The Search for a Nonviolent Future

Reading The Search for a Nonviolent Future by Michael Nagler right now. It seems like it’s going to be one of those Big Books that Really Matters to me.

What I’m getting out of it so far (about 1/3 of the way through):

  • Nonviolence is already being practiced the world over; it is wildly underreported in the media. It has not entered the public consciousness outside the people who are deeply involved in it.
  • Nevertheless, it has had some massive successes. The attempted coup against Gorbachev was prevented by the action of many, many nonviolent resisters, who had been trained in nonviolent resistance. It worked. The nation of India achieved its independence from Great Britain by means of nonviolence. South Africa’s apartheid was ended by nonviolence. And of course, MLK Jr’s nonviolent tactics changed America.
  • Nonviolence can be understood as a positive force, not a negative prohibition. The Sanskrit word which is translated “nonviolence,” “ahimsa,” is a word which expresses a positive through its opposite. A comparable English word is “infinity.” Which means something much more positive than merely “lack of finity.” Heck, “finity” isn’t even a word. “Ahimsa” is like that, in Ghandi’s usage at least.
  • The power of nonviolence is that it can only work through the free will of the oppressor. This means it is always a gamble. But it turns out that in practice it is a very good gamble. Many people who would act very badly towards those who either fight or flee them, find themselves changing when they are confronted by those who neither fight nor flee them, but oppose them with nonviolence.

I’ll write more when i’ve read more.

3 thoughts on “The Search for a Nonviolent Future”

  1. Still running a Silk/Wiki/etc? You might consider keeping a page of BooksThatReallyMatter, with your reviews. Interesting stuff!


  2. Happy new year!

    You’re right. The list I would make now includes:

    * this book
    * two, possibly three books by Alfie Kohn
    * the Mindfulness books by Ellen Langer
    * Saving the Appearances by Owen Barfield

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