When it comes to nonviolence, the best learning tool is our own experiences

We have an unfailing “library” of experiences to learn from — that is, once we know what to look for.

In part one of this series five-part series about personal empowerment, we touched on what can be considered the most important single action an individual — any individual — can take to begin to restore a sane direction to our culture: Back away from the commercial media. We regard this as the most important project to restore a sane direction to humanity. 

In my new book “The Third Harmony,” I offer more details on how our media went off the rails. One aspect not touched on there is what one journalist has called the “journalism of deference” in which the White House and the military control the presentation of war-related news, creating, in other words, the “military-industrial, media and entertainment complex.”

Here, for a breath of fresh air, let’s look into step two: “Learn all you can about nonviolence.” 

On the psychological level any positive news will help us, as common sense, personal experience and a lot of science confirm. At the Metta Center, we believe that news about nonviolence — and anything we can learn about nonviolence — is particularly effective because we regard nonviolence as the most positive thing that can be said about the human being, and about our possibilities in this world.

Raising this consciousness is precisely Metta’s project, of course, which we try to carry out with all our projects that are aimed both at the level of particulars and their overall meaning for our culture and life. In other words, we are focused on facts about nonviolence itself and efforts to build a culture based on that principle.  Accordingly, we suggest that people go to our website, books, courses, etc. as our default recommendation for anyone who wants to begin or deepen their journey to that discovery.

When Metta was born in 1981, you could read just about everything available on the subject of nonviolence — leaving aside Gandhi’s enormous contribution — in a few years.  Now it would take a few lifetimes. Academic programs were nearly nonexistent; now there are several within the peace studies fold that do a creditable job on nonviolence, like the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford and the Endowed Chair in Resistance Studies at UMass, Amherst held by Prof. Stellan Vinthagen.  (Since there is virtually no funding in post-secondary education for anything outside science and technology, an endowed chair — which I tried in vain to establish at Berkeley — is about the only way to open the field).

Outside the universities, we have free-standing institutes like the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in Washington, D.C. and specifically nonviolence-oriented non-profits like Metta, Nonviolence International, The Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz, the MK Gandhi Center for Nonviolence in Rochester and others.

All these resources are useful in themselves, and most useful as preparations for the best learning tool: our own experiences.  Nonviolence begins within us (the “third harmony”) and can express itself in almost any situation on any scale from one-on-one interactions to global politics. 

We have an unfailing “library” of experiences to learn from — that is, once we know what to look for.  To be clear, we don’t just look at immediate, tangible results, but also for processes going on under the surface that may show up far down the road, not infrequently with better results than we were aiming at. 

At Metta we call this “work” vs. work, and the classic example is Gandhi’s salt campaign of 1930, which actually achieved very little in terms of relief from the oppressive salt laws but which many recognize as the end of British colonial rule that was formalized 17 years later.  Spot some of your own! It’s a lot of fun.

This story was produced by Metta Center for Nonviolence

We provide educational resources on the safe and effective use of nonviolence, with the recognition that it’s not about putting the right person in power but awakening the right kind of power in people. We advance a higher image of humankind while empowering people to explore the question: How does nonviolence work, and how can I actively contribute to a happier, more peaceful society?

Waging Nonviolence partners with other organizations and publishes their work.