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February 02, 2003

Making Nonviolence Work

If we're going to value life, we have to find ways to solve problems without killing people, which means, usually, without violence. According to People Power: Applying Nonviolence Theory by David H. Albert, Gandhi relied on a list of eight things that make nonviolent conflict resolution possible:
  1. Refraining from violence or hostility.
  2. Making real attempts to gain the opponent's trust.
  3. Refraining from humiliating the opponent, rather relying on the power of the truth which you hold.
  4. Making visible sacrifices for one's cause—you may be asking your opponent to sacrifice what s/he sees as her/his own self-interest or self-esteem; to convince them, you should be prepared to do the same.
  5. Carrying on constructive work—positive activity reduces the negative image that a society may have of those who noncooperate.
  6. Maintaining personal contact with the opponent—insures maximum possible mutual understanding.
  7. Demonstrating trust of the opponent—when you have high expectations of an opponent, these expectations may encourage her/him to live up to them.
  8. Developing empathy, good will, and patience toward the opponent—why address yourself to an opponent at all unless you assume s/he can change? If you deeply understand the motives, expectations, attitudes and perceived interests of opponents as people, your actions are likely to become more powerful.
If we compare these strategies to the current U.S. efforts to reduce "terror" and bring peace to the world, it's not hard to see why we'll never "win" the "war on terror" or eliminate the possibility that small nations like North Korea will threaten world peace with nuclear (or other) arsenals. If Ghandi was right, then everything we've been doing only makes more people mad and escalates levels of violence, rather than reducing them. So, in light of Ghandi's advice, what kinds of things could the U.S. do to be a more effective peacemaker in the world?

Posted February 2, 2003 04:22 PM | general politics

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