Book Review: “The Nonviolence Handbook” by Michael N. Nagler

By Cynthia Kipkorir       October 18, 2017

Nagler_ImageWhat stands out to you most when you hear the word non-violence? An absence of violence? Well, Michael N. Nagler in his book “The Nonviolence Handbook” argues that referring to nonviolence as an absence of violence – or more so, a safer option to violence – robs the nonviolence endeavor of its power.

What nonviolence means, as well as the tenets embodying nonviolence, are examples of topics Michael discusses in his book. “The Nonviolence Handbook”, therefore, is a good primer to the concept of nonviolence and therefore a good read for anyone who is remotely interested in understanding the nonviolence phenomenon.

Michael starts by informing his audience that nonviolence is a trait inherent in all of us–this is a message borrowed from Gandhi who proclaimed nonviolence to be “…the law of our species.” Nevertheless, the author opines that as much as humanity has nonviolence ingrained in its nature, it cannot manifest it until it fully understands the nonviolence concept. In the subsequent chapters, the author thus explicitly explains to its audience how to invoke nonviolence and how to ensure they are using nonviolence ‘correctly.’

The trap you and I fall into (often if not always), when dealing with a perpetrator of an injustice (i.e. a government, institution, individual etc.), is conflating the perpetrator and the evil/oppression that they are inflicting. Nagler, however, advises his audience to separate the evil and the evildoer, thereby imploring readers to not cooperate with the evil and not the perpetrator of the evil per se. It is easy to see why this is a strong argument; only when we separate the evil and the evildoer will we able to see the oppressor as an individual who is just like us (human) and thus in need of our help to be ‘delivered’ from the evil.

Another illuminating concept, arguably one of the most fundamental principles of nonviolence in the book discussed by the author, is the concept of “how much nonviolence is too much nonviolence?”. The reader is introduced to the different stages of nonviolence, namely: Conflict resolution, Satyagraha and ultimate sacrifice. Ergo, depending on the level of violence/oppression inflicted, nonviolent actors can invoke the above stages. As can be conjectured from the meaning of the word, conflict resolution is the 1st stage and this essentially involves tools such as negotiation and mediation. Conflict resolution is thus useful when both parties are willing to lend each other an ear. Nevertheless, if the conflict cannot be resolved in the first stage, satyagraha (nonviolent resistance) is invoked. Satyagraha therefore uses tools such as strikes and civil disobedience. Yes, don’t let the sophistication of the word fool you, Satyagraha is something most of you have taken part in. Lastly, the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ is the third stage, and one we should resort to if the first two stages have emerged unsuccessful. As the stage implies, ultimate sacrifice is the do-or-die stage whereby the nonviolent actors are willing to risk dying to oblige the oppressor to adhere to their demands.

The discussion of the different stages of the nonviolence movement is arguably the most important part of the book because of the author’s success in spelling out clearly what we readers already know and have taken part in numerous times, albeit sometimes unknowingly. While we might have taken part in the stages in a different order, for example putting our lives in danger before trying to negotiate with the oppressor, the author reminds us that it is important to invoke the stages depending on the extremity of the oppression. This is what the author has referred to as proportionality. Invoking the wrong stage for a wrong stage of the oppression might risk us alienating the oppressor even further.

Another important point raised in the book that is worth mentioning is the importance of constructive programs. Nagler underscores the importance of having a good replacement program after an old repressive regime is brought down; this is imperative in ensuring that no power vacuum is left and therefore eliminating the possibility of another undesired regime taking over. The constructive program discussed by Nagler is a phenomenon largely adopted by organizations such as the United Nations, and one that has been successful in many conflict-ridden countries.

The book’s power, therefore, lies in it convincing its readers that nonviolence actually works and that it is the right way of ensuring its actors get their demands. It spells out clearly how to practice nonviolence and reminds readers of their innate nonviolent nature, thereby beseeching them to rid themselves of the notion that violence is the answer to all problems. It also warns its audience of the bias towards violence depicted by the mass media – – Imagine all of the instances of belligerent behavior depicted by the media in any given day. It is thus easy to see why this continuous depiction of violence in the media has the tendency to normalize violence and therefore our need to shun such media.

The author does a good job of informing his readers that the fruits of nonviolent endeavors may not be instantly tangible, and urges readers not to confuse lack of an immediate response with failure. This is a particularly good reminder for those of us who tend to throw in the towel easily.

All in all, this is a must book for those who are interested in knowing and understanding how nonviolence works and how they can implement it in their everyday life.

N.B. Though nonviolence is more often than not discussed in the context of ‘full blown’ activities like protests and going to war, we can always invoke nonviolence in our everyday relationships too.

“It is not me against you but you and me against the problem.”

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Google says Palestine was never on Google Maps after claims it had been ‘airbrushed’ away

The Telegraph
A glitch caused West Bank and Gaza to disappear from Google Maps
A “glitch” caused West Bank and Gaza to disappear from Google Maps
CREDIT: GOOGLE

Accusations online that Google had deleted Palestine from its Maps facility prompted the internet giant to explain that the country “has never been” on the service.

The row came after a glitch caused the West Bank and Gaza to briefly disappear from Google Maps.

Palestine, although recognised as a country by the United Nations, has never been on Google Maps. Instead of being demarcated with a solid line that denotes a country border, Google instead defines the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with a dashed border – the mark it uses to outline disputed territories.

Google was forced to explain that it doesn’t define Palestine as a country separate from Israel on Maps after a petition signed by 250,000 people described the company’s “airbrushing” of Palestine as “deeply offensive” and called for the internet giant to put Palestine on its map.

A glitch that briefly removed the labels for the West Bank and Gaza sparked outrage on social media, with people tweeting under the hashtag #PalestineIsHere.

Dear , Where is ? You cannot erase an entire country!

The Change.org petition accused Google of being “complicit in the Israeli government’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine” by marking the conflicted area with a dotted line that denotes a problematic border.

“Google Maps is now regarded as definitive by people around the world, including journalists, students and others carrying out research into the Israel-Palestine situation,” said the petition. “Recognition of Palestine by Google may even turn out to be as important as recognition by organisations like the UN.”

Google said in a response that Palestine had never been marked as a territory on its map, but that a glitch in the software had resulted in Palestinian areas being removed.

“There has never been a ‘Palestine’ label on Google Maps,” said a spokesman for Google. “However, we discovered a bug that removed the labels for ‘West Bank’ and ‘Gaza Strip’. We’re working quickly to get these labels back to the area.”

Back in 2013 Google “followed the lead of the UN” and updated the Palestinian version of its Search homepage with the description “Palestine” as opposed to “Palestinian Territories”. In a significant mile stone in the conflict, the Palestinian flag was raised at the UN’s headquarters last year.

What I’ve learned about U.S. Foreign Policy: The Against the Third World Video compilation by Frank Dorrel

dvdcover

This Video compilation consists of clips and videos documenting United States foreign policy present a less known history of United States international involvement. Throughout the video clips are included discussion of actions taken by the United States government and elites that are outside the purview of both International and American law. These clips depict the actions of a global hegemon, the United States, taking actions in order to garner and maintain global influence.  From the CIA backed overthrow of governments in Iran and Guatemala to attacks by the United States against civilian populations in Panama.

While the film contained no comprehensive analysis of the clips and videos it compiled, the juxtaposition of the various pieces information presents a reality in stark contrast with many portrayals of American exceptionalism.  To me, this film becomes makes the most sense when viewed through International Relations balance of power theory.  In the films 10 different segments, the United States foreign policy is repeatedly presented as seeking to gain power, while undermining other world powers even at the expense of traditional American ideals.

Though I wish the film included a broader analysis to tie the wide range of ideas together, overall I certainly believe this video compilation is worth watching.  Whether or not you agree with the perspective it presents, its depiction of the United States as a flawed actor in a complex international system can provide valuable insight into current and future United States foreign affairs.

Film Review- The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear

By: Daniel Bloomberg

The Power of Nightmares is a 2004 documentary detailing the rise of the politics of fear.  It traces this rise by tracing the development of two groups from the 1970’s-1990’s in different regions of the world, following different ideologies, and following different paths, that each came to use the same tactic, fear as a means to bring about political goals:  The United States Neoconservative movement, and the extreme Islamist movement of the Middle East.

This documentary excellently depicts the evolution of the ideologies of these groups as they deliberately create a mythology of Good vs. Evil in order to unite their constituencies in what they considered to be a more moral society seeking to drive the evil from the world.  This evolution occurs as in certain instances such as during the Cold War these groups begin to fall victim to the myth that they themselves created and in others including during the Clinton administration, where they simply didn’t care. This was a radical change from politicians of previous periods who had offered visions of change for a better future.  It concludes with a unique presentation of Al Qaeda, and the larger war on terror as a distorted projection of this myth.  

MPT’s Elliott Adams part of “The St. Pat’s 7”

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The St. Pat’s 7

On St.Patrick’s Day nearly two hundred people gathered at the gates of the Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines to protest the use of drones by our country. Seven crossed the line and were arrested. Each was charged with trespass, a simple misdemeanor. A trial has been scheduled for June 23 at the Polk County Courthouse. If convicted, they could be sentenced to thirty days in jail or be fined $100.

We have seen these trials before. They are expensive. Thousands of dollars will be spent. The trial could last as long as a week. Jury selection will be time consuming. Each defendant has the right to exercise “four strikes”. A large pool of jurors will be needed so six can be chosen to serve. There will be a judge, a prosecutor, a court reporter, a court attendant, and expert witnesses. And there could be as many as seven lawyers retained to protect the defendants’ rights
and advocate for their cause.

We ask, what is the point? These defendants – “The St. Pat’s 7” – did nothing more than exercise their consciences. No property was damaged and no one was injured. They acted peacefully and submitted themselves to the authorities.

It is a fact that these dissenters, and others like them, know they will be arrested. They stage their “actions” before reporters and cameras, hoping the brief news coverage will somehow influence public opinion. They believe that by telling their story to a jury their truth will be heard and others will take up the cause.

Perhaps this is the way it should be – that our criminal justice system with its police, prosecutors, judges and jurors should be used in the service of public discourse on issues important to all of us.  But perhaps there is a better way.

What if a Peacemaking Circle were held? What if the seven defendants, and an equal number of National Guard personnel, sat in a Circle with a skilled neutral who would facilitate the conversation?  What if a talking piece were used so each could speak without interruption?  And what if, like a trial, the process were open to the public? Anyone
could attend, sit outside the Circle, and listen to everything said.

There would be truth telling – by the defendants and by the National Guard. There would be no attempt to reach consensus. It wouldn’t be possible. The protestors abhor the use of drones. The Guard personnel, while perhaps sympathetic to the protestors, have chosen to join the Guard and have a job to do. Each side has a truth.

While a jury trial would result in a determination of guilt or innocence, the Circle process would honor each person’s truth no matter the chasm between.

And wouldn’t a great service be rendered by the sharing of these truths in the presence of the community at large?

We support such an effort and call upon those in authority to give it deep consideration. The National Guard, the seven defendants, and the community deserve it.

Sincerely,

  • Rev.  Alejandro Alfareo-Santia, Pastor, D.M. Trinity UMC
  • Rev. Ryan Arnold, Sr. Pastor, First Christian Church
  • Bob Brammer, Iowa Attorney General staff retired
  • Rev. Brian Carter, UMC Iowa Legislature lobbyist
  • Rev. Kathleen Clark, Retired UMC minister
  • Rev. Denny Coon, Sr. Pastor, Walnut Hill United Methodist Church
  • Patricia A. Coon
  • Eloise M. Cranke, Methodist Federation for Social Action Iowa Coordinator
  • Charles Day, Ph.D Therapist
  • Fr. Tom DeCarlo, Des Moines Diocese
  • Catherine Dietz-Kilen, Attorney
  • Cathy Dodds
  • Laura Douglas, Educator
  • Dr. David Drake, Psychiatrist
  • Kathleen Ferguson
  • Rev. Eric Guy, Sr. Pastor, First United Methodist Church
  • Dennis Groenenboom, Executive Director, Iowa Legal Aid
  • Dave Hurd, Retired President of Principle Financial Group
  • Trudy Hurd
  • Carmen Lamp-Zeitler, CFUM Director
  • Grace W. Liddon
  • Diane Krell
  • Dr. Keith Krell, Endodontics Specialist
  • Mike W. McCarthy
  • Matt McCoy, Iowa State Senator
  • Rev. Brian K. Milford, United Methodist District Superintendent
  • Kathleen McQuillen, Des Moines AFSC Coordinator
  • Rev. Russell J. A. Melby, ELCA, Retired Director of Iowa Church World Service
  • Rev. Steve Melby, Retired UMC minister
  • Elsie P. Naylor, UCC
  • Fr. David Polich, Des Moines Diocese
  • Rev. Sarai Rice, Presbyterian minister
  • The Right Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop Episcopal Diocese of Iowa
  • Mark Smith, Retired Union Labor leader
  • Rev. William Steward, Retired Sr. Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Mark Stringer, Sr. Pastor, First Unitarian Church of Des Moines
  • Susie Tierney, Des Moines Just Faith
  • Julius C. Trimble, Bishop, Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • Virginia Varce, Lay church leader
  • Jerry Wiener, Jewish Community
  • And of course, META PEACE TEAM!

Film Review: The Interrupters

Film Review: The Interrupters

By Craig Wing

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The Interrupters tells the stories of three individuals-Ameena Mathews, Eddie Bocanegra, and Cobe Williams- who work to protect their Chicago communities from violence. The film chronicles the journey of Ameena, Eddie, and Cobe as they act as “Violence Interrupters” and attempt to intervene in disputes before they turn violent. The film poignantly captures the redemptive struggle of three ex-gang members who seek to diminish the violence in their local communities by means of intervention.

The film was directed by Steve James and expertly chronicles the pernicious violence that plagues the inner-cities of the U.S. The footage captured in this film is gritty and provocative. Steve Jones has crafted a documentary that offers a first-hand account of the dichotomy of brutal violence and hopeful redemption that is found in the urban enclaves of the U.S. A film of this power and magnitude should not be missed.

Film Review:Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence

Film Review-Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence

By Craig Wing

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David Barnhart’s documentary film, Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence, deals with the personal and societal impacts of gun violence in America. The film consists of conversations with survivors and victims’ families, community leaders, lawmakers, former ATF officials, police officers, and emergency room chaplains and surgeons. The documentary utilizes the “ripple effect” theory to illustrate the wide-ranging impact that a shooting has on a survivor, a family, the local community, and society as a whole.

The film offers an insightful array of personal testimonies of those impacted by the “ripple effect” of gun violence.The documentary offers not only insight into the wide-ranging effects of gun violence in our culture, but also provides pertinent information on how to prevent gun violence in the first place.The film addresses the issue of gun violence prevention and advocates the need for universal background checks and waiting periods for all gun purchases, and a ban on semiautomatic weapons. The documentary urges its viewers to actively find the local organizations dedicated to gun violence prevention and to get involved.

In summary, Trigger is a film well worth watching. The documentary is well crafted and the content provided is fascinating. The stories of those affected by gun violence are insightful and at times emotionally riveting.  Perhaps the greatest aspect of the film is the insightful solutions that it provides to its viewers in regard to actively preventing gun violence in one’s own community.

Ishmael: Book Review

Ishmael: Book Review
By Craig Wing

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Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael is a novel imbued with a powerful sense of social urgency. This utterly unique piece of literature tells the story of a disillusioned man who answers a cryptic newspaper ad in the personal section that exclaims, “TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” Little does the man know that his teacher is a telepathic gorilla named Ishmael.

Ishmael engages his pupil in Socratic dialogue, chalked full of astonishing insights regarding the destructive nature of mankind’s modern civilization. The topic of discussion is entirely engaging and thoroughly absorbing. The reader is taken on a critical examination and journey into the very infancy of civilization and back. Over-all, I highly recommend this wonderful novel.

The Corporation: Film Review

The Corporation: Film Review

By Craig Wing

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The Corporation is a documentary film that explores the historical evolution, psychological make-up, and impact of the most dominant institution of the modern era. The documentary presents the corporation as a paradoxical institution that creates both great wealth and enormous societal harm. Utilizing the premise of legal corporate “personhood”, the film provides an in-depth analysis of the sociopathic psychology that the institution exhibits.

The documentary, released in 2003, was directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott and was based on Joel Bakan’s book The Corporation: the Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. The film consists of a wide array of interviews from CEO’s, brokers, whistle blowers, and corporate insiders and critics. The documentary contains footage from 40 interviews: including Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva, and Michael Moore.

The Corporation is an ambitious and highly informative documentary. The content provided in this film offers an emotionally-charged and intellectually engaging experience. The style and tone of the film is riveting and highly entertaining. Over-all, The Corporation is expertly crafted and immensely insightful. This documentary should be required viewing for anyone interested in gaining an understanding of the history, psychological nature, and impact of the modern-day business corporation.

 

Building a Movement of Peace Teams: Training Coming to a City Near You

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Note the role of the “third party”: no intervention. We can change this picture.

By Jessica Anderson, the Metta Center for Nonviolence

Note: If you are interested in getting trained the skills and strategies for building a national movement of local peace teams, we have good news. MPT Is going to be going on a nationwide tour to do just that. You can find out more about where they will be at this link, and contact them if you would like to host them in your town.

How do we address violence: not only violence in our communities but violence from those who are supposed to protect community (aka “peace” officers)?

We need people who are trained in creating safe spaces, and the slightest hope that it might be possible to create such spaces—is what drives organizations like Meta Peace Team (MPT, formerly Michigan Peace Team). MPT’s goal is not to take sides, not even really to come up with solutions, but simply to create safe spaces where people might be able to deal with the challenges of conflict without violence.

From its very beginning in the 1980s as Michigan Faith and Resistance, through its years as Michigan Peace Team, MPT has sought to equip peacemakers to use their heads, hearts, and hands—to find their personal centers, to be scholarly activists, and to do something about what they learn and experience. These peacemakers are based out of Lansing, MI, but they have worked beyond the state’s borders almost from the very beginning. To reflect this, the group finally took the step this year of changing its name to Meta Peace Team—chosen because meta calls up ideas of transforming relationships and of going beyond borders that are central to MPT’s vision for its work.

Meta Peace Team is conceptualized as a way to plan, train, and deploy peace teams where invited both domestically and internationally—again not to take sides or to “fix” problems, but to create space for people to come up with their own solutions to conflicts. The teams are made up of people who are trained in violence de-escalation techniques, committed to the internal work of personal centering so as to be able to overcome fear in the midst of violence, and willing to work collaboratively and with consensus processes.

They believe that conflict per se can be constructive but that the use of violence to deal with conflict tends to be destructive—and, accordingly, they see the core of their mission as protecting people from violence no matter where that violence comes from or toward whom it is directed. And, they “walk their talk.” They do not take sides, and they don’t invite themselves in to handle just any situation—although they might reach out and make contact with people on the ground to see if help is needed.  As MPT staff member Mary Hanna quips, the teams are not there to quell disturbances but to protect against violence: “Sometimes people think of us as parade marshals – we’re not there to make sure your event goes swimmingly, we’re there to make sure nobody gets hurt.”

I had a chance to speak with Mary a few weeks ago, and she shared her own story of getting involved with MPT. Mary’s exposure to active peace work began during her time as an undergrad student at Michigan State University, where she was fortunate enough to find herself “in the company of prophetic peacemakers”—people who really lived out their convictions and encouraged her to do the same. She began to volunteer with MPT while working first for a community mental health center and then for a peace education center, and finally switched to full-time work with MPT as her involvement with the organization continued to build. Mary’s official job title with MPT is “Operations Manager,” but as she explains it, she does a little (or a lot!) of everything “to make sure that we can keep going as an organization.”

Mary was able to clarify for me some of the mechanics of MPT’s peace team deployment, as the organization follows a unique model of short-term deployments to both domestic and international situations. Domestic deployments, she describes, are typically very short (1-3 days) and often revolve around single events—past examples have included everything from Ku Klux Klan rallies to Gay Pride parades. Participants in domestic teams need to have attended at least eight hours of training with MPT, and larger deployments are often broken up into smaller autonomous teams for increased flexibility. International deployments are longer, ranging from roughly three weeks to about three months. Preparation for these team members is much more intensive and includes regionally specific training, strategy-building and personal/team awareness exercises, and even simulated experiences such as those one might encounter during the deployment. Mary explains that the goal of all this is to send people who are personally centered, able to work together cohesively, and aware of the general dynamics (at the very least) of the situation they’re about to enter – the hope being that such a team could be a help rather than a hindrance to the local community.

I was curious about the three-month upper limit to international deployments, and Mary helpfully points out that the most common site for MPT international deployments has been the West Bank—and that three months is the longest duration for which one can obtain a visa to travel to the West Bank. This deployment length may shift as MPT engages with communities in different parts of the world, but it is likely to remain relatively short in comparison to the international peace team deployments of other organizations. Mary recognizes that this (the shorter duration) poses certain challenges to the way peace teams operate on the ground, but she argues that the more condensed timeframe also lowers some of the barriers to participation in a team and thus allows for broader investment in the concept. She adds that in this context the capacity for continuity, relationship-building, and on-the-ground familiarity comes from peace team members called “anchors” who return to a region repeatedly (and at overlapping times)—allowing MPT to maintain a constant presence in the community over the course of different peace team deployments.

Efforts to scale up this concept of peace teams have brought MPT to the next stage of its journey as a founding member of the Shanti Sena Network of North American peace teams. This network is composed of a variety of organizations across the U.S. and Canada, and it was inspired by Gandhi’s idea of a shanti sena, or ‘peace army.’ Mary explains that “when something big (violent) was happening, we wanted to be able to deploy peace teams as quickly and as effectively as the military deploys their troops and as the police deploys officers.” To do this, the groups need to develop a standardized training and a network to mobilize people in response to violence—to get those trained teams to the places where they are needed, and to do it quickly. They are beginning by coordinating their curricula to include a basic training that all agree is foundational for peace team work, and they hope that this coordination and cooperation in training will also start to build up the networks of relationships that can later be used to mobilize and dispatch trained teams to situations where violence threatens. Over the long haul, they hope to bring Gandhi’s vision of a ‘peace army’ to life in North America.

Note: If you are interested in getting trained the skills and strategies for building a national movement of local peace teams, we have good news. MPT Is going to be going on a nationwide tour to do just that. You can find out more about where they will be at this link, and contact them if you would like to host them in your town.