When training to enter a violent conflict in a nonviolent spirit, what kind of material might you review first? Certainly, it seems wise to have an understanding of the conflict itself and the culture in which it emerged. You would of course want language and life skills training. Most importantly, though, you would need a thorough overview of nonviolence–not just a sense of how to define the word, but a big picture overview. While unfortunately many conflict intervention groups seem to take understanding full spectrum nonviolence for granted or even neglect certain angles of it in favor of others, there are some amazing groups, like the Italian unarmed peacekeeping organization, Operazione Colomba, who incorporate the depth of nonviolence very well into their conflict intervention trainings. We visited them in Israel-Palestine last summer where they are working as volunteers to provide direct, unarmed accompaniment to mostly Palestinian civilians, and surprise–they had a copy of Michael Nagler’s Search for a Nonviolent Future in Italian, on their living room table as a reference. If that wasn’t cool enough, they also told us that in one part of their pre-departure training, they watch a video…not of a shooting scene or how to face down someone with a gun, but, of all things, dance. More specifically, a film of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dancing together.
Why in the world would they do that? Is this an Italian, artsy, European thing? Can’t we stick to something more like “jiu-jitsu”? So I turned on a video and watched with fresh eyes, looking for nonviolence. And there really is something there. Twists, turns, jumps, even slaps, and responses to them, all there. Think about how two dancers have to stay together, respond to one another, work together. If one person turns, the other person has to turn or if they go in another direction, they have to find their way back. And they are really having fun. It’s beyond clear: they are dancing out of love, and while it seems effortless now a lot of incredibly hard, maybe even painful work must have gone into it. There is what is called “flow”: you couldn’t tell whether they choreographed every step or whether there were improvisations. Their dance was seamless, and inspiring to watch. Without a doubt, nonviolence, at its best, looks a lot like this. And we do know that actually Gandhi did try his feet at the foxtrot. . .
Think of your interactions with a partner or an opponent as a dance today. What is your next move? How do you know?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com