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Nonviolent Techniques Are Now Poised to Transform History

October 21, 2009

If the nonviolent techniques described by Henry David Thoreau and perfected by Mohandas Gandhi could change the world, why haven’t they already done so?

Hope or Terror - by Michael Nagler

Hope or Terror - by Michael Nagler

Gandhi taught that if we want to create a future that is nonviolent at all levels…in our homes, communities, and internationally…we have to “be the change we want to see.”  Well, the logical outgrowth of that premise is that to achieve a massive cutural and social transformation to a future in which humans at last live up to their great potential to live nonviolently and humanely, we’ll have to use nonviolent means.

But history seems to suggest that they don’t work. Certainly not on a large scale.  Sure a skirmish is won nonviolently here and there.  Women in the U.S. get the vote.  Racial segregation is ended in the southern U.S.  But our warring and violent cultures seem pretty much stuck on mayhem. One step forward and two steps back, right?

“To Date, Nonviolence Movements Were Before Their Time. Now They Are Poised to Change History.”  This essay by Judith L. Hand is devoted to the subject of nonviolent movements for social transformation … why they have so far failed to transform the world … and why they are poised to do so now.

Alice Paul

Alice Paul

 We learn a bit about:

  • nonviolence pioneers like the suffragist Alice Paul, Mohandas Ghandhi himself, and the extraordinary Muslim, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, often called Badshah Khan.
  • successful nonviolent actions around the globe, noteworthy since most folks are unaware of just how very many there have been.
  • how and why human nature has so far defeated the very best human attempts to end the extraordinarily bad habit of war, something most likely caused by putting hunter-gatherer males into a brand new environment, viz. settled living
  • how a series of major historical changes, from the Reformation to the invention of the Internet has brought us to a unique window in time during which we could at last transform our violent cultures, if we choose to do the work and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve succees.
  • how we have in front of us a vista of great hope.

    Gandhi and Khan

    Gandhi and Khan

Having offered hope, however, the essay provides a warning, warning_signintroduced as follows:

“With all of this positive promise going for us, the very worst thing we can be is complacent, so buoyed by the positive that we overlook the negative, and thereby ultimately loose the struggle. Nonviolence is a powerful positive force. Equally powerful negative forces arrayed against us never sleep. They don’t take time out for vacations. They certainly don’t take time out to smell the roses. Principle among these I would list the spreading sickness of terrorism, the persistence of ignorance, the ease of sloth or indifference, the potential social and cultural breakdown as negative consequences of global climate change assail us, and the extraordinarily motivating force and deeply entrenched culture of violence and greed. We are in a race, a terrible race, and the stakes could not be higher.”

Treat yourself, educate yourself, with this interesting, informative, and hope-filled essay.

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