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Want a depressing laugh? See what’s passing for direct action strategy

It begins: “Nonviolence is a great power which, when used correctly, can overturn empires.” You see the hole they’ve dug for themselves… For your reading enjoyment, here’s the entire of the Metta Center’s nonviolence page, unedited, gross assumptions, emphasized.

“Overturn empires” –WHICH? Can you name EVEN ONE? Apparently nonviolence has yet to be “used correctly.”

“that power” –Sorry, unproved.

“it’s our only option” –You wish, I guess. You and the forces of oppression.

“the most effective approach” –So you see the problem here. Every conclusion flows from a false assumption.

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Nonviolence is a great power which, when used correctly, can overturn empires. You will be drawing on that power, the full extent of which comes into our hands when we adopt it deeply and consistently, not because it’s our only option but because it’s the option that allows us to preserve our humanity in the process of struggle, i.e. to not further create the problem we’re trying to solve. Just ends and nonviolent means are a powerful combination, and that becomes clearer the longer the struggle goes on. We also get closer to the full potential of nonviolence when we have trained ourselves to the point where nonviolence is practically a way of life, offering unyielding resistance to injustice but never hostility to the true well-being of any person. Nonviolence is strategically the most effective approach in any situation of oppression particularly; however, its full power comes out when we:

have set a determination to identify core issues for which we are willing to make great sacrifices (and compromises on everything else);

have a well developed program of self-improvement and constructive work, building the world we want without demanding that others give it to us;

have a strategic plan that can carry us forward for the long term, using constructive program whenever possible and active resistance when necessary.

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“great sacrifices” –Martyrdom, victimhood. “compromise” –Punked.

“self improvement and constructive work” –Blame the victim. Onus for change is apparently the responsibility of the oppressed.

I’m sick already. What follows is nothing better than bad religious dogma, based not on morals but psychological engineering. It’s textbook Dale Carnegie, How to Make Friends And Influence People. As if corporations were people.

You can almost smell the crap. What you have here are missionary opportunists seizing upon strife to convert the oppressed to their pie-in-sky-when-you-die spirituality. No different than trying to convert indigenous peoples instead of educating them. Or making drunkards sing church hymns before they get soup.

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Points for Consideration:

I. Nonviolent Strategy Curve

Explanation:
Nonviolent strategies help to create a state of positive peace, restored relations and a higher image of the human being. There are times when conflict is necessary for this process. A nonviolent person will never shun conflict but will always use an opportunity to deepen his or her practice and connection with others.

This curve demonstrates how to create positive peace by advancing nonviolent strategies when relationships deteriorate and dehumanization increases.

II. Anger Under Discipline

Nonviolence is not passivity; it is a power in and of itself. There are three faces of power, according to Kenneth Boulding: threat power, exchange power and integrative power. Threat power is the power of a military force; exchange power is the power of money. Unlike military/threat or economic power, nonviolence is integrative power or love in action. In order to use its power on any scale–small or large–we must as Dr. King said, “harness anger under discipline for maximum effect.”

Anger, like other emotions, is a powerful force. But it does not need to be expressed in destructive or short-sighted action. Anger can be transformed into the fuel for nonviolent, constructive action with a long-term positive effect. What are some ways to “harness anger under discipline?”

1. Respect yourself and respect the goals of the movement by using the means that will achieve the end for the benefit of everybody (aka nonviolently).

2. Never humiliate another human being; all who watch and participate are potential allies, including perceived opponents.

3. Make your movement irresistible, not alienating, through education, professionalism, dialogue, restorative practices and nonviolence trainings.

4. Be willing to take on suffering and insult if necessary rather than inflict it onto others, at whatever the cost to yourself.

5. Be able to articulate clearly and effectively the goals of the movement and see the media as a way to persuade others to join your efforts. This takes reflection and serious strategic planning. Keep the message focused, clear and easy to understand.

6. Take time each day to take care of yourself spiritually. You need to be at your best when emotions and anger are running high. Take time to meditate and enjoy that you are working for a higher purpose.

III. Three Components Needed

Nonviolent struggle has three primary dimensions:

Constructive Programme: This means building the world you want without waiting for others to give it to you, e.g. alternative institutions, local economies, nonviolent leadership models.

Obstructive Program: This is what Dr. King called “non-cooperation with evil.” This includes tactics such as reverse and general strikes, marches, sit-ins, boycotts, etc.

Strategic Overview: In order to have the maximum effect, a movement needs to know when to switch between CP and OP, when to walk away from the police or when to allow for confrontation, etc.. Strategy can be strengthened by an overall commitment to nonviolence, a coherent message to share with those involved and those watching, and disciplined action.

IV. Learning

Take the time to watch other movements. Do not merely imitate but learn from them: understand what worked and why it worked. For instance, if protesters on Wall Street provoked a police struggle, how effective was it for an overall nonviolent goal and how might a different strategy work better?

Constantly assess and re-assess the situation in light of new information and new situations.

Stay in contact with other movements. Share the lessons with one another.

V. Tips for a Long-term strategy:

Sometimes in nonviolence we don’t get what we immediately set out to change, but in the long-term, the situation is more pliable, flexible and change comes more easily. Do not see short term failures as a failure of the method of nonviolence, and do not let anyone convince you that violence would be a better strategy to take. It isn’t. If one needs greater strength, one can “purify” one’s efforts. A simple way is to increase one’s commitment to nonviolence in thought and word. At this point, other practices such as meditation will be tools.

Statistics show that even if violence “works” in the short run, in the long term, it never makes a situation better. As Gandhi said, “violent revolution will bring about violent self-rule.”

The more comprehensive our nonviolence, the greater effect it can have. This means that instead of focusing all of our efforts on outward change, we can learn to deepen our awareness of how nonviolence works, not only on the level of the deed, but in our words and thoughts.

Nonviolence is a form of persuasion and dialogue, not a one-sided form of coercion. Respect the escalation curve model and always try to deescalate a conflict; avoid using the wrong strategy at the wrong time (this is where a strategic overview is essential).

Satyagraha is a last resort strategy for a discussion (looking for a win-win outcome) and can lead to the need for self sacrifice at the highest degree possible. Do not make this sacrifice before it is necessary e.g. promises of fasting unto death without first a willingness to try other strategies are always ineffective. Satyagraha is a method which “compels reason to be free.” We must be reasonable ourselves to awaken the reason of another; we must be willing to take risks and sacrifices (even to our ego) to open the heart of another.

(At Metta, we would like to change the slogan to “Create a New World! Stop the Machine! because in creating a new world, the machine dissolves more readily.)

That’s right, METTA CENTER can’t help themselves from second guessing the OCTOBER2011 slogan. It’s like antiwar detractors insisting message be FOR something instead of ANTI war. You can be AGAINST injustice, inequity, crime, greed, et al, without having to be on the hook for condescending an alternative.

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