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A Life ConnectedThank you to everyone who had a vegan revelation this year — so much more powerful than a resolution 🙂 A revelation that there is another way, a better way. A revelation that you don’t have to stick to old habits. A revelation that you can save lives, help the planet, and live a life connected to your values. A revelation so powerful that excuses just don’t cut it anymore. Sure, anyone can make a resolution stick for a while if they just put their mind to it. But there’s just no stopping you once you put your heart to something.

So, thank you, now and forever, for all you’re doing to make the world a better, more compassionate place.

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Henry-David-ThoreauThis chapter in Ira Chernus’ American Nonviolence discusses the contributions of U.S. author Henry David Thoreau to the nonviolence movement.  Jumping to the end of the chapter, Chernus points out that, ironically, while people tend to count Thoreau among the heroes of nonviolence, Thoreau “never actually embraced the principle of nonviolence” (54).  He supported violent revolutionary acts such as John Brown’s assault on Harper’s Ferry.  Neither did Thoreau have confidence in the efforts of social justice activists.  Thoreau saw social justice activists, at least those working to change policy and institutions, as wasting their time – he thought it was more important to change “individual souls” rather than social institutions: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root” (52).  He urged reformers to look within themselves and change themselves rather than trying to change others.

Still it seems he recognized that these individuals were the building blocks of society and societal institutions and that “one man expressing his own opinion amounted to the re-origination of many of the institutions of society” (53).  What Thoreau found to be of utmost interest and importance was waking each individual to follow their conscience — even when this means breaking unjust laws.

His philosophy of commitment to conscience led to his own short stay (one night) in jail for refusing to pay taxes which supported the U.S. war against Mexico and also a government (the U.S.) that supported slavery.  This experience led to his writing his infamous “Civil Disobedience” which in turn influenced Mohandas Gandhi and countless nonviolence activists.  This contribution to nonviolence theory is why Thoreau is still exalted as a nonviolence theorist.

Thoreau’s way of thinking moves beyond the thinking of Thomas Hobbes, who believed that any government was better than no government.  Hobbes believed that because people were innately selfish and brutish, that we must transfer our right to self-rule (and even violence) to the state.  Hobbes believed the government is a necessary evil.  To Hobbes, there is no such thing as an unjust law because right and wrong is determined by the law.

Thoreau on the other hand, sees justice as our primary loyalty, not laws.  He foresaw a day when this adherence to conscience by masses of individuals would lead to the obsolescence of the state — what Thoreau called a “glorious State.”  Rather than looking to the state for guidance and punishment, each would look to themselves and their own good conscience for what is morally right.  The state would wither and become unnecessary.  Chernus calls this Thoreau’s “political ideal” of “enlightened anarchy” (51).

Chernus, Ira. 2004. “Henry David Thoreau.” 45-55 in American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

A Life ConnectedNonviolence United explains Nonviolence as connection; whereas violence is disconnection. This is fundamental to what is taught by the heroes of Nonviolence.

Mohandas Gandhi taught a continual search for the truth – to connect while eliminating disconnection (lies — even lies we tell ourselves, propaganda, personal disconnection of choices and their effects).

Cesar Chavez taught us that when we buy consciously and live our lives consistently with our values we can build a fair society – connection of our choices and their effects can build a society reflective of those values; disconnection builds a schizophrenic society that doesn’t reflect, respect or uphold our values.

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us of “interbeing”- that everyone and everything is connected; how even a piece of paper holds the soil, the tree, the sky, the clouds and the rain that gave birth to it.

And Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us of how the disconnection from how we waste our resources on hate, militarism and materialism rather than on uplifting humanity is limiting our true potential.

You’ll also hear from the masters of Nonviolence their call for love. As Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, “Love is the essence (the core, the heart) of Nonviolence.” But what is love? How can we love our enemies when they cause us so much pain?

Love in the tradition of Nonviolence doesn’t mean acceptance of an opponent. It doesn’t even mean you have to like your opponent. Love means connecting to the potential of your opponent. Love means seeing yourself in your opponent.

Imagine yourself as your opponent. We each may remember a time when we were not who we are now. We believed different things; we acted in different ways. If you sat down and had a conversation with your past self about issues now important to you, you might not even like that person. If your past self was in front of you today, you might even see that person as an opponent.

But what if you hate or dismiss or even hurt your past self? Would that person have had the opportunity to reach their potential? How might you help them along the path? Think of how much more powerful it would be to recognize the potential for good in your opponent, to foster their potential, and to offer a hand in their reaching that potential. That is love.

If you haven’t yet taken the time to learn more about or listen to the wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh, this short interview excerpt offers a perfect opportunity. I found it a most helpful refresher course in the art of compassion.

All one.
🙂

March 31 marks the birthday of Cesar Chavez, one of the all-time heroes of Nonviolence. Cesar understood the interconnection between human rights, environmental stewardship, and animal protection. He taught us how our consumer choices affect the world around us. And he truly “walked the talk” — making consumer choices connected to his values of kindness, justice, and compassion for other people, for the planet, and for all animals. Ahead of his time? Or, maybe, just in time.

We thought it might be helpful for those of you interested in practicing and advancing Active Nonviolence to offer a synopsis of what, strangely and sadly, is a rare find — a book looking deeply into Cesar Chavez’ genius in understanding and using Nonviolence.

This is not a book “review” but rather a short synopsis for those who can’t find time to read further. For those who can make the time, we highly recommend it.

Cesar Chavez and the Common Sense of Nonviolence
Orosco, Jose-Antonio. 2008.
Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.

Orosco points out that the contributions of Cesar Chavez to Nonviolence theory have been largely ignored or overlooked (as in Ira Chernus’ American Nonviolence) or have been kept in the shadow of the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s adaptations of the Nonviolent strategies of Mohandas Gandhi.  With Cesar Chavez and the Common Sense of Nonviolence, Orosco places the spotlight on the unique aspects of Chavez’ contributions and the important differences between his ideas and the ideas of other Nonviolence theorists.

Orosco reminds us that Cesar Chavez (who only attended school through the eighth grade) tends not to be recognized in academic circles as an “intellectual” as are Gandhi, King, Richard Gregg, and Gene Sharp, but that this is an unfortunate oversight.  He calls Chavez a “community intellectual” – someone who may not come from the world of academia, but nonetheless contributes to an important body of knowledge.  Chavez’ knowledge instead comes from real-world experience and on-the-ground testing of his theories.  But Chavez was also an accomplished speaker and speech writer.  Most of Orosco’s claims of Chavez’ beliefs and strategies come from recorded and written speeches of Chavez during his activism spanning across four decades.

Orosco breaks the primary points of Chavez’ theory of Nonviolence into five distinct chapters:

Chapter one explains Chavez’ strategies for recruiting and activism.  He drew from his experiences in the Latino/a culture to create a three-fold strategy that included pilgrimage (as in marching and suffering together to create a community of activists), penitence (evoking Christian beliefs of penitence and his own stress on the importance of reflection on motivations to make them unselfish), and revolution (while Orosco admits Chavez was a reformist working through political channels, he shows that Chavez’ long-term goal was nothing short of transforming the U.S. culture to one of compassion and cooperation).

Chapter two includes a strong and effective rebuttal to claims by some academics (specifically Ward Churchill) and activist theorists (specifically Che Guevara and Frantz Fanon) that Nonviolence bows to the state and remains impotent by ignoring violent means as potentially effective in creating social change.  Orosco shows how Chavez claims that that type of thinking is limited in its creativity, ignores the true nature of power (as proposed by Gene Sharp and by Hannah Arendt), and is ultimately reverted to because of an inability to lead people (34).  Regarding the nature of power, Chavez makes an interesting point about government in this chapter saying that the type of government really doesn’t matter – the will of the people is where power lies.

Chapter three included Chavez’ reasoning behind the fruitlessness (and dangers) of property destruction, mostly because it contradicts the end goal of Chavez – a just society.

Chapter four speaks to the claims that machismo equals violence.  Chavez says that just the opposite is true – that giving one’s life to others is more powerful than taking lives.  He supports feminist theory and the idea that power and the means for maintaining power should be available to all not just those with physical or political might.  Orosco reminds us of the important roles of influential women in the lives of not only Chavez, but of Tolstoy, Gandhi, and King.

Finally, chapter five contrasts the use of time by King and Chavez.  King used “crisis time” to evoke change and to motivate activists, the public, and politicians.  Chavez resisted this tactic and instead set his strategy on moving toward a new social paradigm of collaboration.  This required everyday citizens to maintain a “daily commitment” to Nonviolence and to the strategies that would lead toward a more just society – not simply a crisis-motivated piece of legislation.  Orosco reminds us that King moved toward this strategic use of time and moral commitment after 1966 when he began to focus on the Vietnam War and the Poor People’s Campaign.

All one,

🙂

Most of us have felt the unconditional love of an animal… that deep bond that seems to go beyond our human connections. We talk to our dogs and to our cats and sometimes we connect with them more deeply than with anyone else. They love us… and we love them.

You can feel that connection again and again by giving your love to every animal — those we call our pets, wild animals, and those who suffer on farms and in factory farms. Make Vegan and cruelty-free choices to align with your true love for animals.

Expand your circle of compassion and the love will come back to you a thousand times.

Visit ALifeConnected.org for ideas on everyday choices that can help build a better world.

AccusationsWe posted this earlier in a longer article. But, the article was so long many people didn’t read far enough to find it. So we offer this again in the spirit of helping you, the world, and the emerging Occupy Movement.

THIS IS A CONSUMER REVOLUTION.  The state of the world is not being done TO us; it is being done BY us.  The solution isn’t outside us, it isn’t in the next political savior, it isn’t on Wall Street.  Every consumer choice EACH of us made in the past helped build the world we live in today. WE put those in power who are in power today.  WE polluted, we enslaved, we killed, WE paid for it all.  This isn’t about evil corporations, it’s about UNTHINKING CONSUMERISM.

NOW, every single choice from this moment forward will build the world of tomorrow.  SHIFT THAT POWER!  If you consume consciously only things that are aligned with your values of KINDNESS, JUSTICE, and COMPASSION… THAT is the world you will build.  If not, expect more of the same — a world out of control, twisted against everything we stand for.  This is our great power; this is our great responsibility.

Recognize that YOU already have the power.  YOU always have.  Politicians aren’t going to change that.  Corporations aren’t going to change that.  YOU matter and YOU make a difference.

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT TO GRASP because THIS is the Movement.  Everyone, every single human being is a consumer.  I don’t mean “shop till you drop” consumption (although many are dropping because of our consumption).  I mean we must consume (eat, drink, dress ourselves, find shelter, etc.) to survive.  Those simple consumer choices are not so simple and they are not personal choices — every choice you make has an impact on the world around you, on everyone, on everything.  We’ve been making unthinking consumer choice through:

  • our food choices (wasting resources, killing animals, polluting/destroying the planet, slave labor)
  • clothing (supporting slavery and prison labor, polluting, often killing animals)
  • shelter (destroying the planet, using non-renewable resources, stealing from future generations)

And the rest is just stuff we don’t even NEED!  What were we thinking?  Answer: we weren’t.  Well, now we are!  Now we must!

If you’re not in the streets protesting (and even if you are), you’re still a part of this movement.  Every human being is part of this Movement.  Every single consumer/human is building toward a new system of justice or perpetuating the system of exploitation.  It really is that simple.

EVERY consumer choice you make, EVERYTHING you buy or decide NOT to buy is either part of the solution or part of the problem.  It’s part of the collaborative NEW PARADIGM or it is in direct support of the violent exploitative paradigm you are actively fighting against.

“Talk is cheap; it’s how we organize and live our lives that says what we stand for.” – Cesar Chavez

Even if you’re in the streets “fighting for what’s right” — if you’re buying/wearing your Nike slave labor chemical soaked animal skin shoes, eating a McDonald’s burger (or any animal product), snacking on Hershey’s slave-labor cow’s-milk chocolate, driving your new gas-powered car, and wondering how your 401k might be doing rather than WHAT it is doing (not even knowing in what you’re invested)… are you really part of the solution?  Are you really part of the new paradigm?  Or are you just wasting your time — nailing one foot to the floor before running the marathon.

THIS is the Movement.  It’s a conscious CONSUMER REVOLUTION.  It is a movement of personal responsibility, of personal conscience, of BRAVERY to step out of the confines and comfort of the way it has been into the light of how it could be.

‎It’s time for a revolution. The weapon is in your heart. The weapon is love. It can not run out of ammunition; it cannot be disarmed; and when the war is won, we all win.

Years ago I’d ask audiences, “Who thinks corporations have too much control over our governments, over our lives?” Maybe 1/2 would slowly raise their hands and I’d have to explain what I meant.

Today every hand in the room shoots up… and some people stand up and cheer!

“Why do these giant corporations have so much power?” I’d ask.

“They have all the money!” someone yells.

“And where do they get the money?”…

Silence.

“Oh… us.”

The state of the world isn’t being done TO us; it’s being done BY us. We have the power to turn it around.  Consume consciously.  In every part of your life.  What you eat, buy, consume, read, watch…

The question is not, “Can ONE person really make a difference?”  You already ARE making a difference.  The question is, “What kind of difference do you want to make?”  Will you be part of the ongoing problem; or will you be part of the solution.  Yes, you matter.  The power is in your hands.

USA Martin Luther King Jr postage stampThis is a short answer to a question sent to NonviolenceUnited.org (thank you for the question!)

Q: What is violence and what are some examples of “violence against Society?”

A: We are all connected.  More and more people are beginning to re-understand this interconnectedness – that our choices and actions affect not only our lives but the lives of others – even on the other side of the planet, even those we’ll never meet.  We are all connected.  violence, in a nutshell…is anything that works against that natural interconnectedness – it’s an expression of disconnection.

Martin Luther King, Jr. explained that “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny… and for some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”  To reach our potential, we must be mutually supportive of one another.

And violence against society?  Ultimately, any form of violence works against society because it works to unravel that fabric of an interdependent community.  But, violence takes many forms.  We’re so immersed in outright physical violence (war, terrorism by the state and by individuals, domestic violence, child abuse, robbery, rape, murder, drug wars, and so much more) that sometimes we may not recognize the other rampant violence of racism, militarism, speciesism, poverty and materialism (and by this, I mean individual over-consumption as well as the corporatized propaganda and policy that drive it).  Paraphrasing Gandhi, when we use more than we need, we are stealing from someone else.

So, violence against society is basically “othering” within the community (world community or other smaller community).  It is the creating an “other” out of someone who is actuality a part of US, who we’re in reality connected to.  Othering is an irrational, unnecessary, and certainly hurtful belief that anyone in our world community (all humans and all non-human animals… and even nature itself) are somehow separate from ourselves.

Did I mention we’re all connected? 🙂

All one,

🙂 m

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