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Building New 'Nonviolent Cities'


Building New 'Nonviolent Cities'

Rev. John Dear

Last year, I was invited to give a talk on peace in Carbondale, Illinois. I was surprised to discover that in recent years, activists from across Carbondale had come together with a broad vision of what their community could one day become—a nonviolent city. They wanted a new holistic approach to their work, with a positive vision for the future, so that over time, their community would be transformed into a culture of nonviolence.


That sounds very good. I hope Rev. John Dear’s idea gets off the ground. The people need to work together. Nobody had that idea during the LA riots of the early '90’s. Rodney King resisted arrest for speeding & was much bigger than the police officers & was violent with them. Both officers beat Rodney because of that. The officers should have called for back-up. The people in LA were wrong to riot & treat King like a hero. King had a long violent criminal record before he became famous.


I was pleased to see John Dear come to this comprehensive assessment since violence never just appears in a vacuum and frequently it’s a response to dead-ended existences, where young men (in particular) see no route out of the depressed zones they were born into.

When wages are set low or jobs are offshored, that is a silent form of violence.

Therefore, major structural adjustments must be undertaken to the whole of society to expunge the causes of (most) violence.

This is a huge blueprint:

“Nonviolent cities would work to end racism, poverty, homelessness and violence at every level and in every form; dismantle housing segregation and pursue racial, social and economic nonviolent integration; end police violence and institutionalize police nonviolence; organize to end domestic violence and teach nonviolence between spouses, and nonviolence toward all children; work to end gang violence and teach nonviolence to gang members; teach nonviolence in every school; help get rid of guns, gun shows and local weapons manufacturers; pursue more nonviolent immigration programs and policies; get religious leaders and communities to promote nonviolence and the vision of a new nonviolent city; reform local jails and prisons so they are more nonviolent and educate guards and prisoners in nonviolence; move from retributive to restorative justice in the entire criminal justice system; put up signs calling for nonviolence everywhere in the community; address local environmental destruction, climate change, and environmental racism, pursue clean water, solar and wind power, and a 100% green community; and in general, do everything possible to help their local community become more disarmed, more reconciled, more just, more welcoming, more inclusive, and more nonviolent.”

Mars is the “god” of war, violence, and aggressive force. As many know, its image and likeness is disproportionately expressed in our world.

Violence can never be defeated through the use/addition of more violence.

Only its antidote–which is Venus–can shift society’s equilibrium back to something more tantamount to justice, fairness, decency, and balance. In other words, the kind of world worth residing in.

Venus = love, beauty, the arts, fine food, sculpture, music, dance, balanced architecture, caring, negotiation, compromise, law founded on the rudiment of justice, diplomacy, and orientation for the good of the whole, rather than naked self-interest (the goals of which are typically satisfied through the use of aggressive force).


This is a well-meaning farce. Cities, by their very nature, are the root of violence in this world. If decreasing violence matters to you, and it should, the most effective thing you can do is to abandon cities and let them fall to ruin and decay.


Among the things we need to change are our feeling and way of thinking. One way to do that is to pay attention to George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant and other works and stop triggering and therefore strengthening the frame of “non-peacefulness” by saying words with the opposite of “non-peacefulness” in them, like the word used in the title and article. Peace and peacefulness are the goals and those should be the words used.


Cities are in the process of falling to ruin and decay but that doesn’t mean we turn our back on those who are suffering through this process right now. The idea behind this movement is brilliant and deserves our full support. Good for those who have successfully moved completely off the grid and are completely self - sufficient. The rest of us (huge majority in the US) have to deal with the current reality and have the choice to create a new reality. What these folks are attempting to do in Carbondale - with their focus on creating civil structures based in nonviolence - is nothing short of heroic and revolutionary.