Monday, September 09, 2013

Paleoteric Obombing or neoteric nonviolence?

In terms of conflict management, we humans are having a 1492 moment. On the one hand is the paleoteric view, the old thinking. That is, do we think that the Earth is flat? Should war be perpetual? Is bombing others how we make them listen?

On the other hand is the neoteric perspective, the new thinking. Is the Earth round? Is peace how we make more peace? Can conflict be waged by nonviolence in order to achieve sustainable results?

The paleoteric runs strongly back in history, really all the way to walled cities in which the wealth of a city-state was stored against famine, which was not long after the rise of agriculture, especially the advent of long-lasting grains that could be stored. These were literally tasty targets and the old culture of the occasional raiding party to steal a horse, some goats, or a couple of cows gave way to permanent standing armies of both conquest and defense. This began many thousands of years ago and is embedded in every aspect of our societies, some more than others.
Neoteric thinking relates to a cost-benefit analysis that is finding nonviolent methods far more effective at achieving certain goals at lower cost--and is barely 100 years old, if we take its development from Gandhi's first intentional use in South Africa in 1906. Research--especially meticulous compilation of modern era case studies--is really new, starting with Gene Sharp and now best represented by Chenoweth and Stephan--and is revealing that, in fact, the average citizen comes out far ahead in those cases where a party to a conflict engages in an intelligent nonviolent campaign. Thus, notes the neoteric thinker, we should study how this works and how to propagate the methods if we say we wish to improve the quality and longevity of life for the vast majority of people.

There are some things only violence can accomplish, say those who defend the use of violence.


Without violence, it is impossible to commit or to long maintain injustice.
Without violence, it is impossible to take someone else's land or resources.
Without violence, colonialism and imperialism could never have happened and could not exist.
Without violence, racial oppression or religious persecution would be impossible.

But what about more lofty goals, especially homeland defense and protection of the vulnerable?

This is where neoteric thinking has discovered the distinct advantage of strategic nonviolence, philosophical nonviolence, religious nonviolence, economic sanctions, diplomatic competence, messaging and image, recruitment and defection promotion, political opprobrium, and literally illimitable options to protect our homes, lives, and lifeways that do not involve either violence or the threat of violence.

Nonviolence usually involves force, however. That cannot be avoided, all gooey rhetoric aside.

Strikes, work slowdowns, boycotts, divestment, tax refusal, punishment in the media and at the ballot box, massive public displays of displeasure, sabotage without violence, and literally a million other creative nonviolent countermeasures can and have successfully resisted all forms of violence.

Has nonviolence ever lost? Of course. Should the perfect be the enemy of the good and continue to burn up our national treasure, our best minds, and the blood of our young ones--or should we bet on the likely winner and further develop its chances of winning faster with lower costs?

That is the choice and it is a choice. We cannot have both. Commitment to violence--as we see--robs us of our abilities to use nonviolent influence, develop a nonviolent approach that others trust, and prepare our society and our youth for the risks of nonviolence. Commitment to nonviolence is a commitment to fairness, to a cessation of a world of extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Nonviolence will not work to long maintain such disparity; only violence can accomplish that.

Promote neoteric thinking; outflank, outmaneuver, outthink, and outfight the paleoteric commitment to violence. They are stuck in the ditch of history at a time when only some new thinking can get us moving again.

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