A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Non-Violent Resistance and Soldiers for Peace

There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent.
                                                                              -Mohandas Gandhi-

On this walk I have presented two petitions for peace to nearly all of my hosts, and to many others as well. Most have agreed that Israeli settlers should stop the expansion of settlements into Palestinian Territory, and that Hamas should adopt a strategy of non-violent resistance.

More than a few, however, have stated their belief in the necessity of violent resistance, whether for Hamas or some other cause; and more than a few have expressed their cynicism, either in my being able to deliver the petitions or in the petitions' effectiveness if I do manageto deliver them. A few have expressed their cynicism by questioning my right to preach peace to people in the Middle East. The few times I have petitioned in public, however, I believe most have not taken the time to have a look at the petitions because of either busyness or indifference.

I don't think I can persuade a cynical person to no longer be cynical; and very busy people have no time to be persuaded of anything. I don't like trying to persuade the indifferent, because they may nod their heads yes and sign just to get rid of me. But I may be able to persuade one who cares deeply for social change, yet has not ruled out violence in order to make changes. The 'violent man' has a little fire in him, and  may be persuaded to take up non-violent resistance if it can be shown to be  the better way.

Violence Begets Violence

First, let me point out the problem with violence as a means to making a better world.
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.,

 The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. … Returning violence for violence multiplies violence...

History will show that the overwhelming use of violence can manage to beget 'peace' through domination, on occasion. But this 'peace' will last only as long as the overwhelming threat of violence is present, and the perpetual maintenance of an overwhelming threat of violence does nothing to better the world. And with this kind of 'peace', there is always violence just under the surface, which flares up from time to time. Peace at the end of a gun is still violence.
When someone is courageous enough not to retaliate with violence, the seed of peace has been sown.

 High Moral Ground

Second, non-violent resistance exposes the wrongdoing of the opposition.
In the early sixties, when white policemen from the southeastern US beat, used water cannon, and released dogs on black non-violent protesters, the rest of the US was horrified to see this on television. The evil actions of racism were in sharp contrast to the peaceful  protests of the victims of racism, and the Civil Rights Movement took the high moral ground in the eyes of the citizens of the US (even when it had been on high moral ground all along).
Where there is injustice, and negotiation fails, non-violent resistance brings that injustice to light by intensifying it; the power in which that injustice lies is not willing to surrender its power, and will do anything to keep it. The violence, or further injustice that comes about on the part of such power is brought to the surface for all to see.

Non-Violent Resistance Works

And finally...

...From 1900 to 2006, major nonviolent resistance campaigns seeking to overthrow dictatorships, throw out foreign occupations, or achieve self-determination were more than twice as successful as violent insurgencies seeking the same goals.

                             -Think Again: Non-Violent Resistance by Erica Chenoweth, 'Foreign Policy'

So for those of you with a little potency, a little fire in you to make a better world, be a soldier, but a Soldier for Peace.

To have a look at Erica Chenoweth's somewhat dated, but always relevant article in its entirety:


1 comment:

  1. I'm writing an essay on nonviolent resistance and I found a lot of information from Erica Chenoweth, she's a teacher at Harvard and wrote a book named: "the strategic logic of nonviolent conflict"