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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…)

Looking Backwards

September 27, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Politics

On Taking a ‘Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize’ 

by David Swanson

Jody Williams’ new book is called My Name Is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize, and it’s a remarkable story by a remarkable person.  It’s also a very well-told autobiography, including in the early childhood chapters in which there are few hints of the activism to come.

One could read this book and come away thinking, “Anyone really could win the Nobel Peace Prize” — if people in fact told their children they could do that instead of telling them they could be president, and if one was thinking of Nobel peace laureates as saintly beings.  In a certain sense, of course, anyone can win the Nobel Peace Prize, as it’s often given to good people who have nothing to do with peace, and at other times it’s given to warmongers.  To win the Nobel Peace Prize and deserve it, as Williams did — that’s another story.  That requires not saintliness, but activism.

Activism is usually 99% perspiration and the dedication that drives it, just like genius.  But in the case of the Nobel Peace Prize, and of the sort of rapid success it honors when applied in accordance with Alfred Nobel’s will, the perspiration is 49%.  The other 50% is timing.  The activists who recruited Williams to lead the campaign to ban landmines had the timing perfect. (more…)


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