7.2

FUNDAMENTAL IDEAS IN NONVIOLENCE

In this video, I provide a broad overview of the phenomenon oftentimes referred to as nonviolence or civil resistance.  The video is broken up into four main parts. The first part provides a definition of nonviolent civil resistance and the various elements that make up that definition. Part two looks at why individuals, groups, and movements actually choose to wage a struggle using civil resistance as opposed to violent resistance.  Part three looks at the myriad nonviolent tactics and how they can be categorized and understood.  And lastly, part four looks at the political concepts that explain the dynamics of civil resistance.  Throughout the video you will hear from various activists and scholars.

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Reflection Question: What orientation to nonviolence has informed your understanding of this method of struggle? Strategic? Principled? Or a mixture of the two? What in your life has influenced this orientation?

Additional Resources:

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12 thoughts on “7.2

  1. My understanding of nonviolence has been primarily informed by a principled orientation. I was raised in a peaceful, non-competitive household and spent lots of time in a church that emphasized nonviolence, if not explicitly than in practice. So my ideas about conflict have always been informed by spiritual and moral beliefs. Things got confused when I learned about strategic nonviolence in school – my teachers never made a clear connection between principles and strategies of nonviolence, and peace as a strategy was never equal to waging conflict. My departure from organized religion actually helped to reinforce my belief in principled nonviolence… in theory, it’s easiest to believe that a nonviolent struggle is a victory in itself. It is now in college that I am beginning to more fully understand strategic nonviolence, and its advantages.

  2. My first understandings of non-violence are based on a principled orientation. I understood that people were choosing non-violence as a statement that they thought violence was wrong and wouldn’t support it. I don’t think I realized the strategic aspect of it until I was older and more reflective. My family has a history of working towards the civil rights movement, and my grandfather was a peace promoter. I also grew up in a Quaker environment which promotes peace and pacifism. I think these aspects shaped my understanding of non-violence on principle.

  3. On the whole, my orientation to non-violence is strategic. Throughout my life I have tended to lean towards ideologies centered on self determination and cultural norms, rather than my own principles of “the good life.” As a result, I mostly understand non-violence as strategic and life promoting. At the end of the day, I find human dignity to the basis of all forms of activism and will support movements and actions that perpetuate human rights as necessary for all humans.

  4. Historically, my understanding of nonviolence has been mostly attributed to a principled understanding, though some understanding of strategic importance cannot be overlooked. Mostly, when I was introduced to nonviolent movements, it was from my parents telling stories of their childhood in the 50s, 60s and 70s. With the civil rights movement and then Vietnam, it was like people finally realized they could respond to the government and so they took to the streets. Though this worked, my ignorant understanding of why people fought back was for principled reasons. They believed in equality, human rights, etc. Now, the more I learn about that era, especially the civil rights movement, the more I realize that it was actually very strategic, though founded in deep humanist principles.

  5. My orientation is principled. Like many others, I grew up in a Christian family. I believe that violence is “wrong” and that as a Christian I ought to be a peacemaker. Jesus is the ultimate example of a peacemaker and many find his example inspirational. That being said, I wouldn’t practice nonviolence if I didn’t find it effective. Even in my own life, I don’t accomplish anything through force. I find that life is more peaceful when I can make decisions based on cooperative, mutual agreements.

  6. I think that, like many who have already responded, that my orientation to nonviolence is a mixture of principled and strategic. I also grew up in a religious household and I think my solid foundation of Christianity has shaped my orientation on principled nonviolence – also the treat people the way you want to be treated, turn the other cheek, etc. mindset that has already been mentioned, although it was definitely not anything that I actively had processed at the time.

    I do also think that studying nonviolent movements has contributed to my understanding of strategic nonviolence; again, not something I actively processed until later on and moments like now when I’m really thinking about it.

  7. My education and experience with nonviolence has been largely a mixture of principled and strategic. I was raised in a Christian household but in a politically/socially conservative (read realist when it came to foreign affairs) family. This was an interesting combination because I grew up learning about nonviolence, compassion, forgiveness in church but came home to a family that largely promoted peace through power/force. Like in church, in school I learned about the importance of nonviolence as a personal and civic principle. This was coupled with learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other important U.S. nonviolent leaders.

    When I entered the world of international peace and conflict resolution I became more familiar nonviolence as a strategic means of reaching certain goals. Most recently I watched “Bringing Down a Dictator” which details the fall of Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic.

  8. I believe that my orientation is a mixture between principled and strategic. I have been raised as a Christian, and while I may not practice the religion today, I am still influenced by its values. Christianity’s values of treating others as you’d like to be treated, and turning the other cheek that I learned in Sunday school have formed my understanding of morality. I practice principled nonviolence in other ways too. I have been a vegetarian for 12 years because I believe that eating meat is violent to animals and the the environment (and because Paul McCartney told me to go veggie when I was 10). I think that I also see strategic value in nonviolence both in my study of history in in my own life. This probably comes more from my education and from trial-and-error experiences of practicing different tactics in family conflicts, etc.

  9. My own understanding of this method is a mixture of the two. I can remember learning about nonviolence in the context of social studies classes growing up and understanding it as a tactic due to religious convictions. You cannot divorce the religious convictions of Gandhi and King from their actions. As I matured, my understanding became more complicated.

    My professional studies in history and my personal studies in religion led me to understand nonviolence in both contexts. As I became more aware of structural violence inherent in systems throughout the nation, I began to see the strategic implications of nonviolence.

  10. I think my orientation to nonviolence is a mixture of both strategic and principled understanding. I have a strong religious base that is grounded in morality and the idea that violence is wrong. My foundation is rooted in this religious and moral orientation toward nonviolence, and supported by a strategic understanding through the examples and teachings of famous nonviolent leaders. From past movements in history I have come to see the strategic benefits of nonviolence, and have been able to witness the power in this form of action. I’ve seen nonviolence utilized as a tool and method that accomplishes a goal, and also a means that emphasizes the strength and courage of the people who choose nonviolence as their course of action.

  11. My understanding of this piece is that my orientation has largely been principled. I think this is because of the context of the conflict I have lived in for most of my life. I have been blessed to live in a time and place where I am not in direct conflict with others. However, through various life experiences, I have been made aware of injustices that require action. I have thus placed myself inside of an imbalanced system to make a principled choice to be a presence.

  12. This is a really important and enjoyable module. The main lecture is well done and informative, as are the videos under Additional Resources.

    On the Reflection Question: I would say that my orientation to nonviolence has been informed by a mixture of the Strategic and Principled. My earliest memories of nonviolent resistance is the organized opposition to British colonialism in Guyana (former British Guiana). My father as head of the Trade Union Congress used the strike as the principal weapon of resistance to the British in Guyana’s march to political independence. This was strategic in the face of the British deployment of troops in the colony and placing under house arrest or preventive detention, all of the resistance leaders. Although the example of “taking to the hills/bush” and armed struggle as in Cuba, was the popular slogan, rhetoric, and example of success, it was not possible to do so in Guyana. So the strike and other nonviolent forms of resistance I.e go-slows, boycotts, etc) were the only strategic options.

    My experience in nonviolent resistance shifted to be more Principles when I became active in the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights actions in the 1960s in college. I rejected the violence-based approaches of the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground, and was profoundly influenced by the teaching and example of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I cannot say that I understood all of the deeper meanings of nonviolence then, and that the effectiveness of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (Cointelpro) did not have a chilling effect on me, and a need to be more strategic. Suffice to say, my professional experiences in a multitude of African, Latin American and Asian countries, has deepened my understanding and appreciation of the need for nonviolent action when governments lose their broad legitamacy, when the resources are in the hands of an elite kleptocracy, poverty and corruption rampant, and the people face government-induced violence in all areas of their lives.

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