More than anything else, I have created this site in order to address two questions:

Why do we, collectively, and to a lesser extent, individually, murder and maim each other in so many ways?

What if anything, can be done about that?

Read the “What This Site Is All About” for more information.

 


by Jay Edson

1. The enemy is never a person

The enemy is a combination of an oppressive set of social practices and an assortment of rationalizations that justifies them. It is inevitable that we develop negative attitudes toward the people who carry out the procedures by which society marginalizes us, robs us of our dreams and our freedom, and may even kill us. But in so far as is humanly possible, without resorting to denial and pretense, we should try to uproot our hatred of all other people through focusing on understanding rather than judging them. Non-violence begins with a non-violent attitude toward those who oppress us.

2. Non-Violence as a practical absolute

For all practical intents and purposes, one must act as though violence against people is simply not one of the options open to him or her in the pursuit of political goals. It cannot be denied that there may be specific situations in which a violent act may be the most loving one. Also, an effort to defend oneself in response to an immediate physical attack is not inconsistent with non-violent political action. But violence is never initiated by the non-violent political activist as a means of changing the targeted ideas and social structures that are the enemy. By making non-violence a practical absolute, the activist is forced to invent forceful, aggressive and effective means of challenging and disrupting the ideas and structures that must be changed.

3. The Internalization of the enemy

The first place where the enemy must be confronted is within our own souls. It is almost certain that we have internalized oppressive and debilitating ideas, and a negative identity, from the dominant culture that oppresses us. Every successful revolution begins with a consciousness raising of the oppressed group. We must expose these ideas in ourselves to the light of evidence and clear rational thought, and we must also challenge others who are oppressed, to do the same.

4. Gaining a group

Networking with others in the oppressed group is essential. If this is opposed by the dominant forces in society, or it is not happening due to issues of negative identity, the need for networking must be given top priority. It is necessary to connect with others and to commit to forming a community of mutual support. There is a risk in this; one might be betrayed by someone who purports to be a friend. But there is also a risk of cutting oneself off from needed friends and co-workers. As well as is humanly possible it is necessary to wend one's way between the Charybdis of naive trust on the one hand and the Scylla of excessive suspicion on the other.

5. Gaining a voice

The dominant group in a society always attempts to prevent the voice of the oppressed group being heard. This is true even in societies that are to some extent democratic and pride themselves on a free press. The dominant ideas must be challenged in public places. Narrative is powerful. The alternative stories must be told and must be heard. More that any other single thing, revolutions are about the competing narratives by which we understand our lives.

6. Challenging demonization

Demonization is always the rational by which dominant oppressive groups justify their violence against the oppressed. Demonization itself must be challenged. Even those people who are objectively dangerous, destructive, and oppressive cannot be understood by demonizing them. One of the most powerful challenges to demonization is to be found in narratives that attempt to tell truthful stories. The next most important challenge to demonization is probably found in personal non-hostile contact. It is very difficult to demonize a person who is actually present to you, or that you have come to know personally.

7. Strategies

It is necessary to develop strategies that target the real enemies which are

(1) oppressive ideas,

(2) oppressive social practices,

(3) the internalized enemy,

(4) voicelessness,

(5) demonization and

(6) false narratives.

It is very useful to study the strategies that other non-violent groups have found successful. At the same time, the specifics of strategy must be tailored to the actual situation. There may be general principles that are more or less universal, but the implementation of these principles in each new situation must be unique.

8. Alliances

Alliances must be made with all sympathetic or helpful people and organizations, even if they support only part of our agenda. The less isolated an oppressed group becomes, the more resources it will command. At the same time, it is essential that the oppressed group not allow any other group, however helpful it's members may seem to be, to take over the primary planning and decision making regarding  strategies.

9. Common denominators

It is important to seek out common denominators with the oppressors and with the other members of society. This is useful both for making alliances and for negotiating with the oppressors.

10. Visibility

It is important to determine the optimal level of visibility. In general it is best to be as visible as possible. But at times the oppression is so rigid and violent that one simply needs to go underground. There is no absolute rule about visibility, but it should not be left to chance. The issue should be considered consciously and decided upon in a sensible strategic manner.

11. Avoidance of nightmare mode

When dangers are objectively real and fear is chronic, it does not take much to throw a person into a panic. Life then takes on a nightmarish and dissociated quality. As much as possible it is important to keep out of nightmare mode. Members of the oppressed group who are able to network together should support each other in avoiding panic; they must try to assess situations as coolly as possible, and find ways to be as safe as possible, without giving up the struggle.

12. The Transcendent

If one is in any sense spiritually inclined, it is important to have confidence in whatever it is that transcends both us and our oppressor, and seek direction from this entity, principle or power in whatever way we best do this.

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