"There is no doubt in my mind that nonviolence is currently incapable of resolving some of the problems that must be solved if the human race is to survive... Those who are convinced that nonviolence can be used in ALL conflict situations have a responsibility to devise concrete methods by which it can be made effective... Gandhi often made the point that it is better to resist injustice by violent methods than not to resist at all. He staked his own life on his theory that nonviolent resistance was the superior method, but he never counseled appeasement or passive nonresistance." - Dave Dellinger, 1965 'The Future of Nonviolence' (1)
November 15, 2001
Only violence such as the recent terrorist war on the United States and its allies has the potential to bring the world's undivided attention to the plight of the powerless and to the crimes against humanity fostered by the developed countries. Only such a glaring, violent episode will bring about a social sea change in reaction to the violence. The question is, What kind of change? Will the roots of terrorism in the inherent iniquity of neo-liberal capitalism and its money-grubbing culture be confronted, or will liberties be pruned back and the corrupt tree reinforced by a colossal expansion of the police state?
Already we have clear indications of the latter in the formation of a homeland security organization for the centralization of police activities. Already we hear contradictory statements from the White House. The United States will not engage in "nation building," yet it will support a government involved in "peaceful economic development," and it is now actually supporting the Northern Military Alliance notorious for the brutal atrocities, the rapes and murders that caused many Afghans to welcome the peace by means of totalitarian terror imposed by the Taliban.
When such typical contradictions of political hypocrisy are questioned by the free press, they are arrogantly dismissed by the White House, as being of remote importance, in order to focus on the immediate "priority." That is to say, there is a short-term plan to protect the business-as-usual that led to the violence, and there exists no long-range plan to use the might of the United States and its allies as a revolutionary force to establish democratic freedom and civil justice in the most fiery hot beds of discontent. That myopia is typical of the political-economic worshipers of fickle Fortuna with their faith in the profitability of "continuous change" and "perpetual innovation." Therefore we have today, for example, Iraq as a worst enemy instead of a Iraq as a best friend, a friend such as Germany and Japan became after their defeat. Speaking of Germany, few ordinary people - the most important people in a democracy - have the presence of mind to recall the grievous consequences of sanctions on Germany subsequent to World War I. Must we always have second and third wars, maybe more, to correct our mistakes? Perhaps so, since courageous rich people continue to indirectly persecute poor people in hopes they will overthrow their gun-toting oppressors.
By now we have all heard the fine political advertisements for a third world war, this one on terrorists: illegal warriors. And we have heard eloquent speeches condemning the brutal violation of civil rights and the crimes against humanity committed by the Taliban. The advance of civilization is measured by the status of women; the eyes of the feminists were almost glazed over by the drum-beating rhetoric in Congress, but the conditions of non-violence or peace did not include righting the wrongs and relieving the women of their barbarous conditions.
Yes, one ordinary man on the street did advocate the restoration of Afghan women at least to their former status before the religious students seized power, but he was ridiculed by free women for doing so. Alas, Afghan women once held half of the governmental positions, and were seventy percent of the teaching force, but now they can be legally murdered for educating their girls.
No, Madame, we brave men are not nation-builders. That is not our job. That is against the rigid, neurotic ideology which focuses on immediate means as goals regardless of their consequences. After all, if we rigidly focus on our current priority, we remain flexible just in case opportunities for corporate profits arise.
Now, then, please do not get the mistaken impression from my statements that I am advocating terrorism - is not all violence terrifying? But I do advocate speaking the truth, whatever the truth may be, even if it comes from the lips of murderers or Satan himself. I may advocate that the world is flat because my senses tell me it is flat. Others may offer reasonable evidence that it is round. Until then I shall believe it is flat: roundness is not a viable alternative as of yet. Therefore do speak out for roundness. In the interim I have this to say: Since there is no international authority to sway with civil disobedience or to effect a nonviolent revolution by the force of love, I believe only a nonviolent revolutionary reaction to global terrorism, instead of mere revenge or police action to maintain the old order, can bring about revolutionary change.
Terrorists, with their propaganda by violent deeds and the reactions thereto, often expect people to rise up and embrace violence. For example, as the moral activist Dave Dellinger pointed out, the fatal mistake of the Weathermen was their faith in provoking a violent revolution, but the people were not willing to embrace violence. Fortunately, as bad as our System in the United States is, nonviolent revolution and radical reform is still possible. In fact, it was nonviolence and not violence that won the war against the United States' war of terror against the peasants of Vietnam. Now we have yet another example of terrifying dissidence on a global scale rather than on a local street; we have terrorists who believe their violent crimes against humanity will bring about a global holy war against the money-grubbing "infidels" - we can see religion is merely a veil over the underlying conflict. Hence the terrorists perceived the symbolic financial center as a military target, and instead of courageously getting in a truck and attacking a military base with rifles, they committed a cowardly act and martyred themselves along with their victims. We must see to it that none died in vain.
No doubt the sort of holy war foreseen by the terrorists is highly unlikely. However, now that the horrendous deed is done, we do have a golden opportunity to regulate the reaction to ensure that such deeds will not be done time and time again. Simply continuing the status quo at the beck and call of neo-liberal corporatism protected by its governmental police centralized into a homeland security force will not suffice to allay further and even more violent attacks. Therefore the time is meet to vehemently contradict the White House and Congress and to make final peace our collective priority instead of current war. If that is to be accomplished nonviolently, solidarity of the peoples of all nations is required. We must realize that oppressors and oppressed are mutually entrapped; we must break the shackles of ignorance and we must unite, keeping in mind all the while that truly democratic peoples do not tolerate violence between and among themselves.
Unless we bring our governments to heel there will be no alternative available for powerless people except sporadic terrorism. We have no effective international authority for them to engage with civil disobedience; we have no international legislature, judiciary or executive. Absent international law to keep or to break, there can be no justice or injustice, thus the tooth-and-claw law of the jungle rules. If the peoples within the democratic nations do not bring their respective governments to heel and in solidarity demand the justice that is absent in so many quarters be brought to those quarters, their corporations and the political servants of those corporations will continue to run roughshod over helpless people. And, tragically, fat, dumb and happy people who do not really mean any harm, yet who are unwilling to make sacrifices now, shall, in the long run, suffer disastrous consequences at the hands of terrorists. For in the long run, if we do not fear and love one another, we shall be destroyed.
(1) Dave Dellinger is best known as the most consistent contemporary advocate of revolutionary nonviolence. At the 1969 Chicago Conspiracy Trial, he was accused by the prosecution of being the "principle architect" of the demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the scene of the notorious police riots. Dave's behavior was entirely nonviolent and was in fact consistent with peaceful demonstration and with the civil rights identified in the U.S. Constitution. The events of those years are entirely relevant to today's continuing struggle for freedom and should be carefully studied lest the lessons Dave passed on to us from his predecessors be lost along with our precious freedoms.