at the heart of Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping.</p> <p><strong>What is Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping?</strong></p> <p>In recent years, Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping has gained recognition as a viable alternative to armed peacekeeping. UCP works by training groups of civilians, sometimes referred to as “peace teams,” in nonviolent de-escalation skills and philosophy, and then placing those people in conflict areas to help protect vulnerable populations and decrease violence.</p> <p>Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping goes back as far as the Buddha, who once stopped a war between two rival kings from breaking out. As they fought over water rights, the Buddha held up a handful of water between the kings and asked, “What is more precious, blood or water?” The kings replied, “Blood is much more precious, blessed one.” The Buddha then said, “Let us not spill what is more precious for what is less.”</p> <p>While it can be argued that UCP has been used throughout all of human history, Mahatma Gandhi was the first to attempt to implement it at a societal level. He envisioned a nonviolent army called the Shanti Sena, Sanskrit for “peace army.” Tragically, Gandhi was assassinated the evening before he was to attend a meeting to launch the Shanti Sena and so it never took full effect. </p> <p>However, in 1981, a meeting convened in Canada resulted in the inception of Peace Brigades International (PBI), one of the first modern UCP organizations. From 1990 to 2014, the number of UCP organizations increased fivefold, growing from 7 to 35 (while a total of 50 organizations were active throughout this period, only 35 of them were still operating in 2014). Since 1990, UCP missions have operated in 35 countries, by a total of 50 organizations such as PBI.</p> <p><strong>How does UCP differ from armed peacekeeping?</strong></p> <p>While armed peacekeeping relies on the threat of violent force to keep vulnerable populations safe, UCP operates on a different level. As explained by Christine Schweitzer, who served as program director for Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP): “In our analysis, there is a double mechanism of protection at work here as in regard to the work of international civilian peacekeepers: they are providing the ‘eye and ear of the world,’ and, being outsiders, are able to talk to all sides of the conflict without being seen as partisan.”</p> <p>The presence of internationals achieves two things: it allows news of a distant conflict to have greater reach in global media, and it allows the internationals to choose to be a neutral third party, thus giving them an opportunity to de-escalate any side of the conflict. Armed peacekeepers generally do not have an explicit intention of being nonpartisan or being a channel of news and information to the outside world, though this sometimes happens.</p> <p>UCP re-humanizes all sides of the conflict. For violence to be possible, the perpetrator must see the people they target as less than human (and thus lose part of their own humanity). Dehumanization is woven throughout all military training. And though armed peacekeeping has an aim of preventing violence, it largely uses the same threat of force that the violent faction of a conflict inflicts, but changes the direction of that threat of force so that the violent group also fears it. UCP adheres to an approach free from inciting fear or threat.</p> <p>UCP proves effective by sending the message that the would-be victims of violence are not less than human; that their lives are so precious that people who have never met them before would give up the distanced comfort of their home countries to live among them in an effort to protect them. Every human life is this sacred. In sending this message, UCP actors have the opportunity to not only protect the vulnerable, but also invite the oppressor off the path of violence and back to a state of congruence, where they can reclaim their own humanity.</p> <p>Many people believe that going into a conflict without weapons is more dangerous than armed intervention. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Since UCP has only begun to receive the recognition it warrants as a viable alternative to armed interventions, the data collected during the early decades is sparse. However, 13 of the 35 organizations were able to provide accurate numbers of the practitioners on staff since 1990, totaling 3065. </p> <p>Of these 3065 people in the field, only six deaths have occurred, one of which was a car crash and thus not related to the UCP activities. Comparing these numbers to the fatality rates of armed peacekeeping missions conducted by the United Nations shows that armed peacekeepers are 12 times more likely to die on duty than unarmed civilian peacekeepers.</p> <p>This fascinating research can be illustrated by a recent story coming from the work of Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan. On April 17, 2014, a United Nations base in Bor was attacked. Two of NP’s peacekeepers, Andres Alejandro Gutierrez Garcia and Derek Oakley, were at a Protection of Civilians area when the attack started. They took shelter in a mud hut with five women and nine children.</p> <p>Shortly after they entered the hut, gunmen stormed in. Upon seeing two international men among the group of Sundanese women and children, the gunmen demanded that Garcia and Oakley leave immediately. Garcia and Oakley knew that if they left, the women and children would be shot. The peacekeepers exchanged eye contact, visually confirming their agreement to stay, then calmly told the gunmen that, as unarmed international protection officers, they were there to protect civilians. </p> <p>Twice more the gunmen ordered them to leave, and twice more they respectfully refused. Finally, the gunmen left the hut, harming no one. This story shows with remarkable clarity what may be confusing from the statistics alone: It was the fact that they were unarmed — and trained in nonviolent de-escalation skills — that allowed them to save themselves and 14 others that day. This truth bears repeating: the fact that they did not have weapons was what saved their lives. Being willing to be vulnerable was their greatest protection.</p> <p>Perhaps the gunmen were not influenced by the peacekeepers’ courageous vulnerability, but rather by other concerns. Killing internationals might have led to graver consequences for the gunmen and their cause than not killing them. Negative press and possible intervention from foreign powers might have thwarted their efforts. However the gunmen made their decision, and the peace team still accomplished its goal of protecting civilians, even if the NP did not persuade violent actors to change their ways.</p> <p>The success of UCP has major implications for the rest of society. As explained by Michael Nagler: “People support war when they feel there is no viable alternative. If we are able to build peace teams up to scale, it would make it much easier for people to renounce war.” Further than simply renouncing war, we could replace the entire system for a fraction of the cost. According to estimates from peace researcher John Paul Lederach, it would take only 3% of the world’s military budget to build this into a worldwide institution.</p> <p><strong>Where do we go from&nbsp;here?</strong></p> <p>For those who may be skeptical that UCP cannot be applied in high conflict areas, it is exciting to note that Nonviolent Peaceforce has received a grant from the European Union to bring its peacekeeping work to Syria. For this initiative, the organization is partnering with Cure Violence, a domestic peace team based in Chicago that has had remarkable success in reducing violence in one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. Together, Nonviolent Peaceforce and Cure Violence will train Syrian civilians in UCP and help establish peace teams on the ground.</p> <p>With continued innovation in the UCP field, we can find more hope than ever in our power to build a humane alternative to the war system. But for this alternative to truly be strong enough to replace the old paradigm, we will need much greater participation in it. Healthy and healed relationships are the key to sustainable peace, and how we engage in conflict has a large influence on either straining or strengthening our relationships. </p> <p>As Mel Duncan, the co-founder of Nonviolent Peaceforce, once suggested in an interview on Peace Paradigm Radio, one of the most important things anyone can do to promote the new paradigm in peacekeeping is to share the idea with others.</p> <p>The next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone who is despondently insisting that we must use violent force to respond to a security threat, tell them about Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping. Tell them there is another way, one that is statistically more effective in saving lives, as well as costs. Tell them about the brave peacekeepers carving a path back to human dignity, and that all of us can be a part of this new story.</p> <p>When you hear someone beating the drums of war, invite them into the chorus of peace.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://nonviolencemag.org/the-future-of-security-893cb6a1df2d">Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler/six-principles-of-nonviolence">Six principles of nonviolence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/travis-mellott/after-fight-skinhead-s-journey-towards-nonviolence">After the fight: a skinhead’s journey towards nonviolence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-n-nagler/love-at-barrel-of-gun">Love at the barrel of a gun</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Nonviolence Magazine Mica Stumpf Transformative nonviolence Activism Mon, 07 Aug 2017 23:30:56 +0000 Mica Stumpf 111734 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The power of the long march https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/julian-sayarer/power-of-long-march <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Walking across a country provides people with a tangible and visceral experience of solidarity.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JulianSayerer3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The ‘adalet’ march in Turkey. Credit: Flickr/<a title="Go to Ziya KOSEOGLU&#039;s photostream" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/fotochp/">Ziya Koseoglu</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>On July 9, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kemal_K%C4%B1l%C4%B1%C3%A7daro%C4%9Flu">Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu</a>, the leader of Turkey’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republican_People%27s_Party_(Turkey)">CHP opposition party</a>, completed his 450-kilometre <a href="http://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/justice-march-in-turkey-catches-erdogan-off-guard-169235.html">march</a> from Ankara to Maltepe, Istanbul, where a member of his party <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/14/turkish-opposition-politician-jailed-spying-charges-enis-berberoglu">is in jail</a> for leaking the news that Turkish Intelligence has been supplying arms to <em>jihadis</em> in northern Syria. The day closed out a journey in which the politician had—come its end—at some point walked alongside millions of citizens in solidarity with the rights of women, journalists, the Kurdish population, and all who feel afraid to live a free life inside modern Turkey.</p> <p>The distance travelled, especially in the punishing heat of a high Anatolian summer, is no meagre feat, its toll such that one marcher died from a heart attack in its early stages. Kılıçdaroğlu himself, writing&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/07/opinion/turkey-kemal-kilicdaroglu-erdogan.html" target="_blank">an op-ed in the New York Times</a>&nbsp;during the last days of the walk, seemed somehow greater in stature for his undertaking, and also rightly quite proud of his achievement. Many Turkish commentators have voiced opinions that only now, after seven years in the job, has he truly become the leader of the opposition in more than name.</p> <p>Something in the story warrants reflection on the medium of the march itself. In aspirational terms, Turkey is a country of car drivers. In functional terms, tens of millions regularly use public transport, though few necessarily wish to. Amongst family and friends here, walking, for the most part, isn’t a big thing, perhaps aside from occasional recreation, and seldom as a means of transport. All this lends a greater sense of the monumental to Kılıçdaroğlu’s journey across a sizable portion of a large, mountainous country. </p> <p>Frequently referencing Mahatma Gandhi’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_March">Salt March</a>, and joining a noble tradition that includes the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jarrow_March">Jarrow</a> marchers against unemployment in the UK, Kılıçdaroğlu’s ‘<em>adalet’</em>&nbsp;(or ‘justice’) march enters a proud tradition of these grand and potentially transformative physical and political statements. The man himself is careful and correct to stress that this is only a beginning, a first step—but as such it’s not a bad one.</p> <p>In a country grappling with authoritarianism, and where demonstrations are nevertheless frequent and still sometimes sizable, the march has succeeded in engendering a little hope in the population. It has also given purpose to Kılıçdaroğlu, who had always seemed to lack the necessary bite to unify a country as splintered as Turkey against a leader with such slavish support and so brutal an apparatus as President <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recep_Tayyip_Erdo%C4%9Fan">Recep Tayyip Erdoğan</a>.</p> <p>In her new book,&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.twitterandteargas.org/">Twitter and Teargas</a>,</em> the academic Zeynep Tufekci compiles a full analysis of modern political protest and reactions to it by the powerful. In so doing, one core part of her assessment recalls George W. Bush’s dismissal of the 2003 anti-war Iraq demonstrations in a single line: “Why should I listen to a focus group?” In a similarly lukewarm response to boots on the street, the then-Prime Minister of the UK David Cameron was moved by the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/12/refugees-welcome-uk-marchers-un-warns-war-syria-million-displaced">2015 Refugees Welcome demonstration</a>, which drew 100,000 people but only led to a <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-migrants-britain-idUKKCN0R71NM20150907">derisory increase</a> in Britain’s Syrian refugee quota from 5,000 to 20,000. </p> <p>What then, if anything, separates a march like Kılıçdaroğlu’s from demonstrations that can be dismissed as mere focus groups? </p> <p>First of all is the sheer distance crossed. Precise figures vary, but even conservative ones suggest that, by the time of its culmination in Istanbul, millions of people had joined the&nbsp;<em>adalet</em>&nbsp;march at some point. Effectively spreading a demonstration across 450 kilometres guarantees that greater numbers can be reached. </p> <p>Perhaps more significant still, in a political climate that is ever more at-ease in its disdain of metropolitan ‘elites’ (Turkey’s three largest cities all voted against Erdoğan in the April referendum on his presidential designs), in a march, the demonstration effectively comes to you. It visits your own version of the local, your off-the-beaten track, and rejects the idea that there are any ‘backwaters.’ Düzce and Sakarya gain the same prominence as Istanbul and Ankara, or London and Washington DC.</p> <p>The importance of location here is in keeping with a trend now coming into greater prominence. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg resolved to visit every state in the U.S. on his recent ‘not running for President’&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/technology/zuckerberg-harvard-commencement-road-trip.html" target="_blank">roadtrip</a>. In the UK, John Harris made himself the most widely-regarded journalist in the country by covering the 2017 general election with a series called&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/series/anywhere-but-westminster" target="_blank">Anywhere but Westminster</a>. And in the US, Guardian editor-at-large <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/garyyounge">Gary Younge</a>, and also <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/03/trump-supporters-us-elections">Chris Arnade</a>—one practising journalism more political and the other more personal—have clearly made it their business to keep on moving, either driving vast distances around the country or opting to base their 2016 presidential election coverage around <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/membership/2016/oct/11/middletown-gary-younge-us-election-presidential-muncie-indiana">Muncie</a>, Indiana.</p> <p>If mobility is an asset in itself, then what of the physicality of the march? <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binali_Y%C4%B1ld%C4%B1r%C4%B1m">Binali Yildirim</a>, Erdoğan’s right-hand man in the office of the Turkish Prime Minister, <a href="http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-justice-march-democracy-bouncing-back.aspx?PageID=238&amp;NID=115258&amp;NewsCatID=409">snarked that Kılıçdaroğlu should stop his march and get the train instead</a>. Dumb and churlish as his comment was, it was nevertheless a slight improvement, and less menacing, than the usual dismissal of critics as ‘terrorists’ or ‘terrorist sympathisers’—a sign that the march, for a while at least, confounded the usual assumptions and put-downs.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the march has resonated with those less partisan than the Prime Minister—people who grow ever more concerned for Turkey’s turn away from democracy and towards a state of nepotism and ruin, both fiscal and political. To commit a month of your time and 450 kilometres of yourself to an idea is, by and large, worth more than a day and two-kilometres on a well-worn, city centre drag.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JulianSayarer5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Julian Sayarer. All rights reserved.</p> <p>More than that, a long march is a tangible, visceral engagement with a country and a nation. These are words and concepts that are bandied around freely in political discourse, especially the base populist version, but are never fully experienced in any actuality. The country is out there, yet it does not truly figure or come alive without being crossed.</p> <p>There is a parallel here with our relationship to human rights, especially at a time when the rule of law has—with frightening speed—been exposed as a paper reality that can be screwed up at whimsy by hard power. In this regard statutes are no different to maps: both are abstractions of an irrefutable reality that affirm who we are and where we are, but they are abstractions all the same, illustrating the classic differentiation between map and territory. </p> <p>The map shows the place accurately but it is not the place itself, just as our rights are inviolable and natural, but nevertheless condemned to an existence in words only. If place is neglected by centrist, Beltway politicians (note the ‘<em>she didn’t even go to Wisconsin!’ </em>dismay of Hillary Clinton’s critics), it is no less vulnerable to being invoked without sincerity by authoritarian nationalists. The march can reclaim geography from both types of disengaged politician.</p> <p>In recounting these ideas I have some degree of personal experience, and Kılıçdaroğlu’s march recalls my first times cycling across Europe, a journey I often made between London and Istanbul. As I <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/tony-curzon-price/recording-broken-records">pedalled</a> along and across so many contours, I discovered something obvious and yet still remarkable—that the vast physical expanses represented on paper maps were something through which I could propel myself with only the power of my body. </p> <p>In this process, the abstraction of the map became accumulated physically in the journey I undertook; what had been paper became the territory itself, and with that realisation, the idea of impossibility in the world melted before the evidence of that new reality. Rigid conceptions of what was achievable collapsed into what I was apparently capable of. Kılıçdaroğlu’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/07/11/kilicdaroglu-returns-home-after-27-days-3-5-kilograms-lighter/" target="_blank">recent comments</a> after he finished his walk suggest that he might be feeling similarly: “I have returned by car via the same road that I walked,” he said, and “I asked my friends how I walked such a long way.”</p> <p>Using Tufekçi’s approach to understanding protest, power-holders read signals from protests in terms of their underlying capacity and the threat that they signify. Political movements, as anyone in Turkey will tell you, are slow and hard-fought things that demand constant creativity. There is always going to be a place in the panoply of protest for putting bodies on streets at short notice. In unifying more and more people however, and in societies apparently more polarised and digitally-focused than ever before, long marches, as Kılıçdaroğlu has discovered for himself, could still prove to be a very effective tool in the modern protester’s arsenal.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/julian-sayarer/twitter-and-tear-gas-on-power-and-fragility-of-networked-protest">Twitter and tear gas: on the power and fragility of networked protest</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/julian-sayarer/why-hitching-across-usa-led-me-to-give-2500-to-aclu">Why hitching across the USA led me to give £2500 to the ACLU</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-blog/julian-sayarer/political-bicycles-and-living-wage-tour">Political bicycles and the Living Wage tour</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Julian Sayarer Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 01 Aug 2017 23:24:37 +0000 Julian Sayarer 112594 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What will cure the U.S. addiction to war? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kathy-kelly/what-will-cure-us-addiction-to-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We must redouble our efforts to stop the war makers from gaining the upper hand in our lives.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KathyKelly3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017, at the Royal Court Palace in Riyadh. Credit: Official White House Photo, Shealah Craighead via Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain. </p> <blockquote><p><em>"I come and stand at every door</em><em><br /> <em>But none shall hear my silent tread</em><br /> <em>I knock and yet remain unseen." </em></em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/hiroshima-child/">Nazim Hikmet</a>, Hiroshima Child<br /> </em></p></blockquote> <p>At a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on July 18 2017, Republican Senator Todd Young <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/senate-hearing-highlights-saudi-arabias-responsibility-for-suffering-in-yemen_us_596e956be4b0000eb196b134">asked officials </a>if the ongoing war in Yemen would exacerbate the catastrophe developing there—one of four countries, along with Southern Sudan, Nigeria, and Somalia, which are set to lose 20 million people collectively this year from conflict-driven famine. </p> <p>Yemen is being bombarded and blockaded using US-supplied weapons and vehicles by a regional coalition marshaled by Saudi Arabia, with US support.&nbsp; Yemen's near-famine conditions and attendant cholera outbreaks are so dire that a child dies there every ten minutes of preventable disease.</p> <p>At the hearing, Young held aloft a photo of a World Food Program warehouse in Yemen which was destroyed in 2015. He asked David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Program, to name the country responsible for the airstrike that demolished it. Beasley replied that the Saudi-led coalition blockading Yemen had destroyed the warehouse, along with the relief supplies it contained. &nbsp;</p> <p>A July 2016 <a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/07/11/bombing-businesses/saudi-coalition-airstrikes-yemens-civilian-economic-structures">Human Rights Watch report</a> documented 13 civilian economic structures that were destroyed by Saudi coalition bombing between March 2015 and February 2016, including:</p> <blockquote><p>“Factories, commercial warehouses, a farm, and two power stations. These strikes killed 130 civilians and injured 171 more. The facilities hit by airstrikes produced, stored, or distributed goods for the civilian population including food, medicine, and electricity—items that even before the war were in short supply in Yemen, which is among the poorest countries in the Middle East. Collectively, the facilities employed over 2,500 people; following the attacks, many of the factories ended their production and hundreds of workers lost their livelihoods.”&nbsp; </p></blockquote> <p>When asked about the Saudi coalition's destruction of four cranes needed to offload relief supplies in Yemen's port city of Hodeidah, Beasley confirmed that their loss had greatly impeded WFP efforts to deliver food and medicines. Young read from Beasley’s June 27 letter to the Saudi government—only the latest of multiple requests—in which he asked that the WFP be allowed to deliver replacement cranes. The WFP Director said that the Saudis had provided no reply. &nbsp;<a href="//www.newsjs.com/url.php?p=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/senate-hearing-highlights-saudi-arabias-responsibility-for-suffering-in-yemen_us_596e956be4b0000eb196b134">Young then noted</a> that, in the three weeks since this last letter had been sent, more than 3,000 Yemeni children had died of preventable, famine-related causes. </p> <p>Medea Benjamin of the antiwar campaign Code Pink was at the hearing, and later <a href="https://twitter.com/medeabenjamin">thanked</a> Young for rebuking the Saudi government’s imposition of a state of siege, plus the airstrikes that are preventing the delivery of food and medicine to Yemeni civilians. One day later, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57210#.WXESAlFOkdU">reported</a> on a July 19 coalition airstrike in Yemen which killed 20 civilians—including women and children—while they were fleeing violence in their home province. The report claimed that more than two million internally displaced Yemenis have "fled elsewhere across Yemen since the beginning of the conflict, but … continue to be exposed to danger as the conflict has affected all of Yemen's mainland governorates." </p> <p>On July 14, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed <a href="http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1766">two amendments</a> to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would potentially end US participation in the Yemeni civil war. In the past, the White House has provided refueling and targeting assistance to the Saudi-led coalition without congressional authorization. Since October of 2016, the US has doubled the number of jet refueling maneuvers carried out with Saudi and United Arab Emirate jets. The Saudi and UAE jets fly over Yemen, drop bombs until they need to refuel, and then fly back to Saudi airspace where US jets perform mid-air refueling operations. Next, they circle back to Yemen and resume the bombing. </p> <p>What can be done to end this seeming addiction to war?</p> <p>In the summer of 2006, I joined peace campaigner Claudia Lefko at a small school that she had helped found in Amman, Jordan. The school served children whose families were refugees from the postwar chaos in Iraq. Many of the children had survived war, death threats and displacement. Lefko had worked with children in her hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts, to prepare a gift for the Iraqis at the school. The gift consisted of strings of paper origami cranes, folded in memory of a Japanese child called Sadako who had died from radiation sickness after the bombing of her home city of Hiroshima in 1945. &nbsp;</p> <p>In her hospital bed (so the story goes), Sadako occupied her time by attempting to fold 1,000 paper cranes, a feat she hoped would earn her the granting of a special wish that no other child would ever suffer the same fate as those who had been killed and injured in Hiroshima. She succumbed too rapidly to complete the task herself, but other Japanese children who heard about her folded many thousands more. This story has been re-told for decades in innumerable places, making the delicate paper creations a symbol for peace throughout the world. </p> <p>The Turkish writer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%A2z%C4%B1m_Hikmet">Nazim Hikmet</a> wrote a <a href="https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/hiroshima-child/">poem</a> about Sadako which has since been set to music. Its words are on my mind today as I think of all the malnourished children from the countries of the terrible Four Famines, and from other conflict-torn, US-targeted countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. I think of their months and years of hunger. Their stories may have ended already during the first half of 2017. Hikmet writes:</p> <blockquote><p>"I need no fruit I need no rice </p><p>I need no sweets nor even bread </p><p>I ask for nothing for myself </p><p>For I am dead for I am dead." </p></blockquote> <p>The song of the “Hiroshima Child" imagines a child who comes and “stands at every door…unheard and unseen.” In reality, we, the living, can choose to approach the doors of elected representatives and of our neighbors, or we can stay at home. We can choose whether or not to be heard and seen. </p> <p>Robert Naiman at <a href="http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/">Just Foreign Policy</a> points out that many people don’t know that the House of Representatives has voted to prohibit US participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. So we must publicize the vote on social media, push for a House roll call vote on the Davidson-Nolan prohibitions on Defense Appropriation, and urge the Senate to pass the same provisions as the House. </p> <p>I recognize that legislative activism at the heart of an empire addicted to war is a tool of limited use. But considering the impending disaster for which 2017 may well be remembered—as the worst famine year in post-WWII history—we don’t have the luxury to reject any of the tools and opportunities that are presented to us. I also personally oppose all defense appropriations and have refused all payment of federal income tax since 1980.</p> <p>Billions, perhaps trillions of dollars will be spent to send weapons, weapon systems, fighter jets, ammunition, and military support to the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, fueling new arms races and raising the profits of US weapon makers. We must choose to stand at the doors of our leaders and of anyone else who might have influence over this situation, honoring past sacrifices and the innocent lives we were unable to save even as we redouble our efforts to stop the war makers from constantly gaining the upper hand in our lives. </p> <p>We can never reverse the decisions to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we cannot prevent all of the dying that is set to come this fateful summer in the countries of the Four Famines. In her song, Sadako, long beyond saving even as she folded more paper cranes in her bed, doesn't ask us to erase her own terrible loss, but to achieve whatever change that we can, and to lose no more time in doing so:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p>"All that I need is that for peace </p><p>You fight today you fight today </p><p>So that the children of this world </p><p>Can live and grow and laugh and play."</p></blockquote> <br /><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kathy-kelly/where-to-turn">Where to Turn?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler/six-principles-of-nonviolence">Six principles of nonviolence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Kathy Kelly Transformative nonviolence Activism Mon, 31 Jul 2017 22:02:25 +0000 Kathy Kelly 112547 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Six principles of nonviolence https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-nagler/six-principles-of-nonviolence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="graf">Nonviolence can be a safe, effective and lasting way to defeat injustice, but like any other science it takes knowledge, courage and determination.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MichaelNagler4.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Oakland First Friday Protest, June 2015. Credit: Thomas Hawk, via&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/18339215399/in/photolist-UicPRp-Shh3i9-QUfsKU-UeQykN-tzg7Db-RTuKkZ-T4DEX9-Jyr6w5-HA7tBA-tWzgNX-JPrAH5-APVfr7-JELuLg-Ark7c6-uecpAp-thby26-wgYxU5-uecnqc-wVyBcm-tWseLW-zsPuBU-x381JB-tZJAJg-ue31CT-ubGzyq-KfY2MY-8J3zZH-tWrUam-tWrDUh-NNaCTd-ue2Q4g-ubGFhQ-udD5Cu-thbCvM-x1kpHA-tWzeak-ue3nrB-xQ3MHz-thbUCr-tTc6wa-utk8FB-tWrZK9-thbXHK-tWzjC4-thc3Y4-ue3yzP-udDCFN-thcb22-JV5m7G-MKi6eX" target="_blank">Flickr</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>Here are six guidelines that can help you carry out nonviolent action more safely and effectively, while drawing upon nonviolent practices from your own cultural heritage. These guidelines derive, as you’ll see, from two basic points to bear in mind:</p> <p><em>We are not against other people, only what they are doing.</em></p> <p><em>Means are ends in the making; nothing good can ultimately result from violence.</em></p> <p><strong>1. Respect everyone–including yourself.</strong></p> <p>The more we respect others, the more effectively we can persuade them to change. Never use humiliation as a tool–or accept humiliation from others, as that only degrades everyone. Remember, no one can degrade you without your permission.</p> <p>Healing relationships is the real success in nonviolence, something violence can never achieve. Even in a case of extreme violence, Gandhi felt it was possible to hate the sin, not the sinner. In 1942, when India was held down by the British and fearing a Japanese invasion, he advised his fellow compatriots:</p> <p><em>“If we were a free country, things could be done nonviolently to prevent the Japanese from entering the country. As it is, nonviolent resistance could commence the moment the Japanese affect a&nbsp;landing.”</em></p> <p>Thus, nonviolent resisters would refuse them any help, even water. For it is no part of their duty to help anyone to steal their country. But if a Japanese person had missed their way and was dying of thirst and sought help as a human being, a nonviolent resister, who may not regard anyone as his enemy, would give water to the thirsty one. Suppose the Japanese compel resisters to give them water; the resisters must die in the act of resistance.</p> <p><strong>2. Always include constructive alternatives.</strong></p> <p>Concrete action is always more powerful than mere symbolism, especially when that action creates constructive alternatives: setting up schools, forming cottage industries, establishing farming cooperatives, devising community-friendly banking. As Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”</p> <p>Gandhi initiated 18 projects that enabled Indians to take charge of their own society, making it much easier to “dismiss” British rule and lay the groundwork for their own democracy. Constructive work has many advantages:</p> <p>It enables people to break their dependency on a regime by creating their own goods and services. You cannot get rid of oppressors when you depend on them for essentials. You are not just reacting to offenses but taking charge. Being proactive helps you shed passivity, fear and helplessness.</p> <p>It gives a movement continuity, as it can continue when direct resistance is not advisable.</p> <p>Studies have shown that working together is the most effective way to unite people. It builds community and reassures the general public that your movement is not a danger to the social order.</p> <p>Most importantly, it establishes the infrastructure that will be needed when the oppressive regime falls. Many an insurrection has succeeded in dislodging a hated regime only to find a new set of oppressors rush into the vacuum.</p> <p>A good rule of thumb to follow is: be constructive wherever possible, and obstructive wherever necessary.</p> <p><strong>3. Be aware of the long&nbsp;term.</strong></p> <p>Nonviolent action always has positive results, sometimes more than we intended. When China was passing through a severe famine in the 1950s, the US branch of Fellowship of Reconciliation organized a mail-in campaign to get President Eisenhower to send surplus food to China. Some 35,000 Americans took part. Our message to the President was a simple inscription from Isaiah: “If thine enemy hunger, feed him.” It seemed as if there was no response. But 25 years later, we learned that we had averted a proposal to bomb targets in Mainland China during the Korean War! At a key meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Eisenhower announced: “Gentlemen, since 35,000 Americans want us to feed the Chinese, this is hardly the time to start bombing them.”</p> <p>Violence sometimes “works” in the sense that it forces a particular change, but in the long run, it leads to more misery and disorder. We do not have control over the results of our actions, but we can have control over the means we use, even our feelings and our states of mind. Here’s a handy formula: Violence sometimes “works” but it never works (in making things or relationships better, for example). Nonviolence sometimes “works” and always works.</p> <p>Have clear goals. Cling to essentials (like human dignity) and be clear about your principles, but be ready to change tactics or compromise on anything else. Remember, you are not in a power struggle (though the opponent may think that way): you are in a struggle for justice and human dignity. In nonviolence, you can lose all the battles but still go on to win the war!</p> <p><strong>4. Look for win-win solutions.</strong></p> <p>You are trying to rebuild relationships rather than score “victories.” In a conflict, we can feel that in order for one side to win the other must lose, which is not true. Therefore, we do not seek to be winners or rise over others; we seek to learn and make things better for all.</p> <p>During intense negotiations over the Montgomery, Alabama segregation laws, Martin Luther King, Jr., made an interesting observation that he notes in his book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. An attorney for the city bus company who had obstructed the African-American people’s demands for desegregation revealed the real source of his objection: “If we granted the Negroes these demands they would go about boasting of a victory that they had won over the white people; and this we will not stand for.”</p> <p>Reflecting on this, King advised the participants in the movement not to gloat or boast, reminding them: “Through nonviolence we avoid the temptation of taking on the psychology of victors.” The “psychology of victors” belongs to the age-old dynamic of me-against-you, but the nonviolent person sees life as a “co-evolution” toward loving community in which all can thrive. Gloating over “victories” can actually undo hard-won gains.</p> <p><strong>5. Use power carefully.</strong></p> <p>We are conditioned, especially in the West, to think that power “grows out of the barrel of a gun.” There is indeed a kind of power that comes from threats and brute force–but it is powerless if we refuse to comply with it.</p> <p>There is another kind of power that comes from truth. Let us say that you have been petitioning to eliminate an injustice. Perhaps you have made your feelings known in polite but firm protest actions, yet the other party is not responding. Then you must, as Gandhi said, “not only speak to the head but move the heart also.” We can make the injustice clear by taking upon ourselves the suffering inherent in the unjust system. This allows us to mobilize Satyagraha, or “truth force.” In extreme cases, we may need to do it at the risk of our own lives, which is why it is good to be very clear about our goals. Do this with care.</p> <p>History, and often our own experience, has shown that even bitter hostilities can melt with this kind of persuasion that seeks to open the eyes of the opponent, whom we do not coerce. Nonetheless, there are times when we must use forms of coercion. For example, when a dictator refuses to step down, we have to act immediately to end the vast amounts of human suffering caused by that person misusing power. Still, it requires strategic thinking and nonviolent care to do it right. But when time does allow, we use the power of patience and persuasion, of enduring rather than inflicting suffering. The changes brought about by persuasion are lasting: one who is persuaded stays persuaded, while someone who is coerced will be just waiting for a chance for revenge.</p> <p><strong>6. Claim our&nbsp;legacy.</strong></p> <p>Nonviolence no longer needs to take place in a vacuum. Always note that if you are using nonviolence with courage, determination and a clear strategy, you will more than likely succeed: win or lose, you will be playing your part in a great transformation of human relationships that our future depends on.</p> <p>These six principles are founded on a belief that all life is an interconnected whole and that when we understand our real needs, we are not in competition with anyone. As Martin Luther King said, “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://nonviolencemag.org/six-principles-of-nonviolence-be7f7a48cfac">Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/travis-mellott/after-fight-skinhead-s-journey-towards-nonviolence">After the fight: a skinhead’s journey towards nonviolence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-n-nagler/love-at-barrel-of-gun">Love at the barrel of a gun</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-nagler-karen-ridd/humor-but-not-humiliation-finding-sweet-spot-in-nonviolent-">Humor but not humiliation: finding the sweet spot in nonviolent conflict resolution</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Nonviolence Magazine Michael Nagler Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 27 Jul 2017 22:40:26 +0000 Michael Nagler 111733 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Slow science, slow food, slow down https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/francisco-ramos-stierle/slow-science-slow-food-slow-down <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When we rush, we make decisions that lack information, lack proper reflection, and ultimately make the problems of humanity worse.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Pancho.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/44313045@N08/6107803467">Flickr/Innovate Impact Media</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <blockquote><p>“Where ignorance is your master,&nbsp;there is no possibility of peace.” The XIV Dalai Lama.</p></blockquote> <p>The scientific contributions of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein">Albert Einstein</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman">Richard Feynman</a> were fundamental for the construction of the atomic bomb. Today, their reflections on the subject are also fundamental for the survival and evolution of our species. Conversations with both scientists after the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_Project">Manhattan Project</a> indicate that each felt remorse for their involvement. They wished they had thought through their direct and indirect involvement more thoroughly, and said that if they had known what their work would lead to they might have acted differently.</p> <p>These quotes from Einstein are glimpses of his perspective:</p> <blockquote><p>“I made one great mistake in my life—when I signed the letter to President [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made.&nbsp;Had I known that Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I never would have lifted a finger.&nbsp;The unleashing of the power of the atom bomb has changed everything except our mode of thinking…Science has brought forth this danger, but the real problem is in the minds and hearts of men. We scientists must consider it our solemn and transcendent duty to do all in our power to prevent these weapons from being used for the brutal purpose for which they were invented.&nbsp;<em>Non cooperation</em> in military matters should be an essential moral principle for all true scientists.”&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>Feynman joined the Manhattan Project as an enthusiastic and energetic 24 year-old. Later in his life—after recovering from a severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—he said this:</p> <blockquote><p>“One should reconsider perpetually one’s reasons for doing something, because it may be that the circumstances have changed… I don’t guarantee you as to what conclusion I would have come to if I had thought about it, but nevertheless the fact that I did not think about it was, of course, wrong.”&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>What I hear when I translate the language of these two geniuses into my perspective is this: we were going too fast. We are still going too fast. When we rush, we make decisions that lack information, lack proper reflection, and ultimately make the problems of humanity worse. </p> <p>Now is the time to slow down, to take a pause, to rethink the purpose of science and education and to cultivate our critical thinking—and our critical feeling. It is time to combine science with the soul: science as the sustainable, collective and critical development of knowledge; soul as the individual and collective capacity to make wise use of that knowledge; ultimately, the ability to rejoice in the welfare of all living beings. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Russell">Bertrand Russell</a> echoed this postulation when he wrote:&nbsp;“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.”&nbsp;</p> <p>As a scientist, I am not against science. I am against the unethical applications of science. I represent a new generation that rescues the best of previous generations. Formed by millions of citizens of the World, this generation wants to be part of the mass that weighs on the positive side of the balance of the survival of our species. It’s a generation that cares about our planet; a generation that cares about the future of humankind; a generation that sees the big picture and the interconnectedness of our magnificent cultural and biological diversity.</p> <p>We, the new generation, believe that the purpose of education is to help students to become more fully developed human beings, to help students discover meaning and passion in life, to develop critical minds and sensitive hearts, and to become knowledgeable about the peoples, inherited wisdoms, and subject matters that will help them find their path in the creation of a more peaceful, just, sustainable, and diverse World.</p> <p>For us then, universities must be not centers of military recruitment or corporate indoctrination, or obedience to totalitarianism and support of the (dis)order of the non-egalitarian status quo, but they must be epicenters of critical thinking, inspiration, creativity, imagination, justice, freedom and true democracy. </p> <p>The support of the development of weapons is an example of the contradiction between the purpose of education and the decisions made by some of the regents of the <a href="https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/">University of California</a> (UC) in the history of this institution: since the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Alamos_National_Laboratory">Los Alamos Laboratory</a> opened its doors in 1943, every single nuclear weapon built for the United States arsenal was designed at a UC managed weapons laboratory.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A nonviolent generation with many perspectives.</strong></p> <p>Paraphrasing <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi">Gandhi,</a> to overcome the greatest destructive weapon humans have invented one needs the greatest power humankind has been endowed with:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mettacenter.org/definitions/nonviolence" target="_blank"><em>nonviolence</em></a>.&nbsp;Just as peace is more than the absence of war, nonviolence is more than the absence of violence. It is not simply the negation to cause harm, but it is something infinitely more: it is when one’s heart is so full of love, so full of courage, forgiveness, generosity, kindness and compassion, that there is no room for hatred, resentment and violence. It is not a double negative but a superlative positive. </p> <p>Nonviolence is a call to disobey inhumane laws and treaties; it is a call to obey the law of love; it is a call to not control anger but to express it under discipline for maximum effects; it is a positive force; it is a way of life: the thoughts we have, the things we say, the food we eat, the cloths we wear, the things we do. The members of this new generation are pragmatic idealists who try to “walk their talk.” Their means are their ends. They are trying to embody what Martin Luther King Jr. called “love in action.”&nbsp;</p> <p>This young generation is formed by conservatives, liberals, moderates, anarchists, religious and secular people. We all are catalysts who honor all perspectives to be closer to the truth. I am a progressive, a conservative, a liberal, an anarchist, in short: a&nbsp;<em>perspectivist</em>. In other words, our generation is formed by citizens of the world who promote dialogue, tolerance and rooted values. In most respects, I continue to align with what I grew up believing to be conservative values. Yet I find I have nothing in common with extremists of the far right who advance an agenda of class warfare, fiscal irresponsibility, government intrusions on personal liberty, and reckless international military adventurism as conservative causes.</p> <p>At the same time, I have nothing to approve of in extremists of the far left who advocate violence and a new way of totalitarianism which keeps attacking the human spirit. At the same time too, I’m not an anarchist as defined in the encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. written by the hierarchies and their corporate media, I’m engaged and in love with the voluptuous authority of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mettacenter.org/definitions/collective-intelligence" target="_blank">collective intelligence</a>; with her hugs of education, respect and peace; and with her kisses of justice, true democracy and freedom.</p> <p>To be consistent with this new generation, one of my contributions is that I did not want to receive a title from an irresponsible institution that is putting at risk the survival of our species. Hence, this semester, after almost four years of interacting with the amazing and beautiful people of the Astronomy department as a graduate student and instructor—after seven years of following the fascinating path of&nbsp;<a href="https://earthlingopinion.wordpress.com/2007/08/20/astrobiology-red-stars-and-the-new-renaissance-of-humanity/">Astrobiology</a>—I withdrew from the University of California at Berkeley and will have nothing to do with that institution until it stops being involved in the research, production and manufacture of nuclear weapons.</p> <p>In evolutionary time scales, I believe that violence and science are mutually exclusive; the two cannot coexist in the long run. Vinoba Bhave was quite aware of this:&nbsp;“Violence must be done away with if science is to survive," he wrote, "If both are sought to be retained, mankind, along with its science also, would be destroyed.”&nbsp;This disastrous combination inhibits the development of critical inquiry, he explains, because “our thinking becomes narrow and circumscribed if we are associated with any organization which will not be fully conductive for the quest of nonviolence.”&nbsp;</p> <p>If we want to stop the proliferation of atomic bombs, it would be a good idea to stop producing them ourselves. If the government of the United States justifies nuclear weapons for its national security, why wouldn’t other countries construct atomic bombs for their own national security? This is not about “national security” but&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mettacenter.org/definitions/total-security" target="_blank">Global Security, Human Security</a>—reconciliation and mutual respect between the peoples of the Earth is what really makes for peace and security in the long run, each country can be secure only when all are secure: the Earth is but one country and all living beings her citizens.</p> <p>The political and intellectual prestige of the UC can be used not for justifying annihilatory purposes but for creating an artistic-scientific-spiritual-rational and humanitarian society. Just because we are students studying art, economics, engineering, peace and conflict studies, landscape architecture or astrophysics that doesn’t mean that we have to be part of an institution that develops new “safer weapons of mass destruction”. What if, rooted in the purpose of education as true seekers, the citizens of the World decide to&nbsp;<em>noncooperate</em>, according to their capabilities, with the UC until this institution stops being involved in the research, production and manufacture of nuclear weapons?</p> <p>But this is not just about finding ways to abolish nuclear weapons and move on from this survival crisis. We are missing a great opportunity to convert swords into plowshares. We must divert their purpose into something constructive for humanity. What about protecting us from the impact of a large asteroid or comet to avoid a mass extinction of life on the Planet? We might be able to use nuclear explosives for a near asteroid burst to ablate surface material and nudge the body to a safer orbit, or a direct sub-surface burst to fragment the body.</p> <p>That’s the difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing.</p> <p>As a starting point we can slow down, pause, rethink and heal from the cancer of violence which starts to disappear from our minds.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.easwaran.org/" target="_blank">Eknath Easwaran</a>, a disciple of Gandhi who brought many of his teachings to the West, said:<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <blockquote><p>“It is essential not to confuse slowness with sloth, which breeds procrastination and general inefficiency. In slowing down, we attend meticulously to details, giving the very best we are capable of even to the smallest undertaking.”</p></blockquote><p>That is exactly what we need to do.</p> <p><em>A longer version of this article was published on&nbsp;<a href="https://earthlingopinion.wordpress.com/">Earthling Opinion</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kelly-teamey-udi-mandel/are-eco-versities-future-for-higher-education">Are eco-versities the future for higher education?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/mathew-guest/can-universities-still-provide-transformative-experience">Can universities still provide a transformative experience?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kelly-teamey-udi-mandel/reimagining-higher-education">Re-imagining higher education </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Francisco Ramos-Stierle Transformative nonviolence Activism Love and Spirituality Fri, 14 Jul 2017 06:30:00 +0000 Francisco Ramos-Stierle 112234 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Tearing down the walls that keep us from finding common ground https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/joann-mcallister/tearing-down-walls-that-keep-us-from-finding-common-ground <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Faced by increasing divisions we should be echoing an earlier call to action—“Tear this wall down.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published in&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/still-doing-democracy-walls-values/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JoAnnMcAllister.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/dannybirchall/446292237/">Flickr/Danny Birchall</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>The current occupant of the White House wants to build a “real,” “big,” “serious” wall. To avoid a government shutdown, the administration wavered on the timing of funding. But that does not mean a wall, or walls, will not be built. Walls are material structures, and—maybe more importantly—they are metaphors. They promote ideas like possession, property and separation, as well as mine, yours, who belongs, and who doesn’t belong. They create emotional responses: safety, trust, envy, frustration, fear, anger, dread, hostility.</p> <p>The wall on the border between the United States and Mexico is both material and metaphorical. If you have not looked at pictures of the walls, fences, or barriers already installed on some 650 miles of the 2,000-mile border,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.foxnews.com/us/slideshow/2017/02/02/in-pictures-u-s-mexico-border-as-it-stands-now.html#/slide/an-excavator-removes-a-fence-to-be-replaced-by-a-section-of-the-border-wall-at-sunland-park--u-s---opposite-ciudad-juarez--mexico">you should do so right now</a>. Considerable damage to the environment, the economies of border communities, and individual human lives has already been accomplished by the militarization of the border.</p> <p>In 1961, the Berlin Wall appeared almost overnight. It was physical and metaphorical, carrying a weighty ideological message to Western “fascists,” who, according to the U.S.S.R. were trying to destroy the socialist state. From the West’s perspective, the purpose of the wall was to deny people access to the West and, importantly, to its message of freedom. All walls carry multiple messages depending on your point of view.</p> <p>The wall on the border with Mexico has different meanings depending on which side of the physical and metaphorical wall you are on. Attorney Gen.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/mexico-border-sessions-says-trump-era-will-rid-u-s-n745336">Jeff Sessions has different ideas about the wall</a>&nbsp;and the people it prevents from entering the United States than do the ranchers and farmers whose land is often divided by a river that does not respect human boundaries.</p> <p>While construction may be impeded, the idea still exists. It exists as part of an “unconscious system of metaphorical thought,” according to Tom Vanderbilt, in a November&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;essay about the insidious power of ideas. As a metaphor, the idea of a “wall” is the centerpiece of the new administration’s approach not just to the border, but also to the rest of the world. More barriers along the border could have&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/trumps-wall-could-cause-serious-environmental-damage/">dire environmental consequences</a>&nbsp;for specific species and the biodiversity of the region. As an environmentalist, I am horrified at this scenario and, yet, I believe that the idea of the wall is as pernicious a consequence of the election as these material impacts.</p> <p>Everyone is building walls. In Eastern Europe and the Middle East, walls are being built at an exceedingly rapid pace. Vanderbilt cites geographer Elisabeth Vallet’s survey of the 50 actual walls that currently exist, 15 of which were built in the last few years. They are a response to the crisis of immigrant and refugee migration and reflect, as well, the different belief systems—religious and political—that fuel various regional conflicts. </p> <p>A similar surge of nationalist ideology is evident in the United States, too, as “build that wall” became a rallying cry among Donald Trump’s supporters. Those who approve of both kinds of walls exhibit fear and racism. Others believe the myths about job loss or the illusion of physical walls as a solution to a variety of social problems. Nationalism, sometimes labeled populism, has always bubbled under the surface of political discourse in the West, and such rhetoric now has “legs.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, people who oppose the wall and the immigration policies it represents have also built walls. Articles in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/11/there_is_no_such_thing_as_a_good_trump_voter.html"><em>Slate</em></a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-vote-for-trump-was-a-hate-crime_us_58249871e4b0edfa1393613a"><em>Huffington Post</em></a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/trump-voters-explain-themselves-1790711999">elsewhere</a>&nbsp;all carried unforgiving tirades against people who voted for Trump after November 8. This divisive landscape and tendency to build walls represents a crisis for social change activists in engaging a majority of the people to support movements for change.</p> <p>In the 2001 book “Doing Democracy: The MAP Model of Organizing Social Movements,” veteran social movement activist and trainer&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/surviving-ups-downs-social-movements/">Bill Moyer</a>&nbsp;wrote that, “the central task of social movements is to win the hearts, minds and support of the majority of the populace.” After 40-plus years of participating in, planning, training, and analyzing social change and the role of social movements, he stressed the important role of ordinary citizens in successful movements for change.</p> <p>Moyer believed that people would respond to violations of “their deepest values” and that social movements were, in fact, a primary way for people to “challenge unjust social conditions and policies.” As the editor and a co-author of “Doing Democracy,” I too believe that values are at the core of social movements. That is why our political and cultural polarization — that is, the “metaphorical walls”—concerns me and raises questions like: What are these “deepest values?” How do they relate to our “democratic values?” And how many of us share them?</p> <p>If social movements are to continue to be a “means for ordinary people to act on their deepest values,” as Moyer thought they did, then we need to ask questions about our current culture and the dynamics that are creating more walls than ever before. Are there, in fact, universal values that are widely held today? Numerous authors and many activist groups still cite the Movement Action Plan, or MAP, as a model in understanding the typical stages of social movements on the road to success, the strategies and tactics useful along the way, and the roles that individuals and organizations play in accomplishing movement goals.</p> <p>Since we completed “Doing Democracy,” I have not encountered any references to the last chapter, titled “Toward the Future.” That chapter encapsulates discussions that Moyer had with many people over the years, and with me during the last several years of his life, about the underlying philosophy of our beliefs and values and knowledge emerging from psychological and sociological research about how we change beliefs and behaviors.</p> <p>Moyer’s analysis of the need for personal and cultural transformation, including the transformation of movement cultures, has not engaged people as much as the “<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/revolution-comes-stages-occupy-otherwise/">Eight Stages of Social Movements</a>” and “<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/bill-moyer-four-roles-of-social-change/">Four Roles of Social Activism</a>”—reflecting, perhaps, an emphasis on strategy and tactics instead of the more personal challenges of being effective change agents by grappling with the philosophical and psychological aspects of social change.</p> <p>Some will say these considerations sound too individualistic or academic and ask why they are important given the absolutely frightening challenges we face today. In response to this challenge, my colleague Jim Smith and I wrote the forthcoming book “<a href="http://www.stilldoingdemocracy.com/">Still Doing Democracy! Finding Common Ground and Acting for the Common Good</a>.” In it, we focus on questions about values, about understanding different beliefs and about how we negotiate the boundaries that different perceptions of the world create so that we can build broader coalitions to support progressive change.</p> <p>We are once again in an era of large demonstrations that engage the public’s attention. This is good. Some of these events may help groups gain traction in establishing a campaign and building the next movement moment. As longtime organizer and&nbsp;<em>Waging Nonviolence</em>&nbsp;columnist&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/election-campaigns-one-off-protests/">George Lakey has pointed out</a>, protests do not a social movement make. I contend that after the “trigger” events, after the mass demonstrations, and after the first flush of success, such groups will persist in the long struggle to facilitate change only if they are able to engage the “hearts, minds, and support of the majority of the populace.” That is, only if they are able to have a conversation about values and how current conditions violate widely held values.</p> <p>This conversation needs to take place with those with whom you marched, with those who did not march, with those who did not vote (over 42 percent of eligible voters), with those who do not participate in civic life at all, and even with those who voted for the other candidate.</p> <p>Despite the elation over mass turnouts at recent protests, beginning with the Women’s March, I fear that too little attention is being paid to the more nuanced and disciplined work of listening and learning that’s required to “win the hearts, minds, and support of a majority of the populace.” Unless we are determined to have real conversations—where we are not talking past each other because we are speaking a different language, while using the same words—I believe we will fail.</p> <p>“Still Doing Democracy!” takes the question of having authentic conversations seriously. Partisans on either side of the progressive/conservative wall use the same language in talking about democratic values. For example, “freedom” is a commonly expressed value that has widely divergent meanings depending on which side of the wall you are on. On one side, being free means to be able to choose to buy or not buy healthcare. On the other side, it means having access to healthcare that you can actually afford to buy. This is not a conversation; there is no common ground here. There is certainly not a shared belief in healthcare as a human right. The belief system and value differences are not only external to the progressive movement world.</p> <p>Jonathan Matthew Smucker’s analysis of Occupy Wall Street in “Hegemony, How-to: A Roadmap for Radicals,” shows how movement groups create walls that keep them from collaborating with natural allies. I look at the signs at the various marches since January and see a plethora of issues and value statements. But what do these value statements mean? Do people mean the same thing by the words “freedom,” “justice” or “fairness?” </p> <p>Do the people standing next to each other at demonstrations share the vision in “Doing Democracy” of a “civil society in a safe, just and sustainable world?” What kinds of personal and cultural characteristics would describe such a world? These are the questions we need to consider in our groups and in our efforts to engage the “majority of the populace.”</p> <p>The building blocks of metaphorical walls are the ideas and beliefs that reinforce them. They can be as impenetrable as brick and mortar. Thinking and feeling our way around—through, or over walls—is not always easy, but it is necessary to contribute to real change in a world characterized by diversity of beliefs, perspectives and life experiences.</p> <p>My approach comes out of a tradition that approaches social problems by asking epistemological questions and analyzes issues through the lens of critical theory. No one needs a degree in philosophy to use these tools—they are everyday skills. Whenever you ask someone where they got a certain idea from, you are asking an epistemological question. What is the source of the information? Is it from the news, their family or the Bible? How firmly do they hold it? Is it an opinion, a belief or, perhaps, “the truth”? </p> <p>As you listen, and this is key, you will learn whether you can have a real conversation. Of course, you must be willing to be similarly transparent, and we must each ask ourselves the same questions. Where do my ideas and beliefs come from? Are they tentative frameworks for making sense of the world, or are they my version of the “truth”?</p> <p>When you look at social problems through the lens of critical theory you are also asking questions about beliefs. A basic question must be: “Are the people benefitting from this situation, or is some power holder making out like a bandit?” This is the beginning of strategic issue analysis, and it too must include close scrutiny of the stories that substantiate the walls of political belief systems. Our approach brings new insights to the analysis of issues in a social, political and cultural environment that is clearly more complex and fragmented than ever before.</p> <p>In&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/preparing-next-movement-moment-smucker-hegemony/">Lakey’s review of Smucker’s book</a>, he suggests that we have, perhaps, not been bold enough in promoting movement values as the new standard worldview. I suggest that we need to engage in an ongoing conversation about values because we live in a world that has significantly changed since the 1960s, when many of these commitments were first framed as “universal values.”</p> <p>We hope “Still Doing Democracy!” will promote these conversations by helping engaged citizens develop an appreciation of different, disparate, competing or conflicting beliefs and learn how to overcome the barriers they create. We need to add these tools to our list of strategies at every stage and as skills to develop in whatever role we are playing. We must not build new walls. Instead, we should be echoing an earlier call, “Tear this wall down.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Five ways to build solidarity across our differences</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">Scorn wars: rural white people and us</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/reaching-trump-supporters-with-promise-of-vision">Reaching Trump supporters with the promise of vision</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation JoAnn McAllister Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 07 Jul 2017 00:08:59 +0000 JoAnn McAllister 111136 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sustaining peace https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/phil-vernon/sustaining-peace <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Half of all peace deals fail within five years. This is how you make them work.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Phil Vernon.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos gives ex-U.S. President Barack Obama a copy of the Colombian peace agreement, September 21, 2016.&nbsp;Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/agenciaandes_ec/29227601724">Flickr/Agencia de Noticias Andes</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>Violent conflict is on the rise. According to the <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/indexes/global-peace-index/">Global Peace Index 2017</a> published last month, the last decade has seen the highest decline in world peace since the Cold War. The <a href="http://ida.worldbank.org/theme/conflict-and-fragility">World Bank</a> has also noted that two billion people live in ‘fragile states.’ That’s more than a fifth of the world’s population.</p> <p>By contrast, only one comprehensive, major peace agreement was <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/colombian-congress-approves-historic-peace-deal/2016/11/30/9b2fda92-b5a7-11e6-939c-91749443c5e5_story.html">signed</a> in 2016, between the Colombian government and FARC rebels. This was an inspiring example of diplomacy, compromise and determination in action, but less than a year later, some commentators are already <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/03/02/a-worrisome-number-for-colombias-peace-prospects/">casting</a> doubt on whether the deal has sufficient support in Colombia to survive.</p> <p>Sadly, history shows that half of all peace agreements <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/assets/file/Resources/NGO/pp_womeninmediationrecommendations_iis_2011.pdf">collapse</a> very quickly, roughly within five years of signing. Why is this, and how can countries like Colombia avoid the same fate?</p> <p>The problem with many peace deals is that they seldom if ever address the underlying causes of the conflict. In reality, every peace agreement is no more than a ceasefire, designed to stop the fighting <em>for now</em>. Important though such agreements are, what really matters is what happens afterwards.</p> <p>After a lid has been put on the fighting, peace needs to be carefully nurtured and encouraged to evolve in subsequent years to deal with the issues that caused the conflict in the first place—such &nbsp;as inequality, poverty and historical grievances—and &nbsp;slowly building trust between the different sides. But the mechanisms and support required to do this are often lacking, especially on the most sensitive and hardest issues—the ‘higher hanging fruit.’</p> <p>Peace deals also often result from external pressures rather than from a genuine coming together of opponents whose own analysis tells them that now is the time to seek a non-military solution. Such externally brokered peace deals can be particularly tenuous. </p> <p>A big risk to peace also comes from third-party ‘spoilers’—leaders or parties who feel that the emerging peace threatens their interests or excludes them. Meanwhile, geopolitical factors such as changes in policy by major players like the USA can shift the circumstances and render the agreement no longer valid. </p> <p>Current <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/sir-john-major-warns-tory-dup-deal-could-undermine-fragile-northern/">discussions</a> around whether the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement will be undermined by Brexit or the recent UK general election is one example of how susceptible peace can be to apparently unconnected events. The peace that was brought by the 1998 <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/events/good_friday_agreement">Good Friday Agreement</a> is now widely accepted, but as the Irish scholar Eunan O’Halpin has <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/brexit-is-roiling-irish-politics-and-summoning-recollections-of-not-so-distant-troubles/2016/08/08/f31e9d72-5375-11e6-b652-315ae5d4d4dd_story.html">said</a>, there are still unresolved tensions and bitterness.</p> <p>This is why peace deals must, first and foremost, be won and sustained locally. </p> <p>Among countries where agreements did <em>not</em> hold is <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/08/south-sudan-worse-160826191344694.html">South Sudan</a>, where dissatisfaction among elites over access to political and economic power led to the resurgence of rivalries and violence soon after the country’s independence in 2011. </p> <p>And in Rwanda, spoilers played a part when some Hutu leaders rejected the <a href="https://peaceaccords.nd.edu/accord/arusha-peace-and-reconciliation-agreement-burundi">Arusha Peace Accords</a> in 1994, less than two years after signing, fearing that returning Tutsi rebels would have too much power, and contributing to the genocide that killed hundreds of thousands of people in less than three months.</p> <p>In all of these cases, the peace agreement did not resolve the underlying political and economic grievances that pre-dated it, resulting in renewed violence. What could have been done differently? Agreements that have stood the test of time thus far include <a href="https://www.usip.org/publications/1993/09/south-africa-national-peace-accord-and-international-community">South Africa’s National Peace Accord</a> (NPA) of 1991, which supported the peaceful transition from apartheid rule and brought an end to the long-term conflict between the ANC and the state. </p> <p>While not perfect, this process created structures that helped to contain violence, address injustices and create mechanisms for peace, including local conflict monitoring and mediation. This was partly achieved by establishing local and regional peace committees, which brought together religious and political leaders, business people, security forces, and others. And, while encouraged by outsiders, the accord was the result of political calculations made by the South African parties themselves.</p> <p>Stronger peace deals like this one are developed over a period of years. They are hard to achieve, and usually have mechanisms&nbsp;built in to monitor the peace by interested international parties, helping to ensure that the process delivers real peace dividends and continues to evolve. </p> <p>Examples include Nepal, which last year celebrated a decade since the signing of the <a href="http://peacemaker.un.org/nepal-comprehensiveagreement2006">Comprehensive Peace Agreement</a>. It has taken a long time and much discussion to deliver key elements of this agreement, particularly the much disputed new constitution that sets out a new, federal state. Much remains to be done, but so far the fact that the process has not been rushed is probably an advantage.</p> <p>Or take Lebanon, where the <a href="http://peacemaker.un.org/lebanon-taifaccords89">Taif Agreement</a> ending the long-lasting sectarian conflict was signed in 1989 and has held ever since. A crucial element in this case was the inclusion of a mechanism&nbsp;to ensure that all sectarian groups are represented in governance—essentially reserving parliamentary seats and ministerial positions for particular groups. </p> <p>Nevertheless, no peace agreement is foolproof, and the Lebanese and Nepalese still have to manage their peace every day. In Nepal, the complex new constitution is yet to be fully implemented. And in Lebanon, the political system will no doubt need to evolve to be able to deal with new tensions and realities such as changes in demography and regional conflict dynamics—for example, the refugee crisis emerging from the war in neighbouring Syria, which is putting pressures on the Lebanese population and public services.</p> <p>The contexts vary, but the need to continue the work of peacebuilding after a deal is signed is universal.</p> <p>In Colombia today, the challenge is to ensure that every party fulfils their commitments and that <em>all</em> Colombians see advantages in the peace process, and get behind it. For a peace deal to last, it must be achieved and maintained by people right across society. These efforts must continue long after the ink on a peace agreement has dried.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/stephanie-van-hook/transforming-anger-into-nonviolent-power">Transforming anger into nonviolent power</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/phil-vernon/development-is-history-looking-forwards">Development is history looking forwards</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/charlotte-onslow/art-of-peacebuilding">The art of peace-building</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Peacebuilding Phil Vernon Transformative nonviolence Care Wed, 05 Jul 2017 00:14:05 +0000 Phil Vernon 111725 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The subversive power of joy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/janey-stephenson/subversive-power-of-joy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">The unexpected, spontaneous and pleasantly disruptive nature of collective celebration is one of the great equalisers of social and political struggle.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JaneyStephenson3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/sistersuncut/photos/a.1814453402116856.1073741847.1589626181266247/1814453455450184/?type=3&amp;theater">Sisters Uncut/Jade Jackman</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="normal">When you hear the words ‘anti fascist rally,’ what do you visualize? An angry crowd with placards, old hippies holding banners with clichés about love, or maybe those rowdy anarchists in black balaclavas?</p> <p class="normal">What about young women and non-binary people gleefully dancing to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grime_(music_genre)">grime music</a> that’s blasting out of portable speakers? Well, that’s precisely what a <a href="http://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/35827/1/nadia-roses-skwod-used-to-ward-off-fascists-in-croydon">recent anti-fascist rally in south London looked like</a>. It’s a perfect example of how collective joy can become powerfully subversive.</p> <p class="normal">When the far-right “pro-British” <a href="https://southeastalliance.tumblr.com/">South East </a><a href="https://southeastalliance.tumblr.com/">Alliance</a> came to Croydon in south London to hold an “anti-immigrant, anti-Islam” rally, they were interrupted with an unexpected weapon: joy. A big crowd of young activists, predominantly from direct action groups like <a href="http://www.sistersuncut.org/">Sisters Uncut</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/BLMUK/">Black Lives </a><a href="https://www.facebook.com/BLMUK/">Matter</a><a href="https://www.facebook.com/BLMUK/"> UK</a>, <a href="http://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/35827/1/nadia-roses-skwod-used-to-ward-off-fascists-in-croydon">danced joyfully right in front of them, guarded by a line of police. </a>It might seem like an unexpected tactic, but logically it makes perfect sense, both to the individuals involved and to the political goals of these groups.</p> <p class="normal">Where fascism aims to instill fear, joy is the perfect resistance. To laugh in the face of fear is possibly the bravest act, which is why <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/ikrd/people-are-loving-this-photo-of-a-badass-woman-laughing-at?utm_term=.hylmPLReL#.ho8Dbez6e">Saffiyah Khan</a> became an instant hero in the UK when she smiled at fascist thugs from the far-right, racist movement <a href="http://www.englishdefenceleague.org/">English Defence League</a>—who began harassing Muslim women in her hometown. Two core tenets of fascism are fierce racism and rampant sexism, and with that in mind, anti-fascist resistance doesn’t get more powerful than women and non-binary people of colour collectively, loudly and happily dancing together in the streets.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Dance as protest.</strong></p> <p class="normal">Dance as protest is not unique to Croydon. In April, LGBTQ activists in the USA held a <a href="http://time.com/4639152/mike-pence-queer-dance-party/">“queer dance party” </a>outside Vice President Mike Pence’s home to protest his homophobic policy positions. The global One Billion Rising movement, which aims to end violence against women, is centred on <a href="http://www.onebillionrising.org/about/dance/">women dancing together</a> on the same day in countries throughout the world. Sisters Uncut are renowned for collective dancing at their demonstrations against cuts to domestic violence services proposed or enacted by the UK government.</p> <p class="normal">Their <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10154267287686939/">spontaneous, collective dancing</a>&nbsp; is described by activist Sur Este as “a fuck you to the powers that be.” She says that dance is both a way to reclaim public space and a way to let go: “When I dance surrounded by cops, or fascists, or when I am trying to make a point about something horrible that is happening, I feel powerful...We are still here and we are still dancing.”</p> <p class="normal">Naatasha Mumbi, who also attended the Croydon protest, recalls the inspirational <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzOXGyKiBYA">student protests that took place in South Africa</a> in 2016 as part of the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement:</p> <blockquote><p class="normal">“The front lines were bringing full-on coordinated dance moves, and what a disarming and radical act it was in the face of state violence. It made my heart pound. Facing up to fascists with the full force of bangin’ grime beats, and putting our bodies on the line together in rhythm, is how I channeled what I saw from South African protests.”</p></blockquote> <p class="normal">Liberation movements have a long history of communal dance. The writer Barbara Ehrenreich has documented the history of collective joy in her book “<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Dancing-Streets-History-Collective-Joy/dp/0805057242">Dancing In The Streets</a>.”&nbsp; She argues that collective and ecstatic dancing is a nearly universal “biotechnology” for binding groups together. Physical movement—a powerful escalation of typical protest chanting—not only releases emotion, it also creates bonding, trust and equality, dissolving hierarchy and increasing a sense of community.</p> <p class="normal">What’s more, it’s actually essential to our survival. Our species, <em>homo sapiens</em>, has outlived all other human species because of our ability to co-ordinate with others in groups. Historically, groups who could hold themselves together through dance and other methods would have enjoyed an advantage over more weakly-bonded groups.</p> <p class="normal">In his book “<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Righteous-Mind-Divided-Politics-Religion/dp/0307455777/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1497530899&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=righteous+mind">The Righteous Mind</a>,” social psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes the innate craving that people have to belong to a greater whole; to “transcend self-interest and lose ourselves (temporarily and ecstatically) in something larger than ourselves.” Haidt calls the ability to do this the “hive switch,” which makes groups more cohesive and more successful in relation to others.</p> <p class="normal">This switch can be activated at football matches and raves, through the use of hallucinogens like LSD, and even in choral singing or military drills. It has its roots in biology, since all of these activities release the “hug hormone” <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin">oxytocin</a> which promotes social bonding. On an undeniably physical level, collective dancing has the power to generate a deep sense of elation, but at what point does collective joy become subversive?</p> <p class="normal"><strong>When pleasure becomes subversion.</strong></p> <p class="normal">Within the context of capitalism, collective joy through dancing and other forms of expression is already subversive. Back in 1905, the German sociologist Max Weber warned of an “unprecedented inner loneliness of the single individual” that accompanied the “spirit” of modern capitalism. In a capitalist society founded on competition, privatisation and small family units, collective joy—as opposed to individual happiness—signals both personal resilience and political rebellion. The very act of relishing in a shared connection is a triumph in a society that seeks to divide us.</p> <p class="normal">The subversive power of collective joy is maximised when it occurs in public, politicised spaces as an affirmation of collective identity. Joy can score cultural and political goals in the name of liberation because it simultaneously serves an individual and a broader, political purpose. Many group activities are carried out in the pursuit of hedonist escapism, or in order to forget ourselves. However, when collective joy erupts in pursuit of defiantly reinforcing your very existence—especially in the face of those who seek to erase you—it&nbsp; has the power to subvert authority and release suppressed rage whilst connecting us to each other, and reinforcing a sense of group safety.</p> <p class="normal">There’s no better example of this process in action than <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HApM4WeiXI4">Dabke dancing</a>. Dabke is the traditional folkloric dance of Palestine, supposedly originating as a fertility rite where people stamped their feet on the ground. It is most commonly danced at wedding celebrations, but it can also be found in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIkj-WOJ_eU">flash mobs</a> on the streets of Gaza, as well as in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-1c9xN8BBU">BDS protests</a> in New York.</p> <p class="normal">Saeed Suliman, a Dabke teacher from the West Bank, told me that Dabke dancing is an “important weapon in the cultural resistance of Palestinians.” He continued:</p> <blockquote><p class="normal">“After the Zionists stole our land and named it Israel, our national identity was no longer recognised. We only had Palestinian culture to identify ourselves by, and Dabke dancing shows our roots to the land that has been stolen from us. Dabke is a way to fight against our extermination by reinforcing our identity, energy and pride as a people.”</p></blockquote> <p class="normal"><strong>Our next steps.</strong></p> <p class="normal">Right now we face a hostile world order that’s rapidly shifting to the right. The UK and the USA, supposedly bastions of democracy, both have leaders who ran for election with pledges <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/06/theresa-may-will-not-let-human-rights-act-stop-bringing-new/">to remove human rights and</a> <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/26/donald-trump-denies-backing-mexico-border-wall-left-spending/">build walls</a>; and who <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/trump-immigration-arrests-increase-rise-illegal-undocumented-ice-agents-a7741711.html">aggressively scapegoat migrants</a> and <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/23/operation-temperer-theresa-may-becomes-first-pm-deploy-5000/">valorize the military</a>. Bearing in mind the <a href="https://ratical.org/ratville/CAH/fasci14chars.html">14 characteristics of fascism</a> established by political scientist Lawrence Britt, these measures signal that there are even bigger battles to come.</p> <p class="normal">But the fight-back need not be joyless. Holding onto and centring joy is a vital tactic for personal and group resilience, as well as political resistance to an agenda that seeks to enforce hierarchy and division through mass fear. Authoritarianism is directly incompatible with collective joy; it demands fear, obedience, hierarchy and an obsession with security and preparation for war. The unexpected, spontaneous and pleasantly disruptive nature of collective joy takes people off guard and is one of the great equalisers of social and political struggle.</p> <p class="normal">“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution” as Emma Goldman, the Russian feminist anarchist, <a href="http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/goldman/Features/danceswithfeminists.html">once famously </a><a href="http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/goldman/Features/danceswithfeminists.html">said</a>. We’d do well to take her words literally. Movement builds movements.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/janey-stephenson/when-resting-is-resistance">When resting is resistance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/veena-vasista/wise-fools-for-love-arts-activism-and-social-transformation">Wise fools for love? Arts activism and social transformation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/alona-wartofsky/power-of-sign">The power of sign</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Janey Stephenson Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Mon, 26 Jun 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Janey Stephenson 111718 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After the fight: a skinhead’s journey towards nonviolence https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/travis-mellott/after-fight-skinhead-s-journey-towards-nonviolence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How one man moved from gang culture to permaculture.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TravisMellott.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><span class="image-caption">Credit: Jeff Clark for the Bureau of Land Management, via&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/blmoregon/21449928466/in/photolist-yFsuqS-yra5xy-xLKoJJ-yra4Y7-yrbfvq-xLTCkp-yrbf1Y-yGNq21-xLTBx2-yra3wQ-yFsrW3-yJwUFp-xLKmhQ-xLKkUA-yHLPUn-yHLPJH-xcnGBr-oeydzk-oshiMp-ou2Xkr-ou2X9z-oaMsnj-os559f-osfHwu-osheNn-xLKozf-xLKoqY-yHLQ8Z-xbPurT-wUjPAc-weX2YV-xb3KRC-weNf21-xb3JFG-wUcisw-weNd9y-x9uYxo-wUcfWQ-wUceCY-x9uVcW-x9uUtG-wUcAVf-qa6XV6-pfRu1V-oaMzoS-oaMqPQ-oshdBz-ou2UoV-orZQop-oaMx6f" target="_blank">Flickr</a>. Some rights reserved</span>.<strong></strong></p> <p>I was 18, had just enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia for two years of shore duty when I met him. He was a half-Samoan, half-Caucasian man in his late 20’s. His face tattoos and steel-toed boots added to his intimidating presence, one built on physical power. I’ll never forget him: He was the man who introduced me to the skinhead lifestyle.</p> <p>We were an anti-racist crew loosely associated with the S.H.A.R.P. Skins ("skinheads against racial prejudice"). The first night that I was invited to a “house party,” that same man blindside tackled me, put me in a headlock and wrestled me out the door, where we beat each other until nothing made sense. It ended with him picking my head up off the sidewalk, kissing me on the forehead and saying, “Welcome to the crew brother.” From my perspective, the great lie of crew life is that everyone is your “brother.” So many people come to a crew looking for a family, but it’s just not there.</p> <p>I wish I had known at that point what it was that was missing or broken inside of me that would have ever attracted me to start associating with that type of lifestyle. Looking back, I had a fear-based program running in my head, from the media and from the myriad of other influences in Western culture that lead us to believe we are separate and in competition with one another. Fear twisted reality so that violence appeared to be the path toward safety — a man walks around with a brick only if he is afraid of being attacked.</p> <p>The skinhead rhetoric constantly driven into my mind ordered me to be “tougher” than the other guy. According to the script, the only way to protect “our” women was to beat anyone who looked at them wrong on the street. “Keeping our neighborhood safe” meant pummeling people we saw as threats: drug dealers, racist skinheads, able-bodied men who didn’t work or contribute to society but freely took from it, men who just looked tough. We thought we could fight our way to peace.</p> <p>The blindfold of fear was so thick that I couldn’t see the fallacy of this pseudo-vigilante worldview. While I’m writing this, it is almost impossible for me to connect emotionally to the feelings that were alive inside me then. The fact that I can visit these memories now and not be burdened by them is truly a testament to finding life on the other side of emotional guilt.</p> <p>My life started changing for the better when I was 20 and had gotten into some trouble with a handgun (I went after a man who had disrespected me). My getting in trouble surprised no one beyond the fact that I had slipped through the cracks for so long without getting caught. Being an active-duty military member, I was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I wound up spending some time locked down in a psych facility because I had chased the cop who busted me around his car while holding my gun in my mouth and telling him to pull the trigger. After that, I was discharged from service.</p> <p>Upon my release, I found my way back to my home city of York in Pennsylvannia. York has been a rather tumultuous city ever since the race riots of 1969, and the poison from that time still lingers in the air downtown. While the suburbs are modern and progressive, the inner city is known for violence and major drug problems, because York has become a major hub of the drug trade between New York City and Baltimore, Maryland.</p> <p>I couldn’t move back with my family, who were completely disgusted with me. I moved to the only neighborhood I could afford, one high in crime and poverty. While it was not an ideal place for healing one’s soul, that is where my healing began. I reached my bottom-out point by living in an abandoned crack house with a few other people who had also made some consequential life choices. It’s true: you start to look up when you hit the bottom.</p> <p>The people who know me today would have a hard time believing that this is really my story, since I no longer use anger as an excuse to further a negative cycle. Almost daily, anger about this incredibly broken system creeps into my thoughts, but I don’t find these feelings scary any more. When they arise, I view them as a reminder that there is a disconnection in my life that can be corrected. They are the reason I continue working toward a more peaceful future.</p> <p>Trying to walk a peaceful path in the world can be a daunting venture, and I would be lying if I said it is an easy path to take. Every smile I share has the power to communicate truth, even in the midst of conflict. For me, it takes daily meditation and support from my family and friends to stay balanced and continue to live in truth and love.</p> <p>I have replaced “gang culture” with permaculture in my life. I’m putting a lot of my energy into collaborating on building a gift-economy space where people will be able to unplug, detox from industrialism and learn about sustainable living and nonviolence. While this community-centered project is a tangible expression of peace work, I still strongly believe that the most powerful contribution I can make is the inner work I do, as peace grows from the inside out.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://nonviolencemag.org/after-the-fight-a-skinheads-journey-towards-ahimsa-4a6043fed9dc">Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kazu-haga/transformation-of-warrior-behind-bars">The transformation of a warrior behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-n-nagler/love-at-barrel-of-gun">Love at the barrel of a gun</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/stephanie-van-hook/transforming-anger-into-nonviolent-power">Transforming anger into nonviolent power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Nonviolence Magazine Travis Mellott Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 23 Jun 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Travis Mellott 111731 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why the moral argument for nonviolence matters https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kazu-haga/why-moral-argument-for-nonviolence-matters <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nonviolence is a way of life, not just a strategy for organizing resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/moral-nonviolence-healing-king/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</p><p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KazuHaganew.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: By <a href="http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html">Francois Polito</a> (Own work) or CC BY-SA 3.0 via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Non_violence_sculpture_by_carl_fredrik_reutersward_malmo_sweden.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>.</p> <p>“Bernard? Oh yeah, he’s great. He was always the principles guy.”</p> <p>That was what an old <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student_Nonviolent_Coordinating_Committee">Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee</a>, or SNCC, organizer told me when I mentioned that I had been trained by Bernard Lafayette, co-author of the Kingian Nonviolence curriculum and a legend of the civil rights era.</p> <p>“I was always a strategies guy,” this elder went on to tell me. “I believed in nonviolence as an effective strategy, but Bernard was always talking about nonviolence as a principle.”</p> <p>I let out a little laugh. In that moment, I was proud to have been trained by “the principles guy.”</p> <p>When people talk about nonviolence in the context of social change, they’re typically talking about nonviolent organizing, nonviolent direct action, nonviolent civil resistance; arenas where the word “nonviolence” is only an adjective describing the absence of physical violence within a set of tactics and strategies. The philosophy of nonviolence and the moral question of violence are often considered too messy or complicated, even by those who do believe it to be a principle.</p> <p>The civil rights movement was led largely by leaders who believed in nonviolence as a moral imperative. It was not only the most effective thing, but also the&nbsp;<em>right</em><em>&nbsp;</em>thing. While Martin Luther King Jr. and his closest allies held to this belief, some other movement leaders—as well as the vast majority of people who mobilized for the movement—only understood nonviolence as a strategy.</p> <p>Most of the movements I have participated in, even those that had a strict policy of nonviolence, tend to shy away from the moral question—possibly for fear of turning away potential participants.</p> <p>And I get that. Making the argument that nonviolence should be seen as a way of life is a much harder sell than convincing people that it is the most effective strategy to accomplish a goal. Convincing people to remain nonviolent during a demonstration is a lot easier than convincing people to look at how to practice nonviolence in all areas of our life.</p> <p>We find ourselves in an urgent moment in history. From climate change to the Trump agenda, we do not have the luxury to wait until tomorrow. We need a movement today. So maybe trying to make the moral argument is not the most strategic thing. But King taught us that it is never the wrong time to do the right thing. And so, I believe the time is right to make the argument that violence itself is our biggest enemy.</p> <p><strong>Honoring violence.</strong></p> <p>Making the moral argument for nonviolence does not mean placing a moral judgment on those who use or advocate for violence, especially as a means for self-defense.</p> <p>As an advocate for nonviolence, I have learned a great deal from the likes of the Black Panther Party, the Zapatistas, the&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/did-civil-rights-need-deacons-for-defense/">Deacons for Defense</a>&nbsp;and the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, among others. Their struggles and sacrifices should never be discounted, nor should we ignore the many lessons from their movements.</p> <p>We should also never judge those who have used violence for self-defense in interpersonal relationships — abusive relationships, robberies, assaults, etc. If people felt like that was their only means of protecting themselves, I only pray that they were okay.</p> <p>Finally, we need to acknowledge the extreme levels of violence that many people are born into because of systemic injustice. We put people into generations of poverty and invest in a culture of violence, then judge them for reacting with violence? As inarticulate as it may be, even&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/gross-misunderstanding-peace-baltimore/">riots are typically a cry for peace</a>&nbsp;from a people who have never had it.</p> <p>So violence can be an effective tool to protect yourself and others against a threat, and it can be used to express outrage about injustice. There is great value in both. Yet violence is also limited in one very important way, and that is that&nbsp;<em>violence can never create relationships</em>.</p> <p>Violence can never get you closer to reconciliation, closer to King’s “beloved community,” the reconciled world with justice for all people. And that is perhaps the most significant difference between a principled nonviolent approach and an approach using violence or nonviolence that is strictly strategic. The goals are different.</p> <p><strong>Resolution vs. reconciliation.</strong></p> <p>In movements that are violent or simply use nonviolent tactics, the goal is victory, where victory is defined as “your” people beating “those” people to win your demands. The victory is&nbsp;<em>over</em><em>&nbsp;</em>your opponents<em>.</em>&nbsp;But in a principled approach, there is no victory until you’ve&nbsp;<em>won your opponents over</em>.</p> <p>In a principled nonviolent approach, the goal is always reconciliation and steps toward beloved community. The goal is always to build and strengthen relationships and to bring people and communities together, not separate them. If we are not able to find ways to bring communities together, we will always have separation, violence and injustice.</p> <p>Even if you are able to achieve short-term gains, if relationships between people were harmed in the conflict and you are further away from each other as a result, then it is not a victory at all. If only your tactics are nonviolent and not your worldview, whatever issue you’re working on may get resolved, but the relationships don’t get repaired.</p> <p>It was a team of incarcerated Kingian Nonviolence trainers in Soledad Prison that taught me this during a conversation we were having about the difference between conflict resolution and conflict reconciliation.</p> <p>Conflict resolution is about fixing issues. Conflict reconciliation is about repairing relationships. Resolving an issue is about the mind. It’s about policies, structures, laws—the causes of—violence.&nbsp; Reconciling a relationship is about the heart. It’s about the people, the stories, the history—the human impact of violence.</p> <p>The levels of violence today are so heightened that there will be times when movements will need to use assertive and militant nonviolent tactics to stop the immediate harm and demand change.</p> <p>As Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of nonviolent communication, says, we need to, “use the minimum amount of force necessary to stop the immediate harm.” And we never think about what the “minimum amount” looks like.</p> <p>That is the realm of nonviolent strategies and tactics like noncooperation and civil disobedience. Tactics that could stop the construction of a pipeline, pass voter protection laws or even lead to a political revolution.</p> <p>But if we stop there, the relationships between the communities are still divided, and there could still be fear, mistrust and resentment. If the human relationships are not healed, the conflict will resurface again on some other issue. Any peace gained through political revolution but not a revolution of relationships is short-lived. Reconciliation is what a principled nonviolent approach demands.</p> <p><strong>The need for healing.</strong></p> <p>The very nature of violence is unjust. As Rev. James Lawson, one of the lead trainers for the civil rights movement, has said, “Violence has a very simple dynamic. I make you suffer more than I suffer. I make you suffer until you cry uncle.” It is the very idea that we can use force, fear and intimidation to get what we want that is our enemy. Because violence hurts. Period.</p> <p>We all know that. We’ve all experienced it—physical, emotional and spiritual. It hurts to get punched, but it hurts more to feel abandoned, alone, ashamed, hopeless, desperate, unworthy, afraid, used. And too often, we are made to feel those things by people in our own families, in our own movements, in our own communities.</p> <p>Being committed to a principled approach to nonviolence requires us to look at the pain that we carry ourselves, and the pain that we inflict on each other within our communities. It is easy to point the finger and say that the violence is “over there.”</p> <p>I have talked to too many people who shared that the traumas they carry were only re-triggered and made worse by the violence they witnessed within movements. When we say that we are committed to nonviolence, we are not only saying that we want to stop the violence “over there” that “those people” are committing. We also try to work on the ways we ourselves perpetuate harm as a result of our own unhealed traumas. We are working to heal our own selves as much as anyone we perceive as our enemies. We are working to change how we relate to each other in own communities as much as we are working to change any policy.</p> <p>Whether you live in an impoverished community or&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/policing-isnt-working-for-cops-either/">work in law enforcement where your job is to dehumanize people</a>&nbsp;all day, we are not a healthy society. It hurts to witness violence, it hurts to experience violence, and it hurts to inflict violence. Each causes trauma. Yes, we need to fight. But only so that we can create spaces to heal and to build.</p> <p><strong>Beloved community.</strong></p> <p>“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny,” King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”</p> <p>This universal truth comes out in many cultures and traditions throughout the world. The aboriginal peoples in Australia teach us, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”</p> <p>That is the vision of beloved community. A world where we acknowledge our interdependence — our “inter-being,” as Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says.</p> <p><em>My liberation is bound up in yours.</em>&nbsp;That is a beautiful concept, and a popular quote in many progressive circles. But to what extent do we really believe it? Is our liberation bound up with the liberation of some and not others? How about people who voted for Donald Trump or people who have hurt us personally? Who draws that line? Do some people fall out of the “network of mutuality” that King talked about?</p> <p>What does it look like to work together to “liberate” those who commit harm? What does it mean to acknowledge that being oppressed hurts, but being an oppressor also destroys your soul? The privileges of being an oppressor doesn’t take away the violence that gets internalized when you hurt someone.</p> <p>Beloved community is not about loving the people who are easy to love. It is about cultivating “agape” — a Greek word for unconditional love for all of humanity, including those who are difficult to love.</p> <p>King said that the civil rights movement was a movement for the bodies of black folks and the souls of white folks. He acknowledged that&nbsp;<a href="http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_racism_is_bad_for_your_health">being a white supremacist destroys your soul</a>. To have so much judgment and hatred in your heart is an act of violence you do to yourself, and part of the goal of the movement was to help them. To bring them back into the network of mutuality and to remind them that they are part of beloved community. Because&nbsp;<em>our</em>&nbsp;liberation depends on it.</p> <p><strong>Faith in people.</strong></p> <p>The core of the theory of nonviolence for me has become an unwavering faith in the nature of humanity. That at our core, we are a species that wants to live in peace and wants to be in service and relationship; that we have the resiliency to heal no matter how hurt we are, and we have the ability to transform no matter how much harm we’ve caused.</p> <p>We get asked all the time in our workshops, “Well, isn’t violence just part of human nature?” And I used to struggle responding to it, because it was hard to argue. It has always been part of our history.</p> <p>Then several years ago, I met Paul Chappell, a graduate of West Point turned peace activist. During his presentation at a conference, he said that every study that has ever been conducted shows that violence is traumatic. It can cause PTSD, depression, anxiety and permanent damage to our brain. And yet not a single person has ever been traumatized by an act of love.</p> <p>He then asked, “If violence is part of our nature, then why does it short-circuit our brain?” Shouldn’t we be able to engage in it and not have it cause permanent damage?</p> <p>That to him was evidence that violence isn’t in our nature, that at the core of human nature are the things that fulfill us: love, joy, community, peace.</p> <p>And that is what we need today: a determined and dogged belief in the goodness of people. We need the fierce tactics of nonviolence to stop the immediate harm, and the principles of nonviolence to transform the pain. Without one or the other, we are always going to be spinning our wheels, fighting the next injustice or addressing the next hurt.</p> <p>I’ve been very privileged in my life. I’ve gotten to see so many people transformed from the most violent circumstances, that it might be easier for me to have faith in people. It is the greatest honor being able to work with incarcerated communities. Everyday, I get to learn from people who have survived so much violence and in many cases have inflicted so much harm, yet have transformed to become some of the greatest peacemakers I’ve ever met. It gives me faith in the resiliency of people and in the core of human nature.</p> <p>And if I can have faith in their core and their ability to transform, why not the prison guards? Why not the politician who passed the laws that filled the prison? Or the corporate lobbyist who pushed for that legislation? Or the conservative voter who put those lawmakers into office?</p> <p>It may take seven generations, but if we are not working for a world that works for all of us, then what exactly are we working for? If we are working to change laws and policies, but the hearts and minds of the people are still corrupt and we still see each other as exactly that—“others”—will we ever know peace?</p> <p>We are in need of a truly nonviolent revolution, not just of systems and policies, but also of worldviews and relationships. We need to understand that people are never the enemy, that violence and injustice itself is what we need to defeat, and that the goal of every conflict must be reconciliation.</p> <p>Each conflict we face has to be seen as an opportunity to strengthen understanding between members of a human family that have grown so far apart that we have forgotten our dependence on each other.</p> <p>That is why we need a principled nonviolent approach to society’s ills. Because it is not just laws and systems that have poisoned us. It is a worldview that has made us forget that our liberation is bound up in the liberation of all people.</p> <p>And only a holistic nonviolent approach—one that involves both strategies&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;principles—can muster the force to stop injustice in its tracks while bringing communities towards reconciliation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kazu-haga/violence-brought-us-trump-but-it-s-not-how-we-will-stop-him">Violence brought us Trump, but it’s not how we will stop him</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kazu-haga/problem-with-wanting-peace-in-baltimore">The problem with wanting &#039;peace&#039; in Baltimore</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/nan-levinson/how-everyday-use-of-militaristic-jargon-makes-us-more-combative">How the everyday use of militaristic jargon makes us more combative</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Kazu Haga Transformative nonviolence Activism Love and Spirituality Fri, 09 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000 Kazu Haga 110816 at https://www.opendemocracy.net