Posts by RobertBurrowes:
Robert J. Burrowes.
A recent report from Equality Now titled ‘The World’s Shame: The Global Rape Epidemic’ http://www.equalitynow.org/campaigns/rape-laws-report offered a series of recommendations for strengthened laws to deter and punish sexual violence against women and girls.
However, there is substantial evidence that legal approaches to dealing with violence in any context are ineffective. For example, the empirical evidence on threats of punishment (that is, violence) as deterrence and the infliction of punishment (that is, violence) as revenge reveals variable impact and context dependency, which is readily apparent through casual observation. There are simply too many different reasons why people break laws in different contexts. See, for example, ‘Crime Despite Punishment’. https://undark.org/article/deterrence-punishments-dont-reduce-crime/
Moreover, given the overwhelming evidence that violence is rampant in our world and that the violence of the legal system simply contributes to and reinforces this cycle of violence, it seems patently obvious that we would be better off identifying the cause of violence and then designing approaches to address this cause and its many symptoms effectively. And reallocating resources away from the legal and prison systems in support of approaches that actually work.
So why do some men rape?
All perpetrators of violence, including rapists, suffered enormous violence during their own childhoods. This violence will have usually included a great deal of ‘visible’ violence (that is, the overt physical violence that we all readily identify) but, more importantly, it will have included a great deal of ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence as well: the violence perpetrated by adults against children that is not ordinarily perceived as violent. For a full explanation, see ‘Why Violence?’ http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’. http://anitamckone.wordpress.com/articles-2/fearless-and-fearful-psychology/
This violence inflicts enormous damage on a child’s Selfhood leaving them feeling terrified, self-hating and powerless, among other horrific feelings. However, because we do not allow children the emotional space to feel their emotional responses to our violence, these feelings of terror, self-hatred and powerlessness (among a multitude of others), become deeply embedded in the child’s unconscious and drive their behaviour without their conscious awareness that they are doing so.
So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themSelf thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioural dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).
When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.
The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, parents, teachers and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioural responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioural outcomes actually occur.
For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (e.g. by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behaviour that is generated by their feelings (e.g. by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.
However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviours, including some that are violent towards themselves, others and/or the Earth.
So what is happening psychologically for the rapist when they commit the act of rape? In essence, they are projecting the (unconsciously suppressed) feelings of their own victimhood onto their rape victim. That is, their fear, self-hatred and powerlessness, for example, are projected onto the victim so that they can gain temporary relief from these feelings. Their fear, temporarily, is more deeply suppressed. Their self-hatred is projected as hatred of their victim. Their powerlessness is temporarily relieved by a sense of being in control, which they were never allowed to be, and feel, as a child. And similarly with their other suppressed feelings. For example, a rapist might blame their victim for their dress: a sure sign that the rapist was endlessly, and unjustly, blamed as a child and is (unconsciously) angry about that.
The central point in understanding violence is that it is psychological in origin and hence any effective response must enable the suppressed feelings (which will include enormous rage at the violence they suffered) to be safely expressed. For an explanation of what is required, see ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’ which is referenced in ‘My Promise to Children’. https://nonviolentstrategy.wordpress.com/strategywheel/constructive-program/my-promise-to-children/
The legal system is simply a socially endorsed structure of violence and it uses violence, euphemistically labeled ‘punishment’, in a perverse attempt to terrorise people into controlling their behaviours or being treated violently in revenge by the courts if they do not. This approach is breathtakingly ignorant and unsophisticated in the extreme and a measure of how far we are from responding powerfully to the pervasive problem of violence in our world. See ‘The Rule of Law: Unjust and Violent’ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35866.htm and ‘Punishment is Violent and Counterproductive’. http://www.yeoldejournalist.com/punishment-is-violent/
So what are we to do?
Well we can continue to lament violence against women (just as some lament other manifestations of violence such as war, exploitation and destruction of the environment, for example) and use the legal system to reinforce the cycle of violence by inflicting more violence as ‘punishment’.
Or we can each, personally, address the underlying cause of all violence.
It might not be palatable to acknowledge and take steps to address your own violence against children but, until you do, you will live in a world in which the long-standing and unrelenting epidemic of violence against children ensures that all other manifestations of human violence continue unchecked. And our species becomes extinct.
If you wish to participate in the worldwide effort to end human violence, you might like to make ‘My Promise to Children’ outlined in the article cited above and to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’. http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com
You might also support initiatives to devote considerable societal resources to providing high-quality emotional support (by those expert at nisteling) to those who survive rape. This support cannot be provided by a psychiatrist. See ‘Defeating the Violence of Psychiatry’. http://warisacrime.org/content/defeating-violence-psychiatry Nisteling will enable those who have suffered from trauma to heal fully and completely, but it will take time.
Importantly, the rapist needs this emotional support too. They have a long and painful childhood from which they need a great deal of help to recover. It is this healing that will enable them to accurately identify the perpetrators of the violence they suffered and about whom they have so many suppressed (and now projected) feelings which need to be felt and safely expressed.
You need a lot of empathy and the capacity to nistel to address violence in this context meaningfully and effectively. You also need it to raise compassionate and powerful children in the first place.
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Robert J. Burrowes.
It is already clearly apparent, as many predicted, that Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States would signal the start of what might be the final monumental assault on much of what is good in our world. Whatever our collective gains to date to create a world in which peace, social justice and environmental sustainability ultimately prevail for all of Earth’s inhabitants, we stand to lose it all in the catastrophic sequence of events that Trump is now initiating with those who share his delusional worldview.
Starting with the appointment to his administration of individuals, such as Steve Bannon, Rex Tillerson and Scott Pruitt, who share his warped view of the world, and continuing with the policy decisions he is now implementing via executive orders, Trump threatens our biosphere with ecological catastrophe (through climate/environment-destroying decisions and perhaps through nuclear war) – see ‘US election: Climate scientists react to Donald Trump’s victory’ https://www.carbonbrief.org/us-election-climate-scientists-react-donald-trumps-victory and ‘It is two and a half minutes to midnight: 2017 Doomsday Clock Statement’ http://thebulletin.org/sites/default/files/Final%202017%20Clock%20Statement.pdf as well as ‘Trump pledges “greatest military build-up in American history”‘ http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/24/511926/Trump-delivers-speech-at-CPAC – exacerbates military violence in existing war zones – see ‘Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen. Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister’ https://theintercept.com/2017/01/30/obama-killed-a-16-year-old-american-in-yemen-trump-just-killed-his-8-year-old-sister/ – increases regional geopolitical tensions in ways that inflame the possibility of political unrest and military violence in new theatres – see ‘Worried Over Trump, China Tries to Catch up With U.S. Navy’ http://europe.newsweek.com/china-navy-budget-increase-trump-unpredictability-560985?rm=eu – supports violent and repressive regimes against those who struggle for liberation – see ‘The Middle East “peace process” was a myth. Donald Trump ended it’ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/18/the-middle-east-peace-process-myth-donald-trump-ended-it – and is generally implementing decisions that reverse progressive outcomes from years of peace, social justice and environmental struggles. See, for example, ‘Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Is Likely to Bring a Flood of Lawsuits’ https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-02-22/trump-s-immigration-crackdown-likely-to-bring-lawsuit-flood and ‘One of Donald Trump’s first moves in the White House strips women of abortion rights’ http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/health-problems/one-of-donald-trumps-first-moves-in-the-white-house-strips-women-of-abortion-rights/news-story/0b958833c3356ad3a00b785a6bfc21ef as well as ‘President Trump Breaks a Promise on Transgender Rights’. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/opinion/president-trump-breaks-a-promise-on-transgender-rights.html
Moreover, Trump, and those like him, further criminalize our right to dissent. See ‘North Dakota Senate passes bills criminalizing Dakota Access Pipeline protests’. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/02/21/dapl-f21.html
Why does Trump ignore overwhelming scientific evidence (for example, in relation to the climate) and want to ‘lock out’ people who are desperate to improve their lives? Why does he want to prepare for and threaten more war and even nuclear war?
Is Donald Trump sane?
According to Dr John D. Gartner, a practising psychotherapist who taught psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, ‘Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president’. See ‘Temperament Tantrum: Some say President Donald Trump’s personality isn’t just flawed, it’s dangerous’. http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2017-01-27/does-donald-trumps-personality-make-him-dangerous?src=usn_tw
Moreover, Chris Hedges argues, Trump is dangerously violent. See ‘Trump Will Crush Dissent With Even Greater Violence and Savagery’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GU0JD7eKhY
But why is Trump ‘dangerously mentally ill’ and violent?
For the same reason that any person, whether in the Trump administration or not, ends up in this state: it is an outcome of the ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that they suffered during childhood and which unconsciously determines virtually everything they now do. In brief, Trump is utterly terrified and full of self-hatred but projects this as terror and hatred of women, migrants, Muslims… and this makes him behave insanely. For a brief explanation, see ‘The Global Elite is Insane’. http://www.countercurrents.org/burrowes050214.htm For a more comprehensive explanation of why many human beings are violent, see ‘Why Violence?’ http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’. http://anitamckone.wordpress.com/articles-2/fearless-and-fearful-psychology/
So what are we to do? Well, if you are inclined to resist the diabolical actions of Donald Trump (and his insane and violent equivalents in the United States and other countries around the world), I invite you to respond powerfully. This includes maintaining a large measure of empathy for the emotionally damaged individual who is now president of the US (and his many equivalents). It also includes recognizing that this individual and his equivalents are the current ‘face’ of a global system of violence and exploitation built on many long-standing structures that we must systematically dismantle.
Here are some options for resisting and rebuilding, depending on your circumstances.
If you wish to strike at the core of human violence, consider modifying your treatment of children in accordance with the suggestions in the article ‘My Promise to Children’. https://nonviolentstrategy.wordpress.com/strategywheel/constructive-program/my-promise-to-children/
If you wish to simultaneously tackle all military, climate and environmental threats to human existence while rebuilding human societies in ways that enhance individual empowerment and community self-reliance, consider joining those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’. http://tinyurl.com/flametree
If you wish to resist particular elite initiatives that threaten peace, justice and environmental sustainability, consider planning, organizing and implementing nonviolent strategies to do so. But I wish to emphasize the word ‘strategies’. There is no point taking piecemeal measures or organizing one-off events, no matter how big, to express your concern. If you don’t plan, organize and act strategically, you will have wasted your time and effort on something that has no impact. Remember 15 February 2003? Up to thirty million people in over 600 cities around the world participated in rallies against the war on Iraq in what some labeled ‘the largest protest event in human history’. Did it stop the war?
So if you are inclined to respond powerfully by planning a nonviolent strategy for your campaign, you might be interested in the Nonviolent Strategy Wheel and other strategic thinking on this website – Nonviolent Campaign Strategy https://nonviolentstrategy.wordpress.com/ – or the parallel one: Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy. https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/
And if you wish to join the worldwide movement to end violence in all of its forms, you might also be interested in signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’. http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com
Donald Trump has formidable institutional power at his disposal and he and his officials will use it to inflict enormous damage on us and our world in the months ahead.
What most people do not realize is that we have vastly greater power at our disposal to stop him and the elite and their institutions he represents. But we need to deploy our power strategically if we are to put this world on a renewed trajectory to peace, justice and sustainability.
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By Robert J. Burrowes.
Punishment is a popular pastime for humans. Parents punish children. Teachers punish students. Employers punish workers. Courts punish lawbreakers. People punish each other. Governments punish ‘enemies’. And, according to some, God punishes evildoers.
What is ‘punishment’? Punishment is the infliction of violence as revenge on a person who is judged to have behaved inappropriately. It is a key word we use when we want to obscure from ourselves that we are being violent.
The violence inflicted as punishment can take many forms, depending on the context. It might involve inflicting physical injury and/or pain, withdrawal of approval or love, confinement/imprisonment, a financial penalty, dismissal, withdrawal of rights/privileges, denial of promised rewards, an order to perform a service, banishment, torture or death, among others.
Given the human preoccupation with punishment, it is perhaps surprising that this behaviour is not subjected to more widespread scrutiny. Mind you, I can think of many human behaviours that get less scrutiny than would be useful.
Anyway, because I am committed to facilitating functional human behaviour, I want to explain why using violence to ‘punish’ people is highly dysfunctional and virtually guarantees an outcome opposite to that intended.
Punishment is usually inflicted by someone who makes a judgment that another person has behaved ‘badly’ or ‘wrongly’. At its most basic, disobedience (that is, failure to comply with elite imposed norms) is often judged in this way, whether by parents, teachers, religious figures, lawmakers or national governments.
But is obedience functional or even appropriate?
Consider this. In order to behave optimally, the human organism requires that all mental functions – feelings, thoughts, memory, conscience, sensory perception (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste), truth register, intuition… – must be developed and readily involved, without interference, in our life. If this happens, then all of these individual functions will play an integrated role in determining our behaviour in any given circumstance. This is a very sophisticated mental apparatus that has evolved over billions of years and if it was allowed to function without interference in each individual, human beings would indeed be highly functional.
So where does obedience fit into all of this? It doesn’t. A child is genetically programmed to seek to meet their own needs, not obey the will of another. And they will behave functionally in endeavouring to meet these needs unless terrorized out of doing so. Moreover, they will learn to meet their own needs, by acting individually in some circumstances and by cooperating with others when appropriate, if their social environment models this.
However, if a child is terrorized into being obedient – including by being punished when they are not – then the child will have no choice but to suppress their awareness of the innate mental capacities that evolved over billions of years to guide their behaviour until they have ‘learned’ what they must do to avoid being punished. For a fuller explanation of this, see ‘Why Violence?’ http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’. http://anitamckone.wordpress.com/articles-2/fearless-and-fearful-psychology/
Unfortunately, as you can probably readily perceive, this process of terrorizing a child into suppressing their awareness of what they want to do so that they do what someone else directs is highly problematical. And it leads to a virtually infinite variety of dysfunctional behaviours, even for those who appear to have been successfully ‘socialized’ into performing effectively in their society. This is readily illustrated.
Perhaps the central problem of terrorizing individuals into obedience of conventions, commands, rules and the law is that once the individual has been so terrorized, it is virtually impossible for them to change their behaviour because they are now terrified of doing so. If the obedient behaviours were functional in the circumstances then, apart from the obviously enormous damage suffered by the individual, there would be no other adverse social or environmental consequences.
Unfortunately, when all humans have been terrorized into behaving dysfunctionally on a routine basis (in the Western context, for example, by engaging in over-consumption) then changing their behaviour, even in the direction of functionality, is now unconsciously associated with the fear of violence (in the form of punishment) and so desirable behavioural change (in the direction of reduced consumption, for example) is much more difficult. It is not just that many Western humans are reluctant to reduce their consumption in line with environmental (including climatic) imperatives, they are unconsciously terrified of doing so.
By now you might be able to see the wider ramifications of using violence and threats of violence to force children into being obedient. Apart from terrorizing each child into suppressing their awareness of their innate mental capacities, we create individuals whose entire (unconscious) ‘understanding’ of human existence is limited to the notion that violence, mislabeled ‘punishment’, drives socialization and society.
As just one result, for example, most people consider punishment to be appropriate in the context of the legal system: they expect courts to inflict legally-sanctioned violence on those ‘guilty’ of disobeying the law. As in the case of the punishment of children, how many people ask ‘Does violence restore functional behaviour? Or does it simply inflict violence as revenge? What do we really want to achieve? And how will we achieve that?’
Fundamentally, the flaw with violence as punishment is that violence terrifies people. And you cannot terrorize someone into behaving functionally. At very best, you can terrorize someone into changing their behaviour in an extremely limited context and/or for an extremely limited period of time. But if you want functional and lasting change in an individual’s behaviour, then considerable emotional healing will be necessary. This will allow the suppressed fear, anger, sadness and other feelings resulting from childhood terrorization to safely resurface and be expressed so that the individual can perceive their own needs and identify ways of fulfilling them (which does not mean that they will be obedient). For an explanation of what is required, see ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’ which is referenced in ‘My Promise to Children’. https://nonviolentstrategy.wordpress.com/strategywheel/constructive-program/my-promise-to-children/
So next time you hear a political leader or corporate executive advocating or using violence (such as war, the curtailment of civil liberties, an economically exploitative and/or ecologically destructive initiative), remember that you are observing a highly dysfunctionalized individual. Moreover, this dysfunctional individual is a logical product of our society’s unrelenting use of violence, much of it in the form of what is euphemistically called ‘punishment’, against our children in the delusional belief that it will give us obedience and hence social control.
Or next time you hear a public official, judge, terrorist or police officer promising ‘justice’ (that is, retribution), remember that you are listening to an emotionally damaged individual who suffered enormous violence as a child and internalized the delusional message that ‘punishment works’.
You might also ponder how bad it could be if we didn’t require obedience and use punishment to get it, but loved and nurtured children, by listening to them deeply, to become the unique, enormously loving and powerful individuals for which evolution genetically programmed them.
I am well aware that what I am suggesting will take an enormous amount of societal rethinking and a profound reallocation of resources away from violent and highly profitable police, legal, prison and military systems. But, as I wrote above, I am committed to facilitating functional human behaviour. I can also think of some useful ways that we could allocate the resources if we didn’t waste them on violence.
If you share this commitment and working towards this world appeals to you too, then you are welcome to consider participating in the fifteen-year strategy outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ http://tinyurl.com/flametree and to consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’. http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com
Punishment can sometimes appear to get you the outcome you want in the short term. The cost is that it always moves you further away from any desirable outcome in the long run.
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By Robert J. Burrowes.
As the evidence mounts that we are fast approaching the final point-of-no-return beyond which it will be impossible to take sufficient effective action to prevent climate catastrophe – see ‘The World Passes 400 PPM Threshold. Permanently’ http://www.climatecentral.org/news/world-passes-400-ppm-threshold-permanently-20738 – the evidence of ineffective official responses climbs too. See, for example, ‘Climate Con: why a new global deal on aviation emissions is really bad news’. https://corporateeurope.org/blog/climate-con-why-new-global-deal-aviation-emissions-really-bad-news
Even worse, we continue to be given response options that, even when they are well meaning, are naïve and inadequate whether they are suggested by individuals – see, for example, ‘Committing Geocide: Climate Change and Corporate Capture’ https://diem25.org/committing-geocide-climate-change-and-corporate-capture/ – or major environment organizations such as Greenpeace, 350.organd Friends of the Earth.
Moreover, given the myriad indications of progressive environmental breakdown in domains unrelated to the climate catastrophe, one must be terrified and delusional to suggest or even believe that anything less than a comprehensive strategy, which goes well beyond anything governments and corporations will ever endorse, gives us any chance of averting the sixth mass extinction event in planetary history. A mass extinction that will include us.
As an aside, if you believe the ‘end of century’ scenario (for human extinction) being driven by the same corporate interests that drove climate denial for so long, then you are simply a victim of their latest attempt to drive ‘business as usual’ while delaying action for as long as possible at any cost.
Another problem, if you understand anything about human psychology and political organization, is that mobilizing people in large numbers to act strategically and powerfully is not easy. Of course, if it wasn’t so difficult, this crisis would not have arisen in the first place. We would have responded intelligently and strategically decades ago as some aware individuals, starting with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi 100 years ago, suggested.
To briefly recap the wider nature of the crisis we face: Consider our synergistic and devastating assaults on the environment through military violence (often leaving vast areas uninhabitable), rainforest destruction, industrial farming, mining, commercial fishing and the spreading radioactive contamination from Fukushima. We are also systematically destroying the limited supply of fresh water on the planet which means that water scarcity is becoming a frequent reality for many people and the collapse of hydrological systems is now likely by 2020.
Human activity drives 200 species of life (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects, reptiles) to extinction each day and 80% of the world’s forests and over 90% of the large fish in the ocean are already gone. Despite this readily available information, governments continue to prioritize spending $US2,000,000,000 each day on military violence, the sole purpose of which is to terrorize and kill fellow human beings.
So what are we to do?
Well, if you are inclined to assess the evidence and to design a response strategy that has the possibility of success built into it, then I invite you to consider the strategy outlined on the Nonviolent Campaign Strategy website. https://nonviolentstrategy.wordpress.com/ This strategy identifies all twelve components of a nonviolent strategy to end the climate catastrophe, including the myriad of strategic goals https://nonviolentstrategy.wordpress.com/strategywheel/strategic-aims/ necessary for such a strategy to be comprehensive and effective. You are very welcome to suggest improvements in this strategy and to invite other individuals and groups to participate in helping to implement it.
If you are happy to leave strategic responses to others but still wish to contribute powerfully, then you and others you know are welcome to participate in the simple fifteen-year program outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’. http://tinyurl.com/flametree You might also consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com
One final point: a tragic outcome of modern humans terrorizing their children into obedience (to maintain social control) is that most of the human population is (unconsciously) terrified, self-hating and powerless. For a full explanation of this, see ‘Why Violence?’http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’. http://anitamckone.wordpress.com/articles-2/fearless-and-fearful-psychology/
So don’t wait around waiting for others to act first. It is your leadership that is required in this circumstance. And it is your leadership that might ultimately make the difference.
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By Robert J. Burrowes.
As most of the world ignores or hypocritically celebrates the 147th birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on the International Day of Nonviolence on 2 October, some of us will quietly acknowledge his life by continuing to build the world that he envisioned. When asked for his message for the world, Gandhi responded with the now famous line ‘My life is my message’ reflecting his lifelong struggle against violence.
Gandhi’s life was dotted with many memorable quotes but one that is less well known is this: ‘You may never know what results come of your actions but if you do nothing there will be no results’.
Fortunately, there are many committed people who have identified the importance of taking action to end the violence in our world – whether it occurs in the home or on the street, in wars, as a result of economic exploitation or ecological destruction – and this includes the courageous people below. These people have identified themselves as part of the worldwide network, now with participants in 96 countries, committed to ending violence in all of its forms. I would like to share their inspirational stories and invite you to join them.
Christophe Nyambatsi Mutaka is the key figure at the Groupe Martin Luther King http://preventgbvafrica.org/member/groupe-martin-luther-king-asbl/ which promotes active nonviolence, human rights and peace. The group is based in Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in central Africa. They particularly work on reducing sexual and other violence against women.
Also based in Goma, the Association de Jeunes Visionnaires pour le Développement du Congo http://www.ajvdc.org/ headed by Leon Simweragi is a youth peace group that works to rehabilitate child soldiers as well as offer meaningful opportunities for the sustainable involvement of young people in matters that affect their lives and those of their community.
Given the phenomenal suffering in the DRC, which has experienced the loss of six million lives and the displacement of eight million people due to the long war driven by Western corporations keen to exploit the country’s mineral wealth, Christophe, Leon and their colleagues are testimony to the fact that committed people strive in the most adverse of circumstances.
Tess Burrows in the UK is an adventurer (including parachutist, mountaineer, cyclist and marathon runner), peace activist, author, speaker, healer, and ‘most importantly a mother and grandmother’. In her words: ‘I am dedicated to the pursuit of World Peace and the healing of the Earth.’
Tess has written several books and, if you are looking for inspiration, I suggest you try these: ‘Cry from the Highest Mountain’ (describing a climb to the point furthest from the centre of the Earth), ‘Cold Hands, Warm Heart’ (describing a trek across the coldest, driest, windiest place on Earth: the Geographic South Pole), ‘Touch the Sky’ (describing her climb of Mt Kilimanjaro, in Africa’s heartland, pulling a car tyre which included peace messages from every nation on Earth and embodying their desire for everyone to pull together to promote peace) and her latest book ‘Soft Courage’. Her video ‘Climb For Tibet’ https://vimeo.com/10670069 won’t bore you either!
The funds raised from sales of the books and donations have, among other things, built six schools in Tibet and supported a Maasai community tree-planting project in Africa. Tess collects messages of peace from individuals and speaks them out from ‘far high places’. So far, this has included the North and South Poles, the Himalayas, Andes, Pacific and Africa. You can be part of her next Peace Climb in Australasia by writing your personal message on her website http://tessburrows.org/where you can also check out her books. Be warned however, this website will exhaust you!
Recently, on the International Day of Peace, the Afghan Peace Volunteers and Borderfree Street Kids in Kabul, mentored by Dr Teck Young Wee (Hakim), reached out to the visually impaired and blind students at Rayaab (Rehabilitation Services for the Blind Afghanistan). They brought MP3 players as gifts to 50 visually impaired students. The students will use the MP3 players to listen to recorded school lessons and educational programs. Rayaab is an Afghan non-governmental organization run by Mahdi Salami and his wife Banafsha, who are themselves visually impaired. If you want to see photos from this day, and to watch an extraordinary three minute video, you can do so at ‘To Touch a Colourful Afghanistan’. http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/2016/09/to-touch-a-colourful-afghanistan/
Kristin Christman in the USA continues her tireless efforts to make our world more peaceful by seeking to understand the deeper drivers of conflict while offering practical steps forward. She is currently working on a book based on her monumental ‘Taxonomy of Peace: A Comprehensive Classification of the Roots and Escalators of Violence and 650 Solutions for Peace’ https://sites.google.com/site/paradigmforpeace/ A recent rather personal article offers insight into her approach: ‘Make serving in war an option, not an order’ http://dissidentvoice.org/2016/05/make-serving-in-war-an-option-not-an-order/ and illustrates how violence is ‘built-into’ society.
Ghanaian Gifty A. Korankye has just developed a new website titled ‘Daughters of Africa’. https://daughtersofafricablog.wordpress.com/ Explaining why, she writes: ‘Over the years I watched women go through unbearable pain …. Our daughters go through FGM in their puberty…. The humiliation we face when we lose our spouse, all in the name of customs and tradition.’
Determined to help address the issues that plague many African women she wants to give them the chance to be ‘a useful voice to our communities’, to share the success stories of African women and African-American women in business administration, the entertainment industry and elsewhere in order to share learning from their journeys and to ‘help mentor our young generation’. She invites African women to write to share their stories and work together to find solutions. ‘We can do it because we are daughters of Africa.’
So what about you? Do you believe that ending human violence is possible? Even if you believe that it is not, do you believe that it is worth trying? As Gandhi noted: ‘The future depends on what we do in the present.’ What will you do?
In essence, working to end human violence and to create a world of peace, justice and ecological sustainability for all life on Earth might not be what gets you out of bed in the morning. But if it is or you would like it to be, you are welcome to join those of us who are committed to striving for this outcome by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’. http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com
And if you subscribe to Gandhi’s belief that ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every [person’s] needs, but not every [person’s] greed’, then you might consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ http://tinyurl.com/flametree which he inspired as well.
Each of us has a choice. We can stand aside in the great fight for survival in which humanity is now engaged. Or we can commit ourselves, wholly, to the fight. What is your choice?
The bottom line is this: What will be the message of your life?
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By Robert J. Burrowes.
As citizens of the USA with a presidential election approaching you have a wonderful opportunity to ponder whether to participate in this election or to participate in the ongoing American Revolution.
Your first revolution might have overthrown the authority of the British monarchy and aristocracy but the one in progress must remove the US elite which has executed a political coup against your government. And you cannot remove elite coupmakers in a fraudulently conducted election in which the ‘choice’ is essentially between two violently insane individuals, each of whom represents the violently insane US elite. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane’ https://www.transcend.org/tms/2014/02/the-global-elite-is-insane/ and ‘Why Violence?’ http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence
The real value of this second revolution, which moves along steadily with routine outbreaks over a multitude of peace, environmental and social justice issues and occasional ‘uprisings’, such as the Occupy Movement in 2011 which spawned a range of new and visionary initiatives, is that it could give citizens of your country the chance to finally reclaim the Republic for those people who genuinely care about ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. And, just as importantly, have sufficient vision to regard these aspirations as something to be shared with the entire US population, starting with Native Americans, and even those of us in the rest of the world including those countries that are currently victims of US elite violence, whether it be wars, drone strikes, coups, economic exploitation or ecological destruction.
Such a revolution might rewrite your constitution and replace the second amendment ‘right of the people to keep and bear arms’ with the right to live free of the fear of gun violence. It might result in a form of social organization that distributes wealth equitably (perhaps by actually taxing the wealthy and outlawing the use of offshore tax havens) while reallocating the annual military (killing) budget to life-enhancing projects such as poverty alleviation, affordable housing, free education, free healthcare, clean water, renewable energy technologies, and a substantial budget for compensation to those countries that the US elite has systematically exploited or simply destroyed during the past 200 years. This would allow the 50 million US citizens who live in poverty, and another billion people around the world who also live in poverty, the chance to live a decent life.
Now, you might ask, ‘How are we, the ordinary citizens of the United States, even with our handguns, rifles and assault weapons, going to take on the US military and police to remove elite control of our government?’ Well, the answer is that you do not need even one weapon for this ongoing revolution and, in fact, you are vastly better off without them. Weapons have only one use – to kill people – and any revolution worth the name has a more profoundly ambitious aim than this.
What you need is intelligence, commitment, courage and a sound nonviolent strategy. The US elite controls your government and has crippled your republic because, over successive generations, you have let them. Every time you cooperate with the elite, because you are scared, by paying your taxes (more than 50% of which finances US wars and other military violence), putting your money into their corporate banks, shopping at their corporate shopping malls, buying and consuming the ‘news’ presented by their corporate media, rationalizing their policies as reasonable, participating in their unjust and violent legal system, fighting (as an enlisted person or as a mercenary) in their military forces, working in their prison system, accepting exploited employment of any kind, eating their poisoned and genetically mutilated foods (GMOs), going along with their endless attempts to divide you along racial, class, religious and other lines, you simply consent to their control. Why?
You have a simple alternative. Consciously and systematically participate in the ongoing nonviolent revolution that is already taking place and give it added life by your presence. Remake the US republic as you want it by withdrawing your cooperation with elite structures and processes while creating alternatives that meet your needs and the needs of those around you.
Join those US visionaries who are creating cooperatives where people are both managers and valued workers, take your money out of elite banks and put it into financial organizations that exist or which you create to serve the interests of their members (or, if you prefer, use LETSystems), refuse to participate in or pay for (with your taxes) US imperialism (and win friends all over the world), grow or buy healthy locally-grown organic/biodynamic (and, if you are concerned about the climate catastrophe as well, vegetarian) food, read progressive news outlets so that you know what is really going on in the USA and the world, read literature that deepens your understanding and concern for humanity and doesn’t just offer you a distraction from the horror in which you live, and support or even become one of those many fine nonviolent activists in your country who take personal risks in the struggle to create a better world.
If you want more of what you have, then you should vote and/or buy a gun. They have an equivalent outcome: they both legitimize elite violence and exploitation directed at you and those you love.
If you want to participate in this second and ongoing American revolution, then spend your time participating in the wholesome activities that many grassroots organizations already offer and in creating its next manifestations in your own neighborhood. It is the powerful conscience-based choices that you make as an individual that define your Self. And it is these choices that will have most impact on your family, neighborhood, community organization, trade union, religious organization and elsewhere and that will help decide the future of the USA and its role in the world.
Now you might say, I do some or even all of the sorts of things you mentioned above, so why not vote too? My answer is simply this: Voting is an act of disempowerment. It’s essential message is ‘I appoint you to govern for me’. I prefer to govern myself (both meanings intended). And you?
So what of those who present the ‘lesser evil’ argument: one candidate is so bad that it is better to have the other. This ‘argument’ is not worthy of scrutiny. If you are deceived by this argument, you will vote forever in the delusional hope that you will one day get a choice to vote for someone genuinely decent. In 2008, Barack Obama was supposed to be the candidate of hope and change. Did you get that hope and change? Are you going to get it with Clinton or Trump? Of course not. Elites simply ensure that change via the electoral system cannot happen; its function is to absorb and dissipate our dissent.
If you vote you are saying that you endorse this system of electoral exploitation. The tragedy is that even third-party candidates, who may be people of genuine principle, have no chance. Even worse, they add a veneer of legitimacy to your corrupt electoral system.
In essence, if you vote for the ‘lesser evil’ you are still voting for an ‘evil’ and, more importantly, you have participated in and endorsed an ‘evil’ system: one which denies you a genuine ‘free and fair’ choice to vote for a candidate who actually represents your interests and views and has a reasonable chance of winning. And, having won, is then able to actually implement their policies (rather than be stymied by a power structure that has no intention of letting this happen). Given your circumstances, ‘the only winning move is not to play’ their corrupt game and to put your energy into a genuinely winning move: working for the regeneration of American society.
Look at it this way. If there are two rotten eggs, would you choose the one that is less rotten and eat it? Presumably you would seek another option and only after you have identified and fixed what is causing the problem in the first place. The point is this: Unless you spend your time deeply contemplating the nature of the society in which you want to live and then devoting your time and energy into creating that society, you will never have it. And you have betrayed yourself.
The reality is that either Clinton or Trump is going to be president of the USA for the next four years and a lot of people (both in the US but particularly in foreign countries) are going to die because of it (through US military violence and corporate exploitation). What we can do is to invest our political energy into creating a United States in which, at some point in the future, the likes of Clinton and Trump, and those they represent, no longer drive outcomes in our world.
To reiterate: I am not saying ‘Don’t vote and do nothing’ (as so many people do already). I am suggesting that you ponder the dysfunctionality of your society, do some research into the secretive ‘deep state’ (or military-industrial complex or power elite or the 1% or however you wish to describe it) that controls your ‘republic’ with its electoral system designed to delude you into believing that you have a say in governing your nation, and then consider how you want to engage politically and act in accord with your conscience in doing so. It is only by doing this that we will have any chance of getting the society and the world that we want, even if it is beyond our lifetimes (and assuming we can avert extinction at our own hand in the meantime).
In summary, profound change only occurs from the ‘bottom up’ when enough ordinary people take the initiative to remake their own society. And if you are really interested in doing this, one important place to start is by reviewing the way in which you nurture children. See ‘My Promise to Children’. https://nonviolentstrategy.wordpress.com/strategywheel/constructive-program/my-promise-to-children/
Other straightforward options, in addition to those mentioned above, include participation in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ http://tinyurl.com/flametree and signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com
But for those of you who are serious strategic thinkers, I have outlined a strategy for removing coupmakers on the website Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/ which is a straightforward presentation of the more detailed explanation offered in the book ‘The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach’.http://www.sunypress.edu/p-2176-the-strategy-of-nonviolent-defe.aspx
Is our destiny in our own hands? Only if we have enough people of courage to accept responsibility for it. Are you one of them?
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By Robert J. Burrowes.
As I read of the latest coup in Brazil, once again removing a democratically elected leader from power, my anger surged. Not again! However, as I see and read about the ongoing massive protests, as well as calls by prominent community leaders to mobilize in defense of your country’s democracy, I feel great hope for Brazil. Having been a nonviolent activist for many years, I would like to support Brazilian activists to develop a nonviolent strategy that will increase your chances of success.
On 31 August 2016, the Brazilian elite executed a political coup to remove your democratically elected president Dilma Rousseff from office in a desperate attempt to halt corruption investigations in which they are clearly implicated. See ‘Democracy Is Dead in Brazil’ http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Democracy-is-Dead-in-Brazil-20160831-0007.html and ‘The Real Reason Brazil’s Democratically Elected Dilma Rousseff Was Impeached’ http://truepublica.org.uk/global/the-real-reason-brazils-democratically-elected-dilma-rousseff-was-impeached/
Behind the scenes, of course, the United States elite was heavily involved. With vast quantities of highly profitable fossil fuels, mineral and forest resources, as well as fresh water at stake, the US elite (and its allied elites) is not going to stand aside while Brazil and BRICS endeavour to create a more just world for at least some of its human inhabitants. See ‘Impeachment of Dilma Rousseff: Brazil’s Parliamentary Coup and the “Progressive Media”‘ http://www.globalresearch.ca/brazils-parliamentary-coup-and-the-progressive-media/5543597
Despite what has happened and as your ongoing street protests demonstrate, you know that you do not have to accept this outcome. You also know that you do not have to wait until the 2018 election to register your disapproval of this coup.
In fact, you can reverse this coup and restore the president you first elected in 2010 to finish her current term so that her party can face your judgment in 2018. And this is what Joao Pedro Stedile, a founder and leader of the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil has called on you to do. See ‘MST: Social Movements Must Rise up Against Coup Govt in Brazil’http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/MST-Social-Movements-Must-Rise-up-Against-Coup-Govt-in-Brazil-20160901-0011.html
If you do this, you will also have widespread support among your solidarity allies around the world as indicated in this letter: ‘Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone Sign Letter Against Brazil’s Coup’.http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Noam-Chomsky-Oliver-Stone-Sign-Letter-Against-Brazils-Coup-20160825-0027.html
Given my own support for your right to elect any president of your choice (and to remove them if necessary at a subsequent election), I invite you to consider planning and implementing a nonviolent strategy to remove the coupmakers in your country and restore the president that you elected.
If you are interested in doing so, I have outlined a strategy for removing coupmakers on the website Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/ which is a straightforward presentation of the more detailed explanation offered in the book ‘The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach’.http://www.sunypress.edu/p-2176-the-strategy-of-nonviolent-defe.aspx
If you want an idea of the twelve components of strategy that you will need to plan, you can see them on the Nonviolent Strategy Wheel. https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/strategywheel/ If you want a taste of how this strategy works (at the tactical level), you will get it by reading ‘The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of Nonviolent Actions’.https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/articles/political-objective-strategic-goal/
Vitally, the strategic goals need to include mobilizing people in strategically focused ways and causing the police and military to withdraw their support for the coupmakers. It will usefully include causing key local and foreign corporations to withdraw their support too. This would usually include corporations involved in the weapons industry, the mainstream media, banks and the resource extraction of fossil fuels, strategic minerals, forest products and fresh water. To make it clear, I have listed a provisional set of strategic goals that you might consider modifying as appropriate below.
Of course, as suggested above, you will need a comprehensive strategy and it might take some time to plan and then fully implement.
However, if you do plan and implement a comprehensive strategy, you have every chance of reversing this coup with minimal loss of life. For example, the article ‘Nonviolent Action: Minimizing the Risk of Violent Repression’ https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/articles/minimizing-risk-violent-repression/ identifies 20 things that you can do to minimize the risk that your mobilizations will be violently repressed. This article was written after a careful study, throughout history, of nonviolent mobilizations that were met with extreme violence.
Suggested Strategic Goals in a Nonviolent Strategy to Liberate Brazil
Strategic goals that would usually be appropriate for resisting a political or military coup include those listed below although, it should be noted, the list would be considerably longer as individual organizations should be specified separately.
Of course, individual groups resisting the coup would usually accept responsibility for focusing their work on achieving just one or two of the strategic goals. It is the responsibility of the struggle’s strategic leadership to ensure that each of the strategic goals, which should be identified and prioritized according to your precise understanding of the circumstances in Brazil, is being addressed.
(1) To cause the women in [women’s organizations WO1, WO2, WO…] in Brazil to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities]. For example, simple nonviolent actions would be to wear a national symbol (such as a badge of your national flag or ribbons in the national colors), to boycott all corporate media outlets supporting the coup and/or to withdraw all funds from banks supporting the coup. For this item and many items hereafter, see the list of possible actions you can take here: ‘198 Tactics of Nonviolent Action’. https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/strategywheel/tactics-and-peacekeeping/198-tactics-of-nonviolent-action/
(2) To cause the workers in [trade unions or labor organizations T1, T2, T…] in Brazil to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities]. For example, this might include withdrawing their labor from an elite-controlled or foreign-owned bank/corporation operating in Brazil.
(3) To cause the small farmers and farmworkers in [organizations F1, F2, F…] in Brazil to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(4) To cause the members of [religious denominations R1, R2, R…] in Brazil to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(5) To cause the members of [ethnic communities EC1, EC2, EC…] in Brazil to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(6) To cause the activists, artists, musicians, intellectuals and other key social groups in [organizations O1, O2, O…] in Brazil to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(7) To cause the students in [student organizations S1, S2, S…] in Brazil to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(8) To cause the soldiers in [military units M1, M2, M…] to refuse to obey orders from the coupmakers to arrest, assault, torture and shoot nonviolent activists and the other citizens of Brazil.
(9) To cause the police in [police units P1, P2, P…] to refuse to obey orders from the coupmakers to arrest, assault, torture and shoot nonviolent activists and the other citizens of Brazil.
(10) To cause businesspeople who conduct small businesses in [organizations SB1, SB2, SB…] in Brazil to refuse to cooperate with the coupmakers by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(11) To cause businesspeople who operate multinational franchises in [organizations MF1, MF2, MF…] in Brazil to refuse to cooperate with the coupmakers by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(12) To cause businesspeople who manage local branches of large multinational corporations in [organizations MNC1, MNC2, MNC…] in Brazil to refuse to cooperate with the coupmakers by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(13) To cause large farmers and ranchers in [organizations FO1, FO2, FO…] in Brazil to refuse to cooperate with the coupmakers by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(14) To cause the foreign managers and technical workers [working for resource extraction corporations X1, X2, X…] who are from [the United States and other relevant countries where the elite supports the coupmakers in Brazil] to withdraw from Brazil.
(15) To cause the workers [in trade union or labor organizations T4, T5, T…] in [the United States and other relevant countries where the elite supports the coupmakers in Brazil] to interrupt the supply of military weapons to Brazil.
(16) To cause the workers in [trade unions or labor organizations T7, T8, T…] in [the United States and other relevant countries where the elite supports the coupmakers in Brazil] to interrupt the transport of [military personnel/military weapons] to Brazil.
(17) To cause the workers in [trade unions or labor organizations T10, T11, T…] in [the United States and other relevant countries where the elite supports the coupmakers in Brazil] to support your liberation struggle by refusing to handle [a particular resource] extracted and exported from Brazil.
(18) To cause the workers [in trade unions or labor organizations T13, T14, T…] working in [the United States and other relevant countries where the elite supports the coupmakers in Brazil] to support your liberation struggle by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(19) To cause the women in [women’s organizations WO4, WO5, WO…] in [the United States and other relevant countries where the elite supports the coupmakers in Brazil] to support your liberation struggle by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(20) To cause the members of [religious denominations R4,R5, R…] in [the United States and other relevant countries where the elite supports the coupmakers in Brazil] to support your liberation struggle by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(21) To cause the solidarity activists in [activist organizations A1, A2, A…] in [the United States and other relevant countries where the elite supports the coupmakers in Brazil] to support your liberation struggle by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(22) To cause the members of [your exile communities E1, E2, E…] in [the United States and other relevant countries where the elite supports the coupmakers in Brazil] to support your liberation struggle by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
(23) To cause the students in [students organizations S4, S5, S…] in [the United States and other relevant countries where the elite supports the coupmakers in Brazil] to support your liberation struggle by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].
In the struggle to make this world the place of peace, justice and environmental sustainability that it could be, the people of Brazil have been playing an inspirational role. You do not need to let this coup be more than a temporary setback. You also have solidarity allies around the world and many of us are willing to assist you, if you decide to let us play a role too.
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Robert J. Burrowes
I sometimes wonder whether one of the ways in which ‘Amercian exceptionalism’ manifests is that many US scholars and others are unable to consider the contributions of those who are not from the USA. For example, I routinely read about studies of Martin Luther King Jr. and his associates (such as strategist James Lawson) in relation to nonviolence while the much more insightful and vastly greater contributions of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on the same subject are largely ignored by US scholars (although not, for example, by Professor Mary E. King, one of the best in the field).
I have just read another book that falls into this trap: ‘This is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-first Century’ http://www.publicaffairsbooks.
In this book, the authors try too hard to make nonviolent action fit into a model they have created by combining thoughts from a few (US) authors – essentially Saul Alinsky, Frances Fox Piven and Gene Sharp – to describe an approach to change based on structure-based organizing, momentum-driven revolt and the creation of prefigurative community. They then use a few case studies, all of which (including the campaigns of the US civil rights struggle) are from the USA except for the Otpor struggle to overthrow the Milosevic regime in Serbia and the struggle of the April 6 Youth Movement and its allies to remove the Mubarak regime in Egypt, to illustrate their argument.
So, as you now expect me to identify, one fundamental weakness of this book, obviously shared by each of the (US) reviewers praising it, is that the authors did not study the strategic thinking of Gandhi. This is obvious from the text but a quick search through the endnotes (which mention Gandhi’s ‘An Autobiography’ and not one other document written by him) confirms it. Consequently, insights of Gandhi in relation to creating the empowered individual, community organizing (from village to national level) and the application of strategic nonviolent action are either ignored or attributed to those who either copied him (perhaps unconsciously), plagiarized him or, at best, reinvented the wheel many decades later.
Bizarrely, late in the book the Englers credit Gandhi: ‘to sustain his work over a period of more than fifty years, Gandhi used a full range of social movement approaches, including structure, momentum-driven organization, and the creation of prefigurative community…. But one of the most compelling aspects of his legacy is his interest in unifying all three.’ It is a pity that they did not study Gandhi so that they could explain in detail his own vital role, rather than those of the pale shadows who imperfectly followed him.
The incorrect attribution of Gandhi’s insights to others starts on page 3 of the book where Gene Sharp is credited with an ‘epiphany … that nonviolence should not be simply a moral code for a small group of true believers to live by’. But it is not exclusively the fault of the authors that they incorrectly attribute Sharp because Sharp himself claims credit for this insight and they cite his claim, from an interview conducted in 2003, on page 4.
However, given that Sharp started his research into nonviolence three decades after Gandhi was mobilizing millions of Indians in major campaigns of nonviolent resistance to the British occupation of India and five decades after Gandhi was mobilizing thousands of Indians in campaigns of nonviolent resistance to injustices perpetrated on Indians in South Africa and during which Gandhi clearly articulated his awareness and acceptance of the fact that most of his fellow satyagrahis only followed nonviolence as a ‘policy’, not as a ‘creed’, Sharp is clearly wrong in claiming this insight for himself. For example, in Gandhi’s own words, from a speech in 1942: ‘Ahimsa [nonviolence] with me is a creed, the breath of my life. But it is never as a creed that I placed it before India…. I placed it before the Congress as a political method to be employed for the solution of political questions.’
Given that Sharp studied Gandhi during his early years of research into nonviolent struggle, my own inclination is to ascribe Sharp with a poor memory on this point, frightful though this may be (given that this is a perennial point of discussion in the nonviolence literature). Unfortunately, the book’s authors have been deceived by Sharp’s incorrect claim and they have not read widely enough to detect this falsehood.
But the failure to acknowledge earlier insights of Gandhi does not end there. In the Engler book, focusing on ‘concrete, winnable goals’ is described by David Moberg as an Alinsky principle and Rinku Sen, the authors say, claims that Alinsky ‘established a long-standing norm’ that ‘Organizing should target winning immediate, concrete changes’ that address the self-interest of those affected.
Now it may well be an Alinsky principle/norm. It’s just that Gandhi had articulated the same principle in his ‘Constructive Program’ booklet published in 1941 – the demands must be concrete, easily understood, and ‘within the power of the opponent to yield’ – and, of course, had acted on this principle in many of his earlier campaigns. It is manifestly evident, for example, in Gandhi’s list of eleven specific demands in relation to the Salt Satyagraha in 1930. Commenting on Gandhi’s shrewdness in this regard, Sarvepalli Gopal noted that these demands ‘were shrewdly chosen to win the sympathy of every social group in India’; moreover, they highlighted the injustice of British imperialism and constituted the substance of independence. And acknowledging Gandhi’s insight, Narayan Desai noted that people are more quickly and thoroughly mobilized when the issues are immediate and concrete.
As an aside: it was the failure of the Congress of the People held in South Africa during 1955, which adopted the Freedom Charter, to clearly identify the specific and concrete demands of ordinary Africans that explains why ANC campaigns during that decade failed to mobilize the increasing level of participation necessary to achieve the desired progress in the South African freedom struggle.
Yet another example of wrong attribution is the Englers’ discussion of how it ‘dawned’ on Sharp ‘that most people held flawed conceptions about the nature of political power’ regarding it as monolithic. On this point, Sharp’s debt to the sixteenth century French philosopher Étienne de La Boétie is clearcut but, once again, Gandhi had made the same observation much earlier than Sharp without the benefit of being aware of La Boétie’s work. As Gandhi explained it in 1941: a superficial study of history has led to the conclusion that all power percolates from parliaments to the people. The truth, he claimed, is otherwise: Power resides in the people themselves. In politics, he asserted in 1927, ‘government of the people is possible only so long as they consent either consciously or unconsciously to be governed’. In fact, he argued in 1920, a government requires the cooperation of the people; if that cooperation is withdrawn, government will come to a standstill.
One of the problems with much of the literature on nonviolence is that it is written by academics who have no (or absolutely minimal) experience of nonviolent action; consequently they often fail to appreciate what matters to a nonviolent activist ‘on the ground’. Having said that, there is no guarantee that the work of these nonviolence scholars is even sound in a theoretical sense. And that is a bigger problem.
Given it is one of the foundations on which the Englers’ book is based therefore, it is probably useful to briefly reiterate the fundamental strategic flaws in Gene Sharp’s work which were identified more than 20 years ago. In brief: it is not based on a coherent strategic theory, it makes no attempt to define the notion of will or to identify its strategic significance, it is based on the deeply flawed ‘scenario approach’ to strategy, it utilizes the popular misconception (promulgated by Basil Liddell Hart but also due to a misunderstanding of guerrilla theory) that the opponent has a weak point (or points) against which resources should be concentrated, it is based on Étienne de La Boétie’s consent theory of power (which is grossly inadequate for liberation struggles in the imperial world that has developed since La Boétie’s time), it fails to identify and explain the vital distinction between the opponent’s political purpose and their strategic aims, and it utilizes the pragmatic ‘win-lose’ approach to nonviolent action and entails a negative conception of the opponent both of which are inconsistent with the resolution of conflict. For a full explanation of these and other shortcomings in Sharp’s work, see ‘The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach’. http://www.sunypress.edu/p-217
So what of the merits of the Englers’ book? The strength of this book is that the authors describe nonviolent struggles that convey a clear sense of the power of nonviolence and highlight some important lessons learned (even if they were learned anew by activists and even theorists unfamiliar with the literature on nonviolent action). This makes the book an inspiring read. The book also gives the general reader the chance to see the work of thoughtfully applied nonviolent action more clearly and to get a sense that it has theoretical underpinnings.
The weaknesses of the book are that it fails to accurately identify and then explain the actual origins of many of these theoretical underpinnings, as noted above, and second, it gives, perhaps unintentionally but most disturbingly, a rather distorted and simplistic impression of what constitutes strategy.
This is because the discussion of ‘strategic nonviolent action’ is reduced to just a few components of strategy, with most of the focus on the relationship between organizational structure, mass mobilizations and the creation of alternative communities and considerable focus on a few points about the way in which certain tactics are employed. These include those that involve disruption and entail sacrifice, those that pose a dilemma to authorities and the police, and those that polarize and escalate. There are also useful reiterations of why nonviolent discipline is so important, why the ‘diversity of tactics’ approach is misconceived and why violence and sabotage are so counterproductive.
But so many other vital components and aspects of nonviolent strategy that are far too numerous to even try summarising here are simply ignored. Even at the tactical level and despite touching on it in relation to the nonviolent blockade of the World Bank and IMF meetings in Washington DC in April 2000, the discussion includes the usual failure to clearly distinguish between the political objective and strategic goal of nonviolent actions (which is an endless source of torment for activists as their own example yet again illustrates). See ‘The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of Nonviolent Actions’.https://nonviolentstrategy.wor
Most unfortunately, because, as I have noted elsewhere, nonviolence is so inherently powerful that it can sometimes succeed despite a lack of strategy or even a bad strategy, the book essentially adds to the existing substantial literature that offers poor and, too often, incorrect strategic guidance for nonviolent struggle. It certainly offers nothing to those – such as nonviolent activists in China, Palestine, Tibet, Saudi Arabia and the United States – for whom only a sophisticated nonviolent liberation strategy has any real chance of success.
And we are not going to end war, halt the climate catastrophe (both critical imperatives at this point in history) or even have people behaving as if Black Lives Matter if our strategy does not account for every factor driving these deep-seated problems.
Anyway, in essence, my suggestion is this: If you want to read an inspiring account of the power of nonviolent struggle, then this book will suit you admirably: the Englers do this really well. And if you are interested in learning how to plan and implement a nonviolent strategy for your own campaign or liberation struggle (and learning about all of the necessary components of strategy in the process) you can find out how to do so on these websites currently being created: Nonviolent Campaign Strategy https://nonviolentstrategy.wor
If you also wish to be part of the worldwide movement to end violence in all of its forms, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’. http://thepeoplesnonviolencech
As the Englers identify in their book’s subtitle, nonviolent revolt is shaping the twenty-first century. If this nonviolent revolt, in its many forms, is to have maximum impact it will require carefully designed and comprehensive nonviolent strategies that are thoughtfully implemented.
Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is athttp://robertjburrowes.wordpre
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