Michael Nagler learned a lesson one day on campus at Berkeley when speaking before the military affairs class, he put the “escalation curve” model on the chalkboard. At the far end of the curve is the often unpopular notion that, sometimes, when dehumanization is so acute, a person must be willing to risk their lives in nonviolent action. What surprised Michael was that in his work with students in peace and conflict studies, this idea made many people cringe, but while standing in front of a room of soldiers to be, he realized, they already signed up for this.
In nonviolence, the willingness to offer one’s life is often a source of tension. Some who feel that they are willing to do so might accuse those who are not of not being “radical” or “committed” enough, even if they do not come out and say it in so many words. The role of a wise strategist would therefore be to find a way to bring the two divisions together: how to maximize the participation of those who are willing to “go all the way” with those who are not, finding a way to bring everyone in at the right place for them. Maybe one person is only comfortable sending emails out, another person wants to be in the street and risk a nonviolent confrontation, and another person wants to be out in the street but only to make food. All of these people have their place and paint the picture of broad spectrum participation, if we are willing to think creatively.
What risks are you willing to take in nonviolent action? Without comparing yourself to others, know that every ounce of participation matters.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org