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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 04:22 PM | general politics


I like how Dave Winer of Scripting News is handling the disintegration of Space Shuttle Columbia yesterday. He begins this DaveNet with, "Here are some points of view you won't get from TV coverage of the Columbia disaster." He goes on to repeat a few of the things I've been thinking since about noon yesterday when it was clear that just about every U.S. media outlet had shifted into "shuttle porn" mode. Winer doesn't make light of the Columbia crash, and I don't want to either. But his concluding point about the seven people killed is what I think we should remember as we move on:

Yes it's sad they died. Yes. But it's great that they lived.

And jumping off from that celebration of life, perhaps as we mourn the loss of the Columbia crew, U.S. citizens (and especially U.S. political leaders) should question more seriously than ever the value of dropping bombs on Iraq or anywhere else. Perhaps we should consider the contradictions between non-stop media coverage that makes it appear that the world is ending when the U.S. loses *seven* astronauts, even as the U.S. moves almost full steam ahead toward a war that will kill thousands. If the lives of those seven astronauts were worth so much (and they were), then are the lives of Iraqis or the American soldiers who will die in a war against Iraq worth any less?

Posted 04:17 PM | life generally

Law School Motives

Liable points to a great little piece at about why people go to law school. Does it seem a bit odd the way the people in the article seem to see the study of law as something that will give their lives definition and structure? It's almost as if these people are hoping law school will save them from something. Law school as salvation? What do we need to be saved from? Ourselves? Why would law appear to be salvation? Do other professions attract people for reasons like this? Hello Freud, am I just projecting here?

What's awful about a couple of these people is their cynicism; they haven't even started law school and they've already convinced themselves that whatever horrible shit they have to do (i.e., defend lead paint companies or tobacco companies or corporate polluters or whatever) won't matter, either to them or to the world. The opening sentence sums it up brilliantly:

For all the bites I have taken at the law, I always maintained the belief that most of that tar-mountain called What's Wrong goes back to the attitude some people take when first entering law school, attitudes whose implicit cynicism will shape the next three years instead of the growth-oriented converse.

Now doesn't that just make law school sound like fun? Yikes.

I guess I'm most like "Charles" who explains his decision to go to law school this way:

"The point of a J.D. is the sudden power it brings you. I have to work from the inside. … It doesn't matter whether I'll feel satisfaction or believe in what I'm doing. Don't you see? It's war. War. This hell has succumbed to the blasé; people will dismiss this article like any another hollow statistic. Well not me. I didn't dismiss a thing. Feeling bad accomplishes as much as feeling nothing. I'm not even going to waste my energy hoping someone reads my words and gets inspired. Everyone knows what I know, knows it goes on around the world, everyday, right ... now. I knew it, too. But I saw it, and that made all the difference."

Read that again: "Feeling bad accomplishes as much as feeling nothing." And yes, the point for me is the "sudden power" that comes with the J.D. When I look at the world and how power moves through it, it seems to me that, in my current position, my ability to act is fairly limited. However, as a lawyer, many new avenues should open. So instead of just feeling bad (or angry) about how screwed up the world is, I hope I'll be in a better position to do something about it. But right now I think I need to quick jump down off my high horse before I fall off and break something. Part of me is that crusader, but another part is the one looking for structure and salvation. And even as I admit that I know the joke's on me if I'm looking for the law to save me. Sheesh, you'd think I would have learned the foolishness of that lesson when I got my first speeding ticket at age 16!

Maybe that will be my new mantra: Feeling bad accomplishes as much as feeling nothing. Feeling bad accomplishes as much as feeling nothing. Feeling bad accomplishes…

Posted 09:38 AM | Comments (5) | law school

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