Nonviolence For The Win
Would Gandhi REALLY Use Social Media?

This is a bit of a goodbye post.

You see, I read this article recently by the extraordinary Nipun Mehta, whose work you should definitely check out.

And I realized I disagreed with it.

For one thing,

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Pointing fingers

In the past few months, I’ve had both coffee and chocolate that weren’t fair trade—which means I may have been consuming the product of child labor. I’ve eaten grains and vegetables from vast, habitat-killing monocrops. I’ve purchased products from stores that likely put the money they earned in Wells Fargo bank accounts, where it was then spent at or invested in corporations like Phillip Morris, Monsanto and Nestle. Those purchases perpetuated a capitalist system that steadily produces more inequality between the rich and the poor, pushes people into soul-killing work, feeds them the myth of happiness through rapacious consumption, and pits them against one another.

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Diversity of Tactics II: Us and Them

In a comment on this Waging Nonviolence post Nathan Schneider scoops me on something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks now:

"I think part of the disagreement is that many people who come to OWS come as gray-area bystanders, not always sure if they’re part of it or not, even if they want to be. The boundaries are porous…. A perspective of nonviolence might suggest that everyone is at least potentially part of the movement, so we should all be nonviolent with one another. If one is nonviolent to allies, but potentially violent to enemies, does one always know which is which? Do activists need to wear uniforms, to be sure?…"

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On Fat

Having just completed a fast, I’ve been thinking a bit about weight loss. I thought I might re-share something I wrote elsewhere on my grounding perceptions on the issue of fat, health and discrimination.

With citations! Citations are so exciting. Without further ado:

1) If something contributes to marginalization or discrimination on
any grounds, something is wrong, full stop. Data from research is
useful for answering many questions. “Is it okay to stigmatize
someone?” is not one of those questions.

2) Any movement, including local foods, will be stronger if it’s not
based in marginalization or discrimination.

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Diversity of Tactics: Thou Shalt Not Interfere

I believe everyone’s heard about the police rioting yesterday in Oakland. You’ve probably also heard about the diversity of tactics, including the unfortunate call to smash up an art exhibit some kids made. Maybe now is a good time for some thoughts on the subject.

For a while, I thought of “diversity of tactics” as code for “sabotage and violence.” Now, though, I’m pretty sure I had that wrong. Check out this definition from the RNC Welcoming Committee:

"Diversity of Tactics: A tactic is a practice intended to achieve a goal. There may be many ways to ’skin a cat,’ and this principle insists that while we may choose to identify or practice only one type of tactic, we leave the policing of tactics to the police. We will not attack our sisters and brothers for using tactics that are not our own. Having a diversity of tactics means we are stronger overall."

"[W]e leave the policing of tactics to the police": Everyone agrees that they won’t interfere with any tactics being used by anyone else. There will be no conversation about what’s on and off the table, because everything is always on the table. So it’s not diversity of tactics vs. nonviolence. It’s diversity of tactics vs. strategy. More importantly, it’s diversity of tactics vs. having deeper agreements.

I want deeper agreements. That isn’t about violence or window-smashing. It’s about thinking of a tactic—any tactic—that would be totally against what I’m trying to achieve when I take to the streets. Holding up signs that say “Woman is the n***** of the world,” for example.

Then it’s about deciding two things:

1) Can I agree not to stand up to someone who uses that tactic in an action?

2) If the answer to that is no, can I attend this action fully intending to violate the terms that have been set for it?

Sure, part of the reason I disagree with diversity of tactics is about violence and nonviolence. But more basically, it’s about being able to sit down with people and decide what we’re about. It’s about whether or not I can follow the commandment “Thou shalt not interfere.” And like the Alliance of Community Trainers says, it’s about agreements.

Privilege and Gratitude Redux

I once went back and flipped through one of my old journals from a class that introduced me to the world of thinking about privilege and oppression. I did a lot of cringing as I turned those pages, and once again blessed the amazing professor who taught that class. I revealed a lot of my own offensive assumptions in that class, and she could have torn me to shreds. I’m sure she let hundreds of cutting retorts die unspoken.

What she usually did instead was ask questions. She didn’t smash my assumptions, she just drew my attention to them and let me do the painful work that was mine to do.

She never owed me that kind of patience. Educating myself will always be my job and mine alone. Even a professor can only give assistance in that process.

Certain debts can never be repaid; certain wells of gratitude are bottomless. I can never say enough thanks to that professor, or to anyone else who has helped me along the path.

That kind of help is a gift. What is left to me is to use it, to stand up for a world without oppression—to model, as much as I can, the passion and commitment I was so lucky to find in others.

Privilege and Gratitude Redux

I once went back and flipped through one of my old journals from a class that introduced me to the world of thinking about privilege and oppression. I did a lot of cringing as I turned those pages, and once again blessed the amazing professor who taught that class. I revealed a lot of my own offensive assumptions in that class, and she could have torn me to shreds. I’m sure she let hundreds of cutting retorts die unspoken.

What she usually did instead was ask questions. She didn’t smash my assumptions, she just drew my attention to them and let me do the painful work that was mine to do.

She never owed me that kind of patience. Educating myself will always be my job and mine alone. Even a professor can only give assistance in that process.

Certain debts can never be repaid; certain wells of gratitude are bottomless. I can never say enough thanks to that professor, or to anyone else who has helped me along the path.

That kind of help is a gift. What is left to me is to use it, to stand up for a world without oppression—to model, as much as I can, the passion and commitment I was so lucky to find in others.

Permaculture Habits

I’ve started fasting once a week. I’m having a good experience with it so
far, but the other day I was struck by a strange kind of doubt: What will
I say when someone asks why I’m doing this?

There are too many answers! I can’t actually come up with One True Reason.
Will that come across as uncertainty or dishonesty?

But then I went for a walk in the sunlight, among the green trees, and I
started to think about permaculture.

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How learning about my privilege made me a happier person

The world is full of tiny ways to participate in systems of privilege. Peggy McIntosh’s examination of white privilege at work in her own life helps brings many of these privileges into the light of day. “I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.” “I can choose blemish cover or bandages in ‘flesh’ color and have them more or less match my skin.” If I buy those bandages—or chuckle at a joke that demeans women, or accept entry somewhere an undocumented person could not go—I’m feeding my support back into the system.

Privilege comes to us as something we didn’t ask for, but it sticks around as something we quietly say “yes” to every day. And you know what? The life of the quiet yes is a grinding one.

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Suffering

I believe Michael Nagler tells an anecdote somewhere in his PACS 164 lectures about a friend of his who saw him after a conference and exclaimed, “I have discovered the purpose of the peace movement!”

Michael, who had been trying to figure this out himself, encouraged his friend to continue.

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