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Nonviolence or Nonexistence

Nonviolence or Nonexistence

Robert C. Koehler

The day before he died, Martin Luther King said these words at a packed church in Memphis:

“Men for years now have been talking about war and peace. Now no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world, it is nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.”


Wow, MLk says it all again: “it is nonviolence or nonexistence.” Said the day before he was murdered too. I am beginning to really hate irony. And all these years later------isn’t nonviolence valued yet?


Well - tip of the iceberg comes to mind - Robert C. Koehler.

I am reading the astrophysicist Adam Frank’s new book “The Light of the Stars”, in which he is confronting the Anthropocene and all that it implies, read possible extinction or civilizational collapse, take your pick.

We are fast-tracking Easter Island right about now, despite encouraging developments in alternate energy, and Elon Musk’s self landing, re-usable Space X boosters.

I’ve just finished a thorough refresher course, so to speak, on the race to the Moon in the fifties and sixties.

Eerily, more than a few astronauts returned from their lunar excursions remarking on the “fragility” of the Earth as seen from deep space.

I am still haunted by the MIT groups’ “The Limits to Growth”, which I read when it came out in 1972, with an immense sense of foreboding, which has only intensified over the years.

In July we may well celebrate, some of us, the fiftieth anniversary of the first Moon landing by Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin, with Michael Collins riding shotgun overhead.

Yet we as a species don’t seem aware of the peril we are in.

And there is almost certainly a point of no return - which is even less understood than the crises in climate, biodiversity, nuclear, artificial intelligence, mass migration, and an unsustainable economic model, to name but a few.

We are close, I think, very, to being overwhelmed by all of this, which is what I imagine happened to the Easter Islanders.


Thanks for the mention of Adam Frank’s book, which I now have on my saved list of books to read at the local library.

And, if you’re not already familiar with, or have watched the series One Strange Rock, on Natioal Geographic, I suggest it for yet more observations by former astronauts about the fragility of this living entity that is our planet Earth.



While I heartily commend the work of Nonviolent Peaceforce, the points Mr. Koehler makes here actually bear parsing.

Yes, the U.S. ‘military’ budget is obscenely extravagant, but it is not about the standard excuses given, i.e. ‘defense’ or ‘war’ or ‘war preparations’. Those are well established marketing terms for what is in essence simply theft, as I’ve commented previously.

The grand games of intimidation, harassment and conquest, with all their savage brutality, their pillage and plunder, their wanton death and destruction, have discovered here in the ‘homeland’ of the U.S. a means for transferring unimaginably vast sums of weath from that same nation to the secret offshore accounts of MIC profiteers.

Violence is merely a means to an end. It is not the point of the exercise. The prices paid are measured in human suffering, loss and death, along with the costs of the very vehicle for robbing the national welfare.


Tennegon !

I have bookmarked the National Geographic series you posted above - it looks like a revealing and well thought out look at the third rock from the Sun - Thank You ~

What troubles me, however, is our collective lack of appropriate response - we being Homo sapiens - some 200,000 to 300,000 years old.

Adam Frank’s book is really a thought experiment - 'was Enrico Fermi right to ask “Where is everybody?” '.

I am a geologist by training - perhaps a natural historian by inclination - or is it necessity ?

Life on Earth arose immediately it was chemically, physically, thermodynamically possible.

That was circa four billion years ago.

If we are the first truly self-aware technical species - why did it take so long ?

Is this normal throughout the Universe ?

Given time - given our nature - we could soon have answers.

But time may be the key.

How much time is there until we self-destruct as a high-civilization?

With high order intelligence - baggage appears to be hard to dispose of.

Baggage like religions.

The Easter Islanders certainly saw what was coming - how could they not !

But they cut down that last tree anyway, and remained in thrall to their religious enterprise right to the end - even perhaps, after collapse.

Not promising.

I am also a mountaineer and a pilot. They are very similar in many ways. Both professions abhor sloppy thinking and doing - even to the point of disparaging those who die - like the three ‘famous, world class’ mountaineers who just bought the farm here in western Canada a week or two ago - Roskelly et al.

My visceral reaction was - ‘what a stupid way to get killed - climbing in those conditions.’

That is not politically correct of course - but it is exactly how pilots and test pilots feel generally about human error crash and burns.

There is very little margin for error in mountains or in the air.

Yet I feel surrounded by very politically correct voters, who promptly elect morons to rule over them.

They wouldn’t survive long in either the mountains or in the air - but there you are - all on Spaceship Earth.

No wonder Elon Musk wants to go to Mars - Daniel Boone syndrome I suppose.

Anyway, I don’t participate much on any forums anymore - just made an exception here I guess.

Ciao !

It is demanded. They will accept nothing but non-violence.


Had I known you were a BC’er I would have mentioned that one of the most prominent of the astrounauts featured in One Strange Rock is your (Canada’s) very own Mark Hadfield.

We obviously share a common (no pun intended, as to this website) view of humanity and all its foibles, as it were.

My background covers a right ol’ strange mix, including an academic pursuit of Philosophy, ergo, your queries as to we humans, our planet and the Universe.

If you’re not familiar with him, the 19th century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, wrote in his work, The World as Will and Representation, essentially that his interpretation of god (the Will) needs to manifest itself (Representation) in all things in order to know itself.

Perhaps this is what we are a part of, as humans, on planet Earth, this grand experiment in self-knowing.


Nonviolence or nonexistence: the choice is that stark. But convincing leaders the pursuit of power (manifested as interest) will eventually bring them to the war they seek to avoid – nuclear war – is the challenge. They don’t want annihilation: but they do want power.