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constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted
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Reflections on Ferguson

November 26, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Politics, Randall Amster

Cover of Darkness, Rays of Light

by Randall Amster

The announcement arrived at the telegraphed moment, conveniently scheduled for prime time in most zones. A decision said to shed light on a matter of national importance is revealed only after dark, with the lede buried under a pile of prosecutorial dereliction. When the decisive words newfergseasonsare finally uttered, they echo with unintended irony as a broken system delivers its own self-indictment: “No True Bill.”

We’ve been here before, far too many times. Anguish fills the air, slowly replaced by tear gas and smoke. Rage smolders from the friction of perpetual despair, finally igniting fires that engulf a handful of structures. People are urged to lodge their complaints but keep their place, to express their views but only from the sidelines, to follow the rule of law but relegate their quest for justice. The convenient spectacle of “violence in the streets” obscures the perpetuation of “structural violence” everywhere. (more…)

The Art of Satyagraha

May 09, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Michael N. Nagler, Politics

Achieving ‘Victory’ With, Not Over, the Forces of Conflict

by David Swanson

Michael Nagler has just published The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action, a quick book to read and a long one to digest, a book that’s rich in a way that people of a very different inclination bizarrely imagine Sun Tzu’s to be.  That is, rather than a collection of misguided platitudes, this book proposes what still remains a radically different way of thinking, a habit of living that is not in our air. In fact, Nagler’s first piece of advice is to avoid the airwaves, turn off the television, opt out of the relentless normalization of violence.

We don’t need the art of war applied to a peace movement. We need the art of satyagraha applied to the movement for a peaceful, just, free, and sustainable world.  This means we have to stop trying to defeat the Military Industrial Complex (how’s that been working out?) and start working to replace it and to convert the people who make up its parts to new behaviors that are better for them as well as for us.

It can seem out of place to shift from a discussion of the world’s largest military to personal interactions. Surely giving John Kerry a complete personality transplant would leave in place corrupt elections, war profiteering, complicit media outlets, and the assumption held by legions of career bureaucrats that war is the way to peace. (more…)

Life Beyond Icons

February 14, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Matt Meyer, Politics

Two Things We Should Remember about Mandela and Seeger

by Matt Meyer

Whether one talks of and worships heroes who we can only hope to emulate, or of the more literal definition of a religious-based or computer-screen-based symbol to follow, the last weeks have not been kind to progressive icons. Death and dismemberment by mass media has caused the splashing of countless smiling images upon us, but blurred the messages which were central to the lives of dear Madiba and Pete.

If we are going to build vibrant, relevant future movements like the ones those two helped to generate for their times, we had best remember some of these central lessons gleaned from decades of lifelong commitment, growth, and struggle.

Here are just two lessons, common and central to both men, which are too often left way out of the central messaging being spread about their lives: (more…)

Lessons from Tahrir

January 28, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Swanson, Politics

Give Me Liberty…

by David Swanson

I still want Dirty Wars to win the Oscar, but The Square is a documentary worth serious discussion as we hit the three-year point since the famous occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo that overthrew Mubarak — in particular because a lot of people seem to get a lot of the lessons wrong.

I suppose some people will leave Dirty Wars imagining that we need clean wars, whatever those would be.  But too many people seem to be drawing from The Square lessons they brought with them to it, including these: Thou shalt have a leader; thou shalt work within a major political party; thou shalt have an identifiable group of individuals ready to take power.  I don’t think following these commandments would have easily changed the past three years in Egypt; I don’t think they’re where Egyptians should be heading; and I’m even more confident they’re blind alleys in the United States — where they serve as supposed remedies for the supposed failings of Occupy. (more…)

World Beyond War

January 15, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Politics

Building a Global Movement to End All War

by David Swanson

I’ve been involved in starting enough activist campaigns and coalitions to know when one has more potential than any other I’ve seen.  When hundreds of people and organizations are signing up on the website before you’ve announced it anywhere, and nine World Beyond Warmonths before you plan to officially launch, and when a large percentage of the people signing on ask how they can donate funding, and when people from other countries volunteer to translate your declaration into other languages, and when committees form of volunteer women and men to work on a dozen different aspects of the planning — and they actually get to work in a serious way, and when none of this is due to anything in the news or any statement from anyone in government or any contrast between one political party and another, then it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to help build as a movement. (more…)

Becoming Mandela

December 31, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Matt Meyer, Politics

Media and the Making of Future Madibas

by Matt Meyer

Reading through well over one hundred portrayals of Nelson Mandela, and through the extensive comments made on my own “don’t mourn a myth” perspective which urged that we better understand the contradictions inherent in the man, it is hard not to conclude that few are worth a second look. If we are working towards assembling a collection of remembrances which might further the causes Mandela once championed, this month of memorials makes little contributions. Despite a fairly shallow overview in the New York Times Magazine, author Bill Keller was at least correct that Madiba was no saint, and that – in fact – it was his all-too-common human attributes of anger, aging, inconsistency and such that should make it possible for people to “aspire to his example.” (more…)

Remembering Mandela

December 06, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, David Swanson, Politics

What Didn’t Kill Him Made Him Stronger

by David Swanson

Nelson Mandela’s story, if told as a novel, would not be deemed possible in real life.  Worse, we don’t tell such stories in many of our novels.

A violent young rebel is imprisoned for decades but turns that imprisonment into the training he needs.  He turns to negotiation, diplomacy, reconciliation.  He negotiates free elections, and then wins them. He forestalls any counter-revolution by including former enemies in his victory.  He becomes a symbol of the possibility for the sort of radical, lasting change of which violence has proved incapable.  He credits the widespread movement in his country and around the world that changed cultures for the better while he was locked away.  But millions of people look to the example of his personal interactions and decisions as having prevented a blood bath.

Mandela was a rebel before he had a cause.  He was a fighter and a boxer.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that South Africa benefited greatly from the fact that Mandela did not emerge from prison earlier: “Had he come out earlier, we would have had the angry, aggressive Madiba. As a result of the experience that he had there, he mellowed. … Suffering either embitters you or, mercifully, ennobles you.  And with Madiba, thankfully for us, the latter happened.” (more…)