We will fight for peace, but we will do no violence.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Practicality of Nonviolence

There are several reasons I choose to live a nonviolent lifestyle and the least of those reasons is the practicality and effectiveness of such a lifestyle. Off the bat I should point out that nonviolence will not achieve all goals people have in conflict, but neither will violence. If one's goal is to end a life, nonviolence won't be of much use. Also, nonviolence is not always going to save lives, but again, neither is violence.

Violence is at its pinnacle. It has been practiced far more than nonviolence throughout time. It is developed. It is so developed that we now have the firepower to end all human life with the push of a few buttons (I assume that's how it works). At its height of greatness and high standing as the ruling method of conflict resolution worldwide it is still doing little to resolve conflict, make peace, and satisfy anyone who is not in great power (and even then it fails most of the time) worldwide.

Nonviolence is still being developed. Nonviolence, as a result of being neglected throughout the years, holds greater potential than violence. It has become increasingly more popular in the 1900’s and yet it is still rare to hear anyone name more than one or two nonviolent victories (especially if you rule out the American Civil Rights movement led largely by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi’s work in India). People don’t believe in nonviolence as an effective method of conflict resolution because they have not witnessed it enough.

“At this present time, because nonviolent struggle is something that has not been developed, its role is to complement conventional methods to defend our sovereignty, independence, and right to life. But in due time nonviolence will replace the old, violent methods.”Miguel D’Escoto, Foreign Minister of Nicaragua

Nonviolence must be taught and rehearsed if it is to develop. If you give nonviolence the numbers that violence has in the way of participants, you would find that it stands far above the ways of violence, just as history has shown time and time again. History tells us that “people power” is remarkably effective.

For examples of this, study the protection of Boris Yeltsin from a coup in 1991 or the 1986 account of Peace Brigade International protecting Guatemalan human rights activists.

If you are going to pose “what if” questions then pose them with the knowledge that violence is as good as it is ever going to get and nonviolence is still in its early stages.

To keep this from being a novel, I will quickly recommend you research the nonviolent methods to remove leaders from power in Latin America, (Gorbachev of) Russia, (Jaruzelski of) Poland, (Suarez of) Spain, (Kadar of) Hungary, (Dubeck of) Czechoslovakia, (Karamanlis of) Greece, (Kucan of) Slovenia, and (Birendra of) Nepal. These efforts can be contrasted with violent efforts that seek to remove leaders from power and prove more profitable for all parties.

Finally, since discussions such as this always come down to the Nazis and Hitler. I want to address WWII. Nearly every time nonviolence was used against the Nazis, it succeeded. Foreign violence didn’t even bring down Hitler, technically. I'm not saying I have the answer to defeating regimes like Hitler's with nonviolence as opposed to violent military action. Rather, I'm saying there are ways (plural) and that if we give time and people power to nonviolence – creatively studying all it has to offer – then we will eventually find those types of answers together.

The biggest threat to nonviolence is a lack of creativity and imagination. Violence requires very little of both and yet we've given both to it and found ourselves more afraid than satisfied.

I will end with this excerpt from Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink.

“B.H. Liddell-Hart, widely acknowledged as the foremost military writer of our times, discovered in his interrogation of Nazi generals after World War II that they had little trouble dealing with violent resistance except in mountainous areas of Russia and the Balkins, or where advancing armies were close. But they expressed complete inability to cope with nonviolence as practiced in Denmark, Holland, Norway, and, to a lesser extent, in France and Belgium.

“’They were experts in violence, and had been trained to cope with opponents who used that method. But other forms of resistance baffled them. They were relieved when nonviolence was mixed with guerilla operations, which made it easier to combine suppressive action against both at the same time.’

“The generals found friendly noncompliance more frustrating than any other form of resistance, and had no effective means to counter it. ‘If practiced with a cheerful smile and an air of well-meaning mistake, due to incomprehension or clumsiness, it becomes even more baffling…. This subtle kind of resistance cannot really be dealt with in terms of force: indeed, nothing can deal with it. There is really no answer to such go-slow tactics.”

If we study we will see nonviolence holds more promise for peace. If we rehearse and plan nonviolent tactics and block off the escape route of violence as a “last resort” then we will begin to see the truth that history and the Word of God has spoken to us – Nonviolence is vastly superior to violence.

Travis Glen Blankenship

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