THE INTUITIVE SELF
THE POWER OF ACTIVE NON-VIOLENCE
"Be the change you want to see in the world."
- Mahatma Gandhi
As our tears of compassion fall in response to television’s images of war and destruction, many of us are asking soul-searching, anguished questions like: Why…? Why must there be war? W hy do people hate me (him, them)? Why were they (she, we) verbally abused by strangers? Why must human atrocities exist? Well, the answer is simple. We created it – collectively. That is, we created the climate for violence (physical and non physical) to exist on our planet.
The root cause of violence is, of course, many-faceted and complex, but if we dig deeply enough past the complexity of interpersonal and international relations, we will find that our fears are the most powerful precursor to violence. Being fearful creates feelings of powerlessness which in turn cause us to act in uncontrollable ways. This is as true for individuals as it is for nations. In fact, under the ‘right’ circumstances, even the most mild-mannered of us can choose violence almost reflexively, because violence is now a societal habit, deeply ingrained in our collective psyche as the dominant model for conflict resolution.
So we all need to be consciously aware, for the roots of violence can begin with us with seemingly insignificant thoughts and acts – tiny seeds with explosive potential. We need to be consciously aware that an apparently innocuous word or act expressed carelessly, with indifference or anger, may be experienced as violence by someone else if that word or act attacks their basic sense of self and security. And when these tiny explosive seeds we thoughtlessly cast to the winds ultimately manifest in the disenfranchisement of a peoples, in the emotional and physical dispossession of others, or in the loss of lives and livelihood, the response generated is invariably self protection by the use of force of one kind or another.
But this endless feeding of violence upon itself is not news to any of us, for we know that we are inextricably linked to each other, we know that we are influenced and affected by each other’s words and actions, and we know that we are formed, informed and shaped by our environment. Even international corporations now recognize that violence is not in our collective best interest. They “saw the malevolent face of the dark side of non-responsibility” on September 11, 2001 (and its consequences on their bottom line), and invited 50 religious leaders to the World Economic Forum in 2002 to initiate dialog and change.
So this time of turmoil, although disruptive and distressing, actually presents an interesting opportunity for change and growth for individuals, organizations and nations. And if history and experience has taught us through the lesson of violence, that like creates like, then we must understand that it is completely within our control to change what we experience. And the absolute beauty and magic of our interconnectedness is that if we start with ourselves, we can effect global change!
We can, for instance, do something radically different like choosing a new model – active non-violence. We can shake off our feelings of helplessness and paralysis in the face of jerks, conflict and war. We can shed our fears and indifference, and engage in an authentic life by consciously doing everything in our power to express truth, tolerance, and love – those powerful attributes of non-violence. In so doing, we can create around ourselves, little microclimates of understanding, compassion and respect for all living beings, so that anyone who walks into our presence can bask in and be uplifted by our nurturing atmosphere. …And when we live the change we want to see, we will radiate that change throughout the Universe.
"If I see someone beating up another, I will throw myself between them, place my hands on the aggressor’s chest and say: ‘Peace, be still’. And she will throw me to the ground violently in anger.
And I will get up again and place my hands on his chest and say: ‘Peace, be still’, and I will do this until she stops. And he will stop in the face of nonviolence. In this way I resist the seeds of violence within myself, and within the aggressor."
- Maureen Marks-Mendonça, Author and Peacemaker
I hold the vision that the world may awaken more fully to the power of active non-violence, and that we may be able to harness that power in our everyday lives with courage, wisdom and insight.
"Non-violence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation."
– Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964)
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