Non-Violent Resistance

Perhaps no single living person was more influential in the recent non-violent toppling of Egypt’s regime than Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gene Sharp. His 900 page classic The Politics of Non-Violent Action was condensed into a 100 page manifesto a few years ago, and was used by the leaders of Egypt’s resistance. I’ve just finished reading this tiny manifesto. Every page is a gem of collective wisdom. “When people refuse their cooperation, they are denying their opponent the basic human assistance and which any hierarchical system requires. If they do this in sufficient numbers for long enough, that hierarchical system will no longer have power. This is the basic political assumption of non-violent action.” “The people who are always pushing for violence and acts of sabotage need to be isolated, for they may well be the agent of your opponent. Don’t fall for this. The non-violent struggle must be continued on a non-violent basis otherwise you erode and destroy your own power capacity, and with that the power to achieve your objectives.” -Gene Sharp, The Politics of Non-Violent Action, Part  

Hope I Don’t Die

My friend Nick sent me a powerful video essay on the Western ethos of war. Incredibly moving four-minutes. Hard to watch this film and not be changed. (You can view the film on its homepage here.) The line was continually blurred between perpetrator and victim, between hero and villain. In time, the labels that heretofore defined my perceptions of the world became meaningless. You see what you want to see. You see it the way you want to see it. You see what you can bear to see. – Peter van Agtmael The structure of the current global economy is not designed for equitable, plodding growth; it’s designed to reward opportunistic, risk-seeking innovators. Were one to construct an investment portfolio of illicit businesses, it would no doubt outperform Wall Street. – Nils  


Since 2001, a growing group of international representatives (politicos, scientists, philosophers, religious leaders, etc.) have been gathering at something they call the World Public Forum. The WPF seeks “vivid dialogue among the representatives of civil society from different countries” in order to “seek peaceful, non-violent and orderly solutions which will fire the imagination of the vast society of people worldwide to direct a trend towards a humane future for all.” The group includes N. American delegates, but does not promote anyone’s particular political ideology beyond the normal UN human rights declarations, which is evidenced by the inclusion of delegates from Iran, Cuba, and Palestine. I deeply appreciate the WPF’s call to global religious conversation and tolerance, given at last week’s Rhodes Declaration, released Friday: 4.1. The world religions constitute a unique pool of wisdom and desire for a better co-existence of mankind in friendship and peace. But no one possesses the “ultimate truth”. Dialogue and cooperation between the world religions, their believers as well as their leaders, is therefore essential to achieve their common goals, which are better relations among people and enhanced respect for the divine creation. 4.2. To achieve greater unity among mankind, dialogue, cooperation and common actions of the world religions should be promoted at all levels, not only among leaders, but also among believers, in particular where they share the same neighbourhood. 4.3. A prerequisite for mutual respect is knowledge about each other. We therefore suggest that the world religions work together for the elaboration of a common curriculum for teaching about the other religions. This will ensure respectful information on the one hand and avoid misunderstandings, while wrongful stereotyping and hatred will be avoided. One U.S. delegate to last week’s WPF world summit in Greece (who descibes himself as “cursed with a grim awareness of the tremendous human suffering in the world, and deeply committed to doing something about it”) characterized the gathering as quite gloomy in light of the global economic meltdown. He shares three conclusions from the summit: Social Stability & Political Structures – A striking conclusion from this group was that “no dialogue between civilizations is possible until asymmetries of socioeconomic conditions [between North and South] are corrected.” To me, this seems like both a tall order and an intransigent position, but I’m sure it’s important for us in the developed world to recognize how condescending we often may appear to those who are not so fortunate. Economic Crisis – Conclusions from this group (which included a number of leading economists from all over the world) comprised a gloomy set of best and worst case scenarios. Best case is that we will sink into the worst recession since the 1930s, with an average of 8-12% unemployment in developed countries and -3% annual GDPs.  Worst case is a second great depression with unemployment approaching 20% in developed countries and -10% GDPs. Gulp. Energy – Among the conclusions and recommendations were these: a) future conflict prevention requires a world structure for non-fossil-fuel energy generation; b) greatly expanded research and development for sustainable alternative energy is needed under the auspices of the United Nations; and c) a cooperative international agreement for development of advanced nanotechnology should be pursued to avoid dangerous competition (read “arms race”) and to identify and satisfy new market opportunities. California is already at 7.7% unemployment, so the 8-12% unemployment forecast doesn’t surprise me. U.S. “real” GDP growth is currently less than 1%, so predictions of negative GDP growth doesn’t surprise me. And while I’m a card-carrying optimist, though the WPF’s worst-case prediction would be terribly world-altering, I would not be surprised. I would not be surprised because we are so miserably extended into debt and yet we are creating massive amounts of new debt to solve the problem – like a gambler who just can’t stop throwing the dice. The WPF’s worst-case prediction is rational because we are dramatically overextended – in far more ways than just financial debt. Printing presses can “create” more money, but we can’t: 1. Create more fossil energy than currently exists 2. Create unlimited amounts of farmland and fertilizers 3. Create more fish once we’ve fished out an ocean 4. Create a clean climate once we’ve trashed it 5. etc… As Chris Clugston notes in last week’s Energy Bulletin, “an overextended society and its lifestyle paradigm are unsustainable, and will inevitably collapse.” I encourage you to read’s Chris’ well-researched report HERE. And after that, please see the editorial comment in last week’s New Scientist, along with the related feature articles HERE. We live on a planet with finite resources – that’s no surprise to anyone – so why do we have an economic system in which all that matters is growth? When the human population was counted in millions and resources were sparse, people could simply move to pastures new. But with 9 billion people expected around 2050, moving on is not an option. As politicians reconstruct the global economy, they should take heed. If we are to leave any kind of planet to our children we need an economic system that lets us live within our  

Gandhi & MLK

On this 40th anniversary of MLK’s death, please consider the wisdom of a kindred spirit, Mohandas Gandhi. When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always. What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave. A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act. As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves. Be the change that you want to see in the world. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill. I believe that a man is the strongest soldier for daring to die unarmed. I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political and religious. All act and react upon one another. I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others. I reject any religious doctrine that does not appeal to reason and is in conflict with morality. I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people. If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide. In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause. It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business. Let everyone try and find that as a result of daily prayer he adds something new to his life, something with which nothing can be compared. Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men. Moral authority is never retained by any attempt to hold on to it. It comes without seeking and is retained without effort. My life is my message. Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it. No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good. Non-violence and truth are inseparable and presuppose one another. Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being. Non-violence is the article of faith. Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man. Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man. Poverty is the worst form of violence. Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action. Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problem. The human voice can never reach the distance that is covered by the still small voice of conscience. The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within. There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread Truth never damages a cause that is just. We do not need to proselytise either by our speech or by our writing. We can only do so really with our lives. Let our lives be open books for all to study. We may have our private opinions but why should they be a bar to the meeting of hearts? We may never be strong enough to be entirely nonviolent in thought, word and deed. But we must keep nonviolence as our goal and make strong progress towards it. When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator. What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good  

Omar Osama bin Laden

Omar Osama bin Laden and his British wife Jane Felix-Brown are seen during an interview with the Associated Press in Cairo, Friday, Jan. 11, 2008. The 26-year-old son of the al-Qaida leader says there is a better way to defend Islam: Omar wants to be an “ambassador for peace” between Muslims and the West. (from