Put an end to ‘enemy creation’ and ‘othering’ with these 5 actions

After the recent attacks on the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, we must struggle for a safe, secure and nonviolent future.
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With the tragedy that befell eight people including six Asian women in Georgia, more stories are pouring forth of attacks against people of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage — stories of people feeling unsafe in their skin, fearful for their family members’ wellbeing, and for their friends and colleagues. The Metta Center feels the grief and anger with you.

The violence is not new, unfortunately; but perhaps our collective awareness of the need to end the violence is. More and more people are publicly acknowledging that our words matter, grasping that hate speech is more than words but what are called “speech acts” — speech with the intention to alienate and harm. More people are taking to heart the fundamental principle of nonviolence that making others into enemies for national “security” or any other reason has violent and harmful consequences–it stereotypes and dehumanizes them and everyone else in the process. Perhaps Jacques Ellul, French philosopher and Christian anarchist was really on to something when he said , “Ours is not the time of violence. Ours is the time of the awareness of violence.”

But with the awareness of violence must come the awareness of our interconnection, of the power of the human capacity for nonviolence. All violence, against whomever it may be directed, is a violation of that sacred connection with ourselves and each other. It harms both the victim and the perpetrator, and all those in community with them. The sovereign remedy against it, therefore, is to awaken our awareness of the interconnected unity of life and show each other ways we can contribute to the well-being of all.

Our position is not an attempt to simply secure our own protection, as in the famous poem by theologian Martin Niemöller, who wrote: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a socialist… Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.  Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”  

Like all nonviolence, our approach may yield such protections, but it is not based on them.  It is based on our awareness of that sacred unity — however much we have so far achieved.  It is based, conversely, on the anguish we feel for our family members, friends and all those who may be targets of this tragic impulse.  And it is based, finally, on the strong increase of our determination that nothing will stop our work. And, in the words of Lilla Watson, Murri visual artist, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

At the Metta Center, we point people to five ways we can empower ourselves for the everyday struggle for a safe, secure and nonviolent future: 

  1. Cultivate healthy media habits. 

A healthy relationship to media includes being able to recognize dehumanization, scapegoating, and stereotypes, and being in control of what we take in. When you find you are watching or listening to something that draws upon stereotypes for intrigue or humor (laughing at someone else, for example), turn it off. Make a statement that you will not support dehumanization in the media. 

  1. Learn everything you can about nonviolence. 

When we learn more about nonviolence, we also can get the tools we need to intervene in conflict nonviolently to help keep violence from breaking out; we learn about conflict styles; about the nature of dehumanization and the layers of violence that precede direct violence; and we learn with hard evidence just how powerful nonviolence can be at bridging divides and instigating healing when done with love. 

  1. Take up a spiritual practice. 

    Getting a handle on our own minds can help us in all areas of life, including nonviolence. It helps us to become aware when we’re reacting instead of responding, and most importantly, it also helps us to open our hearts to the awareness of interconnection. 

  1. Get more personal with others. 

    The more we humanize one another in our interactions, the easier it is to think about the needs of others in relation to oneself, to include others in our sense of wellbeing, and, again, humanize ourselves. Listen deeply, and train yourself to do this. 

Make connections with — and reach out to — people you know to see how they are feeling about current events, which feels more personal and authentic than simply doing something symbolic like changing a Facebook profile picture. 

  1. Get involved, AND TELL THE STORY. 

Find a project that helps to build constructive nonviolent solutions and support it with your time, energy, and resources. While you’re doing this, make sure you articulate to those who observe your involvement why you are doing what you do. Tell them what changes in your heart are taking place, and how your paradigm is shifting.  This will go far to raise awareness of a new paradigm of “‘heart unity”’ for all those who are only looking at it from the outside. 

May all be safe from harm. May all beings be free.

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.