Saturday, April 30, 2011

50:1, or the two percent solution

The history of violence goes all the way back in human history and prehistory. The history of organized, mass violence dates back at least 5,000 years and possibly as many as 11,000 years or more in humanity's dedication to resolving conflicts "once and for all" by killing off the perceived problem, that is, the people.

Meanwhile, humankind has known about mass nonviolence for only 100 years, one-fiftieth of the timespan we've been learning to master violence. So, in our group-to-group conflict history as a species, we've known about one method for 100 percent of the time and the other competing method just two percent of that time.

So, let us call nonviolence the two percent solution.

Awareness of the power of nonviolence has been quite slow, but is now unstoppable. Indeed, if scholars in Security Studies and Political Science are not conversant with it, they are behind the curve. Thirty years ago, it was not much considered beyond Religious Studies and the small handful of Peace Studies programs. The wave of nonviolent liberations of the 1980s and early 90s started to change that significantly and the colored revolutions and now the Arab Spring have thrust nonviolent studies into the center of the mix.

We know that these civil society movements may have acted in pacifist modes while the campaigns were ongoing, but we also know that this was mostly strategic, not philosophical. Timothy Garton Ash (2009, p. 372) observes, "Only a very few of the leading actors in these histories are true pacifists, like the Theravada Buddhists of Burma, according to Christina Fink, and it seems to me, Pope John Paul II--offering an imitation of Christ rare enough among Christians."

Teachers: teach nonviolence and earn some respect from students who will see that you can teach what helps them understand the world.
Students: Insist that your teachers learn about strategic nonviolence and help you learn too.
Parents and children (from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young):
You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.

Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.

Roberts, Adam; Ash, Timothy Garton (Eds.) (2009). Civil resistance and power politics: The experience of non-violent action from Gandhi to the present. New York: Oxford University Press.

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