Friday, October 08, 2010

Fight fair

Nonviolence includes not only the refusal to engage in lethal activities but it also presumes a commitment to strive for conditions of fairness, justice, and respect in human relations. Nonviolence presumes a commitment to speak to the conditions that often give rise to warfare. Therefore, nonviolence is not centrally about the things one is opposed to, nor even about the actions one refuses to participate in. Nonviolence implies an active commitment to social changes that would ultimately result in a fair distribution of world resources, a more creative and democratic cooperation between peoples, and a common pursuit of those social, scientific, medical, and political achievements that serve to enhance the human enterprise and prevent warfare.

¾Daniel L. Smith-Christopher (10)

Why does nonviolence imply "an active commitment to social changes that would ultimately result in a fair distribution of world resources"? There are many answers to that, including the very practical one that extreme income and wealth disparity cannot be maintained by nonviolence. It requires violence or the threat of violence to create most serious wealth and income inequities and certainly to maintain them. If one person possesses a great deal and another possesses almost nothing, the person with almost nothing is going to feel that it would be just to take a bit of the rich person's food, or at least a little land on which to grow her own food. Is this surprising? Is this wrong?

I would argue that what is wrong is using violence to maintain wealth when surrounded by poverty. This is most evident in a globalized, Internetted world, where the demigods of Richistan float blithely above the denizens of the Jobless Recovery. Pull away the armed guards--the police, the courts, and the prisons--and the floaters sink to mere human walkabout terrain. Put the armed guards--the soldiers, sailors, pilots and bombadiers--away from the empire and the world will readjust toward equality and indigenous sovereignty.

Part of the value in that is, of course, the floating Richistanis don't come all the way down to the muck where most of us live; the poor rise to meet them on dry land. That is nonviolence. Take away the violence and you are left with much more equality and far more justice.

This is predicated upon the sort of systemic transition that substitutes organized nonviolence for violence, that achieves protection for people, not protection for predators. Doing away with violence does not equal anarchy nor does it equal chaos. It requires a disciplined, conscious paradigm shift of massive proportions, much like the abolition of slavery. This is building a peace system in the honest, just and nonviolent way, not a war system disguised as a peace system with military forces at the ready to enforce it.

Some see this as unrealistic. But with the costs of violence catching up to all of us, it is our only realistic hope, our only logical path out of our deepening quandry, the militarized pickle we are in. We learn to fight fair and live fair or we lose it all. Our choice. Homo sapiens--the wise ones. We have the information. We are beginning to distill that into knowledge. Will we arrive at wisdom? Is that bridge visible? We pantheists are praying that we do.


Smith-Christopher, Daniel L., ed., Subverting Hatred: The Challenge of Nonviolence in Religious Traditions. Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 1998.

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