Shifting to the new story of nonviolence and interconnectedness

Former UN staff member Tiffany Tool discusses the need to break from a culture of violence and making nonviolence a part of everyday life.

In this special feature for our documentary film, “The Third Harmony: Nonviolence and the New Story of Human Nature,” Tiffany Tool, former UN staff member and Metta board member, points out the immediate relevance of the “new story” — or new model of reality in which all things, and especially all people, are deeply interconnected — to her direct experience applying nonviolent principles in the field. It’s not always easy, Tiffany says, but “That’s how we change; that’s how we grow.”

Tiffany: I think nonviolence is a way of being, and it is work to do. We’ve been raised in different cultures that are very violent. And a lot of the things that we see on TV, in movies, on the internet is very violent. It takes a lot of personal work to understand that that doesn’t have to be the way life is and the way it is.

We’re all raised these ways, and we have to actively practice the fact that that’s not how it is. And we are all human and we’re all the same. One good example of nonviolence applied is through when I was with the organization Nonviolent Peaceforce. And what we do is a lot of conflict resolution and mediation and giving a space for different conflicting parties to come together.

I’m working right now with UNHCR, which is the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. We are essentially a protection agency for civilians which is a very large component of nonviolence work. And what we’re doing is basically focusing on providing emergency assistance and lifesaving aid to refugees, internally displaced persons, stateless persons, and refugee returnees.

My understanding of the old story and the new story is that the old story is what we’re raised knowing. And that could be across the world in all different cultures.

Michael: We have inherited this idea that life is material. Therefore we are material beings separate from one another. Therefore competition, violence, an extractive economy where we think we need to get things out of the planet at a drastic rate in order to be fulfilled. If you trace down every single problem including especially war, you find that it’s rooted in this — what we’re calling the old story. And there is a beginning now, just a beginning of a shift to a new one. And the search for peace is a very critical part of that shift.

Tiffany: It’s not okay to perpetuate violence for entertainment purposes. And it’s not okay to act as though people are the others, and it’s them against us type thing. With the years of experience I have abroad in meeting people, meeting different religions, meeting different cultures, I’ve realized that we’re all human. And that’s the new story. The new story is that we don’t have to feel threatened by everyone. We don’t have to have preemptive violence. We can work with conflict and with others through negotiations, through peacebuilding initiatives, and through working together.

We can always change our stories and we can always grow. And a part of the new story is nonviolence. And we can all practice it. And it’s something that we all should.

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.