Author: Stephanie Van Hook

Changing perception of a campaign’s motives…

  “Who we are in the eyes of others is the image we project, but of course that image comes across differently for everyone who reads it because, as we know from the field of constructive conflict management, no two people’s perspective is identical. (…) How can we overcome these blocks to accurate perception of our [nonviolent] identity? Primarily through patient persistence and ongoing outreach. For example, after I went out into the north woods of Michigan in 1985 to physically dismantle a portion of a thermonuclear command center that was part of Project ELF (Extremely Low Frequency), I used my subsequent jail time to write letters to editors of small-town publications. I did an interview on the local affiliate of public radio. I met with the editor of the only daily paper in the area. Although the first reaction to my message in all cases was incredulity or hostility, careful reworking of the arguments, considerate reframing of the issues, and the simple discipline of restraint and establishing commonalities with the local people helped. It’s doable, but it takes time.” –Tom Hastings, “Apathy, Aggression, Assertion, and Action: Managing Image for Nonviolent Success,” from Exploring the Power of Nonviolence (ed. Randall Amster and Elavie Ndura)   Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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Two hands of nonviolence…

  “The late writer and activist Barbara Deming wrote about the two hands of nonviolence in her book-length essay, Revolution and Equilibrium: ‘With one hand we say to one who is angry, or to an oppressor, or to an unjust system, ‘Stop what you are doing. I refuse to honor the role you are choosing to play, I refuse to obey you, I refuse to cooperate with your demands, I refuse to build the walls and the bombs. I refuse to pay for the guns. With this hand I will even interfere with the wrong you are doing. I want to disrupt the easy pattern of your life.’ But then the advocate of nonviolence raises the other hand. It is raised outstretched — maybe with love and sympathy, maybe not — but always outstretched . . . With this hand we say, ‘I won’t let go of you or cast you out of the human race. I have faith that you can make a better choice than you are making now, and I’ll be here when you are ready. Like it or not, we are part of one another.’ “ From blog post entitled: Ardhanarishvara: The Two Hands of Nonviolence     Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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The earth is breaking…

  Once upon a time, it happened in a forest that a hare was resting under a banyan tree. He had an intuition of doom and thought, “What would happen to me if the earth will break?” Suddenly, he heard a weird striking sound. He said, “It’s happened, the earth is breaking up.”He jumped up and ran madly without even observing the direction. When he was running through the forest, a hare saw him and asked, “What happened? Where are you going in such a hurry?” The Hare cried, “The earth is breaking up. You better run too.” The second hare ran so fast that he overtook the first hare. As they were passing the forest, both of them shouted to other hares, “The earth is breaking up. The earth is breaking up.” Very soon, thousands of hares were running through the forest. Very soon, thousands of hares were running through the forest. On seeing hares running through the forest, the other animals too got frightened. The news spread from mouth to mouth and soon, everyone came to know that the earth was breaking up. It didn’t take much time before all the animals joined the race. All creatures whether reptiles or birds, insects or four-footed animals, everyone was trying to escape and their cries of fear created chaos all around. A lion standing on a hill saw all the animals running and thought, “What is the matter?” He ran down the hill rapidly and positioned himself in front of the crowd. He shouted at them, “Stop! Stop!” The powerful presence of the lion curtailed the rising wave of fright among the animals. A parrot yelled, “The earth is breaking up,” alighting on a rock near him. The Lion asked, “Who said it?” The parrot replied, “I heard it from the monkeys”. When the monkeys were asked, they replied that they had heard it from the tigers. When the tigers were asked, it was found that they were informed by the elephants. The elephants told that the buffaloes formed their source. Finally, when the hares were caught up, they pointed one to another until the one, who started this menace was recognized. The Lion asked the hare, “What made you think that the earth is breaking up?” The hare wavering in fear answered, “Your Majesty, I heard it cracking with my own ears.” The Lion investigated the matter and explored the sound that the hare had heard. Ultimately, he came to know that the sound had been caused by a large coconut falling from a tree. The coconut fell on a pile of rocks causing a minor landslide. The Lion said to all the animals, “Go back to your homes. The earth is absolutely safe. Next time onwards, check a rumor before acting on it.” The animals agreed, feeling a bit silly for overreacting, and went back to their homes. Moral: Check a rumor before acting on it. (More: In nonviolence, learning skills of rumor abatement and using tools for […]

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Nonviolent strategy matters…

  “Some people naively think that if they simply assert their goal strongly and firmly, for a long enough period, they will somehow achieve their goal. Others assume that if they remain true to their principles and ideals, and witness to them in the face of adversity, then they are doing all they can to achieve their objectives. Some believe if they act courageously and sacrificially, there is nothing more they need to do. Still others simply repeat the type of action they have used in the past, or which they believe is required by their political doctrine, and have faith that they will eventually succeed. Assertion of desirable goals, remaining loyal to ideals, and persistence are all admirable, but are in themselves grossly inadequate to achieve significant goals. Mere repetition of actions that have failed in the past often makes success unachievable. The technique of nonviolent action has special characteristics, and there are important factors that contribute to its effectiveness. People in conflict situations often allow themselves to be distracted from their main goal by focusing on trivial issues, repeatedly responding to the opponents’ initiatives, and aiming only at short-term activities. Sometimes, too, people do not even attempt to develop a plan to achieve their goal, because deep down they do not really believe that they can succeed. These people–despite the impression they may offer–see themselves as weak, as helpless victims of overpowering forces. Therefore, they believe, the best they can do is to assert and witness, or even just die, in the faith that they are right. Consequently, they do not even attempt to think and to plan strategically about how to accomplish their objective. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you do not believe you will succeed, and therefore do not take deliberate steps to increase your chances of doing so, you will usually fail.” –Gene Sharp, from Waging Nonviolent Struggle, p. 441.     Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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Launching a great experiment…

  Metta Center founder and president Michael Nagler gives this illustration in his American Book Award-winning The Search for a Nonviolent Future: I am thinking of the anger Gandhi experienced that fateful night of May 31, 1893, when he was thrown off the train at Pietermaritzburg a week after his arrival in South Africa. This was no minor irritation; according to his own testimony, Gandhi was furious. That, along with the fact that Gandhi is more than usually articulate about his inner experiences, is what makes this event (among millions of similar insults human beings endure at one another’s hands) such an important window into the dynamics of nonviolent conversion. The first clue as to how he finally succeeded, after a night of bitter reflection, to see the creative way out is that he didn’t take the insult personally; he saw in it the whole tragedy of man’s inhumanity to man, the whole outrage of racism. Not “they can’t do this to me,” but “how can we do this to one another?” The second clue is the state of his faith in human nature. Already at that period he believed that people could not ignore truth forever. He did not yet know how to wake them up; he just knew they could not want to stay forever asleep. That is how he was able to find the third way between running home to India and suing the railroad company. Imagine the old-fashioned locomotive carrying this “coolie barrister” from Durban up the mountains to Pretoria, standing at the station in Pietermaritzburg with a good head of steam. You could shovel in more coal and just bottle up all that power and even pretend it wasn’t there, until finally it exploded, or you could just open the valves and scald everyone on the platform—but surely you would want to use it to drive the train. This is what Gandhiji was going through with all the emotional power built up in him by the accumulated insults he had met since his arrival at the Durban pier. He chose neither to “pocket the insult,” as he said, nor to lash out at the immediate source of the pain. He launched what was to become the greatest experiment in social change in the modern world.   Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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Love your “enemy”?

  “Through practices in which we surrender to love, we come to the understanding–even if only for a moment–that we truly have no “enemies.” Instead, we see that we are surrounded by brothers and sisters who are suffering in one form or another, but who are expressing it as hatred. This being the case, shouldn’t we drop the word “enemies” altogether? No doubt you have noticed by now that I have been placing quote marks around the word enemies, and the reason is this: to claim that we have “enemies” whom we must learn to love is to embrace in some measure the idea of a foe. It is to internalize the violence inherent in enmity, and thus to perpetuate–albeit inadvertently–the self/other framework that has fueled so much violence in the world. Indeed, to use the term “enemies” might even make it more difficult for us to imagine the person who harbors ill will and perpetuates injustice as one who suffers and is in need of our compassion, love, and kindness. Thus, as a part of our embrace of nonviolence, it is best we drop the term altogether, even though the command to “love your enemies” has been, for quite some time, a staple of the discourse on nonviolence.” –Alycee Lane, from her excellent book #Nonviolence Now,  p. 87.  Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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Power and violence…

  “Violent and nonviolent action may also be differentiated in terms of their relation to a third construct, power. Scholars have traditionally emphasized power over and equate violence with power. However, others emphasize power to or power with and differentiate violence from power. The twentieth-century political theorist Hannah Arendt, for example, suggests that rather than being an extreme manifestation of power, violence is the antithesis of power. Violence, she argues, may destroy power, but cannot create it. From this perspective, the use of violence indicates a lack of power, while voluntary, cooperative, nonviolent action is an essential indicator of power (Arendt 1970).” –Kurt Schock, Civil Resistance Today, p. 6   Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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Satyagraha, in practice…

“Satyagraha, in practice, is a method for resolving conflict. Traditionally, conflict between opposed parties is ‘resolved’ only by the acknowledged dominance of one antagonist over the other. The assumption is that one side can succeed only at the expense of the other. Success may come by reason or persuasion, by threat or blackmail, or by force, but in any case, the assumption is the same: if there is to be a winner, there must be a loser. Even compromise rests on this assumption since in a compromise one side attempts to get as much as it can at the expense of the other, compromising only to the extent it is forced by circumstances to do so. Satyagraha challenges this assumption. Rather than trying to conquer the opponent or to annihilate his claims, Satyagraha tries to resolve the sources of conflict. As Gandhi states succinctly, it ‘seeks to liquidate antagonisms but not the antagonists themselves.’ This point is critical since it quickly distinguishes satyagraha from other social action methods which merely attempt to gain self-invested ends.” –Tim Flinders from his afterword to Eknath Easwaran’s Gandhi the Man.   Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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Lesson 1 (Family Program)

Love is the strongest force the world possesses, yet it is the humblest imaginable. ~M.K. Gandhi   Dear Friends, Welcome to our Family Program. This is a 12-month curriculum designed for families of all kinds–whether in our homes or in our classrooms–where we get a chance to deepen our practice of nonviolence with the help of children. As Gandhi pointed out, love is as humble as it is powerful–and who is more humble in our midst than the children that surround us at every turn? They are watching our choices; learning from our behaviors; listening to what we do and contrasting it with what we say; all while trying to make sense of the world, their place in it, and harnessing the great and latent powers they have to contribute to life around them. Indeed, a goal of this program is to help children find their inner potential. In its essence, nonviolence is the practice of discovering and putting that force of love to work in ourselves and in the world, and we cannot think of a more appropriate place to begin to explore that force than in the family. What you are engaging in throughout this project is more than helping your own family or helping your own children grow and develop into a force for nonviolence in our world; you’re helping the structure of family itself rediscover its purpose (dharma): to be a heart-centered space for the transmission of life-affirmation and constructive values that connect all of us into one larger, massive human family. The program will follow two main books: Gandhi Searches for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children and The Search for a Nonviolent Future. A supplement will be Eknath Easwaran’s God Makes the Rivers to Flow: Selections from the Sacred Literature of the World. We will share simple exercises, food for thought, and activities for the participants in this program to begin or else deepen what nonviolence looks like in the home setting. You are warmly invited to expand on any topic/activity or branch out in any way that you feel is right for you. We want this to be both flexible and engaging. Finally, this project is a work-in-progress, so your constructive feedback along the way is very welcome. Especially, please share with us your positive experiments or other materials that you have found useful. With admiration, Stephanie Van Hook, on behalf of the Metta Center Team   _______________________________________________________________   Activities for Month ONE Link to print-out here   The following activities are options for you to implement as works best for your family throughout the entire month. None are very demanding, but each one requires of us our full presence of mind and heart. You are invited to be creative with the activities: find your own way to make it work for the children with whom you participating. Invite each other to add to the activities in ways that add to their meaning and beauty. Here’s a list of the activities for the month. […]

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Restorative Justice for Petaluma

Photo credit: Restorative Resources A Community Conversation about Justice. Join the Metta Center for Nonviolence and Restorative Resources for a Petaluma community conversation about the practice of restorative justice. What is restorative justice? How does it help us as individuals within our community? How does it help our students perform better in school and in life? How can we work together to help our local schools adopt a restorative, instead of a punishment-based, approach to discipline? And how does it fit into a larger picture of ending the school-to-prison pipeline? Bring your friends! Aqus Cafe will have meals and beverages for sale. Come for inspiration, strategy, and community. When: September 18, 2017 Where: Aqus Cafe (189 H Street, corner of H and 2nd Streets) Time: 6:30 pm- 8:00 pm   “Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being.” -Mahatma Gandhi

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