Thank You, Marshall.

Non-violent Communication,” a theory/technique/philosophy of communication (and of life) created by Marshall Rosenberg, has changed my life in really positive ways in the past year. It’s given me ways of looking at myself and others and my relationships that I don’t know if I’d ever have discovered on my own. It’s helped me as a parent. It’s shown me a way out of the pain of constant anger over the nation’s political system.

And now it’s time for me to say goodbye.

Well, not really. I don’t think I’ll ever leave behind the lessons I’ve learned trying to practice NVC. I don’t want to stop learning more about this way of relating to people. It’s done good things for me and I’m sure it’s got more to teach me.

But it’s hurting my effort at living mindfully.

Yep, this is another post about mindfulness — see my first and second. It more relates to the second — the “map is not the territory” phenomenon.

You see, for all it bills itself as a technique of communication, NVC is also a worldview, a way of understanding human life. It’s a picture of the world. And I’m a sucker, as I’ve said, for worldviews, theories, that claim to be “the real truth,” the little-known inside scoop on reality which if you know it makes everything easier. And accepting a particular model of reality, a particular way of understanding the world, as *the* way of understanding the world, is a mindfulness-killer.

Here’s the tip-off: you’re following instructions and you don’t get the results they promised. You don’t question the value of these instructions for you, you question your own value, ability, competence, worthiness. That’s a dead giveaway.

So I’m gonna back off. I’m going to stop making a conscious effort to use NVC in my parenting and other parts of my life, at least for a while. I’m going to open my mind to other ways of thinking about things. I’ve got it there as a way of looking at things but I’m not going to make it *the* way of looking at things.

I think even Marshall would approve. After all, he called his book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, not Nonviolent Communication, The Language Of Life.

Department of Peace and Nonviolence

Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich would have made an awesome president… for me at least.

Kucinich Introduces Legislation to Create Cabinet Level Department of Peace And Nonviolence
Legislation Co-Sponsored By 57 Members Of Congress

WASHINGTON – September 14 – With our nation at war in Iraq, Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), today, reintroduced legislation to create a cabinet level Department of Peace and Nonviolence.
The legislation, first introduced in the 107th Congress, embodies a broad-based approach to peaceful and non-violent conflict resolution at both domestic and international levels. The Department of Peace and Nonviolence would serve to promote non-violence as an organizing principle in our society, and help to create the conditions for a more peaceful world.

Domestically, the Department would be responsible for developing policies to address issues such as: domestic violence, gang violence, child abuse, violence in schools, hate crimes, racial violence and mistreatment of the elderly. The Department would have an Office of Peace Education that would work with educators in elementary, secondary and universities in the development and implementation of curricula to instruct students in nonviolent conflict resolution skills. In addition, a Peace Academy, modeled after the military service academies, would be established to provide instruction in peace education and offer opportunities for graduates to serve in programs dedicated to domestic or international nonviolent conflict resolution.

Internationally, the Department would analyze foreign policy and make recommendations to the President on matters pertaining to the protection of human rights and the prevention and de-escalation of unarmed and armed international conflict.

“Now, more than ever, this legislation is urgently needed,” stated Kucinich. “Domestically, this legislation will provide structure and new programs to reduce violence in our society. Internationally, our current foreign policy makes our nation less safe and will make it impossible to meet our domestic needs. This legislation offers an path towards peace and prosperity.”

The bill already has 57 original co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.


OK, something just hit me tonight. I was thinking about a post at Talking Points Memo, which I was reading because it was linked to from somewhere I read regularly…

At first the evidence was scattered and anecdotal. But now it’s pretty clear that a key aim of the Bush administration’s takeover of the NOLA situation is to cut off press access to report the story […]

Take a moment to note what’s happening here: these are the marks of repressive government, which mixes inefficiency with authoritarianism. The crew that couldn’t get key aid on the scene in time last week is coming in in force now. And one of the key missions appears to be cutting off public information about what’s happening in the city.

As it happens things have changed since that post — see here…”I talked to Bob a few minutes ago. And he said that there seemed to be a sea change in the treatment of reporters trying to get access to the city from yesterday to today. Today he reported that he and his colleagues were able to get through without any problem.”

So that problem is fixed for now, for reasons unclear. But I was thinking about the idea of “becoming a repressive authoritarian government.” And it occurred to me that people generally behave in an authoritarian, violent manner out of fear. They’re afraid of someone.

People who attack each other generally fear each other, and each believes they have good reason. And it’s irrelevant, in terms of ending the violence, who is right and who is wrong. Both sides are human. That’s what matters.

I’ve heard it said that rebellion and submission equally reinforce authoritarianism, because they are the two responses which authoritarianism foresees, and is prepared to handle. They don’t break the cycle, call the whole structure into question, wake people up. That’s why revolutions against tyranny have a sad tendency to turn into new tyrannies. Rebellion as such changes nothing fundamental.

And I was thinking about this “authoritarian crackdown on the media” thing and was thinking about how that is fueled by fear; how despite the fact that the people calling bullshit on the Bush administration are right, they are feeding the system by playing its own game even as they rebel. If they’re cracking down on the media, that’s because they’re afraid of it. They may be afraid of it because they’re afraid of the consequences of their own hurtful actions coming to light, because they’re afraid of being punished for them.

And I think about how you don’t move past a terrible situation by punishing the guilty; but you do move past it by speaking the truth. In South Africa, after apartheid, you had the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose mission was not to punish the guilty but to prevent the recurrence of the abuses and to heal the injuries and restore the losses. I don’t know how that all worked out but I’ll bet it worked out a damn sight better than acts of revenge.

It occurs to me that that kind of transcendence, that kind of unheard-of humanity, is what would be needed to break a cycle of degenerating authority structures. It is the natural result of nonviolent action as opposed to ordinary rebellion. Ordinary, violent rebellion makes the degeneration worse in the long run. Its victories are Pyrrhic.

If it is true that Bush and company essentially killed thousands in New Orleans through willful negligence and mismanagement of the nation, then they are horribly wounded by that as well. Killing destroys the soul of the killer as it does the body of the victim. If they did these things they are victims too. Nobody ever victimizes another person without victimizing themselves as well. Healing has to take place on both sides.

And I sure wish I knew better how to live these highfalutin’ ideas I have.

Don’t Be Nice, Be Real (review)

I just finished Kelly Bryson’s Don’t Be Nice, Be Real, (B&N) which is by a fellow who studied with Marshall “Nonviolent Communication” Rosenberg. He’s a family therapist and has spent some time teaching NVC in other countries, and is involved with alternative communities in San Diego.

I definitely got some valuable stuff out of reading this. He teaches NVC, but he’s a pretty different person than Marshall Rosenberg, so you get his own take on it, which is helpful. His emphasis is much more on NVC in love relationships than Rosenberg’s book is. He likes to play around with cute wordplay a lot more than Rosenberg. He does even more sharing of personal stories than Rosenberg, I think, and they’re often very powerful & touching.

It was really interesting to hear story after story of somebody trying to use NVC in a variety of life situations, and it was especially useful to read Bryson’s emphasis on how to do NVC badly. Doing it out of a feeling of moral obligation, for example, or doing it with a specific agenda for what you want to get out of the other person’s behavior. Bryson talks a lot about NVC as a form of enlightened selfishness, and while I’m not entirely happy with that verbal formula, with all its Libertarian-capitalist associations, it was a good counter-perspective to viewing NVC as some kind of saintly path.

The difficulties for me were when he gets off on a rant. He spends a lot of time criticizing segments of culture in very general and entirely negative terms — he goes off on institutional religion, on Western “Dominator” society as a whole, on psychotherapy and psychiatry, and it seemed so know-it-all and judgmental (and hard to credit, because he repeats a lot of really dubious factoids, like the “rule of thumb” story) that it got hard for me to take.

But then he would drop in a story from his own life, and I was back right there with him. And the last chapter, which was about hope for creating change in culture, really was inspiring. So it was worth slogging through the rants.

Overall I’m glad I read it; I liked it; I’m not sure I would have liked it so much if I hadn’t read Rosneberg’s book first to put it in perspective.