Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Let our common purpose be to rise up in nonviolence, with strategy and training under our belts, as we enact our duties as citizens, not consumers, of this beautiful world."

Green Shadow Cabinet
“Truth-telling is powerful. People don't try it often enough.” - Guy Saperstein
The power of nonviolence as the key to strengthen our democracy was noticeable by its absence in Obama's State of the Union address. Gandhi, we may remember, felt that democracy would never be complete without nonviolence, because, among other things, there would be no protection for those who are weak, or who dissent.

Perhaps, by resigning the movement to silence, the President signaled to us that it’s time to escalate our efforts.

One of the most fundamental questions in nonviolence is whether our means are aligned with our ends. Obama has often noted (rather paternalistically) that while we can agree on the ends, we will disagree on the means, in other words that he can use whatever means suit him - reminiscent of the Bush quip, "I'm the decider."

He misses the point; The means for anything are more important than the ends.
Gandhi formulated in his own way, "take the right stone, throw it in the right pond, and the rest will take care of itself." Let us not be taken in by Obama's rhetoric and subtext that any stable peace is achievable through violent means or through the preparations of violent structural policies. It is a convenient lie, and it is up to us to uphold the truth.

When Obama when he said in his State of the Union address, "It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong," it was hard to disagree. But by "citizens" he unfortunately means "consumers." Without the activism and courage of everyday truth-tellers and people willing to stand up to the corporate-dominated system through nonviolent means - certainly not what he meant by citizens - our union would be more broken than it is today. No, it is not our uniformed men and women who make us more secure (as he maintained) - it's people willing to refuse orders; people who take responsibility for their actions who make us more secure.

A powerful resistance movement for nonviolence to build new institutions, repair the damage already done and organized resistance where necessary by the citizen base will strengthen us even more. For this we must train and strategize - we must learn everything we can about nonviolence.

We can no longer be satisfied with solutions that work for some but not for others - the dehumanization of one human being - terrorist or working class poor - degrades every human being. The only way to have a strong union is through an uplift of everyone. We must then turn to human image and enact a strategy of re-humanization - to hold the American public to a higher standard of what makes us human and what constitutes true security. We gain respect by offering respect. It is important here to point out that nonviolence was aptly named in the 1987 People Power Revolution in the Philippines, alay dangal, to offer dignity.

In his own words, Obama stated, "citizenship demands a sense of common purpose; participation in the hard work of self-government."

Let not our common purpose be the destruction of what makes us human. Let us not reduce ourselves to the lie that we are consumers destined to combat an eternal, external enemy who is lurking behind the corner to threaten everything we are. This kind of outright manipulation of corporate and political elites who have everything to gain from a disunited, fearful, violent citizenry must be seen for what it is - a direct insult to our human potential and dignity that we will no longer tolerate.

Let our common purpose be to rise up in nonviolence, with strategy and training under our belts, as we enact our duties as citizens, not consumers, of this beautiful world.

~ Stephanie Van Hook serves as Director of the Conflict Resolution Service on the Democracy Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet.