There is only one thing that people need to understand about violence: It is cyclical. The cycle is not only perpetuated by the perpetrator it is also cyclical in the sense that a victim of violence is more likely to commit violence in return or deem it acceptable to begin a new cycle. Some say that this is just human nature. This must be disputed. There are many human natures. To say that violence is a natural element of human life can be understood as true in a historic sense. But we are moving into a future of nonviolence for humanity. There is no doubt that our world is an awesome and destructive place, it is however equally beautiful and creative. I believe we are moving into an era where the productivity of humanity will finally defeat the destructive impulses.
Nonviolence is not just a value or a way of life, it is also a powerful strategy for social movements. Dictators can be toppled overnight with the right amount of people participating. No bloodshed necessary. There is no shortage of literature written on the topic. Gene Sharp has provided perhaps the best objective analytic framework for the discussion with this books Waging Nonviolent Struggle, From Dictatorship To Democracy, Sharp’s Dictionary Of Power And Struggle, and Civilian Based Defense.
The issue of nonviolence is immediately pressing for the city of Oakland. Particularly as the attempt to occupy a large unknown building is being discussed for January 28th. We have attracted the attention of the world with the previous violence of our police. Some believe that this violence was justified. This must be disputed. Violence is never justified. We now have the opportunity to show the world that Oakland has a deeper power laying dormant beneath the high crime rates and long record of police abuses. This is nonviolent people power. It is people power that will make the January 28th building occupation successful. Therefore the cabal of secret planners should affirm the necessity of nonviolence and repudiate the so-called “diversity of tactics.”
The occupy wall street movement upheld an initial commitment to nonviolence. Even in the face of massive arrests and shady police behavior the people in New York have remained essentially nonviolent compared with the talk one hears in and about Oakland. The New York occupiers even requested Oakland to sign a commitment to nonviolence with the threat of financial sanctions if we failed to make such promises. The movement is now at a crossroads. We can either unleash our people power and throw every nonviolent tactic possible at the system and the hearts and minds of the brainwashed masses. Or we can continue down the road of violence and destruction.
The choice should be simple. To understand the violent impulse is not difficult. Surely at one time or another everyone has had some sort of confrontation that either led to violence or thoughts of violence. This by no means excuses the behavior nor the thoughts. Instead we must learn to dialogue and keep our passions to a verbal level. This should never include harassment, coercion, or verbal abuse.
It bears repeating that if the private cabal of planners for the January 28th building occupation fail to embrace nonviolence then the struggle for them is already lost. Without people power, they will not be able to hold a large building occupation and without community support there is no way to maintain the building nor provide a demand for events. In order for this to work we must first build bridges with the community and also demand that the good people in City Hall require the police to stand down.
The potential of the building occupation is massive. It would provide much needed office space for continuing the community organizing. It would provide an area for special events and dialogue. It would be a gesture of good faith to the community (not just the occupiers) if City Hall allowed the occupation to proceed unhindered. There is room for plenty of collaboration.
Nonviolence is the best, most productive strategy for political conflicts. But it is most valuable when it is embraced from a moral, ethical or spiritual perspective. When adapted from such a perspective an agent can be confident that they are taking “the high road” (please forgive the hierarchical element of this idea). This perspective is one of the foundational ideas behind the Occupy movement. Unfortunately the violent impulses were stoked by police repression and too many people are having difficulty with self-control. We must always remember to occupy our hearts with love and minds with peace before we get out in the streets to make the changes that our society so desperately needs.