Author: Prof. Michael Nagler

Nonviolence in the News – August 18th

“If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German might, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this I should not wait for the Jews to join me in civil resistance, but would have confidence that in the end the rest were bound to follow my example.” (First published in Harijan and available in the book, Nonviolence in Peace & War) Resources.    Metta quoted in the New York Times! #5 in ‘most read,’ last time we checked. Next Tuesday we’ll be interviewed by Kris Welch on KPFA, I think at 11am. + From Waging Nonviolence earlier this month, “Sahrawi Refugees Build Upon Their Nation in Exile,” reporting here because we’ll be hearing from Prof. Stephen Zunes at USF, an expert on this little-known conflict where Sahrawi people are resisting with sustained nonviolence in the face of heavy opposition.  One quote: “This 200,000-person camp is run by the refugees themselves…. Any international organizations that come in do so as partners — not as leaders.” No ”peace imperialism here!”  As we recently heard from Sherri Wander, the first lesson learned by peace teams has been, ‘listen to the people you’ve come to help.’  I will never forget what we heard from Mubarak Awad at a meeting in Santa Cruz ~20 years ago, before he was deported from Israel/Palestine.  We asked him if he wanted us there as peace teams and he said.  “Absolutely. We are willing to die, but we do not want to die alone.  So come, stand with us; but don’t tell us what to do.” + Good article from Crux, online magazine of the CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE: “West Bank Priests Stress Nonviolence as Youths Protest Israeli Occupation,” by Judith Sudilovsky, August 4, 2017.  Father Firas Aridah: “I tell the young men that we are not with this violence. If we do not accept for Israel to behave this way, then how can we accept it from our side? Wherever God is represented in our life, we should have no violence.” + A new book: Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams, Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation.  It’s received high praise from Noam Chomsky; available from Truthout.   + Project Censored, originating at Sonoma State University, now has chapters on 18 campuses.  I’d particularly like to draw your attention to SF State where, under the direction of Prof. Kenn Burrows, they have developed an approach called Constructive Media (vs. fear-based & problem focused).  Categories are Social Health News, Mindfulness & Society News (changes the brain, calms police), Technology & Eco-Health News.   News. + Yesterday (Thursday, August 17) in Common Dreams: “In Support of Eight Arrested for Toppling Durham Statue, Hundreds Turn Themselves In.” A true act of civil disobedience, and it was named as such by Common Dreams. I (Michael Nagler) […]

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Nonviolence News – June 23rd, 2017

  During this week’s episode of Nonviolence Radio, during the Nonviolence in the News Section, we run across no less than three (3) developments that, expanding their reach and taken together, have the potential to shift the paradigm definitively!  They are, 1) thanks to the vacuum (or worse) at the top, power seems to be devolving onto cities and communities – where it probably belonged in the first place.  Democracy by default!  2) religious organizations of a more progressive persuasion are starting to build an alternative to the right-wing religious groups and sects which have been dominating the moral high ground.  This in itself could make a huge difference in U.S. political discourse, giving legitimacy to what Rabbi Michael Lerner calls the “Left Hand of God,” which again, I think, is where it belongs.  And 3) An organization called Subvertisers is taking aim directly at the core of the old system (in my view): commercial advertising.  Read on!   Resources  I’d like to share with you a reflection, that when I started trying to learn systematically about nonviolence back in the ‘60s and ‘70s (yes, back then) it was so hard to find resources like the richness available today.  It’s a great development. Let me start with three books, and a fourth. Palestinian Checklist by Stephen B. Brinkley. Free PDF download here. This offers a valuable checklist of what people can do, short of going to Israel-Palestine. Terrence Rynne, Prof. at Marquette University, has written Gandhi and Jesus: the Saving Power of Nonviolence.  There will be a Q&A with Terrence on Thurs. June 29th 8/5pm, part of the Paceebene author series. Markos Melitsos, of Daily Kos: The Resistance Handbook: 45 Ways to Fight Trump.  Useful, but it brings up the interesting point raised by Naomi Klein in her recent talks and her new book, No is not enough: as we’ve always said at Metta, ‘Constructive Program,’ which we often neglect, is more important than protest and resistance. Don’t let the opposition set the agenda!   + ICNC continues to amaze with its productivity.  They have started a new blog: Minds of the Movement, about the people and power of civil resistance.  Their description: “This multi-author blog aims to be a go-to source for all readers to find interesting ideas, analysis, commentary, research findings, and people who work in this (growing) field.” Recently in their NONVIOLENCE news hub, pardon: “nonviolent conflict news site,” there was an important blog by Steve Chase countering a Ben Case article in ROAR, which was a classic ‘diversity of tactics’ argument, i.e. that “a little violence” might be necessary and helps movements.  Chase cites Omar Wasow, Do Protests Matter? Evidence from the 1960s Black Insurgency February 2, 2017 publicly available here:  http://www.omarwasow.com/Protests_on_Voting.pdf Remember the animal rights movement, and what philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer said about lab trashing?  He pointed out that when activists vandalize a lab, or other property, the violence becomes the issue. The animals and their rights are forgotten. Now hear Case: “Wasow discovered […]

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Disturbance at UC Berkeley: A Few Thoughts

RESONATING as it did with widespread feelings of frustration and impotence, the “successful” action last week to prevent right-wing agitator Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at the invitation of student Republicans on the Berkeley campus has been met with a certain grudging admiration even by those in the peace and nonviolence fold. This, while understandable on the emotional level, I regard as a huge mistake (hence the quotes above around “successful”). It was feelings of frustration and impotence that after all brought us to this pass, where the “world’s oldest democracy” has fallen victim to a kind of pre-fascist takeover; nothing less than a “soft coup” that’s still in place. What could have been done instead? First of all, while Chancellor Dirks was absolutely correct that he could not cancel the obnoxious speaker because of the protection of free speech that students fought so passionately, myself among them, to secure over half a century ago. And we would not want it any other way. Yiannopoulos’s behavior, however, is not necessarily protected by free speech principles or legislation; it falls under the “fighting words” exception because of the way he incites hatred and actually outs undocumented students, making them vulnerable to deportation. That could have been pointed out. We could have had the students who invited him to make it a debate. That would have created what we call a “dilemma action,” as any decent thinker and speaker could neutralize a venomous performance by Yiannopoulos, if they accepted, and he would look bad if he did not. Finally, all that having failed, we could have responded with effective civil disobedience. We almost did it in 1983, when UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick was shouted down by students opposed to Reagan’s policy on El Salvador (and no doubt much else). I say “almost” because the students who stopped her should have stepped forward and cheerfully accepted the consequences of their action, which they did not. That would have been classic civil disobedience then, and could have been now. It is because we were not prepared for any of this, and not prepared with a way to deal with provocateurs or anarchists as any demonstration must be today, that the anarchists (and/or provocateurs) did it their way. They will argue, of course, that nonviolence as only a misguided moral stricture. This is a category error. Nonviolence is a kind of power; the finest kind available for enduring social change. Make that, the only kind for enduring social change. For look what the anarchist disruption has done: made the unscrupulous Yiannopoulos out to be some kind of martyr and Berkeley’s commitment to free speech to be some kind of hypocrisy. Nor is this an isolated result: modern research has shown that a “violent flank” almost always hurts an otherwise helpful movement, just as it has shown that nonviolence is twice as effective in one third the time and leads to more democratic freedoms than violence every time (even when if “fails”). They will cite the catchy […]

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Notes on Nonviolence Strategy: Part 2

This post is the second part of a two-part series. Part 1 looks at the outward aspects of strategy: creating a proactive, long-term nonviolent movement. This part turns to the inner aspects of strategy: exploring who we are as human beings and building meaningful lives. Man appears to be the embodiment of want. Want is what he thinks about and want indeed is what he obtains. Contemplate your true being or else there will be want, wrong action, helplessness, distress, and death. ~ Anandamayi Ma It occurs to me more and more as I listen to the arguments and discussions stirred up by the current crisis that in order to make sense of this crisis for ourselves and to one another we need to start much earlier, from something very basic. We need to ask ourselves, each one of us, three questions: Who am I as a human being? What do I need to be fulfilled? What could I become, i.e. what would that fulfillment look like? If this proposition strikes you as a bit out of place ⎯ who has the luxury to delve into philosophy when the world is burning? ⎯ you are not alone.  In the world that we live in today, in this post-industrial culture or whatever we want to call it, the very idea of asking such deep questions is off the table. It never occurs to the vast majority of us. But that’s precisely why I think we have to do it. Because our unspoken answers to these questions are driving us into action, and because it never occurs to us to “contemplate our true being,” as the great saint of modern Bengal quoted above urges, the fate she warns us about sounds very much like what we’re actually going through right now. Having said as much, let me offer my three answers: We are body, mind, and spirit. Once food, clothing, and shelter are taken care of we need a rich network of relationships ⎯ aka community ⎯ and above all a high purpose for which to live: we need meaning. We can become more and more aware of our own spiritual nature and through that our essential connectedness with all that lives. These answers are not my special discovery, needless to say: they are the consensus of the entire wisdom tradition that Huxley called the “perennial philosophy” common to virtually every culture (before our own) and progressively supported in every point by contemporary science. For example, regarding the second point, an impressive volume of scientific literature has established from many different perspectives the critical importance of a sense of meaning, and the pervasive demoralization we are going through because, as John Schumacher recently pointed out, “the assumptions underpinning our allegiance to consumerism are fundamentally dehumanizing.” For this reason, he continues, “Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual (I would say, inevitable) accompaniments.” Much of the discussion about the current crisis has brought out, quite correctly, that this particular Presidency did not just happen […]

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Notes on Nonviolence Strategy: Part 1

This first post looks at the outward aspects of strategy: creating a proactive, long-term nonviolent movement. The second part will be posted tomorrow, and it will consider the inner aspects of strategy: exploring who we are as human beings and building meaningful lives. It has been heartwarming to see the passion with which many Americans have said their “No!” to the policies of hatred and intolerance put forward by this extremely unfortunate administration. We are not and never will be a land of hate. At the same time, passion must be harnessed. Nonviolence advocates and scholars are very aware of the limitations of what we call “the effervescence of the crowd.” As Erica Chenoweth, George Lakey, and others are pointing out, to prevail against the current barrage of attacks on our democracy – and moral character as a nation – we must be sure to develop the resurgent movement, with the following guidelines: Switch to, or at least add a proactive component to our actions. We can rapidly become burned out by “resistance fatigue” if all we are doing is reacting to the atrocities which are so easy for the administration to do. We must not let them pull the strings. We must not stay only on the defensive. In order to create a proactive, and long term movement it is essential to come up with a strategy. Many successful movements have begun as a spontaneous outburst of “no” but gone on to dedicate themselves to an answering “yes.” As Gandhi pointed out, a merely negative movement will not long endure, whether it fails or succeeds; and endurance is the key to our success. As King said, we must be prepared to “wear down” the opposition by matching their brutality with our endurance and refusal to hate. Metta is committed to facilitate strategic thinking along the lines of Roadmap or anything else: we have begun to promote more actively our arc of restorative justice, from schools to prisons to the international arena. And of course: In all this we must maintain our nonviolent discipline. The post-inaugural women’s marches around the country were exemplary in this respect, and that’s highly encouraging. The exploding interest in training is again extremely encouraging in this regard: cf. the nonviolence training hub for opportunities. In addition to the way nonviolence has been growing in several dimensions other than just size – the collaboration of many communities, the expansion of research and education, etc. – we have noted with great appreciation the signs of greater sophistication here and there across the growing movement. These include recognizing the need for all the points just listed, the relaxation of the rigidity of certain ideologies, for example that against any kind of leadership, and doubtless others that will manifest in the coming months. We would never have wished things to come to this pass in this country or around the world; but we will not let these circumstances defeat us. As Valerie Kaur said in an extremely passionate statement […]

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Core of Ahimsa: Daily Metta

“God resides in every human form, indeed in every particle of His creations, in everything that is on His earth.” ~ Gandhi, Mahtama 4. 124 In our Western worldview, to the extent that it recognizes the existence of a being we can call God, that being is said to have created the world, more or less the way a carpenter creates a table. This has created a sense that God is apart from the world, apart from us—a concept that the mystics of all ages, including our own, refute. The Quakers, for example, speak of “that in God in every man” (person). It is easy to see how this belief, which has always been more mainstream in India, would lead to an aversion to violence and keen sense of human dignity, which, as we’ve often seen in these quotations, is the core of ahimsa. Thanks for sharing a comment below. About Daily Metta Stephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence. Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide. Enjoy more Daily Metta: See the  archives Get Daily Metta by email: Subscribe    

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Core of Ahimsa: Daily Metta

“God resides in every human form, indeed in every particle of His creations, in everything that is on His earth.” ~ Gandhi, Mahtama 4. 124 In our Western worldview, to the extent that it recognizes the existence of a being we can call God, that being is said to have created the world, more or less the way a carpenter creates a table. This has created a sense that God is apart from the world, apart from us—a concept that the mystics of all ages, including our own, refute. The Quakers, for example, speak of “that in God in every man” (person). It is easy to see how this belief, which has always been more mainstream in India, would lead to an aversion to violence and keen sense of human dignity, which, as we’ve often seen in these quotations, is the core of ahimsa. Thanks for sharing a comment below. About Daily Metta Stephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence. Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide. Enjoy more Daily Metta: See the  archives Get Daily Metta by email: Subscribe    

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Core of Ahimsa: Daily Metta

“God resides in every human form, indeed in every particle of His creations, in everything that is on His earth.” ~ Gandhi, Mahtama 4. 124 In our Western worldview, to the extent that it recognizes the existence of a being we can call God, that being is said to have created the world, more or less the way a carpenter creates a table. This has created a sense that God is apart from the world, apart from us—a concept that the mystics of all ages, including our own, refute. The Quakers, for example, speak of “that in God in every man” (person). It is easy to see how this belief, which has always been more mainstream in India, would lead to an aversion to violence and keen sense of human dignity, which, as we’ve often seen in these quotations, is the core of ahimsa. Thanks for sharing a comment below. About Daily Metta Stephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence. Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide. Enjoy more Daily Metta: See the  archives Get Daily Metta by email: Subscribe    

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Cultural Narrative: Daily Metta

“I address this appeal to you in the hope that our movement may even lead you. . . in the right direction, and deflect you from the course which is bound to end in your moral ruin in the reduction of human beings to robots.” ~ Gandhi, London Tribune, October 23, 1942 In our age, human beings are not only being replaced by robots, they are themselves made robotic by our single-minded pursuit of material wealth, perpetuated long past the day of its natural demise by our still-prevalent narrative of a material, mechanical, random universe in which consciousness, when we even notice it, is supposed to be an “emergent property” (whatever that means) of matter that came about late in evolution. No, the British as a whole were not deflected from their course, nor were we. But Gandhi’s movement and its implications for the cultural narrative are silently working to bring about that redirection before it’s too late. Thanks for sharing a comment below. About Daily Metta Stephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence. Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide. Enjoy more Daily Metta: See the  archives Get Daily Metta by email: Subscribe    

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Lasting Victory: Daily Metta

“The German Jews will score a lasting victory over the German Gentiles in the sense that they will have converted the latter to an appreciation of human dignity.” Harijan, November 26, 1938   Here we enter on one of Gandhi’s most controversial claims, that even in the crucible of the holocaust it would be theoretically possible for the Jews of Europe to mount, as he goes on to put it, “a truly religious resistance . . . against the godless fury of dehumanized man.” It is no unwarranted claim that it would have converted the Nazis to “as appreciation of human dignity.” We always respond to the highest, no matter how badly conditioned we may have been when we encounter it. We now know from cases like the Rosenstrasse Prison Demonstration of 1943 and the sacrifice of Father Maximilian Kolbe, the “Saint of Auschwitz,” that such conversions do take place, even among the most brutally dehumanized. What Gandhi is not saying is that this would have happened fast enough and on a large enough scale to arrest the holocaust. The “lasting victory” he speaks of is of the heart. Even that, however, should never be under-appreciated. Thanks for sharing a comment below. About Daily Metta Stephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence. Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide. Enjoy more Daily Metta: See the  archives Get Daily Metta by email: Subscribe    

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