Saturday, February 27, 2010

The new realism

We who hold that nonviolence is a better way to manage conflict than is violence are often labeled touchingly naive, dewy-eyed idealists who don't understand how power works. Get real, is the curt dismissal.


So, how's that violence workin' out for ya?

Our economy is in shambles after pouring such enormous amounts of money into that model. We seem unable to counter the power of the lobby we've both given in to and grown by increasing spending on war.

Our ecology is trashed daily by the war machine in multiple ways, not the least of which is global climate change. The single largest consumer of fossil fuel on Earth is the Pentagon. The single largest source of Superfund sites is the Pentagon and its contractors. The single largest consumer of many strategic metals and other valuable nonrenewable resources is the war machine.

Violence is literally and figuratively a dead-end. It wins few friends and produces millions of enemies.

Gandhi's method looks more and more like the new realism. Did he make mistakes? Lots of them. Did his method take a long while? Yes. Did it produce a virtual nirvana for the people of India once they were an independent nation? Not at all.

And yet, in balance, and by asking the counterfactual and comparing to other struggles, we can see his method offers humankind a practical alternative to violence.

One of Gandhi's greatest discoveries was hartal, the cessation of work. When this is done on a mass scale, with commitment, it is even more effective than a strike, since it actively courts the opponent toward friendship and good faith rather than making an effort to crush him. He gave it up just when it was working because some of his people were starting to use violence. This was an error. Gandhi was pure, yet expecting that purity from millions across a diverse land suffering under oppressive and exploitive occupation was his flirtation with dysfunctional unrealistic demands.

As a nonviolent leader, Gandhi should have condemned the violence and declared the perpetrators as independent actors and not as allies or fellow liberation fighters. Then he should have redoubled his call for hartal across the land, and he should have done that with an attitude of great optimism. Had he done that, India would likely have achieved independence more than 20 years before it actually did.

That was easy. Second-guessing 90 years later is exceedingly easy. But it's also helpful in several ways.

One, it suggests that Gandhi was so effective with hartal that it had more power than we now credit it.

Two, it follows Gandhi's call for a review of his experiments, much easier to do at our great remove.

Three, it says that Gandhi was realistic and almost succeeded. His method won many smaller and more local campaigns and would have likely won India's independence by the mid-1920s had he continued it and also developed other prongs to his campaign.

Four, it gives us a tool and some lessons about it now. We can use it to greater effect if we understand how it succeeded and failed in the past.

Wolpert, Stanley (2001). Gandhi’s passion: The life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. New York: Oxford University Press.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Second-guessing Gandhi the flinty-eyed idealist

We who hold that nonviolence is a better way to manage conflict than is violence are often labeled touchingly naive, dewy-eyed idealists who don't understand how power works. Get real, is the curt dismissal.


So, how's that violence workin' out for ya?

Our economy is in shambles after pouring such enormous amounts of money into that model. We seem unable to counter the power of the lobby we've both given in to and grown by increasing spending on war.

Our ecology is trashed daily by the war machine in multiple ways, not the least of which is global climate change. The single largest consumer of fossil fuel on Earth is the Pentagon. The single largest source of Superfund sites is the Pentagon and its contractors. The single largest consumer of many strategic metals and other valuable nonrenewable resources is the war machine.

Violence is literally and figuratively a dead-end. It wins few friends and produces millions of enemies.

Chernus (2004) writes about the alternative in the US: "Since the 1960s, scarcely a day has gone by in which a nonviolence movement did not play a significant role" (p. x). Gandhi's method looks more and more like the new realism. Did he make mistakes? Lots of them. Did his method take a long while? Yes. Did it produce a virtual nirvana for the people of India once they were an independent nation? Not at all.

And yet, in balance, and by asking the counterfactual and comparing to other struggles, we can see his method offers humankind a practical alternative to violence.

One of Gandhi's greatest discoveries was hartal, the cessation of work. When this is done on a mass scale, with commitment, it is even more effective than a strike, since it actively courts the opponent toward friendship and good faith rather than making an effort to crush him. He gave it up just when it was working because some of his people were starting to use violence. This was an error. Gandhi was pure, yet expecting that purity from millions across a diverse land suffering under oppressive and exploitive occupation was his flirtation with dysfunctional unrealistic demands.

As a nonviolent leader, Gandhi should have condemned the violence and declared the perpetrators as independent actors and not as allies or fellow liberation fighters. Then he should have redoubled his call for hartal across the land, and he should have done that with an attitude of great optimism. Had he done that, India would likely have achieved independence more than 20 years before it actually did.

That was easy. Second-guessing 90 years later is exceedingly easy. But it's also helpful in several ways.

One, it suggests that Gandhi was so effective with hartal that it had more power than we now credit it.

Two, it follows Gandhi's call for a review of his experiments, much easier to do at our great remove.

Three, it says that Gandhi was realistic and almost succeeded. His method won many smaller and more local campaigns and would have likely won India's independence by the mid-1920s had he continued it and also developed other prongs to his campaign.

Four, it gives us a tool and some lessons about it now. We can use it to greater effect if we understand how it succeeded and failed in the past.

Back in the day it was thought best by Quakers to be nice, to be nonviolent, and to not fight back. The Dukobars, the various other Anabaptists, some strains of Islam, some sects of Buddhism and some pockets of philosophical pacifists just took it, suffered for their ahimsa, and presumably prepared for heavenly reward later. Then Gandhi put teeth into pacifism and muscle into nonviolence. It has taken us 100 years or so, but we now begin to see that it is the force of the future. Reviewing Gandhi and others and trying to learn how to do it better in the days to come will make the method more and more effective. Second-guessing Gandhi is now a part of Security Studies almost as much as it is Peace Studies. Good. A dose of Gandhi realpolitik is what those dewy-eyed naive violent warriors need. Soon.

Chernus, I. (2004). American nonviolence: The history of an idea. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Using children as human shields

Aside from the deliberate targeting of a children-rich environment by terrorists--hitting the Murrah Building in Oklahoma (by a US Gulf War vet) with its daycare center, hitting a school, blowing up a pizza parlor or a wedding--there is no more despised practice in war than using children as a human shield. When Hamas or al Qa'ida does so, they are condemned roundly and loudly.

And yet here in the US we have Starbase, the Pentagon program that brings little children, as young as five, to military bases from their schools. Seriously, the military goes into the grade schools and abducts the children and takes them to military bases.

In Uganda, Joseph Kony abducted school children to serve in his Lord's Resistance Army. He's a war criminal and the world is aghast at his practices.

In Guatemala, during the civil war, the military bombed villages full of children and then came around on forced conscription drives, just taking boys and young men for the army. The world was horrified (of course much of it was funded by the US during Reagan's regime, so our connections grow).

Starbase is funded by the military recruitment budget and is plainly a path to indoctrinate children, to saturate their impressionable consciousnesses with a militarism so pervasive it's like fish looking for water--they don't see it because they live in it. We live in a militarized culture and we say we hope for peace. We live in a society that funds the largest global network of military bases in human history and we say we want to bring peace to the world. We teach our children to resolve problems with negotiation and conflict resolution and then we allow the military access to these children and we allow them to take the children to their bases.

Am I exaggerating? Do I ascribe diabolical intentions to those who have only good intentions toward our children?

In one sense, yes. We have no Joseph Kony-style operations in the US. I use his example as a hair-raising end-of-the-road fright, to illustrate the bottom of a slippery slope.

But I adamantly and correctly challenge us to stand up--for once--to the increasing militarization of our culture, of our society, of the very institutions we associate with peace, such as our elementary schools. When Osama bin Laden explained to the world how he could justify targeting US civilians in the World Trade Center he said all US civilians were targets because we all pay for the military that he perceives as attacking Islam. Hold that thought.

When the US military attacks terrorist training camps, do we include madrassas identified as jihadist indoctrination centers? Are there times when we've bombed schools that we have decided teach anti-American messages to young Muslims? If it comes to light that we've done that, is that defensible to Americans? What if those students turned out to be a mixed group with some quite young?

Starbase violates what should be a blood-brain barrier between children and the military. No matter how groovy their curricula, no matter how chipper their instructors, no matter how sensitive and gender-inclusive their website, it still is an unacceptable relationship. Get the military out of the schools, especially for heavens sake the elementary schools, and absolutely keep the children off the military bases, period.

To learn much more about this, please join the Facebook group Communities for Alternatives to Starbase Education.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

bipartisan warmongering

So many liberals were so excited to elect Barack Obama. Even if we don't get it all fixed, at least we'll be starting to clean up the mess and we'll be going in the right direction.

More than a year out, it's looking like Bush in blackface, Cheney only charismatic instead of Darth Vaderish, like the Al Jolson version of Rummy the demanding warmonger. No, Barack Obama is not making a personal fortune off the war machine, as did Cheney and Rumsfeld, two of the lowest public officials to ever disgrace the national scene. And no, he's not manufacturing lies to gin up more wars--so far. But in all important indices, Obama is failing.

Environmentally, he's cleaning up fewer Superfund sites (21 per year) than did George W-Is-For-Waste Bush (38 per year).

Afghanistan has gone from a mucked-up minor debacle into the hellhole that is consuming Americans and Afghans alike.

The military budget is on the rise instead of dropping--indeed, much higher than the Bush record levels, now up to $1.03 trillion.

The bankers were paid off first and Goldman Sachs got the last remaining riches with the astonishing $12.2 trillion aggregate stimulus and bailout.

Job creation has come last and the working class is hit harder than ever. There is nothing left.

Nuclear power--dead and gone--has just gotten CPR from Obama.

His health care plan isn't passed and it wouldn't cover all Americans.

How many other ways could he possibly anger his base?

What base? Who is left? African Americans? They are 12.4 percent of the population.

Obama's only hope for re-election is Sarah Palin or some other know nothing whose idiocy may be so profound that voting for Obama is purely defensive against something so putrid it cannot be thinkable.

Is this the country so worth defending it takes more money than any military ever has in history? It seems the less there is to defend, the more the Pentagon demands--and gets--to defend it, whatever it may be. Indeed, that is the correlative that ought to be telling us something.

Sy Hersh seemed to think last week that if Obama decides not to run for another term, we will see some actual political courage. Hope he makes his move soon. There is no more peace dividend. Jobs cannot be created with nothing but debt and thin air. He can look under every picnic table but he's not likely to find the clean up money needed to begin to address the stacked-up Superfund sites. We will not leave either Iraq or Afghanistan on terms favorable to the US. I doubt the decision about one or two terms is still Obama's to make. I think his policies and political spinelessness have made his choices for him.

One of the principles in the field in which I teach is that you prepare to compromise on everything--except principle. Give away material things. Give away prestige. But don't violate your tenets or you'll start to lose big. This is what has happened to Obama. He may still have a fun time as president, but I doubt it.

It's going to be a long way back and he is not the person for the job--I'd love to see Barbara Lee or Dennis Kucinich. With Obama's bailout for nuclear industries he's finished off that chapter. If he would understand that he's one term he might try to do a few things right.

Followership, fun, and the forces of evil

Stephanie Van Hook shared this video about leadership.

Thanks, Stephanie!

The basic lessons from this enjoyable video are:
1. Don't be afraid to do what you think is worth doing.

2. Don't be afraid to join someone doing something unpopular but worthy.

3. If someone joins you, embrace them.

4. Encourage others to join you.

5. Treat everyone as equals.

6. Don't glorify leadership.

7. Feel good about following.

When the Berrigan brothers burned draft cards, it came out of a new paradigm. They had a few followers--seven of them--and when they went into the Catonsville, Maryland draft board on 17 May 1968 they did an action so bold, so exciting, so new and so powerful, that they went from lone nuts to leadership.

Dozens of other individuals or groups across the US emulated them. Their model became known as the draft board raids. The Minnesota Seven, the Milwaukee Fourteen, the Camden 28, and many more groups piled on, helping to grind the Selective Service to a crawl.

Phil was the team captain, square-jawed and athletic, a nonviolent John Brown battling the forces of evil with uncompromising good, on the offensive and then standing resolute and ready to take the consequences. I just called him the Sargent Rock of the movement. No Fear. Never Back Down.

Daniel was the pixie literati, adroit and playfully prayerful, offering metaphor and perspective, the leader who transformed the model to poetry and used language like the nonviolent rapier. It was he who best told us why all of them took their actions.

Together they complemented each other and offered an invitation that so many could not resist.

Twelve years later, they did it again, on a different expression (nuclear weapons) of the same evil (war and militarism), when they went into a bomb factory in Pennsylvania and hammered on the nosecone of a warhead, hammering that nuclear sword into a plowshare. It was real and it was symbolic and it was a metaphor, once again, we could all understand.

The Plowshares Eight

There have now been more than 100 Plowshares actions around the world, but more importantly, those actions have themselves often started or enhanced mass movements that really have made progress in fighting war and the weapons of war. One of my favorites was Stephen Hancock's at Molesworth AFB in England, when he wore Micky Mouse ears "to present a friendly silhouette."

"If I can't dance," said Emma Goldman, "I don't want to be part of your revolution."

The dance for peace and justice continues...

Phil kept up the beat until his 2002 death at 79.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nonviolent competencies: Eliciting co-leadership

My friend Carie Fox is one of the top transportation/environmental public policy mediators in the country. She came to my class one evening and brought along one of the top Oregon Department of Transportation officials. Carie put a set of sticky notes all across the front wall of the class, and each one was one piece of the process by which decisions were made at ODOT. She and the official explained the process, which was based in part on the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act.

Then Carie explained how that command-and-control process generated resentment, opposition, lawsuits and a contentious process.

Then as she talked she started rearranging the sticky notes, taking the public input elements and putting them into the line much earlier, telling us why at each stage.

When she was finished, the ODOT official said that now ODOT decisions seem to start slower, but actually finish faster, and with good results, since the public is involved meaningfully much earlier. "The best move I ever made was to hire Carie Fox to consult," said the official. "I hired her for one problem, but she immediately said the real problem was our order of decisionmaking, and she redid it for us. That fixed many of our problems, not just the one I hired her to troubleshoot."

Building consensus by a facilitative and elicitive model is hard, but worth it in so many cases. It is one of the nonviolent skills that can help prevent conflict in the first place, and better resolve it with a transformational model once it does break out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sheroes for peace

Men have fought wars for thousands of years, acting as if it were legitimate. There have always been women questioning and opposing such a destructive method of managing human conflict.

Men who make war have been valorized and held up as our heroes--history books are skewed heavily toward them. Women who make peace or stand in opposition to war have been brushed aside, or, if they couldn't be dismissed immediately, were ignored by history books written by men.

This is to offer some small note of appreciation for just a few of these sheroes for peace.

Jane Addams, founder, Hull House, president of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, pacifist, Nobel Peace Laureate

Joan Baez, singer for peace and justice, promoter of nonviolence

Elise Boulding, co-founder International Peace Research Association, peace activist, led Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, created Inventing a World Without Weapons

Helen Caldicott, founder, Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament

Dorothy Day, pacifist, founder of Catholic Worker movement, jailed many times for peace

Carrie Dann, Shoshone nonviolent Native rights activist

Barbara Deming, peace writer and activist

Mary Dyer, Quaker martyr for nonviolent assertion of freedom of religion

Randall Forsberg, Mother of the Nuclear Freeze

Emma Goldman, anarchist and convert to nonviolence

Jean Gump, Plowshare resister

Julia Butterfly Hill, treesitter and the largest war tax resistance ever

Dolores Huerta, co-founder, United Farmworkers Union, co-leader of immigrant and farmworker's rights nonviolent movement

Kathy Kelly, founder, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, pacifist prisoner for peace

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese leader for nonviolent liberation, Nobel Peace Laureate

Barbara Lee, Congresswoman who alone voted for peace after 9.11.01

Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Laureate synthesized environmentalism, women's rights, peace

Elizabeth McAlister, co-founder, Jonah House and Atlantic Life Community

Margaret Mead, anthropologist, challenged notion that war is our only natural option

Sr. Anne Montgomery, Plowshare resister many times, accompaniment activist for children in hot conflict regions

Lucretia Mott, abolitionist advocate for nonviolence and women's rights

Alva Myrdal, disarmament proponent, Nobel Peace Laureate

Michele Naar-Boertje Obed, Plowshares resister, Christian Peacemaker Teams

Diane Nash, co-founder, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Civil Rights leader

Alice Paul, nonviolent resister for women's suffrage

Rosa Parks, Civil Rights nonviolent resister, inspired the 1955-1965 nonviolent Civil Rights movement

Jeannette Rankin, only Congressperson to vote against entering WWI and WWII

Jodi Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate for her leadership banning landmines

Helen Woodson, Plowshare resister

This list is a barebones beginning and could go on for a good long while. Please add your own.


Green, Monica. Women in the antinuclear movement. 2007. In Stassen, Glen Harold & Wittner, Lawrence S. (Eds.) Peace action: Past, present, and future. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. 89-100.

Monday, February 22, 2010

On civil disobedience

"Civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. It is one of the primary methods of nonviolent resistance."

The following (without corrections) are from the Quote Garden:
Dare to do things worthy of imprisonment if you mean to be of consequence. ~Juvenal

Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one. ~Chinese Proverb

Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it. ~Albert Einstein

No radical change on the plane of history is possible without crime. ~Hermann Keyserling

When leaders act contrary to conscience, we must act contrary to leaders. ~Veterans Fast for Life

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong. ~Voltaire

If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it. ~Malcolm X

Human history begins with man's act of disobedience which is at the very same time the beginning of his freedom and development of his reason. ~Erich Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion

Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. ~Mark Twain

Integrity has no need of rules. ~Albert Camus

If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable. ~Louis D. Brandeis

Laws are only words written on paper, words that change on society's whim and are interpreted differently daily by politicians, lawyers, judges, and policemen. Anyone who believes that all laws should always be obeyed would have made a fine slave catcher. Anyone who believes that all laws are applied equally, despite race, religion, or economic status, is a fool. ~John J. Miller, And Hope to Die

Disobedience, the rarest and most courageous of the virtues, is seldom distinguished from neglect, the laziest and commonest of the vices. ~George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists

Every actual state is corrupt. Good men must not obey laws too well. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." ~Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Why We Can't Wait, 1963

We cannot, by total reliance on law, escape the duty to judge right and wrong.... There are good laws and there are occasionally bad laws, and it conforms to the highest traditions of a free society to offer resistance to bad laws, and to disobey them. ~Alexander Bickel

It is necessary to distinguish between the virtue and the vice of obedience. ~Lemuel K. Washburn, Is The Bible Worth Reading And Other Essays, 1911

I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not so desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. ~Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, 1849 (photo below)

As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever. ~Clarence Darrow

It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do. ~Edmund Burke, Second Speech on Conciliation, 1775

I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. ~Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Ordinarily, a person leaving a courtroom with a conviction behind him would wear a somber face. But I left with a smile. I knew that I was a convicted criminal, but I was proud of my crime. ~Martin Luther King, Jr., March 22, 1956

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~Bishop Desmond Tutu

It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

And a few others I believe should be learned:

Upon leaving court, just convicted for the act of burning Selective Service files taken outside from the Catonsville, Maryland draft office on 17 May 1968:

"Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise."
--Daniel Berrigan, SJ (photo of Dan and his brother Phil burning files of young men going to be drafted to fight in Vietnam)

Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.
--Mohandas Gandhi (1938 photo)

We are all targets now

The news analysis these days is filled with embedded war reporters from Afghanistan whining incessantly on behalf of the soldiers there who are laboring under rules of engagement so strictly designed to protect civilians that 'our' warriors are hampered. The effects of being embedded are so clear. The reluctance with which any value is placed on the bodies that house the hearts and minds that we claim to be winning is telling. The Pentagon's propaganda machine is switched On 24-7.

What? Propaganda emanating from our own armed forces? Isn't their business to defend the country?

Actually, as many have noted, we've had a military takeover occurring in slow-mo for a long time. The funds spent on military propaganda in 2009 alone ranged about $4.7 billion repeat Billion, according to the Washington Post, 5 February 2009. This is more money than the Pentagon sends to our perennial major military aid recipient, Israel. We should expect mainstream media to be increasingly warped by this pressure, and we see that.

One exception is Seymour Hersh, mainstream media writer for The New Yorker, with breaking stories to his credit that go back to exposing the massacre at My Lai in Vietnam, first telling us about the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, and much more.

We heard him speak in Portland the other night and, sure enough, a military PR flak burst out at the end of his talk with whatever version of Tourette syndrome they are trained to have. He started with laying out his fighting man cred--tours in Iraq and Afghanistan--so that we were all in awe of his willingness to serve freedom. Then he needled Hersh for not reporting on the "good" being done by the military who have invaded, slaughtered, occupied and installed puppet governments in the Middle East and Central Asia. Hersh defended himself a bit but never mentioned that this Pentagon propaganda mill is Out There, infecting and affecting public discourse.

Your heart and your mind are targets of this background blitz that blogs, embeds, writes op-eds, fetes and profiles and manipulates reporters, leans on editors, steers experts and advertises long and hard in movie theaters and on billboards. Your children are prime targets, high value hearts and minds, and everyone on Earth is now in their propaganda crosshairs.

Do not let them invade, occupy and colonize our hearts and minds. Defend us. We are all targets and thus we are all on this battlefield. We can all be warriors for nonviolence, putting the light of hope on the harsh glare of violent attack.

I refuse to use violence, but I do not cede any words or phrases to the military. This is my language, words are my only weapons, and they do not own the concept of "warrior," nor "battle," nor least of all "defend." Indeed, I offer a synthesis of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., as a slogan that we might consider:

By any nonviolent means necessary.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Nonviolence unplugged

Suffer the little children. This is a poor child born with radiation-induced birth defects from the Chernobyl power plant accident in Ukraine in 1986. The Soviet government was willing to bet that its nukes would work well enough. It was a poor bet.

There is a debate now raging about the virtues of nuclear power; some see president Obama's new nuclear power plant funding as a good bet because it will reduce carbon consumption and give the US more energy independence. It is a bet we cannot afford to make.

From a nonviolence point of view, the entire nuclear cycle from uranium mining through production of nuclear electricity production or bombmaking through managing the transuranic and depleted uranium wastes for thousands of years is violent indeed.

Solar electricity is nonviolent. If the government would lend me $25,000, interest-free for the first 10 years, I could afford to install enough photovoltaic solar panels and the other requisite hardware to drastically reduce my electric dependence on the grid. Otherwise, I cannot afford it, and I suspect many homeowners are in that position. Where I live in Oregon the utility allows us to pay a bit more for a higher percentage of our electricity from renewables, which of course I do, and I've contacted the citizens' utility board asking if Pacific Gas and Electric is honest about this. Supposedly, they are. I'd rather see the panels on my roof, wouldn't you? I cannot currently afford it.

But we cannot afford more nuclear gambling either.

Nuclear power is so dangerous that no utility would build a single power plant until the government agreed to mandate a very low limit on utility liability in the event of catastrophic accident. It was called the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, passed in 1957 and updated since. Otherwise, nuclear power plants are completely uninsurable and corporations require insurance or a law granting them immunity from civil and all legal prosecution for their muck-ups. Once again, we find an industry operating with immunity and impunity, only avoiding the sloppiness that produces nuclear disaster because disasters mean that utility customers aren't sending in their payments.

There is a reason Chernobyl is referred to as the final warning. That 1986 meltdown in Ukraine took the life of a river to save the lives of the citizens, and it took 28 lives from acute radiation poisoning immediately and identifiably, many of whom were treated by Dr. Peter Gale, the American leukemia specialist who volunteered to go help and who wrote a book about it after.

Had there been epidemiological studies done after it might have been possible to place numbers on the mid-term and long-term excess deaths attributable to that accident. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the terrible Ukraine economy this simply didn't happen, to my knowledge. Did hundreds more die? Thousands? Was the health of tens of thousands affected, or millions? After all, the radiation readings in Sweden spiked and that is the only reason the USSR admitted that the catastrophic accident even occurred. Radiation wafts on the winds. The atomic poison pie is easily cut into millions of servings as it becomes airborne and waterborne.

Look at the histories of uranium mining and the places chosen to store nuclear waste--never mind the places chosen by the nuclear weapons countries to test bombs. Indigenous peoples are the usual hosts. Dump it near the reservations, where they are demographically weak and where we can kill babies with less public concern. Pueblo, Navajo, Pima, Yakima, Lakota and other tribes have disproportionally borne the environmental human health costs of our anti-life experiment with nuclear power.

So, what is the nonviolent solution?

First, nonviolent resistance to nuclear power. A mass movement will be required, and it needs to be a mass movement prepared to commit mass civil resistance.

Second, massive conservation. From the Thich Nhat Hanh admonition to mind our daily activities and become less supportive of violence to insistence on massive investments in electric conservation measures (e.g. affordable installation of insulation in millions of homes and buildings that now waste electric heat or air conditioning), conserve and reduce consumption.

Third, commit to mass purchase of safe and clean electricity that doesn't include 'clean coal' or nuclear. Essentially, drive down costs by driving up scale of production by safe means.

Fourth, get new laws that remove subsidies from nukes. No more Price-Anderson. No more taxpayer-funded storage of the waste that is produced at every stage. Internalizing all costs in all forms of energy production would suddenly make solar and wind the cheapest of all.

I suspect getting any of this done would require a citizenry prepared to engage in mass nonviolent action. This doesn't mean running out to get arrested, necessarily, but paying attention to votes by politicians, instituting measures in our homes and businesses, and education of ourselves and others. Right now, the nuclear industry is using our mainstream media as a weapon of mass deception and our obligation is to counter that.


Robert Peter Gale and Thomas Hauser (1988). FINAL WARNING The Legacy of Chernobyl. New York: Warner Books.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

From Adolph, with hate

From a journal of Edvard Brakstad, a Norwegian teacher exiled to the worst Arctic workcamp with about 500 others as punishment for refusing to teach Nazism to children.

Yeah, your nonviolence can work sometimes, but what about the Nazis? Or, as Ho Chi Minh claimed about Gandhi, if he would have offered nonviolent resistance to the French he could have met his God much earlier.

The facts in these cases are counterintuitive. Nonviolence really did pretty well against the Nazis. Not perfectly--but then violence didn't work perfectly either. The Soviets offered nothing but violent resistance and lost more than 14 percent of their entire population, even though they never lost their government. Norwegians mostly offered nonviolent resistance, lost their government and lost .32 percent--that is for every thousand Soviets alive in 1939, 140 were killed in the war. For every thousand Norwegians alive in 1939, 3 were killed. Raw numbers are ghastly: 23,954,000 Soviets and 9,500 Norwegians.

Norwegian religious leadership was supplanted by the Nazi puppet regime of Vidkun Quisling, eponymous with traitor ever since. The Norwegian religious leaders treated the Nazis and quislings with civility and civil disobedience, simply ignoring Nazi ecclesiastic leaders.

Teachers refused to teach the mandated Nazi curricula, the Supreme Court resigned, sports coaches ignored the Nazi values and symbology, even though the Nazis had assumed that Norwegians were pure Aryan and would naturally accept Nazism (Jameson & Sharp, 1963). But Norwegians had been at peace with the world for more than 220 years and had no interest in the hate-filled violence brought in by the invaders. They had no particular desire to kill Germans for invading either, and for more than three years practiced mass nonviolent noncooperation, from 1940-1943, losing very few to the Nazis. Later in the war the Norwegians undertook more violent resistance and casualties mounted.

When Nazi lecturers gave classes at the University, no one attended. When coaches refused to train with Nazi methods, most athletes boycotted events and sports leagues dissolved. 12,000 of the 14,000 teachers in the country refused to teach Nazism and 1,300 were sent to camps. 500 more were sent to brutal camps in the far northern frozen region. They maintained solidarity. For the first three years, Norwegian mortalities were kept astonishingly low, to about 100. Only when violence started did casualties really begin.

So Hitler hate met Norwegian nice and was nicely defeated, at least until the Norwegians had been taught to hate too. When humankind learns to maintain nonviolence even in the face of violent hatred, we will learn how to more surely overcome it.


Jameson, A.K., & Sharp, Gene. 1963. “Non-violent resistance and the Nazis: The case of Norway.” In, Sibley, Mulford Q. (Ed.). The quiet battle: Writings on the theory and practice of non-violent resistance. Boston: Beacon Press.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Jobs, morals, and warbots

"The U.S. military is by far the biggest designer and purchaser of weapons in the world. But it is also the most inefficient."
--P.W. Singer, Brookings Institute, Wired for war: The robotics revolution and conflict in the 21st century. (p. 256)

We are supposedly heading down the rabbit hole into a future of warbots waging destruction on all US enemies all over the world without endangering any more Americans. All we have to do is fork over all our money and accept far fewer jobs created per $B spent on security and, oh yes, ignore human rights and the rules of war.

Warbots are one extremely naive and touchingly simplistic science fiction. Meanwhile, they are generating massive funding for the rich elites who have been gorging at the bloody war trough all along.

Ethics, morals and unenforceable rules of warfare as understood by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court--in other words, the closest thing humanity has to a consensus on when it is permissible engage in war and how war must be conducted--all these are avoided or assuaged by the corporate and research profiteers because they interfere with business.

As Cicero noted back in the day, in war, the law is silent. We make these laws, but when the Predator and Reaper warbots attack targets and kill civilians, no one is held accountable under any law. We may proclaim from the margins, but in fact there are no bodies willing or able to enforce the rules of war on...what...the 'pilots' 7,000 miles away? The commanders? Centcom? President Obama?

Civilians--many utterly innocent, many children--are killed with these godawful things. Jane Mayer in an Oct 26, 2009 story in The New Yorker, reported that in one instance in Pakistan, "a drone targeted the wrong house, hitting the residence of a pro-government tribal leader six miles outside the town of Wana, in South Waziristan. The blast killed the tribal leader’s entire family, including three children, one of them five years old. In keeping with U.S. policy, there was no official acknowledgment."

Science fiction holds that we can digitize human rights, ethics, even emotions and morals. Let's see that in benign civilian applications long before we test it out on poor tribespeople in Central Asia or the Middle East. If we cannot get robots working productively and making moral choices and legally correct choices in the US doing good civilian work, we cannot morally set them loose with weapons.


Jane Mayer (26 October 2009). The Predator War: What are the risks of the C.I.A.’s covert drone program? The New Yorker.

Singer, P. W. (2009). Wired for war: The robotics revolution and conflict in the 21st century. New York: Penguin.


"DOD Announces Return of Facilities in Belgium

The Department of Defense today announced that it will return ten buildings at Florennes Air Base, Belgium, in 2010 to the host nation of Belgium.

The return involves ten empty buildings, which formerly housed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Tactical Leadership School. The school relocated to Spain's Los Llanos Air Base in June 2009, therefore the buildings are now excess to DoD's needs.

The return of the buildings will have no impact on Department of Defense personnel.

U.S. Forces Europe has begun the process of returning the buildings to the host nation of Belgium. The annual operating cost savings by returning these buildings is estimated to be approximately $1.8 million.

For additional information regarding this announcement, please contact U.S. Air Forces in Europe Office of Public Affairs at 011-49-6371-6558 or ."

--DoD news release, 19 Feb 2010

The US has a military presence in 153 of the 194 nation-states on Earth, some 1,000 (approximately) bases large and small. This is an astonishing and abiding source of anger against the US. It costs the US taxpayer, the working Americans (not the rich and not the war profiting corporations, since they pay specialists to find them loopholes). The base of empires provides fewer jobs per $B spent than any other sector of the economy (except NASA, which itself is about 80 percent military-related expenditures).

So, feed three birds with one hand. Shut down these bases and mandate that a US military presence only be in the US or littoral waters, for starters, and the savings would rock the economy back into the black. The people of the world would be thankful and the levels of anger against the US would subside, reducing the appeal of the terrorists, ending most of their recruitment ability. Converting the US military to actual defense-only would potentially create enormous numbers of jobs, if we did so with a formula that provided for job creation as well as deficit reduction.

We could use another 250,000-500,000 Peace Corps volunteers--low-paid, high-value--all around the world, focused in the areas of great need. The goodwill that these volunteers could create is enormous. Shutting down just a few overseas military bases could both pay for those volunteers and reduce our budget deficit, depending on the size and budgets of the bases shut down.

Imagine the good done in our own nation by 1,000,000 AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteers. Achieve this and more budget deficit reduction by closing more overseas bases.

The needs are enormous and the focus of this massive effort--which would need many logistics and analyst workers itself--could be thought of as that three-pronged effort to:
1. radically improve the US image globally.
2. reduce the budget deficit.
3. create jobs for US workers.

This is a doable, sensible idea--so it probably has no chance of success in our dysfunctional democracy. Time to break the logjam and start the flow of a stream of of rational approaches to our problems. Much smarter minds than mine are ready to prepare and execute real programs that can usher in a new US identity and prosperity with--not at the expense of--the rest of the world. They are tired of being invaded. Time for us to outvade and create something far better for ourselves and everyone else.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Radioactive fear of violence destroys trust

"Nonaligned proponents of disarmament also labored under the heavy burden of being identified with Communism."
--Lawrence S. Wittner, Confronting the Bomb: A short history of the world nuclear disarmament movement (p. 50)

State University of New York historian Wittner has written a valuable history here, and in the above quote referred to a period when the initial global response to atomic weapons was quite negative from the grassroots. Outside the US, few from the non-industrialized world had much good to say about superweapons of mass destruction, owned by the rich, white, and powerful. Immediately following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, opposition emerged and grew.

But it dampened when the Soviets blew off their own bomb and started supplying their new insurgency weapons--just developed in 1947--to poor people suffering from the last gasp of colonialism and the first sharp thrusts of globalizing imperialism. The AK-47 and the Soviet bomb shot massive terror in the capitals of the West; they easily created a climate of fear of all things Soviet and communist throughout that world. The East easily did the same to their people. The Cold War struck fear into so many hearts and polarized the planet so severely that the movement to end nukes when it would have been relatively easy to do so began to fizzle. It slipped badly from 1950-1953, the most intense period of McCarthyism. Peace was a dirty commie idea in the US. How well I remember--well, OK, I was only two years old, so my nonviolent activist career was not quite fired up yet.

But I grew up knowing that if anything was successfully labeled communist, it was feared and rejected, possibly violently. Young activists had to be as careful about avoiding that pejorative as young activists now had better steer clear of linkage to al Qa'ida if they'd be interested in affecting US policy in a good way. If you oppose the policies of your government and your government is a belligerent, that government will try to smear you with charges of being a tool of the enemy. Being nonaligned, being independent, being avowedly and demonstrably nonviolent, was and is the best way to inoculate against such traducement.

Yes, there were some then who were so enraged that they chose identification with communism with a sort of Maoist posture of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, coupled with the logical coda, all power comes from the barrel of a gun. Those were the ones who were too full of hate to care about effectiveness. It's the same now. We have to learn how to stay true to our struggles and avoid being smeared with the tar of violence. The path is sometimes quite tricky and yet worth it.

If we really hope to disarm nukes, our enemies must become our opponents and then our partners. We can most quickly achieve that with unilateral disarmament, the non-coercive inducements that earn trust and destroy the harm of propaganda. This is true in the streets and the suites.

We see it working in a backward fashion from that good model with the opposite history of nuclear proliferation. Make a new enemy and you guarantee the desire for nukes. Make a new friend and induce a desire for disarmament. This is not old naivete; this is new pragmatism.


Wittner, Lawrence S. (2009). Confronting the Bomb: A short history of the world nuclear disarmament movement. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Induced nonviolent satori

The law of karma is actually very scientific. There is always a connection between cause and effect. It’s like the light of a star, isn’t it? The light that we see now was initiated so many light years ago, but there it is.
—Aung San Suu Kyi, The voice of hope (p. 87)

Aung San Suu Kyi is one of our nonviolent sheroes whose inputs have so very much affected the outputs in her country of Burma (Myanmar). I love what she says about karma being like starlight. You may not see it now, it may take some time to get here, but you know it's on the way.

Does this mean we are all called to be perfect every minute? Are we to operate under the karmic law that says we must live by our engaged conscience or fail?

I don't think so. I have known no one personally in my life who has managed this--everyone has moments of weakness, meanness, greed, selfishness and hopelessness. We cannot hold ourselves to such high standards that we give up.

But to understand that, like any system, the inputs will affect the outputs, can help us to know that karmically speaking, we ought to behave with as much assertive civility and courageous compassion that we can muster at all times. Our behaviors toward our children affect how they treat other children, which affects how those children develop, and so forth. Our nonviolent trainings accrete in the hearts and minds and increasingly intuitive skill banks of all of those we train in various nonviolent responses. Making nonviolent competencies more intuitive is nonviolent satori--intuitive enlightenment.

Enough good produces good. It is not ours to expect our snowflake of the good to start the avalanche of nonviolent social change; it is up to us to make those snowflakes of the good as often as we can.

The avalanche is coming. We may not see it now, but we know it's on the way.


Kyi, Aung San Suu, and Alan Clements (1997). The voice of hope. New York: Seven Stories Press.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In good faith

In the 1980s the US military under Reagan was an extremely dirty actor everywhere in Central America. The 'advisors' in El Salvador trained and equipped the Acteal Brigade that massacred more than 900 at El Mozote, including many little children--plus murdering the religious women pictured above. The Contra--leftover terrorists from US-installed Somoza in Nicaragua--were killing civilians in their "low-intensity" war against the Sandinistas. The generals in Guatemala were assassinating local leaders and terrorizing Mayans who wanted land reform, killing them by the thousands with American weapons. US troops in Honduras advised counterinsurgency Honduran troops on the techniques of terror.

It was a human rights debacle of bloody proportions.

Nonviolence? What a pipe dream. The FMLN, the Sandinistas, the UNRG--all violent opposition to US hegemony. Where was the space for nonviolence in this bloody regional war?

But it was also happening. Peace Brigades International was saving lives with accompaniment. Witness for Peace was building capacity on the ground. Pastors for Peace were operating to bring in resources for the poor.

Even when they were stopped, nonviolence had an impact. Central Americans have deep respect for religious workers and when they are attacked even the arrogant US forces are held to account somewhat.

Pam McAllister described one of these events from 1983 in Honduras, when 150 religious women from various denominations traveled there and because the US was so dominant and meddling, most of the women were not allowed to leave the US. Those who made it to Honduras were on a plane together that was stopped before it could dock at the airport, on the tarmac, by US armed troops in uniform, with US helicopters circling overhead.

The international media was on hand in Honduras, but also had published photos of the women in various religious dress, packing their sleeping bags, trying to begin their Pilgrimage to Honduras at the Miami airport. The images of faith-based nonviolent women of good intention were more powerful in the end than the US armed troops who turned them back. The public opinion in Central America and the US was clearly in favor of these nonthreatening women and it was yet another exposure of the state-sponsored terrorism of the US in the region. "The women's attempt to reach Honduras was covered by all three major news networks in the United States" (McAllister, 1988, p. 15).

When we struggle with nonviolence, it is not about gaining turf or territory; it is about the much more important ecology of human hearts and minds. Let the military take the hill; we will always own the high ground.


McAllister, Pam (1988). You can’t kill the spirit: Generations of women’s resistance and action. Philadelphia: New Society Press.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Standing at the confluence

We stood at the place where the Kicking Horse river joins the Yoho river in Yoho National Park, part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, five contiguous national parks, wild and free and, well, yoho! (Yoho is the Cree word for astonishingly magnificent.) One river was rushing and clear, one was rushing and cloudy. It was quite a sight. While both had likely come off some part of the Columbian icefields, the clear river had come in and out through some tarn--a glacial meltwater-fed mountain lake--which settles out the particulate around which a snowflake formed scores of thousands of years ago. The other river was straight off the icefields with all the ancient particulate still suspended in the water.

Kicking Horse river

One might call the theories of conflict resolution the clear river, the settled river, the dynamic but less opaque waters. The theories of nonviolence might be the more cloudy, straight off the frontlines of struggle with all the human emotional particulate still suspended in the jumping, dancing, loud and wild waters.

The Kicking Horse and the Yoho rivers combine to form a more powerful river and you can see that it takes a ways downstream before all the waters are commingled, which adds to the drama of the scene. Like the combined river of much more power, the addition of the theories of nonviolence to the practice of conflict resolution--and vice versa--produce a much more robust model.

Of course the great masters have already done this. I am only trying to identify when they do and how they think about it and make it work.

Gandhi used forgiveness and reconciliation in his nonviolent campaigns, starting with his original work in South Africa. He forgave the Muslim man who almost beat him to death, an amazingly powerful act of self-sacrifice for the greater cause, and the allegiance of Muslims to his leadership was made immeasurably stronger for that.

Dr. King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham jail about using direct action to get to the negotiating table.

Cesar Chavez overrode some in his United Farmworkers Union struggles who wanted to make it a Hispanic-only organization, using the conflict resolution principle that all stakeholders belong at the table.

In their germinal volume Getting to Yes, Harvard Negotiation Project researchers Roger Fisher and William Ury recommend some tactics that are essentially nonviolent resistance and noncooperation--offering to leave negotiations when one party is using dirty tricks until they can recommit to not doing so.

In this instances and many more, the theories of conflict resolution and nonviolent action complement, serve, and strengthen each other.

If you get a chance, paddle in both streams and in the confluence. It's wild and sometimes not too clear, but the joy and frisson makes it all worth it.

Rage and recruitment

Alexa makes her statement about civil liberties under a patriotic clampdown, and about who gets to talk to millions with their feartalk, hatespeech, and wartalk.

"I personally think the shouting and especially the obscenities were counterproductive. The demonstrators who did that may have discharged a lot of anger. However, instead of shaming the attendees, they pushed them to harden their position."
--Activist who was part of protesting Karl Rove speaking to the World Affairs Council in Portland, Oregon 10 February 2010, for which Rove received a $25,000 honorarium

Mom Terri and I stood with the great folks who stood in the damp chill outside the Arlene Schnitzer Hall on Broadway in downtown Portland last night. Five-year-old Alexa was on my shoulders--it's hard to be half the height of a close-pressed crowd, so she alternated from Mom to Tom. Karl Rove was inside. Hundreds had paid various sums to hear him 'debate' Howard Dean.

Suddenly someone 10-15 yards up the crowded sidewalk bellowed, "War criminal!" I felt little Alexa's entire body tense in fear. This was a learning moment. I suggested we take a little walk around the block and we did.

As we rounded the corner, we met several police standing with their horses--was there a riot scheduled? Five big horses for 50 protesters?

"What a beautiful horsie," I said about the first one and walked closer to the barricade. I looked at Terri and could practically see Alexa's smile reflected in her relaxing, smiling face. The cop said, "This is Ian." We all admired Ian. I asked the cop, "So, are you here to arrest Karl Rove?" He smiled and said I was not the first to suggest that.

I love the folks protesting Rove and was proud to join them. They are a self-selecting, self-limiting group, rightfully enraged, with hearts hurt badly by their compassion for war criminal Rove's millions of victims--it's hard to describe one of the architects and promoters of the illegal invasion of Iraq in any other way. But they will never grow their numbers by bellowing obscenities and part of the entire purpose of each movement event is recruitment. By now, only the hard core show up, shout, and go home in anger and disgust that more didn't show up.

Some of them smoke. That precipitated another walk around the block. Who could smoke next to a five-year-old and not expect the Mom to start getting nervous and want to leave?

Again, these are my people. I love them all. But if I could wave my wand and institute some changes in how these events are organized and conducted, I'd make these changes:

1. At the organizing meetings we would establish quite specifically the expected tone, spirit and image of the event and of each participant.

2. We would form and train a Vibeswatcher crew who would be identifiable and who would be our own reminder monitors. They would work in pairs and try to make sure that each protester was given a small handout explaining behavior expectations for all. They would be there to help, to greet, to watch, to de-escalate any situations, and to help preserve and enhance the image of the protest as sincere, intelligent, thoughtful, and assertive but not aggressive.

3. We would find some musicians who like to lead others in songs that uplift, celebrate nonviolent resistance to militarism and injustice, and give us a sense of projecting nonviolent power, the kind of power that can transform and convert, not crush and smash. We would allot some funds to make some songsheets so everyone could sing along.

4. We would have a media team to work with media to make sure they understood our concerns, our anger, our determination to call attention to this issue, and our determination to do so in ways that are both powerful and gentle.

5. We would be sure to have a police liaison team to stay in relationship to the police so that cops would tend to be less involved and not eager to thump someone. While it was nice to meet Ian, it would have been more logical to have just 2-3 cops on hand, not 20-30 with horses--unless they really were planning to arrest Rove and parade him on horseback in a downtown Portland perpwalk.

Yes, this all sounds like a lot of organizing.

It is. It's only worth doing if we want our numbers to grow and are serious about achieving that. Yes, there are many other strategies and tactics that would also help. This is just a little start--prompted by the start I felt when little Alexa was gripped suddenly in fear of my friends. I'd sure like to change that.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Don't give peace a chants

If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.
--Emma Goldman

Looking at the joy in the celebrants in Chile after they ousted Pinochet in 1988 by a plebescite vote they worked so hard for, I think of the steely-eyed, stern-jawed humorless ultraleftist/anarchist activists who frown on anything other than angry chanting. I laugh to myself. The suffering of the Chilean people was tremendous and they won their freedom after so many years of brutal repression in a struggle that refused to continue with the paradigm of meeting violence with violence, hate with hate, militarism with militarism. Those Chileans had every right to demand that everyone be angry at the massive injustice inflicted on them by the Pinochet regime, made possible by US arms and training. Instead, they leapt, they hugged the police who had been so brutal, they sang joyously, and yet they did not forget.

The U2 concert in Santiago in 1998 featured a less joyous, profoundly moving version of their song Mothers of the Disappeared, about a group of women who exhibited enormous courage in Chile, based on the radically brave women of the Madres de la Plaza del Mayo in Argentina.

Music is moving, music is upbeat, music captures a collective creativity missing in chanting "One, two, three, four! We don't like your effing war!" ad nauseam. Other chants are even less informative, and even grossly inaccurate. "The whole world is watching!" is usually chanted when almost no one is watching, though "Almost no one is watching!" probably wouldn't catch on. Please give me some funky drumming, some basic three-chord guitar any day over "Ain't no power like the power of the people and the power of the people don't stop! Right on!" Please! No more! Yes, those are my own tooth marks on my own forearm. Stop, please! Sing!

Even when a song is sung just to give each other strength it means so much more than a taunt at the cops. The Civil Rights refrain, "I ain't scared of your jail 'cause I want my freedom, I want my freedom, I want my feedom. I ain't scared of your jail 'cause I want my freedom. I want my freedom now," evokes images of brave black kids singing away their fear in the teeth of oppression that earnest young whites in modern northern towns just can't fathom.

Bring back the music. Bring it on and sing it on!


photo of Madres in Buenos Aires:

Orange Revolution is dead--long live the Orange Revolution!

The Queen is dead--long live the Queen! is the call of those who bemoan and grieve the death of a good governor and celebrate the peaceful and orderly transition to a new good governor. The embodiment of the traditional rule is dead and succession is successful to a new ruler, so the institution of the Queen and the new Queen alike should live long.

The Orange Revolution is dead--long live the Orange Revolution!

One narrative about the Orange Revolution (I wasn't there; I am offering this in good faith from multiple sources):

In 2004 Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych ran against each other for the presidency of Ukraine. Yushchenko not only had broad support as standing in opposition to the now unpopular Kuchma regime, but he had probable financing from Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky, who opposed Putin and the Kuchma-Yanukovych intended succession. Yushchenko also had a coalition with the charismatic Yulia Tymoshenko--the woman who just lost the election to Yanukovych.

It was a very dirty campaign by Viktor Yanukovych, a man who had served prison time for robbery and who was chosen from a field of obscure potential successors to Kuchma. It is not known how much Yanukovych knew about the tactics, but it was obvious he was prepared to engage in his own minor dirty tricks.

The Yushchenko campaign chose orange as its color for banners, pennants, etc., and the Yanukovych campaign chose blue. Publicly, orange dominated. The dirty tricks from the Putin-affiliated Kuchma security apparatus included police spies on the Yushchenko campaign as well as free trains for the Yanukovych campaign. But the dirtiest trick was the ricin or dioxin poisoning of the frontrunner Yushchenko on September 5, 2004, at a dinner with Kuchma's security people who were supposed to be helping with security for all presidential candidates. The poisoning didn't kill the handsome, popular Yushchenko, but sickened him and permanently pocked and disfigured him. He looked visibly aged by decades.

This kind of underhanded, criminal and ghastly behavior has a long and dastardly history in the Soviet Union, one which Putin carried forth to Russia, and it seems simply now a part of that political menu of options. Grigory Mairanovsky was a Soviet poisoner who earned his Ph.D. for devising such hideous assassination techniques, and from Gorky to modern Russian journalists, the criminal attacks continue. The original claim was that Yushchenko was poisoned with ricin, a biological toxin relatively easy to manufacture, but the more common claim now is that he was dosed with dioxin. In any case, it was both horrific and it backfired, with his support growing even more fervent when he survived the attempt and came back to campaign, weakened and disfigured, weeks later.

While many observers agree that Yushchenko won in November, the results were muddied and the December 26, 2004 runoff was more monitored and the consensus from neutral observers internally and externally was that Yushchenko won by approximately a 52-44 percent margin (├ůslund & McFaul, 2006, p. 3).

It took a public occupation of the government squares and buildings from November 22-January 23, 2005 (the most intense period Nov 22-Dec 8, opposing the official declaration of a Yanukovych victory), when the peaceful but amazingly persistent frigid weather protests by scores of thousands kept the issue moving toward the Supreme Court, which finally declared Yushchenko the victor.

Subsequently, Yushchenko was unable to move the economy forward and the looming threat of Russian interference or even invasion helped convince enough Ukraine voters to put in the now moderated and somewhat more sophisticated Yanukovych.

The strength of nonviolence is not its ability to make money or engage in the pothole politics that can decide elections. The strength of nonviolence, as always, is that it enables change without violence and with much more grace.

The Orange Revolution is dead. Long live the Orange Revolution!

├ůslund, Anders & McFaul, Michael (Eds.) (2006). Revolution in orange: The origins of Ukraine’s democratic breakthrough. Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Nationalism and the natural need to hammer

Mohandas Gandhi thought a great deal about nationalism, since his nation was stolen from him before he was born and subsumed into a foreign colonial empire. He advocated a nationalism that would practice nonviolence in all its relationships, internally and externally.

Ah, but not in our modern era, we presume. Not in a time with F-16s, global strike force, 1,000 military bases on the sovereign soil of other people's lands. This is a Utopian fantasy.

Perhaps. If so, I suspect Mother Nature's evolutionary experiment with extreme cognition--humans--will come to a close sooner rather than later. The human, ecological and opportunity costs are so staggering with this model of conflict management that any future dependent upon it looks like a flaming meteor plunging into oblivion as it burns through the oxygen of reality, of limits, of carrying capacity, of extinction.

Still, as long as there is a chance for change, we are called to consider, to contemplate, to converse, to collaborate, to take collective action. The stakes could not be higher; our children, our scions, our species, depends upon this transformation. If it is theoretically possible, we should figure out how to make the attempt.

In his tract Hind Swaraj, Gandhi called for a home rule--complete sovereignty for India--that would be inclusive of all religions and would reject the divide-and-conquer mentality. He pointed out that, for long stretches of India's history, "Hindus flourished under Moslem sovereigns and Moslems under the Hindu....With the English advent quarrels recommenced" (Gandhi, 1938, p. 43).

Gandhi is credited in the literature in the field in which I teach--Conflict Resolution--with inspiring the first strand of it, what is now called Alternative Dispute Resolution. ADR is based upon principled negotiation, the popular version of which is explained in Fisher and Ury's Getting to yes. It is based upon four principles, one of which is basing our analysis of potential solutions to conflict on interest rather than position. Often our interests are compatible if we search hard enough, even though our positions may be polar opposites. Indeed, Gandhi wrote about that presciently.

"The Hindus, the Mahomedans, the Parsis and the Christians who have made India their country are fellow-countrymen, and they will have to live in unity, if only for their own interest" (Gandhi, 1938, p. 43).

Overcoming our narrow positions and selfish prejudices is a huge challenge for us as humans who have generations of foraging and hoarding encoded in our instinctual behaviors. We tend to keep our things and organize personal and collective defense against anyone, enmifying them, casting them out of our place of privilege. Transforming that selfishness into enlightened self-interest will be tough. It will mean overriding the reversion to violence and moving forward to nonviolence. It will mean recycling the tools of death into tools of healing and hope, and that may involve nonviolent force, as envisioned in another spiritual tradition, expressed in the Old Testament, Isaiah 2:4, that we shall beat swords into plowshares.
That is the most progressive, enlightened form of recycling of all, and I believe Gandhi would heartily approve.

Fisher, Roger, & Ury, William (1991). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. (2nd ed.). New York: Penguin Books.

Gandhi, Mohandas K. (1938). Hind swaraj or Indian home rule. Ahmedabad: Navajivan.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Yippies, yuppies and speed of change

Humor is so key. With humor, even the hard edge of opposition becomes softer. I watched the full version of Bill O'Reilly v Jon Stewart and in that light Stewart absolutely creamed him because he has a great sense of humor that O'Reilly--tough and smart though he is--utterly lacks. And to make it worse for O'Reilly, he called Stewart names, called those who work with Stewart names, labeled everyone, and was just arrogant and combative. Stewart met all this with humor and it was like the incredible hating Hulk v dancing Wu Li Master. Stewart allowed O'Reilly's power to just wash out, stepping aside to let the force of O'Reilly spend itself into a sort of ineffectual alluvial fan of insult and sneers. There are no better exemplars of the dysfunction of full frontal patriarchy than O'Reilly, who is the personification of finger-wagging, patronizing lecturing.

Some like that style (most white males--wonder why?) and cocoon themselves into the O'Reilly self-righteousness, purblind to any analysis other than a Manichean dualism that someone like Stewart can flatten by deflating the pomposity. So we continue in our Estado Unidense way...

Historical humor
The Youth International Party (Yippies) were really basically political hippies. We were in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic Convention. That was the first time I was almost arrested--and at that time talked my way out of it because I was simply not prepared. At age 17 I was just getting my sea legs as a member of various social movements and I was philosophically all over the map, as are most 17-year-olds. But the older ones, like Abbie Hoffman, were appealing to me because he in particular was always so funny. When he started getting hyper-confrontational, I loved that too, at my immature age.
I was drawn one week to nonviolence and the next week to working with the Black Panthers, which I did--though I never committed a single violent act, just approved of their self-defense (which turned out to be the most useless and dysfunctional approach, teaching me lessons that have stayed with me).

My generation was empowered by the Civil Rights movement and by the global decolonization movement, as well as the general disgust with the black-and-white attitudes of the corporate post-World War II generation, my parents. Still, most of us were coopted and became our fathers and mothers in most significant ways, losing our Yippie youth into the next youngish phase of the so-called Young Urban Professionals, yuppies. I chose a different hippie homesteader path, going after a solar cabin built in the north woods, but I was a weird one. The yuppies are aged baby boomers now, and we achieved little, in my estimation, so that is now passed along to youth to take it much further.

Rise up and achieve quick change
On the speed of revolution, do not make the error of assuming nonviolence is slower than violence. That is statistically not the case at all. Historical examples abound and the use of the counterfactual is helpful.

How long would it have taken for African Americans to wage war against the US and get Jim Crow segregation ended? Any such insurgency would have been mercilessly and totally crushed. A hint of that came about during riots, when all the casualties were on one side, but you just won't find the poor minority of 11 percent militarily prevailing on the most well equipped military on Earth. The paucity of, and incorrectness of the Che Guevaran triggering event theory has been shown to be generally completely useless and counterproductive. You don't have a riot leading to revolution, nor do you assassinate a George Bush--or Obama--and expect any outcome other than society reacting against you, radical leftists and teabaggers (respectively) notwithstanding. Mistaking wild enthusiasm for Sarah Palin from the woefully underinformed teabaggers at their convention for some kind of potential actual violent American Revolution2 is a radical rightwing fantasy of radically unrealistic delusion.

And apply the timeline question to Nashville, where Jim Crow segregation was the law from 1896 (Plessey v Ferguson) to 1954 (Brown v Board of Ed) in education, 1956 in city buses thanks to the Montgomery campaign, and then 1960 in Nashville. The college students looked at 64 years of 'legal' segregation in the winter of 1960, trained and did sit-ins, and won by Easter. That is fast. Violence would have been costly and worse than slow.

Or look at the Philippines in 1986. Four days of nonviolent People Power masses in the streets and they overthrew Marcos, who had successfully defeated violent insurrection for more than 20 years! Violence is fast? Not.

But that is counterintuitive. We are in a culture saturated with the idea that violence is fast. That is part of the bubble around it that needs to be punctured.