Summer/Fall 2016: The Democracy Issue

Page 1

nonviolence A Magazine for Practical Idealists

Summer/Fall 2016

the democracy issue: unifying theory & action


Erica Chenoweth David Ragland

From China:

Hua Ze illustrates activist struggles



Photo: in the commons—artist unknown


appreciation The Metta Center for Nonviolence, publisher of Nonviolence, thanks all the volunteers who share their love and help spread the mission of creating a nonviolent future. This issue of Nonviolence was made possible, in part, by generous support from the following people:

Burnett Britton Todd Diehl Mike Gajda Anna Ikeda John Lewis Travis Mellot Rich Meyer Michael & Vicki Millican Michael Nagler Prashant Nema Mark Parnes Lorin Peters James Phoenix Dawn Raymond Bert Sacks Jeanine Saperstein Jim Schuyler John Wade Susan Fischer Wilhelm Paula Wiiken


featured inside Person Power & Unity

20 56

A Skinhead's Journey to Ahimsa

Travis Mellott recollects a once-familiar violence and how he transitioned from being in a gang to working for peace.

Challenges for Dissidents in China

Hua Ze traces the history of democracy movements in China, and she outlines the difďŹ culties faced by activists there.

Photo: Allison Stroh

Principle & Strategy




The Heart of Democracy

Michael N. Nagler looks at nonviolence as the lifeblood of a true democracy, because it recognizes and upholds the sanctity of life. Borrowing inspiration from Gandhi, he also highlights the importance of human dignity.

Photo: courtesy of Dr. David Ragland

Nonviolece at the State Legislature

Miki Kashtan details how she helped people reach a peaceful consensus during an embittered child custody case in Minnesota, through decision-making that addressed each party’s concerns.

Physical force is nothing compared to the power of truth. ~ Gandhi

Photo: in the commons—artist unknown

16 34

Interviews & Insights

Scholarship & Culture

5 Questions for: David Ragland

Starting With the Classroom

A co-founder of the Truth Telling Project talks about healing racial divides.

Q&A: Erica Chenoweth


Education that teaches the value of civic engagement is vital to a free and open society, writes Stephanie Knox-Cubbon.

Teaching for Peace

The well-known researcher discusses democracy with Stephanie Van Hook.


Literary & Visual Art


In Action: Participatory Democracy


The Rule of Law & Democracy


The Photograph




Gandhi: An Illustration


Outta Here

Poem by Ira Batra Garde Poem by Maja Bengtson Painting by Ben Turpin, age 6 Shorty story by Patty Somlo


David Golding, a US-born PhD student and professor in Sri Lanka, contemplates conflict, colonialism and shared stories. A system in which people, planet and all life thrive requires re-working institutions. These case studies highlight concrete possibilities. Painter Robert Shetterly turns from the canvas to the pen to explore issues of truth and justice in US history.

Media & Culture Beat

Staff at the Metta Center for Nonviolence share what they’re reading, watching and listening to these days.


nonviolence PUBLISHER

The Metta Center for Nonviolence



Copy Editors

Sally Armbrecht Annie Hewitt


Todd Diehl Stephanie Van Hook

Photo Editor


Visual Artist Literary Artists

Okke Ornstein David Golding Stephanie Knox-Cubbon Miki Kashtan Michael Nagler Travis Mellott Robert Shetterly Stephanie Van Hook Hua Ze Ben Turpin Maja Bengtson Ira Batra Garde Patty Somlo


The Metta Center for Nonviolence PO Box 98, Petaluma, CA, 94953

PHONE NUMBER 707-774-6299

WEBSITE All contributors maintain the rights to their work as they choose, though the publisher generally uses Creative Commons licensing (CC BY-NC-ND). Please request permission to reproduce any part of Nonviolence, in whole or part. For info about permissions, advertising or submissions, email the editor:


far beyond voting

Action is the foundational key to all success. ~ Picasso At Nonviolence magazine, we hold an expansive view of democracy in which people peacefully engage challenges and resolve them collectively. Our practical idealism calls for an inclusive participation that yields an authentic prosperity—one built on compassionate relationships rather than financial wealth.

Photo: in the commons—artist unknown

To borrow from William Faulkner, “We must be free not because we claim freedom but because we practice it.”

We therefore tip our hats to the individuals, communities and organizations working to establish non-militarized forms of security, economic fairness and healing forms of justice. Such initiatives form the backbone of a system that can serve people and all of life with integrity.

Stephanie Van Hook’s interviews with Erica Chenoweth and David Ragland shed light on the questions “How can civil resistance create social unity?” and “In what ways does restorative justice bring greater healing to individuals, communities and nations?”

As Miki Kashtan points out in “Bringing Nonviolence to the State Legislature,” acknowledging everyone’s needs and concerns is part and parcel to conflict resolution and healthy relationships. Seeing education as the bedrock of engaged citizenship, Stephanie Knox-Cubbon suggests ideas for educators to foster democracy in the classroom.

This marks our first issue under the name Nonviolence (our magazine was previously titled Emergence). We believe that the time is more than right to advance a higher image of humankind while empowering people to explore this question: How does nonviolence work, and how can I actively contribute to a more just society?

Nonviolence is a contribution to the work of creating such a society. Thank you for joining us on this adventure and for putting love into action.

KIMBERLYN DAVID Editor & Creative Director 7

Nonviolence: The Heart of Democracy by Michael N. Nagler

Photo: Glenn Halog, via Flickr

“The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within.” ~ Gandhi

The spirit of democracy is not a mechanical thing to be adjusted by abolition of forms. It requires change of heart. ~ Gandhi

It is only in the last 10 years or so that scholars trained in political science have turned their discipline’s attention to nonviolence. And the results are eye-opening. In a July 2005 study titled “How Freedom is Won: From Civic Struggle to Durable Democracy,” Freedom House found that in 50 of the 67 transitions from authoritarianism to democracy that had taken place in the prior 33 years, nonviolent civic resistance was a “key factor,” while when the opposition movements used violence, the chances for liberation were greatly reduced. Such revelations were carried forward a few years later with Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan’s landmark book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.

Their research

showed that: nonviolent insurrections (meaning popular movements relying on strikes, protest marches and the like) were twice as successful as those that used armed struggle; in general, nonviolent forms of


A perfect democracy can only rest on a foundation of perfect nonviolence.

resistance took one third the time (an average of three as opposed to nearly 10 years) and, most surprising (but perfectly logical from the standpoint of nonviolence theory), they led to greater democratic freedoms, even when they “failed,” than armed struggles that “succeeded.” What is the affinity between nonviolence and democracy? This is quite an important question, because there’s an intuitive resonance between those two great concepts but many people remain enthralled by the widespread myth that “freedom” must be won and kept by force. It would be very liberating to explode that myth! We say that democracy as a political system—as we’ll see, it has other manifestations that are possibly more important —was invented by the Greeks. Their word for it, δημοκρατία, means “rule by the dēmos” (δῆμος), the people who make up a given community or district. They have the ultimate authority (κράτος). The implication—though it would take many centuries to implement this—was inherently that all people, by virtue of being human beings, had the right and the competence to play an active role in determining the customs and policies of the community of which they were an integral part. A further implication is that each person has a natural agency that should not be abrogated by the political order. It is with this assertion of individual human dignity that we see the fundamental connection between democracy and Gandhian nonviolence. I specify “Gandhian” because for some, nonviolence (or non-violence) means only a set of techniques without reference to the deep philosophical background it conveyed to Gandhi and those of his persuasion. His vision of the sanctity of life and its location within the human individual is actually the key to what we nowadays call the “New Story,” or paradigm shift back to an exalted vision of the human being, a vision commonly held before the industrial revolution. This higher image of humans was the cornerstone of Gandhi’s economics, his religion and his belief that a democratic order was the political system toward which human society was, with many setbacks, trying to evolve.

The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within. ~ Gandhi order already have functioning nonviolent alternatives, the significance of which is largely not understood. We have: restorative justice here and there that could make mass incarceration obsolete; a wide array of grassroots, not greed-based, economic experiments; civil disobedience, the duty of every citizen when injustice occurs in an otherwise democratic order and even the beginnings of Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping that in the long run could replace war. There is a conspicuous absence from this list this election year: civil discourse. Democracy and nonviolence are not just methods of struggle, they’re ways of discovering truth—of allowing the truth of each individual to be registered in the whole. When asked by a journalist to say something about his “opponent,” Kathleen Brown, during the 1994 gubernatorial race in California, Tom Hayden startled the journalist when he shot back, “She’s not my opponent; she’s my friend. We’re running for governor. It isn’t a sport.” Much less a fight. Until we realize the civility aspect of nonviolence as well, our claim to be a democracy will be increasingly hollow.

Most of us in the West would agree with him on that last point. Few of us will follow him, though, where he felt that, while some kind of democracy was the fittest political expression of nonviolence, the converse was equally true: No perfect democracy is possible without a perfect non-violence at the back of it. Is this not why in the United States, which Martin Luther King, Jr. reluctantly called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” we are watching the features of our democracy slip relentlessly away?

Equally rooted in the inalienable dignity of the human being that is the core of the “new story,” nonviolence and democracy, when properly understood, imply each other. They are really two sides of the same coin. We can’t have one without the other, and we badly need both. n

But is it possible to defend a democracy without violence? Well, can you defend it any other way? The fact is, most of the major institutions that make up our political and social

Michael Nagler is Founder of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and author of The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide to Practical Action. 9

Bringing Nonviolence to the State Legislature

It is possible for people on opposing sides of an issue to reach consensus and find solutions on public concerns. With shared dialogue and decision-making processes, each party’s viewpoints

are respectfully weighed and considered. by Miki Kashtan

Photo: in the commons—artist unknown



nyone familiar with the culture wars of our time around gender roles, divorce, parental rights,

domestic violence and child abuse can imagine the level of acrimony and hostility that arose in the Minnesota legislature over the issue of child custody. In 2012, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a contentious bill passed by a Democratic Senate (46-19) and a Republican House (86-42). The bill’s proponents in the fathers’ movement felt grievously mistreated by the previously existing family court system and sought to redress the balance. Opponents thought it privileged parental and especially fathers’ rights over the needs of the child and the complexities of individual cases, and made domestic abuse almost impossible to prove. At least a dozen years of struggle and mistrust led into two years of bitter debates on the bill before it was vetoed.

Who would have imagined that the stakeholders (fathers’ movement, domestic violence activists, judges, lawyers, House and Senate committee members), would soon be working together for over two years—attending uncountable meetings, editing lengthy documents, engaging in extensive email conversations—to produce a collaborative solution all could endorse?

Nonviolence is characterized by its intent—active care for all life—as much as its methods, and rests on three foundations: love, truth and courage. I aim to have the courage to speak truth with love in my personal and work relationships, and in my consulting work through the Center for Efficient Collaboration. I did it in the hundreds of hours I worked with the Minnesota Custody Dialogue Group to arrive at legislation that passed the Senate 61-3 and the House 121-0 in May of 2015. This included an overhaul of the “Best Interest of the Child Factors” that govern child custody cases. From a not-so-subtle battleground of who is the “better” parent, the new version focuses on what would best serve the child, while generally assuming that both parents are capable.

Majority vote leaves a minority dissatisfied and leaves everyone without ways of synergizing all the wisdom in the room. Consensus processes often exert immense pressure on people to accept solutions that don’t truly work for them, or leave a group at the mercy of a person who blocks the process. So I developed a process I call Convergent Facilitation. It works from a set of robust principles and practices:

It is surprisingly possible, and often easy, to find agreements on principles in the midst of disagreements on positions. When we trust that our needs and concerns matter, and understand the needs and concerns of others, we can feel the difference between compromise and shift. While we may only encompass a narrow range of solutions on the basis of preference, we can embrace a wider range on the basis of willingness. We become amazingly creative when we transcend either/or frames and aim instead for solutions that work for everyone. The following vignettes illustrate how this process works.

Vignette #1: Getting People to the Table The first hurdle in finding a collaborative solution was getting highly frustrated people to attend preliminary calls with the family court judge and a community activist who invited them to experiment with this non-adversarial approach to the impasse.

During the calls, mistrust and suspicion surfaced. At times I wasn’t sure the parties would ever come together. I applied the building blocks of dialogue: I listened fully with an open heart, until people knew they were heard; I spoke from within, without arguing for a position; I asked questions aimed at moving the process forward rather than securing a premature agreement. One key player, let’s call him Jim, told me he was completely done and needed a break. He didn’t attend the initial calls that laid out the proposed process, nor the first in-person workday. But then he joined a follow-up call to finalize the list of 26 principles we developed on that first workday. He became a champion of the process and subsequently helped resolve many sticking points. Despite his fatigue and initial mistrust of the process, Jim found the early results too compelling to stay away.

The pivotal moment came when a family lawyer I’ll call Ben said something like: “Let’s just face it… There’s a philosophical difference here... Some of us think that a presumption of joint custody is just not a wise thing to do,


and that’s all there is to it.”

Instead of taking Ben’s words as a hostile move, I immediately saw his frustration as an immense opportunity to show the process in action. Lacking enough information to understand what was important to him, I sought to uncover what I call the “noncontroversial essence” of his objection: the deeper level of what was important to him that I trusted others, including his opponents, would also embrace. Here’s more or less the dialogue that ensued: Miki: “Can you say something about what makes it unwise?” Ben: “You can make too many mistakes this way, because you end up looking at all families in the same way.”

Miki: “Let me see if I got it. Is the gist of it that you want to ensure that each family is handled according to its specific circumstances?”

Ben: “That’s exactly what I said.”

That’s when I needed courage. On the phone, without seeing faces, I took an immense risk in referring to someone from an opposing group, whom I will name Jenny. Miki: “I bet anything that Jenny would wholeheartedly endorse this principle, even though she is in disagreement with you.” Jenny: “Yes, of course I do, but…” Miki (intentionally interrupting, to preserve the moment of alignment): “The ‘but’ is what we can work on when we get together. For now, I just want everyone to see that we found something that both Ben and Jenny want. That’s what the first phase is all about: finding the essential principles that you all can agree to, to guide the rest of our work.” That dialogue was the turning point that led everyone to agree to risk going forward with the process. Later, on our first in-person day, all the ifs, ands and buts were converted into the first draft of their guiding principles. We then worked through the extraordinarily complex and demanding process of translating these principles into legislation that all stakeholders could embrace.

Vignette #2: An Eleventh-Hour Alignment One ongoing issue was whether the proposed legislation would be “enough” for one of the collaborating groups. We wrestled with this dilemma right up to the end. The commitment to a solution that works for everyone is an amazing source of energy most of the time, because it


inspires people to stretch. Yet the pervasive either/or frame we have internalized leads to breakdowns with disheartening ease when disagreements persist. Those are precisely the moments when, as a facilitator, I lean heavily on nonviolence, both within me to accept and digest all that happens, and in my approach to the collaborators. I strongly invite people to stretch, relying on the goodwill that builds within a group over time. And so it was that in one of our last group calls, a man I will call Art kept insisting that nothing was going to be enough for his constituency. I was struggling to know how to respond, but then Art turned to one of the group’s experts, “Mary,” and solved the puzzle. Ironically, Art had opposed Mary joining the group, thinking that her participation would throw the collaboration efforts off balance. Now Art simply asked her: “What will you do differently in child custody cases if this law passes?” Mary’s surprise response demonstrated a deep understanding of what was important to him and of the delicacy of the issues. Seizing the moment, I asked others to say whether they agreed with Mary’s reply. Every person did, and we sprinted toward to the finish line. This experience of coming together in apparently miraculous ways seems fragile; in actual practice, it’s remarkably consistent in Convergent Facilitation meetings.

Vignette #3: Means and Ends Over the course of agreeing on legislation, we moved from the adversarial mode of political fighting and maneuvering to the collaborative mode of reaffirming the commitment to make it work for everyone. Several times when someone explained that a particular proposal would work for them, they also expressed concern that it might not work for someone else. “I don’t want to be identified with a side,” a legislator said at one point. “We are no longer doing that [taking sides]. We are a group of people working to solve a problem together.” Unsurprisingly, the group’s collaborative process produced legislation that will help divorcing parents be more collaborative. To reduce litigation and conflict between parents, the new legislation focuses on the child’s needs, a unifying factor for parents. As always, the means and the end are one in nonviolence.

A full case study of this Convergent Facilitation in Minnesota can be found at:

Miki Kashtan co-founded Bay Area Nonviolent Communication, consults at the Center for Efficient Collaboration and blogs at The Fearless Heart. Her latest book is Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future.

Photo: Nokdie, via Flickr


A child walks through the ruins of a former hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Okke Ornstein


The Photograph Look over my shoulder at night to see the picture of the boy in the New York Times He looks like my son His head is bowed in grief wounded, eyes downcast, bandage across his furrowed brow his expression of unfathomable grief He has lost his friends, teachers, mother witnessed the unspeakable seen the inhumanity in humanity I feel his grief every day His image clear, embedded within I pray for his well-being every night Does he know how much I love him? What will become of him, what will become of me? What will happen to the children of Peshawar who survived?

their brothers and sisters their parents Does he know how much I love him sending all the kindness my heart can hold? Does he know he is my son?

We are one

Poem by Ira Batra Garde. Ira is a physician, poet, wife and

mother. She lives with her family in California’s San Francisco Bay Area and is currently at work on a book.


5 Questions for: David Ragland by Stephanie Van Hook


Gandhi was big on Truth. Satyagraha, the term he coined for nonviolent struggle, literally means holding fast to Truth. He found it necessary to let go of notions that “God is Truth” and instead see “Truth as God.” Where does Truth show up in our contemporary society, and how does it integrate with current struggles for social justice and greater forms of democracy? We often see Truth reflected in protests. More importantly for the long-term, it shows up in various efforts that are helping people tackle injustices within their communities and around the world—constructively. One constructive initiative is the Truth Telling Project in Ferguson, Missouri, where the 2014 police murder of 18 year-old Michael Brown ignited the emerging movement #BlackLivesMatter.

The Truth Telling Project is focused on developing a truth and reconciliation process to address structural violence and racism for Ferguson and beyond. According to the organization’s website (, the project’s mission is “to share local voices, to educate America and to support reconciliation for the purposes of eliminating structural violence and systemic racism against Black people in the United States.” Seeking to learn more about this constructive project, I interviewed one of the organization’s founders, Dr. David Ragland, who grew up in North St. Louis, a few miles from Ferguson. Dr. Ragland is Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College. He also serves on the board of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, plus he is a member of the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. His research centers on eliminating violence in schools, from restorative justice and the school-to-prison pipeline to peace education and critical race theory. A frequent writer for PeaceVoice, Dr. Ragland is currently working on a volume titled “The Intellectual and Political History of Peacemakers of Color.” Photo: courtesy of Dr. David Ragland


1. What are Truth and Reconciliation processes, or commissions (TRCs), and how have they been used historically? Most people are familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, after the apartheid regime ended officially with the release of Nelson Mandela who then went to Bishop Tutu. The aim there was basically to avoid what would have been a civil war. In Rwanda, after the genocide of the Tutsis and the Hutus, you had two very close communities that turned against each other—one massacred the other, and it often happened with neighbors. So how do you deal with the large conflict where neighbors are often perpetrators? It has also been used for child soldiers and young people forced to fight. So those processes have helped reintegrate Rwandans into their communities. Often Truth and Reconciliation processes, or commissions, function from the top down. And so the state is really interested in what could be very divisive issues, usually postconflict situations. I would say that our approach is very different. We’re interested in some of the formulating or underlying currents of truth and reconciliation, which is healing. Truth-telling is an important aspect because we have to, number one, identify what happened in a community.

Photo: courtesy of Dr. David Ragland

2. How are TRCs a form of restorative justice, and from what kind of cultural precedent do they arise? I would say that the notions of reconciliation are rooted in the South African word ubuntu (“I am because you are”), but also some of the traditions of community reconciliation and some of the configurations of restorative justice have always been present in many communities around the world. As a formalized process, TRCs gained in popularity after South Africa. I want point out in particular the Navajo Nation, which uses their indigenous approaches to seeking justice, which are restorative.

There are different types of justices. Restorative is concerned with how we look at the root causes of harm and restore what was lost, repair a relationship—TRCs are an approach to that. Retributive justice, as we know, is “an eye for an eye.” Distributive justice is: how are goods and rights in a society distributed? That can be a restorative issue as well.


Our project is rooted in, number one, love for ourselves.

3. How did you get involved in the Truth Telling Project? August 9, the date Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, is my mother’s birthday. On the day Brown was killed, I was in St. Louis at my parent’s house. At the time, I was teaching a summer class, Education for Peace and Justice, at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. I didn’t yet know what happened to Michael Brown, but a good friend of mine in St. Louis told me that this young brother had just gotten killed. So right then we went out there [to Ferguson]. Then a few weeks later, I asked my Bucknell colleagues, “Could I stay on?” because I was worried: Jimmy Powell had just been killed by police across the street from my parent’s house! We were worried about what would happen, and I just didn’t want to leave my parents. They’re both retired and older. I had been going out to the Ferguson protests, and I had been talking to people with my academic hat on. I was interviewing them, but I was also listening in awe—people were standing up and not letting this thing go down without speaking up. People had withdrawn their consent from the authorities. I began talking about what was possible with a friend. I went to Tony Neal, who was the principal of East St. Louis Senior High School and who had mentored me when I was a high school student. We began talking with groups and organizations, like the Peace and Justice Studies Association. We eventually came up with the idea of the Truth Telling Project because in conversations with many people from my community, we found ourselves talking about reconciliation. People weren’t interested in reconciliation because when we think about “truth and reconciliation,” it’s post-conflict. But people are still getting killed across this country by police. So we thought reconciliation was an important space to begin conversations, since it gives a space where people can speak out, especially the people, mainly African Americans, who’ve lost family members at the hands of police. The account can be set straight from people’s voices. People like my mom, my cousins and my neighbors would get a chance to be heard, because America has not yet really listened to these voices.

4. And this is only the first step? I really think we need multiple decades of this, but at the same time, we need a large American process that actually deals with the historical injustices of the founding acts. America has been so willing to be silent about it. Joseph J. Ellis writes about this in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, in which one of the chapters is called “The Silence.” He points out how the founding fathers decided they would strike from the record their discussions about the moral issues connected to slavery and revolution.

These discussions weren’t talked about until those founding fathers died, in part, because maintaining slavery was about political expediency and economics. So how do you justify to the American populace at that time that the founding of the country and their revolution is about freedom and liberty when a large percentage of the population is enslaved? That founding act of silence bleeds into where we are now as a society. And it has to be addressed. We have to ask ourselves: When do we put out the fire in this burning house?

5. Your project emphasizes Truth over Reconciliation. Truth is a nonviolent concept, yet it can make people uneasy. Our project is rooted in, number one, love for ourselves. The fact is, it is a matter of human dignity to be able to speak one’s truth, to be able to say what it is you are feeling. People are, first of all, talking about their own experiences in our project: “This is what happened to me. This is what I go through every day.” Fania Davis, who is Angela Davis’ sister and the co-founder and executive director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, is also working on something nationwide in terms of truth and reconciliation processes. She has stood next to me and said, “You know, this is healing in itself.” We do need to come together and heal.

When we had our truth-telling hearings this past November— we’re going to have them throughout 2016—we also did something that we learned from Greensboro, North Carolina’s truth and reconciliation, and it was called “Night of a Thousand Conversations.” We streamed people’s testimonies out to communities from around the country that have organized, and we provided those communities with toolkits to facilitate discussion and to develop action plans based on the discussions had. So on the one hand, there’s this truth that makes people uncomfortable, but on the other it’s, “What am I going to do with this truth? How does it change my behavior? How does it change the way that I look at the world?” The process is not about making people feel guilty. It’s about healing America. How do we examine our past and plot out a better course for only for us, but for the world? What does it look like for America acting justly inside its own borders? n

This interview was transcribed on a gift-economy basis by Matthew Watrous:

Stephanie Van Hook is Executive Director of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and co-host of Peace Paradigm Radio.


After the Fight: A Skinhead’s Journey Towards Ahimsa Travis Mellott shares his story of healing and transformation

I was 18, had just enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia for two years of shore duty when I met him. He was a half-Samoan, half-Caucasian man in his late 20s with face tattoos, steel-toed boots and a physically intimidating presence. I’ll never forget him: he introduced me to the skinhead lifestyle. We were an anti-racist crew loosely associated with the SHARP Skins (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice). At the first “house party” I was invited to, that same man blindside tackled me, put me in a headlock and wrestled me out the door, where we beat each other until nothing made sense. It ended with him picking my head up off the sidewalk, kissing me on the forehead and saying, “Welcome to the crew brother.” From my perspective, the great lie of crew life is that everyone is your “brother.” So many people come to a crew looking for a family, but it’s just not there.

I wish I had known at that point what was missing or broken inside of me that had even attracted me to that type of lifestyle. Looking back, a fear-based program was running in my head, from the media and the myriad of other influences in Western culture that lead us to believe we are separate and in competition with one another. Fear twisted reality so that violence appeared to be the path toward safety—a man walks around with a brick only if he is afraid of being attacked.


The skinhead rhetoric constantly driven into my mind ordered me to be “tougher” than the other guy. According to the script, the only way to protect “our” women was to beat anyone who looked at them wrong on the street. “Keeping our neighborhood safe” meant pummeling people we saw as threats: drug dealers, racist skinheads, able-bodied men who didn’t work or contribute to society but freely took from it, men who just looked tough. We thought we could fight our way to peace. The blindfold of fear was so thick, that I couldn’t see the fallacy of this pseudo-vigilante worldview. While I’m writing this, it is almost impossible for me to emotionally connect to the feelings that were alive inside me then. The fact that I can visit these memories now and not be burdened by them is truly a testament to finding life on the other side of emotional guilt. My life started changing for the better when I was 20 and had gotten into some trouble with a handgun (I went after a man who had disrespected me). My getting in trouble surprised no one beyond the fact that I had slipped through the cracks for so long without getting caught. Being an active-duty military member, I was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I wound up spending some time locked down in a psych facility because I had chased the cop who busted me around his car while holding

Photos: Jeff Clark for the Bureau of Land Management, via flickr

21 Photo: sergio_leenen, flickr

my gun in my mouth and telling him to pull the trigger. After that, I was discharged from service.

Upon my release, I found my way back to my home city of York, Pennsylvania. York has been a rather tumultuous city ever since the race riots of 1969, and the poison from that time still lingers in the air downtown. While the suburbs are modern and progressive, the inner city is known for violence and major drug problems, because York has become a major hub of the drug trade between New York City and Baltimore, Maryland.

I couldn’t move back with my family, who were completely disgusted with me. I moved to the only neighborhood I could afford, one high in crime and poverty. While it was not an ideal place for healing one’s soul, that is where my healing began. I reached my bottom-out point by living in an abandoned crack house with a few other

people who had also made some consequential life choices. It’s true: You start to look up when you hit the bottom. The people who know me today would have a hard time believing that this is really my story, as I no longer use anger as an excuse to further a negative cycle. Almost daily, anger about this incredibly broken system creeps into my thoughts, but I don’t find these feelings scary any more. When they arise, I view them as a reminder that there is a disconnection in my life that can be corrected. They are the reason I continue working toward a more peaceful future.

Trying to walk a peaceful path in the world can be a daunting venture, and I would be lying if I said it is an easy path to take. Every smile I share has the power to communicate truth, even in the midst of conflict. For me, it takes daily meditation and support from my family and friends to stay balanced and continue to live in truth and love. I have replaced gang culture with permaculture in my life. I’m putting a lot of my energy into collaborating on building a gift-economy space where people will be able to unplug, detox from industrialism and learn about sustainable living and nonviolence. While this community-centered project is a tangible expression of peace work, I still strongly believe that the most powerful contribution I can make is the inner work I do, as peace grows from the inside out. n

Travis Mellott is a permaculturist and radical simplicity enthusiast. Based in Conway, Arkansas, he is co-creating a gift-economy space for permaculture instruction/certification as well as conflict resolution and vulnerability training.



Existence it’s not the model of capitalism

or socialism or any other ism it’s the planet it’s the idea


we can extract exploit treat others like things someone said there used to be

a kind of care built into american corporations of size ongoing healthcare for life it’s not in the model or method it’s the

idea that others are things that planet can be extracted for free gift economy has been trying for that without changing the underlying idea about profit profit is the problem when it has taken on proportion

of meaning of life


profit itself used to just mean that the entrepreneur

could put food

on a table build a house how can we think of

one another as people as humans as hearts and souls everyone struggling

in their own personal way everyone thriving in their own personal way humans together belonging with

one another belonging with

planet existence

and the means

for existence

are one

Poem by Maja Bengtson. Maja is a Metta Center board member, creator of the Inner Leadership method for individual and interpersonal transformation and founder of the collaborative for integral sustainability. Find more of her poems at

Photo: Joe Brusky, via Flickr


Starting With the Classroom: Fostering a Democratic Society by Stephanie Knox-Cubbon

26 Photo: CollegeDegrees360, via Flickr


any people, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum, would agree that democracy is in crisis. If we are to save what is left of our democratic ideals, it will be through the active participation of a committed citizenry. With 2016 being an election year in the United States, there is a sense of urgency around this for Americans, since we must ensure that our democracy does not end at the ballot box. As with most issues of public concern, education must play a part in the ongoing, long-term solution. Current failures in our democracy exist, in part, because we are not adequately educating students for democratic citizenship. In many ways, our schools, from kindergarten through college, do not mirror a democracy but embrace a hierarchical, authoritarian structure in which students are trained to take tests rather than think critically and engage in their learning and communities. We cannot expect to have a just, inclusive and sustainable society if we are not teaching students, society’s future decision-makers, how to actively participate in public life. As humane educator Zoe Weil says, “The world becomes what you teach,” and if we want our society to become more democratic, we must educate for it. While civics courses and student body elections are important learning activities, we shouldn’t stop there—just as our civic participation as adults should not stop at the voting booth but should involve becoming informed about political issues, grasping the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and taking action around issues that one cares about. Going beyond textbook concepts of what democracy is and how government functions is imperative. To empower students to take action in public life, we need to set up our classrooms and educational institutions in ways that encourage student curiosity, interaction, critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving.

I teach college-level peace courses, and I know how challenging it can be to create a participatory classroom, particularly when working within institutions that do not invite input from faculty, staff or students. Ideally, the institutions themselves would also become more democratic and mirror the values of freedom and democracy that they espouse. Since this is not often the case, educators can face significant constraints when trying to implement democratic principles in their classrooms. I’ve found that students are often caught off guard when I try to introduce democratic principles into the classroom because they have rarely experienced them, if at all, in their formal education. By the time they walk into a college classroom, they have already been “institutionalized” by the K–12 system and are used to being told what to do. They are more accustomed to relationships in which an authority (a parent, a teacher) tells them what they need to know and how they should learn it. A healthy democracy requires of us self-awareness and respect for difference, and I see my classroom as a training ground for young adults to find their voices and develop their abilities to effect change. I am required to create a syllabus for the first day of class. This work is part of my contract and an institutional requirement, but since I am able to change the syllabus, I will ask students for input on it. Every semester, during the first week of class, I ask them for feedback on the syllabus, and I again ask them for their thoughts about it after they have had some time to review it. So far, not one student has offered a suggestion or comment. I don’t attribute the silence to a lack of interest or creativity. Rather, I think it has to do with them never having been asked to co-create their education, which is about discovering what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. The more we encourage democratic participation in our schools, the more students will be able to take their potential


The world becomes what you teach. ~ Zoe Weil into society and the healthier our democracy will be. Below, I list some ideas (which are by no means exhaustive) for fostering a democratic classroom (and while these ideas primarily came from my work at the college level, I believe they can be adapted and integrated at all levels).

Give students the space to guide their own learning. Solicit student input on what they want to learn, either through a syllabus/curriculum review or by asking questions like “What do you hope to learn this year?” and “What are your learning objectives?” While there is something to be said for teachers knowing what students need to know—if students don’t know something, they might not know they need to know it—making room for suggestions gives students a sense of agency and empowerment around their learning.

Create opportunities for student leadership in the classroom. You could invite students to lead discussions for part of the class or have students teach each other about topics they are interested in and passionate about.

Teach your students to question. Tomorrow’s leaders should be well-equipped with critical thinking skills. Students who learn how to ask meaningful questions will better understand how they arrive at informed opinions and how to uncover the root causes of issues.

Find ways to take the learning past classroom walls. Or, bring the community inside the classroom. Students who realize the power to speak up are more likely to effect change. Try to integrate ways that students can be engaged in school life as well as the local community, from hearing

guest speakers to volunteering for service learning projects and earning extra credit for taking part in community events.

Teach nonviolence! Nonviolence will give students an experiential way to learn about the interconnectedness of life, personal empowerment and the many ways beyond voting that they can work towards social change. n

Ask for student feedback on the learning process. Check in regularly to assess the learning situation—not through tests, but through discussion, with questions such as: What have you learned? What have you not learned yet that you want to learn? What is going well? What isn’t? What might you want to change? Ask for the feedback but then work together as a learning community to make any changes happen.


Stephanie Knox-Cubbon is a peace and yoga educator. She is also Director of Education at the Metta Center for Nonviolence.

A Palestinian boy smiles in a school that was turned into a refugee center in Damascus, Syria. Photo: Okke Ornstein



Gandhi: An Illustration When you think about Gandhi, what comes to mind? Gandhi really likes peace and love, and he cares about other people.

What does nonviolence mean to you? It means caring about others. It means that when you get hit, you don’t do it back. You say, “Stop, please.”

What did Gandhi say when he used to get afraid or upset? Rama, Rama, Rama.

What do you like about your painting? It looks really good. I’m really proud of me.

Artist: Ben Turpin, age 6

School: Red Barn Montessori, Petaluma, California Medium: Acrylic, pencil and marker on paper


Teaching for Peace After the Sri Lankan War

A professor from the United States reects on his recent experiences with teaching peace studies in a culture and context entirely different from the one in which he was born and raised.

by David Golding

Young students stand inside a destroyed window pockmarked with bullet holes in Sri Lanka. Photo: Conor Ashleigh/AusAID for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, via Flickr


“What’s your view on the war that happened here?” one of my Sri Lankan students asked me during an informal conversation before class. While teaching university subjects like peace studies and international development, I’ve noted how discussions about the Sri Lankan Civil War emerge from the students, often reluctantly, in the most unexpected moments.

Students frequently trickle in well before the beginning of class. I typically arrive an hour early, using this time to chat with students and to read. That day, we talked about life in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital and a port city once ruled consecutively by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. We also touched upon subjects in the syllabus, which range from economic inequality to ethnic conflict. The topic of postconflict reconciliation came up, which led to the students’ curiosity about my outsider’s opinion. As a peace professor I’d been asked about the war before, though I hadn’t yet discussed it with that particular group of students. The war began in 1983, after decades of legislation that excluded many Tamil people from the Sri Lankan national identity and citizenship. An armed separatist group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) began to occupy territory around the Northern Province and called for secession. Most of the violence during the war took place in northern regions of the island, culminating in a 2009 offensive by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces that eliminated the LTTE. Seven years later, there remains a silence as to what exactly took place, a silence that seeps into university classrooms such as the ones I teach in. In societies that have recently experienced war there is often a reluctance to speak out, sometimes because of cultural taboos, limits on freedom of speech or the challenge of revisiting psychological trauma. How could I respond? What insight could I, a white man from the United States, offer to these young adults who survived the violence and hold its memories? I told them that I believe it’s important for the history of conflict to not be erased. It is a tremendous act of courage to unearth painful memories of violence, and it’s certainly not something a foreigner like myself can impose upon or require from students. But at some point, what happened here must be discussed in order to address the profound social issues and structural violence that led to the conflict. Perhaps through the remembering and telling, some sense of reconciliation can be made possible. It was a somewhat tepid response, and maybe it cloaked the truth behind a language of neutrality, but caution seemed appropriate given the divisions that often exist in the post-conflict classroom. After my response came the stories. My students, who were mostly middle class and from the city of Colombo, usually

It is a tremendous act of courage to unearth painful memories of violence. prefaced their contribution with: “I wasn’t affected by the conflict personally, but...” Then they told of the city fragmented by dozens of military checkpoints, of explosions near schools and in department stores, of being racially profiled by soldiers and of bomb drills in the classroom. One student said a friend had fled the Northern Province. He later returned home to find everything reduced to rubble. Another student told of a friend’s mother who had lost both of her legs in a bomb blast. To these stories I merely listened, because they were not mine to interpret. The silence had, in a small way and for about 20 minutes, been ruptured. After months of studying ethnicity, power and violence, we had finally brought this lens of analysis to our immediate social reality. This is what peace education is about: critically examining the violence and injustice around us so that we can work to transform it. What came of the discussion? It was swept away in the urgent flow of curricula and assessment, the names of mostly white male theorists and universalizing texts about conflict that see peace as mostly flowing from North to South and from West to East. In the curricula, Sri Lanka is a mere case study at most. But perhaps those moments of shared remembrance linger in the background of our classroom space, reminding us that as we talk about war in Guatemala and reconciliation in South Africa, we are also silently speaking about Sri Lanka. n

David Golding is a PhD student of Education and Social Justice at Lancaster University. He is also a professor of Peace Studies, International Development and Sociology for the University of Colombo and the University of London in Sri Lanka. 33

Q&A: Erica Chenoweth

Interview: Stephanie Van Hook Above photo: University of Denver


Erica Chenoweth is Professor & Associate Dean for Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. She is an internationally recognized authority on political violence and its alternatives—in 2013, Foreign Policy magazine named her as one of the top 100 global thinkers. Chenoweth received the 2014 Karl Deutsch Award, which the International Studies Association gives annually to the scholar under the age of 40 who has made the greatest impact on the field of international politics or peace research. What criteria do you use to assess democracy and democratic freedoms? Most political scientists rely on procedural and qualitative metrics of democracy. The procedural ones, like the Polity dataset [a data series commonly used in political sciences research], assess the institutional dimensions of democracy, such as whether a country holds free and fair elections, allows for participation among pluralistic political parties, possesses separation of powers through various branches of government and imposes institutional constraints on the executive. Qualitative metrics tend to focus on the more substantive dimensions, such as whether the government observes civil liberties, press freedom and economic freedom. Freedom House releases an annual report evaluating these dimensions. Best practice suggests that people use both indices when assessing democracy, since neither on its own fully captures the phenomenon. Do you find substantial differences across cultures in what is meant by “democracy”? I’m thinking of the specious claim made by the Chinese some years ago that Asian human rights are different from Western ones—a claim the Dalai Lama quickly refuted. During the Tiananmen Square revolt in 1989, student protesters demanded democratic reforms from the Communist Party of China. At one point during the protests, student leaders held a vote to determine whether they ought to vacate the square and pursue negotiations or stay in the square and press ahead. Although the majority voted in favor of leaving the square, the movement had a disagreement about whether a “democratic” vote constituted unanimity or majority vote. Reaching no agreement, the movement made the fateful decision to stay the course.

The Arab Barometer surveys tell us that in many Arab countries today, the word “democracy” tends to conjure reactions like “invasion,” “foreign domination” and “Western hypocrisy.” However, if one asks people in the Arab world what kinds of political systems they prefer, they tend to focus on principles like “fairness,” “transparency” and “accountability.” These concepts are, of course, wholly consistent with Western notions of democracy, in theory if not in practice.

Civil resistance can create social capital in spaces where it did not exist. Now, most scholars today conceive of democracy as something more than majority rule and institutional checks and balances. Many contemporary movements, such as Occupy, aim for consensus when possible. So I wouldn’t say the controversy about democracy is specific to Asian values, Arab values or [values in] any other region of the world. Instead, I think that these anecdotes speak to the fact that democracy is still very much a contested and experimental work-in-progress—and that the ability of political entities of all types to put democratic ideals into practice is far from settled. You and Maria J. Stephan discovered in research for your book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, that nonviolent uprisings lead to greater democracy even when they fail than uprisings that use violence, even when they “succeed.” If I remember correctly, the first part— that nonviolence leads to greater democracy—was found in studies done by the Freedom House some years ago. Yes, that’s right. The Freedom House study looked at political transitions specifically and found that those in which civil resistance played a critical role were more likely to become more democratic down the line. Maria and I took a slightly different approach in that we were trying to look at the longterm outcomes of violent and nonviolent campaigns (regardless of whether they resulted in political transitions). We


Photo: Allison Stroh

found that the nonviolent campaigns were associated with longer-term democratization trends than the violent ones, even when accounting for a variety of other facts typically associated with democratic transition. Moreover, the Freedom House study relied on their index of “Freedom in the World,” whereas our relied on the Polity data I described above. So I’d say our findings and Freedom House’s findings are consistent with one another, although not identical in scope. Gandhi often claimed that democracy and nonviolence go together, that you can’t really have the former in any complete sense without the latter. What’s your perspective on that? Does it hold up in the work that you and Maria—and others—have done? Neither the Freedom House study nor my work with Maria answers the question of whether nonviolent action is necessary or sufficient for democracy to come about. Neither study was scoped that way, exactly. That said, at its core, democracy is about the peaceful transfer of power from one elected leader to another, peaceful resolution of conflicts within a society, fair treatment of minorities despite majority rule, the prevention of unchecked accumulations of power within a polity and accountability and responsiveness of elected leaders to their populations. All of these are fundamentally compatible with typical notions of nonviolence. That said, when we talk about democracies, we’re usually talking about states. The fundamental qualifications of statehood are the ability to control territory,


maintain sovereign borders and possess the monopoly on the use of violent force. Because violence is so inherent to contemporary conceptions of statehood, even the most democratic countries in the world today possess a capacity for violence—and willingness to use it—that many nonviolence advocates disparage.

How do you explain the dependency of democracy on nonviolence to the extent that you’ve found the latter to be true? Although my work with Maria wasn’t quite scoped in these terms, it is true that in the NAVCO data [the Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes Data Project at the University of Denver], there is scarcely any case where violent struggle resulted in democratic reform, at least in the short term. And it’s definitely the case that nonviolent action, as compared with violent struggle, is strongly correlated with the emergence of democracy as defined in procedural terms. The main explanation I have for this is the notion that civil resistance tends to create the kind of social capital necessary to bring about and maintain a transition to democracy. Social capital is the political, social and economic community that forms the basis of a functional civil society. And as many scholars of democracy have long observed, a functional civil society is absolutely vital to the creation and preservation of democratic governance. Civil resistance can create social capital in spaces where it did not exist before.

I decided fairly early to devote my life to understanding how, why and to what effect people resort to political violence to pursue their aims— and to try to do so with the attitudes of empathy, humility and humanity.

What is your story? What kind of work, studies and experiences did you have that led you to become one of the leading scholars in the field of civil resistance? I didn’t come from a background in civil resistance or nonviolence, but I have experienced frustration about political violence since I was a teenager. When I was 13, my parents bought me Zlata’s Diary, the journal of a Bosnian-Serb girl living under siege in Sarajevo. I was riveted by the book, baffled by the wars of the early 1990s and deeply troubled that someone my age was living with such relentless horrors. Coming of age during the collapse of the Soviet Union, I found it difficult to reconcile the bloody global readjustments of the early-mid 1990s with all of the jubilation about the “end of history.” Zlata’s story was a disturbing reminder that violence remained an all-too-common tool through which people achieve political goals. So I decided fairly early on to devote my life to understanding how, why and to what effect people resort to political violence to pursue their aims—and to try to do so with the attitudes of empathy, humility and humanity I had experienced reading Zlata’s Diary. To do this, I submitted myself to undergraduate and graduate training in political science, with a focus on understanding why political violence happens. My PhD work was primarily global in scope, often relying on large observational, cross-national data sets on terrorism, state failure and civil wars, although I also situated these topics in regional contexts such as Europe and the Middle East.

In 2006, I attended a workshop sponsored by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict [ICNC] held at Colorado College. Called “People Power and Pedagogy,” the workshop aimed to convince security studies scholars like myself to take nonviolent resistance seriously. I was a bit skeptical about the topic, but it also piqued my curiosity. Because my primary method of inquiry involved analyzing large-scale data, I asked many of the participants whether they were aware of any such datasets on civil resistance. I was surprised to find out that there weren’t [any]. So despite my skepticism about the topic, Maria and I teamed up with ICNC to collect the world’s first systematic dataset of mass nonviolent campaigns with maximalist goals. The resultant NAVCO dataset allowed us to analyze the outcomes of 323 major nonviolent and violent campaigns around the world from 1900 to 2006. The findings were really striking to me, since the nonviolent campaigns were succeeding so much more often than the violent ones. This puzzling trend became the major subject of our book Why Civil Resistance Works. So, I come to the civil resistance and nonviolence fields as something of an outsider; I still have quite a bit of reading and learning to do on the topic!


How has your research into civil resistance and nonviolence changed your outlook?

Since publishing Why Civil Resistance Works, I have dedicated a significant part of my research to better understanding the dynamics of nonviolent resistance, and to better understanding when and if it can be a functional equivalent to violent resistance. These days, the most common source of my research questions come from obvious gaps identified by activists or policymakers who ask me questions like: “Does civil resistance work in the context of civil war?” “Don’t nonviolent movements succeed more often when they have a little bit of violence?” “Is nonviolent resistance possible against genocidal regimes?” or “Do civil resistance movements that feature higher participation by women succeed more often?” Fundamentally, all of my activities inside and outside the academy reflect my deep desire to study questions that matter, and to better express how empirical findings can improve the common good. In particular, I am committed to communicating my conviction—based on evidence—that although political violence is still with us, there are often realistic alternatives. Gandhi maintained that if a concept can be applied to the mass-scale, it also holds true for the individual. Can you relate some of your research on large-scale movements to the individual? What role does the individual person have?

That’s a good question, and I don’t have a very good empirical answer to this. But I can say that if you wanted to create a micro-level code of conduct for the individual based on this research, it would look similar to the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” Not only does it allow you to sleep at night, but also it often means that situations work out in your favor in the end. I certainly try to live out that principle, albeit imperfectly.

What questions do you feel are the most urgent for the field of peace, civil resistance and nonviolence to be able to answer at this time? What questions are not being asked enough? What are we taking for granted?

To me, some of the most urgent empirical questions in the field are: (1) whether and how nonviolent resistance can succeed against armed non-state actors; (2) which types of internal structures and governance practices within movements allow them to survive through internal struggles and challenges; (3) whether and how nonviolent campaigns can succeed against systemic practices (racism, sexism, corruption, climate exploitation and economic injustice, etc.) rather than discrete opponents (dictators, corporations, etc.); (4) whether there are situations in which violent resistance is more effective than nonviolent resistance; (5) why some actors refuse to abandon violence even though they recognize that


nonviolent action may be a strategically superior option and (6) how nonviolent resistance can work in concert with more institutional forms of action, such as advocacy, legal action, electoral processes, negotiations and reconciliation processes.

An important moral question, which in my mind isn’t fully settled in the literature, is under what conditions civil resistance is morally justified. Given that it is a fundamentally disruptive force in societies, and given that it can often provoke greater violence against the society, deepen polarization and destabilize systems in unpredictable ways, it’s worth asking serious questions about when a population is justified in wielding this powerful tool for change. Philosophers spent about a thousand years sorting out this question for the wielding of war, resulting in a set of doctrines widely known as the “just war” doctrine. There isn’t yet a robust contemporary doctrine for the “just” use of civil resistance. For this issue, we’ve also interviewed David Ragland of the Truth Telling Project, a Truth and Reconciliation initiative out of Ferguson, Missouri to end racism and structural violence in the United States. Have you come across more of these processes in your research, and if so, what promise do they hold to support transitions to greater forms of democracy?

I am not a specialist in Truth and Reconciliation processes, but I can say that as with most topics in political science, the effectiveness of such processes is controversial! Some of the best empirical studies of this question are by James Gibson and his collaborators, including Overcoming Apartheid: Can Truth Reconcile a Divided Nation? (New York: Russell Sage, 2003), Overcoming Intolerance in South Africa: Experiments in Democracy Persuasion, with Amanda Gouws (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004) and Overcoming Historical Injustices: Land Reconciliation in South Africa (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009). That said, I think there is a lot of room for research on how civil resistance and reconciliation processes can work together to create justice and repair in deeply divided societies.


In Action: Participatory Democracy

Case studies compiled by staff at the Metta Center for Nonviolence

Photo: in the commons—artist unknown

Democracy through nonviolent means is not only possible; it is inevitable.

If we were given the challenging task of boiling democracy down to a few simple words, we would likely come up with something like: quality of life. We wouldn’t be able to reduce democracy to voting or define it by the right to redress our grievances with a government, as significant as both can be. A genuine democracy is concerned with fulfilling every person’s potential and respecting non-human life. Under our current system, voting and voicing grievances can only get us so far. The profit and domination motives of militaries and corporations hold too much sway over our elections. We’re living at a time in which a lot of creativity and experimentation will benefit us—we can’t otherwise learn how to break the mold. Hierarchical, power-over approaches have failed to deliver on their promises of security, peace and happiness, let alone shared prosperity. The following initiatives stand in stark contrast—they offer a glimpse of how participatory democracy could work for communities and nations across the globe. Not only do these examples involve inclusion and dialogue, they could be scaled up.


People-powered initiatives can make ripples both locally and globally.

Unarmed Peacekeeping: An End to the War System “I hold that democracy cannot be evolved by forcible methods,” Gandhi said. We cannot spread freedom and democracy through militaries. Enter Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping (UCP), which evolved from Gandhi’s conception of a Shanti Sena, or Peace Army, in which well-trained people provide assistance for peace and security, but with a notable difference: by nonviolence, not with guns. UCP has been on the rise in the past decade, and in just the last year or two has offered a stunning tribute to the effectiveness and power of this method, proving Gandhi right. Nonviolent Peaceforce, which was founded by Mel Duncan and David Hartsough in 2002, has reached a new level of recognition for unarmed peacekeeping with a grant of $8.2 million, from the Dutch government, to expand their work in South Sudan’s protracted conflict. Their mission? To prevent gender-based violence. How? By empowering South Sudanese women, in partnership with unarmed peacekeepers from around the world, to create networks and strategies for ongoing local, on-the-ground civilian protection. A key indicator for democracy in any country is women’s security, making Nonviolent Peaceforce’s initiative —and the Dutch government’s funding of it—a significant development for the growth of democracy. Institutions such as the United Nations are promoting women’s security as a precursor for their participation in democratic processes and, hence, gender equality.

Nonviolent Peaceforce runs programs in Myanmar, the Philippines, Syria and Ukraine. The organization has been nominated for a 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. While the Metta Center for Nonviolence nominated Mel Duncan for the prize in 2015, the current nomination comes from the Quakers, who had successfully nominated Martin Luther King, Jr. for the 1964 award. UCP is showing the world a way out of violent conflict and an end to the war system. It should give us hope that democracy through nonviolent means is not only possible; it is inevitable. Stephanie Van Hook Business Cooperatives: A Framework of Fairness Arizmendi’s is a quaint worker-owned bakery in San Rafael, California. It is named after and models its business practices on those of Father José María Arizmendiarrieta, Arizmendi for short, who in 1941 moved to the small town of Mondragón in the Basque region of Spain, which had been devastated by the Civil War. Realizing that economic recovery was vital to the town’s 7,000 inhabitants, but not enamored of standard capitalist models, Arizmendi went from bar to bar talking up his idea of a cooperative. Since its founding in 1956, the Mondragón Corporation

has become one of Spain’s most successful enterprises, with nearly €12 billion in annual income earned by 74,117 employees in 260 businesses and cooperatives operating in 41 countries. None of the earnings are from the manufacture of or investment in weapons. It has not always been smooth sailing for Mondragón. There was a bankruptcy at Fagor Electrodomésticos, their biggest firm, some years ago, but the cooperatives cooperate horizontally as well as internally and are able to bail each other out and keep going.

Mondragón is capitalist in the sense that it is built on capital and issues shares, but all workers own those shares: if you come in without that kind of money, part of your salary goes to purchase them. Mondragón is neither “leaderless” nor authoritarian. It has managers, but a) they earn an average of three times the salary of an entry-level worker (as opposed to 300 times in an American corporation), b) they are elected by the whole cooperative and can be let go after five years if they don’t manage well and c) anyone can get free training at one of Mondragón’s 15 technology centers or its university and apply for a managerial position. In other words, the managers do not form a managerial class. With this and a raft of other attractive features, Mondragón shows on a large scale, over considerable time, that you can “do well by doing good.” Business is not inherently evil: greed is. Michael N. Nagler Paris Consensus: The Historic Agreement For the first time in climate negotiation history, all 196 participating countries came to consensus around climate action at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, or COP21. All parties agreed to the document, which maintains the world temperature increase to “well below” the target of 2 degrees Celsius (while emphasizing the importance of keeping temperature increases closer to 1.5 degrees), and to peak global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. How did they finally reach agreement, after 20 years of relatively fruitless talks? Largely through indaba, a dialogue and consensus-building process used by the Zulu and Xhosa tribes of South Africa. Indaba simply means “meeting” or “gathering.” In an indaba, all leaders are given a fair opportunity to have their say. While the process allows for the inclusion of all views from the community, the decisionmaking is left to a small group of leaders (in the case of the climate talks, the national delegates and one aide). The process requires that all parties speak personally, state their “red lines” and provide common ground solutions. Although indaba was first introduced to climate talks in 2011, when they were held in Durban, South Africa, the process didn’t bear fruit until last year. In Paris, the talks were facilitated by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who presided over the conference gathering. When


negotiations stalled, smaller breakouts were held in conference rooms and then reported back to the main indaba. The last indaba, the Indaba of Solutions, led to the final drafted agreement. While the agreement must still be ratified by at least 55 countries and cover 55 percent of emissions to be legally binding, the consensus was historic because it united the world’s nations to take action around climate change. Leading up to the negotiations, many people doubted that an agreement was possible—prior negotiations had set a precedence of failure. Yet the consensus-building and solutions-focused process of indaba made reaching an agreement possible. Critics of the agreement say it does not go far enough and is too weak, but the fact that an agreement was made at all is an important step towards collective climate action. Moreover, parties to this agreement include “enemies” like Israel and Palestine, so there’s reason to hope that rescuing the planet may fulfill its promise of uniting humanity in a common struggle. At the least it also proves that such agreement can be reached among the world’s nations, paving the way for future negotiations around other global issues. Consensus is possible when we approach problems from a perspective of mutual respect, along with shared needs and solutions. Hopefully, as processes like indaba become more commonplace in international negotiations, we will see more successful dialogues around the issues we face together. Stephanie Knox-Cubbon Peace Village: An Alternative to Civil War In August of 2012, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, began their peace dialogues in Havana, Cuba, signalling a move toward resolving the country’s longstanding civil war, which began in 1948. At the time of this writing, the government and FARC had agreed on several major points but had yet to iron out a clear path for disarmament, along with security for FARC members after they set down the weapons. The ongoing conflict has led to the mass displacement of Colombians. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 5.7 million people have become internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia, with many of those people experiencing repeat displacement (the number of IDPs in Colombia has only been recently surpassed by the 6.5 million IDPs in Syria). In 1997, a community of some 1,500 people in the Urabá region of Colombia professed their neutrality in the four-


Photo: Francisco Osorio, via flickr

pronged civil war (the four prongs being the government, paramilitaries, FARC and other guerrilla groups and narcotraffickers). Known as the Peace Village of San José de Apartadó, the community functions as an act of resistance —to the war and also to multinational interests eyeing the area’s immensely fertile lands. Despite their declared neutrality, which grants them protections under international human rights laws, the Comunidad de Paz has weathered attacks from the Colombian government, along with guerrillas and illegal paramilitaries. But residents of the peace village remain committed to nonviolence, noting in their list of principles that “the weapons don’t decide.” The community maintains autonomy and unity, in part, through a needs-based economy that revolves around sustainable farming and selling its organic chocolate to European companies. Village members also make shared leadership practices and human dignity a top priority. Kimberlyn David n

The Metta Center for Nonviolence is a 501(c)3 organization that provides educational resources on the safe and effective use of nonviolence, with the recognition that its's not about putting the right person in power but awakening the right kind of power in people.

Protestors speak with police in the Altamira area of Caracas, Venezuela. Photo: AndresAso, via Flickr


Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman: The Rule of Law & Democracy Robert Shetterly on equality and the security of justice

One night in the summer of 2012, quite late, I received this email: Hello Mr. Shetterly, I clean the restrooms on 3rd shift at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I was moved to McGuffey Hall in the School of Education where your portraits are on display a few weeks ago and have been fascinated by your paintings because they look like they could come right off of the canvas and talk to me. Every night when I am walking that hallway I think of one thing… Someone is missing… It’s Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman. She would be a worthy subject for your series... My husband says they should erect a monument of her right next to Thomas Jefferson (America’s revered slave owner). I think it would be wonderful to see her portrait on that wall some day! What do you think? Here’s... [some of]... her quote:

“Well, Mr. Sedgwick, I was listening to the reading of the new law. I heard it said that all men are created equal and that every man has a right to freedom. Now I ain’t no dumb critter! Won’t the law give me my freedom? Isn’t that what the law says, Mr. Sedgwick?”

– Dolores Volk For the 10 years previous to receiving Dolores’ letter I had been painting a series of portraits I called Americans Who Tell the Truth. By this time, I had painted over 150 portraits and they were traveling to museums, colleges, schools and


libraries all over the United States. When I began, a traveling exhibit had not been my plan. In the fall of 2001, I was overwhelmed with anger and grief as our government began using 9/11 and completely false claims to promote a criminal war against Iraq. I don’t think I had ever felt so alienated from and ashamed of this country. And I knew I had to respond in some way with what I do best—paint. Through painting portraits, I chose to surround myself with figures from our history and current political life who insisted that the US live up to its own ideals. I used the energy of my anger to express my love and admiration for the people I painted. Once I began to exhibit the portraits, I discovered that my concerns were shared by many others. I immediately wrote back to Dolores and asked for more information about “Mumbet,” but before I even got her answer, I began my own research. Elizabeth—“Bett”—was born in upstate New York in 1742—45 years before Sojourner Truth—and, like Sojourner, onto a Dutch farm and into slavery. Her master, Pieter Hogeboom, “gave” Bett to his daughter Hannah when she married John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts. There Bett remained a slave until 1780, when, as the Revolutionary War ended, the Declaration of Independence was being taken to communities in all the colonies and read publicly. Bett was present at the reading in Sheffield and, being very moved by the language about unalienable rights and equality, went right away to a young lawyer, Theodore Sedgwick, and said what is quoted above in Dolores’ email.

Mr. Sedgwick, impressed with Elizabeth and opposed to slavery himself, took her case, which became Brom and Bett vs

Painting of Dolores Volk holding a portrait of Elizabeth "Mumbet" Freeman by Robert Shetterly. This painting is part of his Americans Who Tell the Truth series.


mistress, Hannah Ashley, and Bett’s sister Lizzy, also a slave, when Hannah was attempting to strike Lizzy with a red hot shovel pulled from the cook fire. Lizzy had scraped some dough for herself from the oaken bowl that was used to knead the family bread. Hannah accused Lizzy of stealing. Bett took the blow on her arm. Bett said, “Madam never again laid her hand on Lizzy. I had a bad arm all winter, but Madam had the worst of it. I never covered the wound, and when people said to me, before Madam, ‘Betty, what ails your arm?’ I only answered, ‘Ask missis!’” * * *

Mumbet portrait by Susan Anne Livingston Ridley Sedgwick (1811)

Ashley. It was heard in August 1781, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. (Brom was a male slave who agreed to join the suit because the court would not hear a case filed solely by a woman.) The jury ruled in Bett’s favor on August 22, 1781, granting not only her freedom but also compensation: 30 shillings back pay for all the years she worked as a slave with no pay. Was any other former slave thus compensated? Her case was cited shortly afterwards in the State Supreme Court when it struck down the legality of slavery in Massachusetts. Sedgwick then hired Bett—with pay—as his housekeeper and help to raise his children. One child, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, loved and admired Bett and wrote her history after Bett’s death in 1829, which was published with the title Slavery in Massachusetts and can be found online. Her sister-in-law, Susan Sedgwick, painted the only known image of Bett—a miniature watercolor on ivory. Catherine Sedgwick’s account of Bett’s life is full of vivid anecdotes and quotations. For instance, Catherine Sedgwick writes, “I have heard her [Bett] say with an emphatic shake of the head peculiar to her, ‘Any time, any time while I was a slave, if one minute’s freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it—just to stand one minute on God’s airth a free woman—I would.’” And Catherine tells the story of Bett standing between her


Ironically, 76 years later, in 1857, in the Dred Scott Decision, our Supreme Court stripped all black citizens of their legal rights, including the right to challenge their status as property. Bett’s suit would have then been illegal, even in Massachusetts. The Supreme Court had affirmed that property rights trump unalienable rights. In the South, Bett could not have won her case, much less survived trying to file it. But the case could be brought to court and argued in the political atmosphere of revolutionary Massachusetts, where words were considered to have meaning, and meaning to have consequence. “All men are endowed...” and “unalienable rights” would have to apply for Bett as equally as they did for her white lawyer, or they meant nothing.

I used the energy of my anger to express my love and admiration for the people I painted.

Often in our history, laws have been written for the selfprotection interests of the wealthy and powerful, who ignore the obvious contradictions baked into the language of those laws. Elizabeth Freeman’s story illustrates the great bounty of living in a system whose legal concern is justice: a marginalized person—black, female, indigent, enslaved, illiterate—appeals to the law to grant her remedy from her grievance of injustice. If the democratic rule of law does not allow this, it isn’t democracy. It is that sense of justice which offers security. It is that sense of justice which makes the rule of law a blessing rather than a tragedy of cynical hypocrisy. There’s an important footnote to this story. I’ve not painted any people for this project who lived before the invention of practical photography in the mid-nineteenth century. So, some of my earliest subjects were Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Walt Whitman. To paint, say, Thomas Paine, I would have had to copy someone else’s portrait, which I didn’t want to do. But because I thought telling the story of Elizabeth Freeman was so important, I decided to paint Dolores Volk holding Catharine Sedgwick’s painting. I wrote to Dolores and told her I would be speaking at the University of Cincinnati, not too far from Oxford, and asked if I could meet her. She came with her husband and two sons. It wasn’t until then that I told her my plan. She was overwhelmed but loved the idea. An indispensable part of the Americans Who Tell the Truth project has been the myriad of people who have written to me suggesting subjects. Because of them, I’ve learned an enormous amount of history.

I informed the administration at Miami University what I was doing, and they arranged a formal unveiling of the Dolores/ Mumbet portrait at an elaborate event with the university president and several deans. Honoring Dolores, their night shift, toilet-cleaning custodian, mirrored the democratic intent of the rule of law. The rule of law provides what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “security of justice”’—no matter their position in social hierarchies, all people are treated the same by the law. Just as no bank should be too big to fail and no person too important to prosecute, no person is too unimportant to be able to appeal for, and expect, justice. Without that assurance, democracy is impossible. n

The rule of law provides what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “security of justice”—no matter their position in social hierarchies, all people are treated the same by the law.

Robert Shetterly is a visual artist, writer and cultural change agent. You can see and purchase posters of his Americans Who Tell the Truth series at:


Outta Here

A short story by Patty Somlo

Photo: in the commons—artist unknown

The first time the officer told the boy to drop the bat, the boy began to walk forward. He was just under five feet tall, so the bat may have looked longer than it would have appeared, if held by a boy of greater height. The boy, people in the neighborhood would later comment, had dreamed of becoming a baseball player. By the second time the officer ordered the boy to drop the bat, the boy had narrowed the distance between them. The officer wasn’t aware that the late afternoon sun had started shooting rays directly into the boy’s dark brown eyes. Traffic had grown heavy on Seventeenth Street, two blocks south of Martin Luther King, Junior Boulevard, where the boy stood clutching his bat in a field infested with weeds and discarded soiled napkins and soda cups, outside an abandoned low-income housing project. The racket caused by cars and trucks passing made it hard for the boy to hear what the officer had been shouting. When the boy looked toward the officer, the bright glare from the sun made his eyes ache and tear, forcing him to drop his gaze.


Still, the boy continued moving toward the officer. Folks in the neighborhood would later claim that even though he had some disabilities—or challenges, as some preferred to say—the kid was one of the friendliest and most sociable kids many had ever met. His mother worried about him for all the obvious reasons a parent fears for a child, and especially a special needs kid, but also because he had never learned to keep his distance from strangers, who might do him harm. The third time the officer ordered the boy to drop the bat, the boy believed he had gotten close enough to hit the ball. He turned slightly to stand sideways and moved his feet eight or so inches apart, the way Billy “the Bomber” Boggs, the famous baseball player who’d grown up in the neighborhood and returned there to live after he retired from the game, showed him several times.

As he lifted the bat, the boy heard a loud cracking sound. No one saw what happened before or after that

sound, but a second and third cracking sound followed. The boy was bleeding by then, so heavily it was impossible to see where the blood was coming from, and his short, somewhat pudgy body had fallen, and lay curled practically in the fetal position on the ground.

The shooting of DaVon Richards rocked the neighborhood, a principally African American enclave whose tree-lined residential streets fanned out east and west from MLK Jr. Boulevard. DaVon Richards, as everyone in the neighborhood knew, could not have hurt a fly. He’d been born fourteen years before with what his mother described as a sweetness almost impossible not to love. His intellectual challenges became more and more apparent as time went on. At first when DaVon went to school, some of the kids, usually boys, made fun of him. In those days, everybody referred to DaVon as slow. But DaVon didn’t realize that he was being bullied and before long, the toughest kids began to look out for him. In the first hours and days after the white police officer shot and killed DaVon Richards, firing three times, folks in the neighborhood felt numb. The police department claimed that DaVon, a black, intellectually challenged fourteen year-old, had threatened the officer with a bat that could be used as a weapon. A memorial was started for DaVon with flowers, a handful of toys, including metal trucks, and several baseball gloves. Family, friends and people who lived in the neighborhood gathered in the weed and trash-infested field where DaVon had been shot. The media dutifully arrived, along with the mayor, city councilors and the area’s congressional representative. Baptist minister Calvin Butler set up a stage, podium, microphone and sound system, then invited people to come up and share what they remembered about DaVon. Ali Mansour, who owned the neighborhood’s one convenience store, stood up first. People were surprised to see Mr. Ali, as the older residents called him, crying. “DaVon came to my store every day,” Ali began, speaking haltingly because he couldn’t stop crying. “He wanted to learn how to use the register, so I showed him.” Surprisingly, Ali then started to laugh. “I must have showed him a hundred times,” he said, shaking his head and smiling. “He couldn’t remember how to do it. But he always wanted me to show him, so he could learn again.” Ali stepped away from the microphone to wipe his eyes. He blew his nose with a light blue handkerchief pulled out of his

Photo: in the commons—artist unknown

pocket and then came back to the podium, leaning toward the microphone and saying he was sorry. He stopped crying long enough to explain, “DaVon wanted to learn because he said he planned to open his own store one day.” The tributes went on throughout the afternoon and into the night. As speaker after speaker spoke about the loving boy, who unlike most people never complained, got depressed or had a bad word to say about anybody, something became clear to Billy Boggs. In middle age and carrying a hundred pounds more weight than when he’d gone almost overnight from being a poor black kid to a major league, high-salaried baseball player, Billy had long ago lost contact with his two grown kids. He had barely known them when they were growing up because he’d focused nearly all his time and attention on baseball. A few years back, Billy had started spending time with DaVon, his mother being a good friend and DaVon not having a father around. Sometimes, Billy thought of DaVon as his adopted son. He’d taught DaVon to throw and catch, run and hit the ball. The bat DaVon had been holding at the time of the shooting and failed to drop had been a present from Billy for DaVon’s thirteenth birthday. The last speaker stepped down. Without thinking, Billy began making his way to the podium. He didn’t have a clue what he wanted to say, as he moved the microphone up and tapped the end to see if it was working.


Photo: in the commons—artist unknown

He looked out at the crowd. The faces were black and brown, white and Asian. So many people had congregated in the field that folks were now spilling out onto the sidewalks. Some even stood across the street.

ball. The city council, with unprecedented speed, helped push through the required permits to have the housing project torn down and that vacant, weed-infested lot readied to become a new city park.

Billy still didn’t know what he was going to say, as he continued to study the crowd. But then he let himself picture DaVon in his mind, wearing the Giants jersey Billy had given him, the one that had started to get too small.

Billy recruited several police officers to coach in their off-duty hours. He wasn’t naïve enough to believe, as some folks thought, that the DaVon Richards Park and the MLK Bombers would change the world or do all that much to address the deep-seated issues that ended up stifling and snuffing out too many young lives.

He could see DaVon, concentrating so hard his forehead had wrinkled up. And then he remembered the thing DaVon nearly always did, whenever Billy sailed an underhanded pitch towards him. Just before DaVon stepped his right foot forward and swung the bat, he mimicked what the play-by-play broadcasters shouted when a ball was hit out of the park. “It’s outta here,” DaVon loved to yell. The sun had set by the time Billy told that story to the crowd. He let them know that DaVon assumed he would get a home run every time he hit the ball. Billy asked the crowd if they had any idea what knowing DaVon had taught him. Following a few murmured and several shouted responses like, “Love, man,” and “Joy,” Billy answered, “No. It was hope. DaVon Richards taught me about hope.” It only took two weeks for Billy Boggs to raise enough money to build the diamond and buy enough bats, gloves, shoes and uniforms for all the neighborhood kids that wanted to play


But as he prepared to swing the bat for the pitch to commemorate the start of the Bombers’ first season and the opening of DaVon Richards Park, Billy Boggs smiled. The bat kissed the ball and Billy watched it sail, over the diamond, past the outfield and beyond. Billy heard a familiar voice shout, “It’s outta here.” He used the back of his hand to wipe the tears away from the corners of his eyes. Then he looked up, imagining that the ball had just bounced and then stopped on the rough surface of a large and blindingly radiant star. n

Patty Somlo lives in Santa Rosa, CA. Patty’s short story collection The First to Disappear was just published by Spuyten Duyvil.

Protestors at the Silver Spring #Relclaim MLK Sit-In. Photo: Stephen Melkisethian, via flickr


Media & Culture Beat What media and cultural resources can you turn to as you tune out the corporate mass media? Check out what we’ve been reading, watching and listening to.

Photo: in the commons—artist unknown

Compiled by staff at the Metta Center for Nonviolence


Love and Revolution Radio Rivera Sun teams up with Sherri Mitchell for Love and Revolution Radio, a show dedicated to exploring nonviolence through interviews, stories, music and analysis. Each podcast runs about an hour long, and at first you might wonder: Do I have any extra hours in the day for more media? My take: make room for it. This is the kind of media that matters.

Sun and Mitchell’s expertise is refreshing, given how often nonviolence is misunderstood and misrepresented in all forms of media, on all sides of the political spectrum, and their enthusiasm is catching. Educators in a true sense, they draw out key ideas from their guests, in a conscientious effort to empower and motivate more effective nonviolent action in our world.

Why not use the hour as a way to spend time with a good friend? Make it a regular date. Think of it as an interviewbased college course in nonviolence, for free. Be sure not to miss their episode with the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding, which is an excellent primer for restorative justice and the higher image of the human being that it upholds. Find the show via Stitcher: occupy-radio. Stephanie Van Hook

On Being Through its award-winning radio show and blog, On Being explores the richly layered terrain of being human. As concisely explained on the site’s “About” page: “We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.”

The radio show is hosted by Krista Tippett, whom the White House awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2014 for “embracing complexity and inviting people of every background to join her conversation about faith, ethics and moral wisdom.” Initially a project of Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media when it launched in 2003, the On Being radio program has been independently produced since 2013. Recent radio shows have featured Patrisse Cullors of Black Lives Matter, who with Dr. Robert Ross spoke about healing as a vital component of activism, and brain surgeon James Doty, whose work offers a scientific window on heart-mind communication and embodied compassion. Regular On Being blog columnists include educator-activist Parker J. Palmer, noted meditation teacher Sharon

Salzberg and the accomplished composer Mohammed Fairouz. Both the blog and the radio show spotlight humanity’s most pressing issues while simultaneously traveling into spirituality in search of solutions to our political woes. Read and listen at: Kimberlyn David

This is an Uprising Mark Engler and Paul Engler’s latest book on nonviolent movements, This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century, is a remarkable contribution to the field of nonviolence and a must-read for nonviolence practitioners, advocates and scholars. Written with gripping and compelling storytelling, This Is an Uprising makes the case for how nonviolent revolution is the most effective way to create social change.

The Englers provide a fresh analysis of historical movements, including the US civil rights movement and the Indian freedom struggle. They also examine more contemporary cases such as the fight for marriage equality and Arab Spring, looking at the art, craft, principles and strategy of these movements. Drawing from influences from Gene Sharp and Saul Alinsky to Frances Fox Piven, the Englers describe how movements can combine large mobilizations, institutionbuilding and alternative communities to create an unstoppable “movement ecosystem.” The authors also highlight the importance of training, strategy and discipline in the success of nonviolent movements. This Is an Uprising has the potential to make the case for nonviolence beyond the choir of peace movement circles. Stephanie Knox-Cubbon

Bajrangi Bhaijaan This 2015 film is in many ways pure Bollywood—the improbable dancing, the more improbable plot. But it’s a kind of mature Bollywood, with excellent acting (including on the part of a seven year-old girl, Harshaali Malhotra), a heart-wrenching plot and a powerful social message. The lead actor is the extremely popular Salman Khan, who convincingly plays a deeply good man sacrificing himself to reunite a mute Pakistani girl (Malhotra) who has gotten separated from her mother while on a trip through Northern India to a shrine to pray for her speech to be restored. Even the spectacular Kashmiri scenery turns in a truly fine performance. After the film opened in time for the Muslim holiday Eid last year, it quickly became the second-highest grossing Bollywood film of the era. As far as I’m concerned—along with the opinion of many others, I’m sure—the entire three-hour extravaganza was justified by a single line that occurs near the film’s end, when Indians and Pakistanis are being called to converge on the


border to let our hero get back to India: “Let’s stop this hatred.” The aching desire of millions came to a head in that filmic instant. Michael N. Nagler

The Revolution Has Come Reverend Osagyefo Sekou and Jay-Marie Hill (The Holy Ghost) bring their passion for social justice into music with their album The Revolution Has Come, best described as a mix between gospel, soul and funk. It reminds one a bit of Ben Harper at his liveliest, but dare I say better in its own way because of the backdrop against which Sekou is working.

As the Bayard Rustin Fellow at the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Sekou is a well-known activist within the Black Lives Matter movement—he was recently acquitted of charges for public prayer as protest in Ferguson. References to the movement are woven throughout the album, from names such as Sandra Bland to lyrics inspired by Black Lives Matter chants. The tracks, interestingly, also draw from other democratic struggles worldwide, Palestine among them. Sekou and Hill together do more than entertain in this album; they encourage action and healing. Since music can persuade someone to listen to messages they might otherwise try to ignore, The Revolution Has Come is one for peacebuilders to share with friends and family. Sample and buy the album: Stephanie Van Hook

Beyond Prison The United States is infamous for incarcerating more people than any other nation. The statistics reveal undeniable injustices. While 60 percent of the imprisoned are people of color, these same people constitute just 30 percent of the US population. The recidivism rate is outrageous: about two thirds of those released wend their way back to prison within three years. It costs $30,000 to $60,000 per year to keep one person in prison—enough to pay the sort of dignified wage that could possibly prevent certain crimes to begin with.

Beyond Prison, a multimedia project of the Kalliopeia Foundation, illustrates how human dignity is being restored within some US prisons through groundbreaking initiatives that are transforming people through the expressive arts and mind-body awareness practices. The prisoners who participate in these programs tend to return to society as integrated members of their communities, and most of them stay out of prison. The strongest testament to these successes comes from prisoners themselves. “First I learned that ‘hurt people hurt people,’ that I lashed out from the pain inside me that I didn’t know what to do with,” said a former participant of InsightOut’s GRIP (Guiding Rage Into Power) program. “Then I


learned that ‘healed people heal people,’ that my own healing drives me to want to heal others and give back. This lesson is all I needed.” See the photos, stories, videos and infographics at: Kimberlyn David

If We Knew Our History For a college-level nonviolence class that I teach, students discuss the importance of understanding the root causes of war and its real costs, and the nonviolent struggles that often go missing in history lessons. The online article series “If We Knew Our History” from the Zinn Education Project, in collaboration with Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change, seeks to fill the gap in nonviolence education by highlighting aspects of US history that are often neglected in history textbooks published by large, highly profitable corporations. As the Project website says, “if we knew our history, we’d be in a better place.” The articles—written by teachers, journalists and scholars—address myths and stereotypes often perpetuated in corporateproduced history books. The series covers topics such as the FBI’s war on the civil rights movement, and it takes an analytical look at Columbus Day. “If We Knew Our History” is useful for educators and anyone who seeks to develop a more critical, holistic view of US history. Stphanie Knox-Cubbon

Bil'in and the Nonviolent Resistance If you have not had the opportunity to experience at first hand the indomitable spirit that can inform a person who catches fire from nonviolence, a spirit that’s well-represented by some, perhaps many of the nonviolent actors in the Palestinian struggle, the next best thing might be to catch it from Iyad Burnat’s Bil’in and the Nonviolent Resistance.

“We hold on to a hope that hovers above all of our suffering,” Burnat writes in this account of his village’s struggle. “It is an unending hope, one that sustains us and leads us to a better future.” Though you will have to be prepared for some tragic reading—the oppression of the West Bank villages is one of the uglier stories in the world—we can also be heartened by the way the villagers have not only taken up the spirit of Gandhi, King and Mandela that they caught in the first Intifada (1987–1992) but have steadily learned from theirs and others’ successes and failures so that, while there is a steady drumbeat of Friday demonstrations at the site of the “Apartheid Wall,” they are not stuck in a “scripted” repetition. They know they have to innovate and escalate. One day they carried an enormous mirror to a demonstration to show the Israeli soldiers that they are the ones who are really in a prison—of their own hatred and oppression. Purchase a copy of Burnat’s book at: Michael N. Nagler n

Photo: in the commons—artist unknown


What We Are Facing in China Hua Ze outlines difficulties that Chinese activists grapple with

As a journalist, I was part of the pro-democracy movement in China that culminated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which Deng Xiaoping’s military killed hundreds—if not thousands—of peaceful and unarmed protestors, along with innocent passerbys. After the brutal crackdown, I was forced to leave the newspaper I worked for. I’m still in contact with some of the people who joined that remarkable movement, and whenever I recall that summer’s events in Beijing, I’m again moved by the courage and sacrifice that had been shown by students and citizens. Civil resistance hasn’t disappeared in China. But it has changed form, and today’s movement faces significant challenges. Before I can illustrate these difficulties, I must first outline some culture and history. Many scholars tried to prove that Chinese culture or tradition was by nature democratic, and some politicians and philosophers expressed the idea that this Chinese version of “democracy” is such because it is “people based,” meaning that the rulers must care about the people. However, democracy inherently means rule by the people; and this concept still appears to the Chinese people to be foreign. Building on this idea, the Communist Party spares no effort in emphasizing that democracy is an “illegal immigration” and slanders democratic activists as pawns of Americans and traitors of the country. As for history, we’ve seen three waves of democratic uprisings in the post-Tiananmen Square years. The first arose in the late 1990s, following the deaths of Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun and other Communist Party leaders. During this time, Jiang Zemin’s government was relatively weak in terms of social control. Democracy advocates tried to take advantage of this opportunity to organize opposition parties and create a multi-party system. The movement was crushed almost immediately. More than a hundred activists were thrown into prison while others fled abroad. Charter 08 came about a decade later. This movement was started by Liu Xiaobo, who was inspired by the Cold War-


era Charter 77, the human rights declaration by a group of Czechoslovakian dissidents that included Václav Havel. Charter 08 was published online on December 10, 2008, coinciding with the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It presented a vision of a democratic China and solicited online signatures. More than 10,000 people added their names as co-signers. Charter 08 ended when Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years for inciting subversion of state power. Thousands of co-signers were subpoenaed or warned by the police. When Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, the Chinese government responded with crackdowns. Between October 8 and December 10 of that year, the dates between the prize announcement and ceremony, Chinese dissenters, and even their families, were forbidden to leave the country. Because of the government’s tight grip on media, few people heard about these incidents.

During this time, I was kidnapped. It happened on October 27, at the Capital International Airport in Beijing, where I had been filming interviews with two human rights lawyers. As I was leaving the airport, multiple plain-clothes men approached me and put a black bag over my head. I was secretly interrogated in Beijing for four days and then sent to Xinyu, a city in Jiangxi Province that is 700 miles outside Beijing. In Xinyu, I was held in isolation in some remote hotel for 51 days—the only human contact I had was with the police. My release came after the Nobel award ceremony. The third wave is the Rights Protection Movement, which called on the government to abide by the nation’s laws and constitution.These grassroots activists used media and lawsuits to help mobilize people against state abuses. Rights Protection began around 2003, so it developed before and continued after Charter 08. It therefore lasted longer and had a larger base of participation. It was founded by Xu Zhiyong, Teng Biao and Yu Jiang, and Xu and Teng went on to form the Citizens Union, whose goal was to realize social justice and the rule of law through legal aid and research. During its 10 years, the Citizens Union collaborated with a

Top: A 2013 commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. Bottom: Students on a 64-day hunger strike to commemorate Tiananmen. Photos: Bandari Lei, via Flickr


number of human rights lawyers, participated in almost every important human rights lawsuit, wrote reports on social justice issues and led citizen-involvement programs to promote social justice and transparency. Then in 2012, Xu launched the New Citizens Movement with an essay in which he called for the end of authoritarianism and corruption so that a new civil society could arise. He also urged people to “[p]ractice the New Citizen Spirit in action” by using resistance tactics and campaigns. Movement activities included eliminating province-based discrimination in education and encouraging people to meet and discuss how to move the cause forward. These initiatives led to Xu’s imprisonment in 2014, and New Citizens participants have been arrested and imprisoned, one after another. Since Xi Jinping took power in 2014, the Chinese government has become much more brutal in its crackdowns. Organizing and mobilizing are essentially banned. Yet activists still organize small-scale street protests. It’s worth pointing out that human rights lawyers are the core of all civil activities, as they provide free services to help victims of state abuse in court.

At this stage, in 2016, most of us activists are working with no strategic plan. The majority of dissident actions are spontaneous, chaotic stress responses. There’s scant involvement by the Chinese people, and there is little seeking of long-term relationships with people outside China concerned with civil resistence. As an isolated movement, we are facing the following difficulties: 1. Fundraising. With the government’s wariness of foreign money, many activists shrink from outside help. Because of speech and internet censorship, the Chinese people have no way to learn about and understand the idea and what’s going on inside the movement, making it hard to raise money from our fellow citizens. 2. Little attention on community development and local relationship-building. Activists prefer the supposed spotlight—unless a major incident occurs, the media ignores the villages and more remote areas. Those who would want to work locally don’t because they fear bringing trouble to their familes. The belief that community-building is fruitless and problematic hinders progress. 3. Paranoia. Activists constantly suspect that government agents have infiltrated them, building a culture of distrust within the movement. Meanwhile, there are no measures


being put in place to prevent or handle infiltration. So the movement fails to attract mass-scale participation. 4. Lack of strategy. Chinese activists rely on confrontation—they regard civil servants as opponents, without considering possiblities to win them over. For example, activists will argue in and protest outside of the courts, sticking to raw emotion and spontaneity. Few see the need for a strategic plan, the basis of any successful largescale, long-term campaign.

5. Reluctance to learn from movements in other countries. Some believe that our struggles in China are so unique that the experiences of activists elsewhere are either useless or impractical. Others believe that the democracy movement here should simply wrap around an opposition party—a political entity whose primary purpose is criticism rather than constructing a new country. 6. A teetering towards violent revolution theory. Understandably, activists feel angry and desperate about government repression. But when explosive emotions go unchecked, the illusion that only violence can free China sets in. Some activists even put their hopes on a foreign military strike. 7. Resistance to transcend the Communist Party paradigm. Many activists claim that they would rather give up freedom and democracy than give up a “unified” China. Plus, they misunderstand how a vibrant democracy functions. They believe that voting alone delivers rule by the people. I find it daunting to describe all the complexity of today’s civil movement in a single article, especially since, as a participant rather than an observer, I’m in the thick of it myself. However, I’ve done my best and hope you will forgive any accidental inaccuracies or missed points that you may find. Editor’s note: Do you have any strategic insights or plausible ideas to offer Chinese activists? If so, please email the Metta Center for Nonviolence, and we will do our best to pass them on:

Hua Ze is a pro-democracy activist in China.

A woman holds a Chinese-language newspaper showing the Tiananmen Square massacre. Photo: doctorho, via Flickr



Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.