Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nonviolence and Its Violent Consequences

William P. Meyers gives us a detailed look at how the non-violent establishment may be leading us astray.

excerpts from Thomas Paine's Corner;
The ideology of nonviolence has come to play a major role in political struggles in the United States of America and, indeed, in nations around the world. Almost every organization seeking radical change in the USA has been targeted by organizers for the nonviolence movement.

In this essay it will be argued that nonviolence encourages violence by the state and corporations. The ideology of nonviolence creates effects opposite to what it promises. As a result nonviolence ideologists cooperate in the ongoing destruction of the environment, in continued repression of powerless, and in U.S./corporate attacks on people in foreign nations. To minimize violence we must adopt a pragmatic, reality-based method of operation.

I agree that violence, properly defined, is bad. It should, ideally, not be part of how humans deal with each other. I believe that a society should and can be created where no state, economic entity, or religion uses violence against people. In such a society people can achieve their individual and collective goals through voluntary cooperation. But when you scrape the make-up off the face of the ideology of Nonviolence, there you will find, grinning, the very violence it pretends to oppose.

Much of the ability of the corporate state to neutralize its opposition in the USA (and elsewhere) depends on purposeful confusion of the language used to discuss the issues. It is important to distinguish exactly what is meant by violence, not being violent, and the ideology of Nonviolence. Most people have a pretty clear idea of what violence is: hitting people, stabbing them, shooting them, on up to incinerating people with napalm or atomic weapons. Not being violent is simply not causing physical harm to someone. But gray areas abound. What about stabbing an animal? What about allowing someone to starve because they cannot find means to pay for food? What about coercing behavior through the threat of violence? Through the threat of losing a job?

Violence as a dichotomy, with the only choices being Violence or Non-violence, is not a very useful basis for political discussion, unless you want to confuse people. Violence, the word, must be modified and illustrated to be useful for discussion. In this essay violence against animals, plants, and inanimate objects will be distinguished from violence against humans. Violence, unmodified, will always mean direct violence, actual bashing of people, and will be distinguished from the threat of violence, as when laws are passes with violent penalties attached. Also distinguished will be economic violence, as when economic activity leads to physical harm to humans, such as starvation or disease. Other methods of categorizing violence need to be distinguished, such as violent self-defense against violent predation.

Self-defense must be a right we reserve to ourselves. Otherwise we invite violent attacks on ourselves, our families, our organizations, and our communities. Self-defense keeps violent institutions in check. It must be combined with genuine solidarity. We must stand in solidarity with the ecosystems that are under attack, and with our fellow human beings who are under attack. Even the American middle class understands and approves of the right to self-defense.

The path forward is not easy, but drop the load of dogma called Nonviolence off your back, and you have a lot better chance of getting where you want to go.

Not all groups or individuals must act in the same way or on the same issues. Respect your brother and sister activists’s work, but don’t let them stop you from doing what you know you have to do.

“We are resolved that our group will not use or instigate violence against human beings as a means to achieve its ends. However, we recognize the right of people to self-defense and community defense.”

If a group really understands how Nonviolence has violent consequences, it might adopt a resolution such as:

“Whereas our group is against violent attacks upon individuals and violent attacks upon the environment, and wants to minimize such violence as quickly as possible and abolish it as soon as possible, it is resolved that we reject the ideology of Nonviolence, which encourages violence by unjust institutions.”

I recommend reading the entire essay at Thomas Paine's Corner.

No comments:

Post a Comment