If you’re about to be attacked, pretend you know them. This may sound silly, but it worked for me. It saved my life.
When I was 16 years old, I was walking alone through a town centre at 1am, towards a bus stop after a party. I was slightly tipsy, however my cognition was mostly fine.
The air was cold and nippy; I regretted wearing a short skirt. I began feeling confused when I realised a dark figure was walking directly towards me. They were looking directly at me, as if they were stalking their prey. They started picking up their pace. I knew I was in danger.
My slightly tipsy brain made a strange decision. I pretended that I knew them.
“Omg! I haven’t seen you in so long! How are you?”, I yelled to the figure.
“Uh, what?”, he replied, flabbergasted.
“You look so different, tell your mum I said hi!”, I replied.
“Have we met?”, he asked.
“How could you forget? Anyway, I’ve got to go. Catch up soon”, I replied before speeding away.
As I walked away, I turned around briefly to see if he was gone. He was walking in the opposite direction, and I noticed a handle poking out of his back pocket. A knife.
The next day, out of curiosity, I googled the correct way to deal with an attacker, and this is actually a legitimate way. Obviously this won’t work if the attacker has already began hurting you. But yes, this technique confuses and distracts the attacker, whilst also humanising you – so that you’re less likely to be hurt.
There are two broad approaches to nonviolence: tactical nonviolence and principled nonviolence. Tactical nonviolence is based on the belief that nonviolence is one tactic or strategy among a range of choices (Bond, 1994; Sharp, 1973a; Zunes, Kurtz, & Asher, 1999). From this perspective:
Nonviolent action is a generic term covering dozens of specific methods of protest, noncooperation and intervention, in all of which the actionists conduct the conflict by doing – or refusing to do – certain things without using physical violence. As a technique, therefore, nonviolent action is not passive. It is not inaction. It is action that is nonviolent (Sharp, 1973b, p. 64, emphasis in original).
Principled nonviolence is built on a commitment to nonviolence as a philosophy or a way of life, and the belief that nonviolence is morally superior to violence (Burgess & Burgess, 1994; Burrowes, 1994; Moyer, 1999b). Those who adopt a principled approach to nonviolence argue that it “is not simply a matter of abstinence from physical or verbal violence, it is an attitude of mind, an emotional orientation towards loving care and concern” (Curle, 1995, p. 17). From this perspective nonviolence is:
A means of breaking the cycle of violence; it is a moral method of social change which is not passive nor violent; it requires human commitment but not military might; and it seeks to change but not to completely destroy relationships. Employing nonviolence entails breaking from our traditional patterns of resolving conflicts; patterns which distribute power to the strongest and the most violent (Woehrle, 1993, p. 209).
For advocates of principled nonviolence, the issue is not whether or not nonviolence is more effective than violence but rather that, regardless of what other people do, nonviolence is the morally right thing to do (Burgess & Burgess, 1994, pp. 13-14). According to the Feminism and Nonviolence Study Group (1983), nonviolence is “a principle and a technique, a set of ideas about how life should be lived and a strategy for social change” (p. 26).
Here I concentrate on literature discussing principled nonviolence. Due to the broad focus of principled nonviolence, there are problems with the word nonviolence itself since it implies that “we are still thinking in terms of violence” (Starhawk, 2001, p. 2). Mahatma Gandhi was dissatisfied with nonviolence and associated terms (Gandhi, 1987, p. 63) and so, following a search to find a more appropriate description, he decided on satyagraha as an alternative (Gandhi, 1987, p. 35). Its literal meaning is “holding on to Truth and it means, therefore, Truth-force [where] Truth is soul or spirit. It is, therefore, known as soul-force” (Gandhi, 1951, p. 3). Reid (in McAllister, 1982) argues that soul-force “implies a more assertive, positive stand than does nonviolence – that we rely on the strength of truth rather than on physical force” (p. vi). Satyagraha relates particularly to the practice of nonviolent action; the philosophy of nonviolence is more closely related to ahimsa, which is discussed in greater depth below. Like Gandhi, Martin Luther King initially did not describe his guiding principle as nonviolence but as Christian love (King, 1958, p. 84). Later, he spoke more frequently of nonviolence, which he described as “the persistent and determined application of peaceable power to offenses against the community” (King, 1967, p. 184).
Although an alternative is needed that embodies the idea of it being more than the absence of violence, the term nonviolence has a rich tradition, is widely used and, at present, remains the best alternative. Although satyagraha has greater depth of meaning, it has not been adopted in this study because it is strongly linked to nonviolence in the Gandhian tradition and the term has not been widely used in the West. For some writers and activists, the hyphenated non-violence emphasises the absence of violence (Cumming, 1985, p. 9), whereas nonviolence, without the hyphen, refers to the broader philosophy of social change and human relationship (Boulding, 1999; Cumming, 1985; McAllister, 1982). This thesis follows this convention by using nonviolence for the latter broad meaning but non-violence when discussing the absence of violence (for example in discussion of the survey and in-depth interviews) or when using quotes from other sources which retain the hyphen.
Omar Wasow, assistant professor of politics at Princeton, joins hosts Katie Halper and Matt Taibbi to discuss his paper on protest tactics and ‘Agenda Seeding,’ and the polarized reaction it’s received.
Much of what Jesus taught seems to have been followed closely during the first several hundred years after his death and resurrection. As long as Jesus’ followers were on the bottom and the edge of empire, as long as they shared the rejected and betrayed status of Jesus, they could grasp his teaching more readily. Values like nonparticipation in war, simple living, inclusivity, and love of enemies could be more easily understood when Christians were gathering secretly in the catacombs, when their faith was untouched by empire, rationalization, and compromise.
.. The last great formal persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire ended in 311 CE. In 313, Constantine (c. 272-337) legalized Christianity. It became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380. After this structural change, Christianity increasingly accepted, and even defended, the dominant social order, especially concerning money and war. Morality became individualized and largely focused on sexuality. The church slowly lost its free and alternative vantage point. Texts written in the hundred years preceding 313 show it was unthinkable that a Christian would fight in the army, as the army was killing Christians. By the year 400, the entire army had become Christian, and they were now killing the “pagans.”
Before 313, the church was on the bottom of society, which is the privileged vantage point for understanding the liberating power of Gospel for both the individual and for society. Within the space of a few decades, the church moved from the bottom to the top, literally from the catacombs to the basilicas. The Roman basilicas were large buildings for court and other public assembly, and they became Christian worship spaces.
.. When the Christian church became the established religion of the empire, it started reading the Gospel from the position of maintaining power and social order instead of experiencing the profound power of powerlessness that Jesus revealed. In a sense, Christianity almost became a different religion!
The failing Roman Empire needed an emperor, and Jesus was used to fill the power gap. In effect, we Christians took Jesus out of the Trinity and made him into God on a throne. An imperial system needs law and order and clear belonging systems more than it wants mercy, meekness, or transformation. Much of Jesus’ teaching about simple living, nonviolence, inclusivity, and love of enemies became incomprehensible. Relationship—the shape of God as Trinity—was no longer as important. Christianity’s view of God changed: the Father became angry and distant, Jesus was reduced to an organizing principle, and for all practical and dynamic purposes, the Holy Spirit was forgotten.
What would Jesus do in our context? He might once again disrupt the temple—the unholy alliance between religion and empire. I think he would teach the wrongness and futility of violence in human affairs.
King (who regarded the younger Carmichael as one of the movement’s most promising leaders) believed in the concept of “redemptive suffering” and thought the sight of protesters accepting beatings, dog bites and fire-hosing would soften America’s heart and inspire the country to reject segregation. But after seeing so many of his comrades maimed and killed, Carmichael no longer shared that belief.
King had gotten a lot right, Carmichael said, but in betting on nonviolence, “he only made one fallacious assumption: In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent has to have a conscience. The United States has no conscience.”
Carmichael is interviewed by John Hart, James S. Doyle, and Martin Agronsky on CBS’s Face the nation. He defends the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, of which he is national chairman, and discusses related items, including “Black power” and the recent urban riots in the U.S.