One of the most insidious misconceptions about nonviolence pervading popular culture is that it means doing nothing at all. We’ve all heard it, or even believed it ourselves. You mean people should not defend themselves? No thanks! It is as though we think that the only alternative to violence is passive compliance. Not at all. Actually, I am talking about “nonviolence” not “non-action.” Thank you.
Whenever I am confronted by this question, what I call Popular Assumption #1– it reassures me to some extent to remember that even Gandhi had to deal with it over and over again, yet he kept on answering it in new ways. Anytime he wrote or spoke or offered resistance, he told this “new” story of nonviolence in all of its complexity. And all it starts with is a new assumption that nonviolence actually does work. Here’s the coolest part: once we take this as our “experimental hypothesis” (in nonviolence, we are always experimenting…) it is as though a new world of possibilities and knowledge emerges. It’s mind–and heart–expanding! Wow, I needed THAT. It seems appropriate here to riff off of Sufi poet Rumi, if you don’t mind: Between violence and passivity, there is a field. It’s called nonviolence, and I’ll meet you there.
Imagine what the world would be like if we began with the assumption that nonviolence will work. What might be different?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org