A friend recently confided in me that if he had not had the nonviolent mentorship of an adult in his life at a key moment, he would have easily been persuaded to join the military. He now runs an organization called the East Point Peace Academy, primarily offering trainings in the skills of nonviolence as understood by Dr. Martin Luther King, not excluding training for inmates in prisons in the Bay Area. What’s the connection? What does nonviolence offer as much as military training? Gandhi would say unequivocally, self-discipline.
The human being requires self-discipline as we require food, sleep and love. These days, it seems we need it in greater and greater measure, yet if the military is the only institution servicing this need, especially for young people, it is no wonder that many still find this violent institution appealing. Especially in the culture we live in today, where the less restraint we show the more easily we’re manipulated, restraint becomes a counter to oppression.
Likewise, it takes restraint not to strike out with a closed fist or a sharp word when someone questions our dignity or otherwise harms us. We rarely learn anything different. We are told that any restraint is a form of passivity. The corporate media and military is literally invested in our thinking that self-restraint is the wrong road to freedom. Don’t believe them. On the contrary, we should be absolutely clear that the more self-restraint we show in nonviolence, the more it is powerful and the more we are free.
Find a way to observe restraint today in a relationship. Hold back a harsh word you might say about another person, even if you think it’s true. Take note of the process–how did it feel to show discipline in this way and what happened?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org