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GLOBAL MOVEMENT FOR A CULTURE OF PEACE

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The Nonviolence Handbook: A book review
an article by David Swanson (abridged)

Michael Nagler has just published The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action, a quick book to read and a long one to digest, a book that's rich in a way that people of a very different inclination bizarrely imagine Sun Tzu's to be. That is, rather than a collection of misguided platitudes, this book proposes what still remains a radically different way of thinking, a habit of living that is not in our air. In fact, Nagler's first piece of advice is to avoid the airwaves, turn off the television, opt out of the relentless normalization of violence.



click on photo to enlarge

We don't need the art of war applied to a peace movement. We need the art of satyagraha applied to the movement for a peaceful, just, free, and sustainable world. This means we have to stop trying to defeat the Military Industrial Complex (how's that been working out?) and start working to replace it and to convert the people who make up its parts to new behaviors that are better for them as well as for us. . .

Nagler's examples highlight the importance of knowing what is negotiable, what should be compromised, and what must not be; what is substantive and what symbolic; when a movement is ready to escalate its nonviolence and when it is too soon or too late; and when (always?) not to tack on new demands in the middle of a campaign. . .

Nagler outlines obstructive and constructive actions, citing Gandhi's efforts in India and the first Intifada as examples of combining the two. The Landless Worker Movement in Brazil uses constructive nonviolence, while the Arab Spring used obstructive. Ideally, Nagler thinks, a movement should begin with constructive projects and then add obstruction. The Occupy Movement has gone in the opposite direction, developing aid for storm victims and banking victims after protests were driven out of public squares. The potential for change, Nagler believes, lies in the possibility of Occupy or another movement combining the two approaches. . .

Nagler sees growing success and even greater potential for nonviolent action done wisely and strategically, and points out the extent to which violence remains the default approach of our government. And the case Nagler makes is made strong and credible by his extensive knowledge of nonviolent campaigns engaged in around the world over the past several decades. Nagler looks helpfully at successes, failures, and partial successes to draw out the lessons we need moving forward. I'm tempted to write a review of this book nearly as long as or even longer than the book itself, but believe it might be most helpful simply to say this:

Trust me. Buy this book. Carry it with you.

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


What are the most important books about the culture of peace?,

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Latest reader comment:

Johan Galtung is indeed the most perceptive peace researcher of our time.

Not only did he predict the fall of the Soviet Union quite precisely, but he has also predicted the fall of the American empire.  Here are excerpts from his 2004 article,
On the Coming Decline and Fall of the US Empire

The prediction of the decline and fall of the US Empire is based on the synergy of 14 contradictions, and the time span for the contradictions to work their way through decline to fall was estimated at 25 years in the year 2000. There are more contradictions because the US Empire is more complex, and the time span is longer also because it is more sophisticated. After the first months of President George W. Bush (selected) the time span was reduced to 20 years because of the way in which he sharpened so many of the contradictions posited the year before, and because his extreme singlemindedness made him blind to the negative, complex synergies. . . .

Here is the list of 14 contradictions posited in 2000:

I. Economic Contradictions(US led system WB/IMF/WTO NYSE Pentagon)

1. between growth and distribution: overproduction relative to demand, 1.4 billion below $ 1/day, 100.000 die/day, 1/4 of hunger

2. between productive and finance economy (currency, stocks,bonds) overvalued, hence crashes, unemployment, contract work

3. between production/distribution/consumption and nature: ecocrisis, depletion/pollution, global warming

II. Military Contradictions (US led system NATO/TIAP/USA-Japan)

4. between US state terrorism and terrorism: Blowback

5. between US and allies (except UK, D, Japan), saying enough

6. between US hegemony in Eurasia and the Russia India China triangle, with 40% of humanity

7. between US led NATO and EU army: The Tindemans follow-up

III. Political Contradictions (US exceptionalism under God)

8. between USA and the UN: The UN hitting back

9. between USA and the EU: vying for Orthodox/Muslim support

IV. Cultural Contradictions (US triumphant plebeian culture)

10. between US Judeo-Christianity and Islam (25% of humanity; UNSC nucleus has four Christian and none of the 56 Muslim countries).

11. between US and the oldest civilizations (Chinese, Indian, Mesopotamian, Aztec/Inca/Maya)

12. between US and European elite culture: France, Germany, etc.

V. Social Contradictions (US led world elites vs the rest: World Economic Forum, Davos vs World Social Forum, Porto Alegre)

13. between state corporate elites and working classes of unemployed and contract workers. The middle classes?

14. between older generation and youth: Seattle, Washington, Praha, Genova and ever younger youth. The middle generation?

15. To this could be added: between myth and reality.


This report was posted on May 2, 2014.