Very often, the word nonviolence conjures up the image of good people who do not harm others and who, in general, prefer to avoid conflict. Nonviolence is associated with a form of passivity, with not being violent, or even with not asserting ones own rights and reasons.
This is far removed from the philosophy and practice of nonviolence.
Indeed, non-violent struggle enabled India to free itself from bloody British colonialism, the blacks of America to gain recognition of fundamental human rights, the Danes to oppose Nazism and, more recently, the Czech Republic to prevent the installation of a military base that the United States wanted to impose against the will of the majority of the population.
The fact that we do not have adequate information about these movements shows that the social system in which we live is not interested in certain things being known; the discovery that organised people can assert their rights is revolutionary.
Let us take a simple, hypothetical example that can give an idea of what we are talking about. A television station, which is close to the interests of the war industries, propagandises for war through its broadcasts. Most people, trusting, passively watch this monstrosity. Fortunately, some organisations protest, send letters and organise demonstrations. Excellent and fair activities, which unfortunately do not achieve the desired objectives. Then a group decides to break the windows of the TV company’s offices and threaten the management with violence. At first glance, it looks like a strong and determined action by those who have not given up and want to continue the struggle. But in reality it shows the great frustration and impotence that one experiences when confronted with a bigger enemy. In fact, apart from venting one’s anger, nothing is achieved except the aggravation of the conflict, the ensuing repression and the alienation from the struggle of those who do not share the violent and compulsive choices.
A real non-violent option could be to stop watching the broadcasts of that station, a simple switching off of the television, a non-collaboration with that station. It would be enough for a percentage of those who normally watch these programmes to make such a decision to deal a serious blow to the company, which would be forced to review its choices and its policy. So non-violence is not about turning the other cheek, nor is it about violent rebellion, but the force that comes from people coming together.
It is clear then that the real question is how to create this unity and how to create a convergence between organisations fighting for justice and human rights. There is a great truth in the saying “there is strength in unity”. If the majority of people affected by abuse are organised in the same struggle, it becomes a great force. Therefore, a great work is dialogue and direct communication with those who can counteract misinformation. Indeed, timely disinformation, conveyed by the mainstream media, serves precisely to divide people and create factions, pointing to false enemies to blame, and thus preventing the real perpetrators of disaster and violence from being identified. Divide and conquer’ illustrates this concept well.
The unity and cohesion of the people are essential to non-violence. Without this element, non-violence remains only a fine word and, at best, a profound individual choice. One day, people will understand that real power is in their hands when, united, in solidarity and consciousness, they fight for their rights. And any activity in this direction has great significance, even if it does not achieve any concrete results in the immediate term, because it is a broadening of consciousness for the future.
Nonviolence requires confidence in oneself and in others in order to oppose that scepticism which is functional to the system, which makes us say phrases such as: it is useless, it cannot be done, nobody participates, what is the point…. For M. L. King, not opposing injustice and abuse and remaining passive and resigned are forms of collaboration and complicity with the violent. To emphasise this non-passivity, Silo calls the strategy of New Humanism “Active Nonviolence”.
Nonviolence is revolutionary, it requires internal strength, conviction, the ability to step back and move forward at the right moment, reflection, dialogue…. It is based on the unshakeable inner certainty of the validity of the cause for which one is fighting and on the confidence that sooner or later the proposed objectives will be achieved. It is therefore a far cry from giving up at the first failures, from passivity and resignation, and a far cry from violent action that has no future prospects. If we want a truly different society, we cannot use the same values and methodology as the system we are fighting against. On the contrary, the action itself must already contain the seeds of the new world to which we aspire. That is why nonviolence is revolutionary; it aims to change not only concrete situations but also the violent mentality and values that underlie the injustices of our society. “Be the change you want to see in the world’, said Gandhi.
Non-violence is characterised by the rejection of all forms of violence and is based on the principle of “Treat others as you want to be treated”.
Today, in a world where the powerful have unleashed war and governments do nothing to stop it, where speculators get rich on the backs of the people, where the only investments are made in armaments, where even basic necessities such as gas and electricity are owned by a few, non-violent struggle is not only justified, both morally and as a method of action, but is the only way out.
Today, all polls show that in Europe and around the world, the vast majority of the population condemns the aggression against Ukraine, but wants to stop the war through diplomacy, not by sending weapons. It is time for this majority to make its voice heard not only at the polls.
It is urgent to create a great non-violent movement that unites young and old, scientists and artists, military and non-violent, women and men, workers and entrepreneurs, because we are all affected by this crisis.