Saturday, January 15, 2011

Not To Be Violent About It

The role of violence and violent rhetoric has been much in the news since the Tucson shootings. Today, the WP carries an op-ed by former Weather Underground member Mark Rudd on the "logic" behind acts committed in the name of a cause. Rudd notes correctly that he and others who advocate and commit violent acts in the name of some cause or grievance are wholly convinced of the correctness of their actions. He regrets his earlier belief in violence and has since committed himself to non-violent means for protest and change.

Non-violence is certainly one of my closely held values and beliefs. I cannot justify violence unless in response to an actual attack. I would do unto others only as I would have them do unto me. That does not include physical attack. My one experience inflicting violence on others (however minimal that turned out to be) is one of my great regrets in life. Like Mark Rudd, I will not engage in unprovoked violence against anyone. And even thought I think the world would be better off without certain individuals, I cannot in good conscience wish them an untimely demise.

Ted Rall, on the other hand, doesn't fear violence. He thinks that it is the only hope for real change. And he makes a compelling case in his book, The Anti-American Manifesto where he demonstrates the ineffectiveness of non-violent action in America's current political system. Remember the massive world-wide protests against America's war in Iraq? Didn't stop anything, did they? According to Rall, "Only the possibility that the people will attack and possibly kill their rulers and elite oppressors can keep the latter in check."

That's heady stuff. I don't want to kill anyone. But when our politicians and corporations are so wholly unresponsive to the public interest and often act in pursuit of narrow private interests to the detriment of the majority and the environment that make this planet habitable as I truly believe, what good is simply protesting and acting in vain?

I'm not ready to abandon non-violence but the time has come to make real change. In the meantime, I will support what I heard a speaker on Alternative Radio talking aboutlast week. He urges revolution from below based on the idea that state and local governments will no longer accept he domination of economic and political life by the corporations and their public sector apologists. The speaker clearly indicated that the fight will be difficult.

Here in Olympia, the Fellowship of Reconciliation is part of a "Bring the Billions Home" campaign to remind people of where, in this time of all cuts budgets, all of the money goes. For me, it's an important demand for change. Maybe if enough of us make the demand, we can create create the "more perfect Union" that is the promise of America.

I'd rather do than than kill anyone.

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Blogger cile said...

I have not read "The Anti-American Manifesto" but the first thing I thought of was when I read Rall's quote was, "I wonder if I would want to actually live in a country that that was grounded in a violent coup?"...(Oh! Wait!....I do!)

Actually I do not believe it for a minute that anything can be truly "gained" by violence; things can only be maintained with violence. I think democracy is asking both polarities to think beyond the two alternatives of violence and passivity to move out of gridlock and to prosper.

6:22 PM  

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