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The Politics of Nonviolence


The Politics of Nonviolence

Rev. John Dear

What a summer! Like everyone else, I’m trying to make some sense of it, and figure out a thoughtful response. We’ve suffered through the mainstream media’s non-stop broadcast of the dirty politics of hatred, scape-goating, and war-mongering, particularly by Mr. Trump. We’ve undergone shootings by white police officers of unarmed African Americans, and even shootings of police, as well as massacres in Orlando and Nice, not to mention the daily U.S. massacres in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen.


It certainly would be a nice change of pace if our politicians adopted the philosophy of nonviolence.
Then maybe we'd stop invading every country on earth and be able to cut the defense budget in half.
Are you listening Hillary?


" Sure, you can vote, but don't expect anything more than the same ol' same ol' politics of violence."

Very true, unless you vote for Dr. Jill Stein. How come John Dear left her non-violent campaign out of his excellent article?


Agreed. There a many protests going on across this country that are fighting for nonviolence in their own way. Together a movement for nonviolence is possible. We need an anti-war movement which is much the same as this one.
Our power to effect real change comes from all of these groups coming together under one banner. Let's do it and let's elect Jill Stein to kick it off.


Thank-you, Reverend John. We of the peace movement are still here and have been for decades. However, count me in, regardless of what you call it. As mentioned, though, it is possible to vote for peace by voting Green. You're right about it taking more than that, but it's a good place to start.


Ever since the 1968 the Peace and Freedom Party has fielded a POTUS candidate.

Seeing how the Green Party (which embraces PFP ideals) is active in dozens of nations, even holding 10% of the seats in the German Bundestag, I will be voting Green rather than PFP..


Isn't it unAmerican to connect dots ? LOL


So it would seem given the actions of the political and intelligence class in this country.


All good. But we need your political endorsement! Sounds like you're on JIll's side.


I appreciate this article's promotion of non-violence. I am totally committed to non-violence.

But this quote disturbed me, because the main promoter of violence of the candidates in the presidential election is Secretary Clinton, not Mr. Trump. It was Clinton who recently threatened war with Russia over unproven allegations of hacking of the DNC emails. It is Clinton whose current advertisement campaign is to reject Trump because he has the audacity to suggest a civilian president should over rule the Generals, implying under her administration she'll do whatever the military generals want. The Father's admonition to vote for non-violence could easily be mistaken as an encouragement to vote for Clinton, since the article doesn't point out her promotion of violence, only Mr. Trump's.

I'm sorry. I don't see that action of Lewis as a bold nonviolent action since its bottom line was to reinforce the idea of expanding the use of the No-Fly list which is devoid of any due process and discriminates against Muslims and Arabs and thus tends to add fuel to the fire that 'those people' are our enemies and we must engage in war against them.

John Lewis was once a hero of the non-violent civil rights movement. In my opinion, now, the man is a sold out apparatchik of the (un)Democratic Party. Why didn't he engage in a sit-in to protest the slaughter of unarmed Black Americans by police and the Justice Department's inaction on that? Why didn't he engage in a sit-in to protest for a ban on semi-automatic weapons instead of just expanding the No-Fly list?

The Berrigans poured blood and napalm on government records during a Democratic administration to protest war and advocate for non-violence. We need today to continue that kind of action by protesting the violence of the current Democratic administration and the Democratic nominee's intended violence.

Going after Trump is going after low hanging fruit and is not the bold, even outrageous, nonviolent action that is needed now.

Now, some might get upset with me for pointing this all out instead of just celebrating this article's paean for nonviolence. But to me the framing of articles like this are just as important as the supposed main point.


Representative Barbara Lee, in delineating the basis of her decision (as the ONLY Congresscritter to vote on September 14, 2001) against reacting to 9-11 by authorizing Dubya carte blanche military deployment authority noted that psychological principles dictate that fearful humans make very bad decisions.

How does Lee now rationalize endorsing Clinton and when it is so apparent that the majority of Clinton's votes will be driven 100% by those voters' fear of Trump.


While I dislike conspiracism as a general rule, there was nothing in this post that violated ToS. To whomever is flagging people they simply disagree with, stop it. You're part of the larger problem of the erosion of free speech and democracy.
You flag only if there is a violation of terms.


The danger of the nonviolence that Dear preaches (literally) here is that a venerable method becomes confused with a primary political goal. This has made the cognoscenti of nonviolence into an almost cult-like collection of personalities.
There is no goal of creating non-violent people. That's just silly, at least in terms of social change in the here and now. the goal is to transfer power from elites to the rest of us, sufficient enough to change the social relations of capitalism and imperialism. It's that simple.
There are wonderfully non-violent ways to contribute to that goal, and there is always a moral imperative to use the least forceful method of resistance possible at any given time.
But no method should be taken off the table a priori, unless you want to telegraph to power that you're more than willing to be bludgeoned for principle more than you want to win.
This is a power struggle. We have enemies. We can't always dictate what we have to do to engage these enemies. They are sentient, too. They have plans and methods of their own. We can both dictate to each other the terms of any given engagement.
So it's never wise to override the greatest imperative of all organisms--the right to self-defense--in order to adhere to a principle with only limited historical utility and one that frequently erodes the effectiveness of resistance in certain circumstances.


Exactly. That's what nonviolence is. Taking it off the table. Saying I will not sink to your level and fight back. Self-defense is one thing, but not fighting back. The models are MLK, Mandela, Gandhi, and for some of us, Jesus. Now we have the Standing Rock protectors. It is not about wresting power from one party to another. It's about breaking down the power structure so that we all work toward the common good. It's not about winning, but amazingly, it works.


This is why it's easy to identify you as a reformist--and a mild one at that--instead of someone who demands and struggles for systematic change.
These are irreconcilable positions, and in many ways, your post proves that point.
Power struggles that result in enduring change are brutal. That is simply the way of things. There are no exceptions, although some of the "pink revolutions" gave it their best shot. And they're close to being finished off.

Ghandi didn't change India at all. He changed the color of the ruling elites and their core nationality, but everything else remained the same. King here in the US. Mandela went to his grave a severely depressed man for the same reasons: South Africa changed not at all. It's still the same oppressive system, but with a new class of assisting blacks at the top. And Mandela knew better, of all people.

There are reforms. There are revolutions. The single biggest mistake that lay people make in trying to understand power at both the theoretical and practical level regularly demonstrate uncertainty about the differences between the two. And they are hugely different.


Well, I don't want to participate in one. I've seen real change without brutality. There's nothing for you to win from me, or from the OP writer. All you can do is swagger. You too are spending your energy on words, mere words.


We'll be violent at least until the religions stop increasing the world's population, leaving nature with no alternative but war, famine and disease to do it.


??? And you of all people should recognize that war, at least, is not natural. Actually, I know more about religions combating famine and disease than anyone else. Jimmy Carter for an example. Are you saying that our compassionate work in the world is keeping excess population from dying? That's nice. Scroogish.


Maybe I'm missing something. From what I am seeing all over the globe, it is the "state" who is performing the overwhelming majority of violence. Four glaring examples immediately come to mind:

  • The number of unarmed victims of police shootings in the U.S.,

  • Israel's 'apartheid state' over the Palestinians,

  • North Korea and Saudi Arabia's capital punishment for political dissent.

  • Western imperialism, via the military-industrial complex and the financial system, over the Middle East, North Africa and the global south.

I do not advocate violence as a first-step measure. However, the option of violence must always be in the people's "tool box" to use for self-defense and massive oppression against those who bring violence (through physical, mental or illegitimate laws) to the people as a standard operational procedure.

Of course, if you choose or consent to being submissive and obedient to those who strong-arm you into a subservient life and to those who rob you of your freedom, dignity and the fruits of your labor; then by all means assume your position on your knees.

I will not lay down for my oppressors. I will not be the "whipping boy" to be abused. I will not look the other way while others are stealing from me. Even though you may totally disagree with me, I stand and fight for you as well.

The elite ruling class has won the battle when those being wronged against and oppressed no longer stand up for themselves and for freedom against exploitation, oppression and the abuses of privilege.

This article, by a religious man, fully illuminates why I reject the idea of a god and the value of religion. The "church", via the Reverend behind the pulpit, has always been a tool of propaganda for the state to keep the people in line to maintain "law and order" and to be loyal and submissive to the state regardless of its offenses against humanity.

I will not be tempted by a minister's pious attempts under the pretense of being morally, socially, and logically right to voluntarily surrender my life to the elite ruling class tyrants and the state in not fighting for what rightfully belongs to me as a human being....

  • My natural right to exist,
  • My natural right to freedom from the rule, exploitation, oppression, and domination of men or the state,
  • My natural right to a life of dignity.

These natural rights apply to everyone regardless of gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, education, heritage, income, or financial wealth status.

Again, I do no advocate violence as the first and primary line of direct action. However, the state cannot be the only participants of violence. Otherwise, the people will be subjected (via state violence) to the most brutal forms of totalitarian rule imaginable.


There are more than two options.