Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nonviolence: A Good Idea At The Time?

A devoted friend of this blog sent me a link to LivingNonviolence. Margaret has been doing that--living nonviolence--for years, all her adult life, probably, and more. She's taken her skills and shared them with people in Central America, and people in our own country. She is a child of Rosa Parks and Gandhi and (I, a Jew, blush to say it) Jesus. Like Sandy Dennis in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Margaret has a kind of "quiet, noisy intensity" that you can't miss and can't easily describe.

I've always, mostly, sort of aspired to living nonviolence. But I've never felt capable of living "in" it. Still, I can't imagine a set of human values superior to those that are central to the idea of nonviolence (though the concept itself does not require a notion like superiority).

So when Margaret sent the link, I followed it. Not right away, but I did it. This morning.

The site is great. A team of folks, diverse in perspective, background and circumstance, produces it. A variety of writers, videographers and other artists generate materials for the site. And the site conveys a sense to me that living nonviolence is a different sort of thing than living nonviolently, which seems to be a more passive stance.

I watched a beautiful video called "What If." It's a substantial piece, full of important information and perspective, and challenge to all of us. But as I watched, I couldn't stop thinking that maybe Nonviolence, despite its long history, will turn out to be, like Capitalism, nothing more than a good idea at the time.

Of course, nothing is written in stone. Even capitalism might have been saved, I suppose. But, maybe nonviolence has a central problem that it has not yet overcome.

I fear that people who love nonviolence do not know how to speak to those who have accommodated themselves to it. Violence is a terrible thing, yes. But it is also exciting. And in our DNA.

No strategy to save the world with nonviolence as a principle tool will succeed without acknowledging the appeal of violence. I don’t know this. I simply fear it. And if it is true, that violence is in our blood and in our bones, no appeal to violence that simply dwells on the beauty of the thought will work.

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