American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
A World of Nonviolent Action
An Anthology of Nonviolence, Historical and Contemporary Voices, edited by Krishna Mallick and Doris Hunter, Greenwood Press, 2002
Sociologist and educator, Elise Boulding throughout her distinguished career has spoken in a strong Quaker voice for a culture of peace.
From the attacks of September 11 to the US invasion of Iraq, war and violence have filled the media even as the longing for peace is clearly evident through demonstrations on every continent. Is there not another way to deal with violence? Krishna Mallick and Doris Hunter’s Anthology of Nonviolence offers a clear answer to that question. Yes, nonviolent direct action is another way. The teachings and traditions of the practice of nonviolence as a positive way of dealing with human diversity go back to the earliest human records.
Appropriately, the opening section of the anthology gives us passages from the Bhagavad Gita, the Sermon on the Mount, and the peace prayers offered at the 1986 Assisi gathering of leaders from many religious traditions around the world. While there are a variety of motives and strategies associated with nonviolence, clearly its practice touches a very deep level of human thought and feeling. The passages in Part II from the writings of Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. give us a sense of that depth, as do words from our own contemporaries the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Nelson Mandela (Part III). These leaders of social movements of the last two centuries exhibit total confidence in an inner strength, whether it is called satyagraha, soul force, or love, to overcome social evils even in their most violent forms. But a striking feature of this anthology is the range of world views to be found among those who choose this form of action, whether as leaders or as followers.
This is particularly notable in Part IV, which is devoted to contemporary issues and women’s voices of nonviolence. Some of the social activist practitioners of nonviolence represented here see the roots of the social problems that give rise to violence in ways that open up new understandings of the potential of nonviolent action. The “speciesism” that Singer writes about is an old concept but a new term—the failure to recognize the inherent worth of all life on the planet, and to treat all life with respect.
Racism on the other hand is an old concept, but Cornel West gives a dramatic warning of the consequences of a continuing failure to learn a new language of empathy and compassion across racial lines. Outmoded ideas of assimilation continue to hinder that learning. The program offered by a team of anti-globalists to replace corporate globalization from above by globalization from below is bold, visionary, and detailed. It involves creating major changes in our economic and social institutions and will require decades of committed nonviolent direct action to dismantle existing power structures. But then, so will all the strategies that emerge in these creative social movements.
The two powerful essays devoted to the contrast between women’s knowledge and skills relating to the life-sustaining resources in their environment and the traditionally destructive behavior of men in relation to those resources, depict in inspiring ways the creativity of women’s nonviolent strategies to rescue trees, plants, and earth from destruction. Karen Warren and Vandana Shiva, outstanding feminist environmentalists and scientists, are well-chosen authors here. Eco-feminists have a very special contribution to make to the practice of nonviolence.
The final section of the book on applications of nonviolence (Part V) gives a valuable overview of some of the ways in which nonviolent action against oppressive governments has been carried out in our times. Gene Sharp, the leading scholar on nonviolent strategy and planning processes, both through history and in the present, opens Part V. He is followed by Dudley Weeks, conflict resolution specialist; Maris Braybrooke, a leader of the contemporary movement for interfaith dialogue; and Michael True, historian of nonviolence. Together they provide an excellent background for the examples of nonviolent movements to overthrow authoritarian governments which follow. Vivid accounts of these movements in India, China, Russia, the Middle East, South Africa, and Eastern Europe, provide stories of identifiable beginnings and some degree of identifiable positive outcomes. However in a profound way they are all still in process. Richard Deats’ essay on the “global spread of active nonviolence” forecasts in a way that he could not have foreseen, precisely the current global spread of the peace movement in protest against the war in Iraq.
Reading this fine collection of studies, including the closing essays by Mallick and Diefenbach, encourages us to remember that a more peaceful world is possible—and that we all have a part to play in bringing it about.