There’s no real word for Active Nonviolence. Nonviolence is one of those “non” words — a “not” word. But it is much more than not-violence. It is active, creative, courageous, sometimes complicated, often difficult, organized, and driven.

It’s difficult to describe, build, or recognize something that doesn’t have a name. Did the word smiths purposefully write Nonviolence out of our language and therefore out of our understanding?

Even Gandhi struggled with what to call the Nonviolent fight for India’s independence. He announced a contest to find the best word to describe the new powerful movement. Satyagraha, roughly translated from Sanskrit to mean “Truth-Force,” won the contest. But the word Satyagraha hasn’t entirely caught on… it doesn’t really roll off the tongue.

In his book, Nonviolence: 25 Lessons From The History of a Dangerous Idea (meaning “dangerous” to the status quo) Mark Kurlansky asks what if “war” was a non-word? What if the only word for war was “nonpeace?” When we would talk about waging nonpeace, our natural question would be, “Why? Why don’t we want peace?” Nonpeace seems abnormal and impotent. It’s a non-word afterall.

Kurlansky’s book goes on to explore historical examples of Nonviolence, question some of the reasons people support violence, and delve into the “25 Lessons” — all of which are summarized at the end of the book. Here are some “lessons” we found particularly interesting:

  • Practitioners of Nonviolence are seen as enemies of the state.
  • Once a state takes over a religion, the religion loses its Nonviolent teachings.
  • A rebel can be defanged (made less threatening to the status quo) and can be co-opted by making them into a saint after death.
  • Wars do not have to be sold to the general public if they can be carried out by an all-volunteer professional military.
  • A conflict between a violent and a Nonviolent force is a moral argument. If the violent side can provoke the Nonviolent side into violence, the violent side has won.
  • Violence does not resolve. It always leads to more violence.

Thanks for stopping by.  And thank you for all that you do.

🙂 matt