Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Message to Occupy Wall Street — The way forward is the way of Gandhi and King

Michael Nagler, founder of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, has some advice for the protestors. Metta is a Pali word meaning lovingkindness. It comes from Sanskrit mitra, meaning friend. In this context it means "love your enemies." Good advice.


peterc said...

I very much agree with this philosophy. Thanks for the link, Tom.

Clonal said...


My philosophical mentor was one of the founders, along with Michael Nagler of Berkeley's Peace and Conflict Study Program.

The Metta website has links to good videos and audios. His PACS course videos are available on his other website

Anonymous said...

Strongly disagree :(

Tom Hickey said...

"Strongly disagree"

Why, if I may ask?

Anonymous said...

Because the state has a monopoly on the use of force. The reason for this being the rule of law. If you accept the rule of law, then you accept the consequences for breaking the law. Non-violence becomes a legal requirement.

Those who don't accept the rule of law tend to be anarchists. For them, non-violence is a moral/ethical/philosophical question. In the face of state violence many anarchists will feel justified in defending themselves or going on the offensive. They do not accept the state having a monopoly on the use of force, in part because they are opposed to hierarchies.

The relationship between the 99% and the 1% is hardly consensual. It was built and is maintained through a disparity in socioeconomic power. The 1% and their minions will not take kindly to having their privileges revoked, no matter how much goodwill is conveyed. A revolution (if this is what events are leading to) is not some genteel social function.

GLH said...

Probably the real problem with the OWS crowd is that the underclothes cops and CIA will be there long after the orginal occupiers are gone. How long before the leaders are government plants, or Pete Perterson or Koch brothers employess?

selise said...

maybe i was expecting too much... i'm a big fan of nagler (read his 2001 book twice and later "audited" his pacs class via webcast in real time), but there's something about this piece that aggravates me.

i'm not a fan of a principled/strategic nonviolence split -- i think strategic nonviolence without principled nonviolence is dangerous. and i think principled nonviolence without strategic nonviolence is pretty nearly useless.

it's not just nonviolence that is presented as a divided either/or:

"Our fulfillment comes from relationships, not consumption..."

consumption is pretty important to those going without (1 in 7 americans on food stamps! and how many more without the access to healthy food, safe shelter, etc that nagler has?).

"... our security comes from turning enemies into friends, not from eliminating them."

it's not an either/or here either! (strategic nonviolence is pretty clear on the triad of nonviolent conversion/accommodation/coercion -- see gene sharp).

i guess what feels missing is the synthesis. this is not the nagler i remember.

more than that, maybe what irks me is the sense that he is lecturing people on what they should do instead of participating in some way (and being an example of what he wants others to do).

i sorta feel like calling him up and telling him that the occupations ARE clearly practicing "constructive program" by doing democracy together... and in organizing food, media, medical, legal, etc people are taking care and being responsible for and to each other. i really don't like that he dismisses all that as "the easy part" (especially if he hasn't been involved in that work).

... or maybe i just just got up on the wrong side of the bed today and am particularly grumpy. in which case tomorrow i'll be really embarrassed for having written this comment.

Tom Hickey said...

selise, while I agree, I wouldn't be too hard on Nagler here. It's just a short piece and can hardly be expected to get into the nitty gritty.

Personally, I would recommend focusing on strategic nonviolence at the outset as matter of maintaining discipline and control of framing. Strategic nonviolence is the best course if only because the other side controls the state monopoly on violence. Strategic nonviolence is difficult to maintain for many reasons, not the least of which is the use of agents provocateurs. It's also important to prevent a movement from being framed as a mob of rabble, or as something more sinister. Gasparino recently portrayed OWS as a "Marxist epicenter".

Principled nonviolence is much more nuanced and more difficult to apply in terms of a social movement comprised of diverse elements. See, for example, Meher Baba, Discourses, ch. 11 - Violence and Non-Violence, and ch.12 - Violence and Non-Violence (Further Explained). Online version (sixth edition) begins here.

selise said...

tom, i don't actually want to be hard on nagler, more like i want to take issue with that one article. here's an example of a short piece i like much better:

maybe i don't see the divide as you do... but i'm looking forward to taking a look at your link. that's a resource i'm not familiar with. thanks!