Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, circa 1942. (Wikimedia/British Press Service)

How dictators maintain power while keeping regimes productive

University of Minnesota Assistant Professor Josef Woldense joins Nonviolence Radio to discusses his research on Haile Selassi's rule in Ethiopia and the way lack of trust shapes authoritarian regimes.
Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, circa 1942. (Wikimedia/British Press Service)

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This week, in addition to Michael Nagler’s Nonviolence Report, Stephanie Van Hook shares an interview with Josef Woldense, assistant professor in the Department of Africa Studies and African American Studies at the University of Minnesota, also affiliated with the Political Science Department. Professor Woldense analyzes the lack of trust that characterizes authoritarian regimes, and the way it makes a leader vulnerable to a coup: The authoritarian may hold the power, but in exchange he/she can trust no one, thus mutiny is a constant threat. A strategy used by authoritarian rulers to protect themselves from mutinous coups he calls “shuffling.”

Shuffling, Professor Woldense explains, is best thought of as a technology. “It recognizes that the fuel for cliques to form is people being in close proximity to each other, having an opportunity to get to know each other. Shuffling disrupts that process: As people are getting to know each other, but before that relationship matures, what you do is you divorce people from one another by essentially having them move into different parts of the regime. They’re still part of the government, but they never get a chance to get too close to each other.”

Josef Woldense, assistant professor in the Department of Africa Studies and African American Studies at the University of Minnesota. (Facebook/U of M)

While this may help to solve the clique/coup problem, it also seems inevitably to preclude the possibility of experts — no one has time to acquire the experience needed to be competent in any government role! Thus shuffling tends to undermine the aim of a well-run regime.

Professor Woldense explores these issues in their own right and also shares the way he explains this complex dynamic to his students through a role-playing game that places each one in a position where action must be taken despite the fact that information is limited.

Stephanie: Welcome everybody to another episode of Nonviolence Radio. I’m your host, Stephanie Van Hook. A little later in the show you’ll hear from my co-host and news anchor, Michael Nagler. We’re from the Metta Center for Nonviolence.

Today’s show is about how to prevent a political coup. We hear from Josef Woldense, an assistant professor in the Department of Africa Studies and African American Studies at the University of Minnesota. He’s also affiliated with the Department of Political Science. His research considers how dictators maintain power while keeping regimes productive. Specifically, he has been looking closely at the regime of Ethiopia’s ruler, Hailie Selassie.

Woldense talks about mapping how Selassie shuffled people within his inner circle to prevent advisors from forming alliances and getting too much power. He talks about the dynamics of what makes that possible and what are some of the weaknesses that enter into his system, and into an infrastructure more generally, when that shuffling takes place. We also talk about how he teaches all this to his students at the University of Minnesota.

We use his interview with permission from the University of Minnesota and from Josef Woldense. Woldense would like us to make one correction that Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, not in 1930 as is mentioned in the interview. Let’s tune in.

Josef:  Authoritarian rulers are most often overthrown by the people closest to them. My research is centered around the internal dynamics of authoritarian regimes and how rulers survive threats from their inner circle. In my class, we sometimes play a simple game where a designated autocrat tries to figure out who is with them and who is not. Uncertainty and deception are the norm, and even the strongest ruler cannot escape this fact.

Now imagine you are the ruler at the center. Who would you trust and how do you keep your power?

What got me interested is just that region in general. I’m originally from Eritrea, which at the time was part of Ethiopia so an opportunity to do research in that region was really an opportunity for me to learn more about my own background. And once you start going into a PhD, there’s your own desire of what drives you, but then also the sort of pragmatic questions of, can you get data? Can you pull off a project?

It’s sort of the marriage of the two that culminated in this particular project that I started out with. My initial focus was on Haile Selassie as the last emperor of Ethiopia, and there were a couple of papers that I was writing. There was one paper in particular where I was comparing a failed coup in 1960 to what happened in ’74, when he was eventually overthrown.

And that put me on this trajectory that I am on now: where I was once comparing the two, I came finally to really see the internal dynamics within the regime, things that usually you don’t get to see as the layperson, as the outsider. Even from people within the regime, you only get a little glimpse. I aimed to try to sort of take a bird’s eye view and say, “Okay, can we map out these internal dynamics such that we can get a better insight on what’s happening and what’s driving things?”

So that’s what initially got me going, and since then, it’s been a fascinating subject matter. Studying authoritarian regimes is really studying organizations more generally. And so there are all kinds of questions. You realize once in the field, just how little we know. Despite authoritarian regimes being much older than democracies or democratic regimes, we know very, very little about authoritarian regimes. It’s starting to change, more and more research has been done. But still, generally speaking, we’re still very ignorant on how these processes unfold.

Haile Selassie was the emperor of Ethiopia in the making. Ethiopia, as we know it now is very much a product of the Scramble for Africa. Italy was moving southwards in the late 1800s and eventually was defeated in the Battle of Adwa, which is northern Ethiopia, in southern Eritrea. It was during this tumultuous time when Emperor Menelik had passed away. His grandson was then overthrown in a coup by Emperor Menelik’s daughter and Haile Selassie, who at the time was named Rastafari.

By the way, you may have heard of Rastafari — that’s actually referring to him. “Ras” is a noble title as governor. And “tafari,” was his name, thus, Ras Tafari. That’s what it actually means.

He was the King in the making or regent, and already in the 20s he was the first of the Ethiopian elites to travel across Europe. What made him unique was that he was realizing the importance of not just engaging Europe militarily, but also diplomatically and directly, with the ambition of wanting to “modernize” Ethiopia very much in the vein of Japan.

He was able to get Ethiopia to become part of the League of Nations. And according some historians, the invasion by Italy in 1930 led by Mussolini, was held by some to be essentially the beginning of WWII — that is, because Ethiopia was part of the League of Nations, and one of the core principles was that none of the members of the League of Nations were to attack another member of the League of Nations. Yet that’s exactly what Italy was doing.

The idea is that with that mark, the League of Nations kind of lost its credibility. Then you see Germany doing the same thing and so on and so forth. So he officially became Emperor in 1930 and then in ’35 Italy invaded. Then he was in exile in the UK, in London (I’m not sure if it’s London, but in the UK for five years), then he returned in 1940 and ruled into 1974.

What’s special about Haile Selassie for me, in terms of the research that I’m doing, has to do with the fact that the kind of data that I’m collecting is very mundane/very detailed. Without understanding the broader context, it would be almost meaningless. I was lucky in that there has already been a rich secondary literature, both scholarly work and quite a few autobiographies have been written by former officials of Haile Selassie’s regime.

So in combination with that rich literature and with the sort of granular data in appointments that I was able to collect from what was posted in a [[eneregarzauitow]], that is, the government official log which lists appointments of officials on a monthly basis.

I literally transcribed each appointment for I think roughly around six months or so, which was very exciting at first, but then after you get to like row 3500, or whatever it may be, each entry then becomes more complicated, you have to cross-check and make sure it’s the same person, and so on and so forth. But what was awesome about that is that you could begin seeing someone’s trajectory, you can literally follow along their careers.

And so, with that data, I was able to reconstruct the administration at any given point in time, I know who’s working with whom, where they’re working, where they were going, and all these kinds of things. I can ask different kinds of questions and use that data to address those questions.

What have I learned? Well, one thing is the extent to which one has to be invested in order to pull off what he did. Remember [Tulloch], I think is his name, his point was to say that being an authoritarian ruler is much more difficult than it is to be a ruler of a democratic regime because you have to do so much more. You have to always be vigilant of these cliques, you have to always be vigilant of this and that and so on and so forth.

So you begin investigating all these moving parts that he in some ways was orchestrating. You begin seeing just the amount of work that is involved in that, and others have attested to it. But looking at it from the perspective I do certainly gives you another angle on that.

There is no such thing as an all-powerful ruler, at least not in the conventional way that we like to think of it: the idea that when the ruler says jump, everyone jumps. If the ruler says sit, everyone sits. This idea that someone is so powerful, that all actions can be ascribed to that one ruler, all the consequences, all actions related to the regime, can be attributed to that one ruler, which we quickly realized.

You don’t even have to talk about authoritarian regimes here. Take any organization, take any boss, take even your mom and pop store. Ask yourself, even in that small setting: do you think that the owner of the mom and pop store can control everything that the employees are doing? No. There’s all kinds of stuff that’s going on that the boss doesn’t know — and we’re talking in an incredibly small setting. Now amplify that more and more and more. Now you’re talking thousands of people engaged in a very complex organization.

Rulers by all means have a lot of power. Haile Selassie, for instance, had power over appointments. And if he could hire you, he could fire you, could move you, he could do all kinds of things to you. But does that now mean that he could, for instance, stamp out certain behavior or stamp out opposition, or conspiracies? No. In that respect, no you’re not all-powerful, but you are powerful.

Shuffling, we know this to be an age-old strategy by rulers, because the biggest challenge for rulers, for any organization, is when there are these cliques that form within your own organization. These cliques are these informal groups that form where people who’ve been in close proximity with each other, gotten to know each other, maybe share the same ideology, maybe family ties, they begin starting to cooperate, working together in these groups.

And these cliques, essentially what they represent, is an alternative center of power. In a context where power matters, when that is the ultimate currency? The stronger cliques become, the more powerful these cliques become, and the weaker the ruler will be in relation to them.

What shuffling is – think of it as a technology. What it does is it recognizes that the fuel for cliques to form is people being in close proximity to each other, having an opportunity to get to know each other. And shuffling disrupts that process: as people are getting to know each other, but before that relationship matures, what you do is you divorce people from one another by essentially having them move into different parts of the regime. They’re still part of the government, but they never get a chance to get too close to each other.

And that, for instance, you would see that like in police work, where the problem would be where you know, certain officers would be maybe stationed in one location for too long. They started to build a relationship with the community, which is good on the one hand, but if suddenly that police officer begins getting too cozy with certain corrupt criminal elements of that community…well, that’s a problem. And so you would have the strategy here as well, where you have shuffling that systematically prevents, or at least makes it more difficult for these relationships to form. So that’s why shuffling is such a prevalent strategy we see employed.

The kind of research that I’m a part of, the community of scholars that are using this granular appointment data, it’s growing, but it’s still quite small. Scholars on Chinese politics are definitely leading the way, Russian politics, has people who have been engaged in that kind of research, and Mexico, some of it there exists as well.

There was one scholar in the ’70s who was collecting some of the data, although not as systematically, but nonetheless still impressively so. So it’s unique in that it’s beginning to look into parts of the regime that previously we only made conjectures of, but now we’re able to say, “Okay, we have data, what does this look like?” And it’s growing, the field is absolutely growing.

When it comes to African politics more generally, I’d say my work is among the first, not the first, but among the first to really delve into this level of detail when it comes to appointments and really try to make sense of what’s going on. As one of my colleagues said, it’s essentially that you’re trying to use publicly available data to get insights on what is otherwise hidden.

Of course, now we’ve started to move outside of my area of expertise, but certainly the kinds of dilemmas that you find authoritarian rulers face are the kinds of dilemmas that a boss in an organization might face, primarily because organization firms are set up resembling authoritarian regimes in their structure much more so than democracies, right?

You don’t have elections – you know, Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t elected in Facebook, right? And that matters in terms of the kinds of dynamics that you see. One, for instance, is the incentive to get the truth out of your subordinates, right? If you have the power to determine their fate, well, if you ask them, “is there something wrong?” What is the incentive for them to say, “Yes, there is something wrong, I messed up.” None. They have an incentive to say whatever you want to hear. If you want to hear that everything is going well, they’re going to come and say, “Yes, everything is going well.”

So, what’s the problem? Well, here you are the “all powerful ruler,” and you are unable to get the most basic information: is stuff getting done? Where is the problem? And that is precisely because you have the power over people’s livelihood. That kind of dilemma you’ll find in all kinds of different settings and the different ways that organizational leaders tried to deal with it: maybe instill some kind of trust; maybe give up some of that power; make clear that there will be no consequences for giving bad news; or maybe even having others do the research for you.

Here, the podcast that comes to mind is the one called, “Startup.” If anyone is interested in forming their own company, I would definitely recommend you listen to it. Issues of authority and power are very prevalent. If there ever was a boss that you want to work for, it’s that person on the podcast. And yet even that person is facing the problem of finding out what’s really going on. When he’s asking and not getting information, just because people are wanting to message it in a way that’s palatable to him, he has somebody else go and do interviews and learn about what’s going on in ways that he could not.

The coup game, it’s a fun game. But it also it’s a game that essentially tries to make vivid the distrust, the politics that you’re going to be thrusted in, no matter whether you like it or not. It also highlights the limitations on the ruler’s power.The basic structure of the game is the following: you have students who are assigned to either the ruler’s side or the conspirators’ side. No one knows who’s – you may be on the ruler’s side, but you don’t know what side somebody else is on.

The basic mechanism of the game is that there’s going to be a round, and during each round folks get to meet each other, talk to each other, and then do some gesture, maybe a tap on the shoulder. That means, I am talking to you, and by me tapping your shoulder, I am opening to you the opportunity to join my side. You may already be on my side, but if you say, “Yes,” what you’re saying is that you’re going to move to my side no matter what that may be.

If we are both on the same side, then nothing happens. If, however, you are on the ruler’s side and I am on the conspirators’ side, then now you will be officially part of the conspirators’ side. Nobody else can observe that but you and me. From there, the ruler gets to make a choice at the end of each round. There’s these five ministers and each of these ministers count for more than any regular person, which matters for the end of the game.

The problem is that while everyone is going around recruiting each other, the ruler has their back to the crowd, in other words, does not know what’s going on, which is very much the reality of things. Rulers do not know who’s conspiring against them. They cannot quite assess who’s with them and who’s not.

And so at the end of the round, what the ruler does have is the power to demote the ministers and promote somebody else in the crowd to join the ministers. But the problem is, who is with the conspiracy and who’s not?

You may say, “Well, let me ask the crowd. Let me ask the other students.” But how do you know that the person who is now denouncing one of the ministers is not actually part of the conspiracy and is looking to get rid of one of the ruler’s side people? You don’t know that. In fact, that very person who’s part of the conspiracy has the strongest incentive to sound most loyal, to sound most believable.

So here you are, as the ruler, getting all of this information, which, quite frankly, could be completely useless, if not counterproductive. And it often happens in the game where students or one of the ministers, their strategy initially was, “I’m just going to stay with the ruler side because I’m loyal.” But then they get embroiled in this politics of blaming, and, you know, no, they’re really a part of the other side!

And here they are, as ministers, and all they can say is, “No, I’m not. I’m really not, trust me.” And the ruler’s look is like, “Why should I?” And next thing you know, they end up getting demoted. It’s happened now several times where the minister who was most loyal, when they get demoted, they make it a point to now join the conspiracy and expand the conspiracy.

So again, this question of “how powerful is the ruler?” arises. You had the power, the ruler can demote you, can even fire you, but here the very choice that the ruler makes can come back and haunt the ruler, and it often happens. At the end, all the students have the ministers, and I have them close their eyes, everyone in the classroom, and if the majority of the ministers who are on the conspirators’ side join, they choose to stage a coup.

Then you divide the class into those who belong to the conspiracy and those who belong to the ruler’s side, and you count. Whichever side has more numbers wins. There’s some more caveats to it, but by and large, that’s essentially the mechanics of the game. At the end you can win something, some sort of incentive, why you want to win.

The game drives home that both as a ruler, as a minister, and as just a regular official, you’re making your choices with a great sense of ignorance of where everybody else is, and yet you still have to act. No matter whether you like it or not, you get involved or get embroiled in this politics, even when you didn’t want to get involved.

And you say to yourself, “I’m just going to stay out of it. I’m not going to try to recruit anyone, I’m a disloyal subject.” But then the moment someone points a finger at you, now you’re in the thick of it. In other words, you cannot escape this game, whether you like it or not.

The title of the paper of mine is “The Ruler’s Game of Musical Chairs.” This refers back to the strategy of shuffling. What I was able to do is investigate a phenomenon that, as I said earlier, we know exists, we know that rulers shuffle, but we never really investigated this phenomenon. We just said, “well, that’s what happens.”

So the question was, “Well, how is it that rulers shuffle their officials? Is it just random? What’s the process here?” The paper I wrote frames it in the following way, it’s saying that when rulers shuffle, they’re having to negotiate two objectives: one is their safety, which means undermining cliques, that is, make sure you divorce people from one another.

The problem with that strategy, however, is that, yes, you might want to go ahead and shuffle people around, but what happens if people don’t get a chance to stay in one position for any period of time? They’re never able to gain any kind of experience, any kind of expertise. And you want people with expertise to be able to do their job. For the functioning of your state proxy, you need folks who know what they’re doing. So this very same strategy that enhances your safety also has the potential to undermine the capacity of your state apparatus.

The question then is, “Well then, how is it that you’re shuffling How do you use that strategy of shuffling, without compromising too much on either one?” And so, in the context of Haile Selassie, I investigated it by looking at shuffling as essentially, the equivalence of sort of the game of musical chairs where people are being moved around where the chairs are the location to which they’re being moved.

What we can say is that whenever someone is moved from one chair to the other, we say that there’s a linkage between those two chairs. If you look at all of the movements whenever someone is moved from one chair to the other, at the end, what you get is a particular configuration in which these chairs are put together. Some chairs will be much more closely tied together, meaning there’s a lot more moving between them, while others don’t have any connection with each other at all.

Through that approach, since the network analysis, I was able to see that what Haile Selassie was doing was moving his officials quite frequently, but keeping their movements circumscribed within a broader area of the regime, so people weren’t moving randomly, but within certain areas of the regime. The argument I was making essentially said that what he was doing is divorcing people from one another to ensure his safety, to weaken cliques, yet allowing people to gain a broader sense of expertise, which benefited him in the long-term.

I’m engaged in several projects. There’s a book project on cabinets in authoritarian regimes, trying to understand what is the long term evolution of these cabinets. How is it that they change? On the one hand we know that authoritarian rulers have to make sure to bring in these folks that they can trust. Yet at the same time, we also see this turnover happening, and in these very sensitive positions in the cabinet.

So, the question then becomes, “Well, how is it that the rulers manage that process?” That’s one area that I’m involved in with a colleague. The other is doing research on contemporary Ethiopia. With some co-authors, we’re collecting data on the ruling party and its four regional parties that make up the ruling party. We’re hoping to apply for grants and expand that research. Hopefully, in the near future, I’ll be able to tell you much more about the internal dynamics of the contemporary Ethiopian regime.

Stephanie: You’re at Nonviolence Radio. I’m your host, Stephanie Van Hook. You were just listening to Josef Woldense on how to prevent coups, looking specifically at the authoritarian regime of Ethiopia’s Hailie Selassie. Lot to learn in his research. We thank Josef Woldense as well as the University of Minnesota for giving us permission for using this interview.

Let’s turn now to the Nonviolence Report with Michael Nagler.

Michael: Thank you Stephanie, and greetings everyone. That was certainly a fascinating presentation by Professor Woldense. It has such amazing history in it and really good insights. Some of which, in fact, we need to learn from. Even though the kind of coup that Professor Woldense is talking about is a little bit different than the one that people are concerned with right now today, and which is going to form the first item of my report. Namely, he was talking about a coup against an established ruler, usually a long-established ruler whereas we are concerned – some of us – about a coup against an incoming ruler, as an attempt to stay in power.

But I suppose it’s not too different from, for example, the situation with President Milosevic in Serbia which led to his deposition and finally his extradition to the Hague beginning in 2000. He talked about how cliques form and how they can be dangerous when people get too close together. And it did remind me about our point regarding isolation, how one of the things that keeps us in subjugation when there is such a situation is that we’re isolated from one another — and cliques begin to overcome that.

Rulers are often aware of this and they practice what he called “shuffling,” of sending people around from one location to another, reassigning people so that they just can’t get that close. Well, as it happens, just this morning – and I’m talking to you on October 6th – I attended a webinar with some of the really prominent strategists in the nonviolent world, thinking about this very issue, how to protect ourselves from a coup. As I say, this is a little bit different from how to start one. And an enormous list of resources was shared by everyone. It was extremely encouraging.

I just want to say that not only have we rarely faced a situation of such wide-spread concern, such alarm, I might say, but a concern, an alarm, that has the potential – though it hasn’t quite happened yet, of bringing together very disparate elements in the general public. As we know, this is often a critical issue in insurrectionary movements. For one thing, that when they succeed in bringing together different elements including eventually going on up to the security forces – the armed forces and the police, that is a very important element in their success.

These are the things that seem to be lying in wait right now. During the webinar we talked about a group called, “Protect the Results.” We talked about one that I have mentioned earlier, ChooseDemocracy.us. They talked about Beautiful Rising which has, incidentally, a very good tool called, “Use Humor to Undermine Authority.” And you can actually look that up. BeautifulRising.org/tool/use-humor-to-undermine-authority.

We also talked about the National Taskforce on Election Crisis which, among other things, has a fact sheet which they’re directing to the media, always a major issue, and an especially critical issue now with the usurpation of our media spaces by, perhaps, foreign powers, and by the flooding of resources like Twitter with basically inflammatory and false information. So it’s extremely important both to use humor, as we always know, but also to learn how to overcome that kind of distortion. They have a fact sheet directed to the media that you can look up when you go to their website for the National Taskforce on election crisis.

This is the big issue that’s before us right now. Just to mention in addition that Choose Democracy has a resource called, “10 Things You Need to Know to Stop a Coup.” They have a wonderful new handbook called, “Holding the Line.” My long-term concern – that is, my concern with what we’re going to do in the long-term, not just how we get through the potential for a crisis and emergency in November, which is what I have been arguing for — I’m happy to say that it came up. For example, on October 1 last week, there was a podcast called “Challenging Corporate Rule and Fighting for Democracy in an Age of Coronavirus and Climate Collapse,” which was extremely interesting. I hope to collect some of these resources in a more concise form and share them with you at a later date because I think this issue is not going to go away very quickly.

Let’s now turn to some of the happenings around the world which are not at least directly related to our problems here. Happy to report that as one of the many encouraging results of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the school system in the Netherlands is about to be invaded by nonviolence education. I’m going to be watching that development and hope to report on it further. Also, we hear from our friend, Robin Wildman, who did a terrific job bringing nonviolence education into the school system of Rhode Island, that things like this is are now starting to gather steam all over the U.S. as well as abroad, of course.

We’ve had a lot of interest recently – and when I say “we” I mean we here at the Metta Center – which ties in with our focus on long-term revisions of some of our institutions toward a more stable democratic regime. We’ve been interested in constructive programme. One of the things that almost always comes up when we mention Gandhi’s constructive programme is that there was a core central element in which everybody could participate.

For him, that element was the charkha or spinning wheel. He called that the sun of the solar system that was constructive programme. Well, in our own galaxy, so to speak, I have been thinking with people and friends for a long time about what such an issue could be for us. I maintain that there may not be a concrete issue like homespun cotton that would work for us, our situation being a little bit different. We have come to focus on the question of enhancing, uplifting the human image.

In fact, Metta is going to be offering a course in November called, “Our Sacred Humanity.” Other people – this is interesting — they almost automatically reach out to the question of food. And there is some, indeed, a good deal of justice in that because after all is said and done, Gandhi’s two major projects in terms of the resistance – the Freedom Struggle – were on one hand, clothing, the spinning of cotton, and on the other hand, a food item which was of critical importance in a tropical country, namely salt in his case. And I do think that a good charkha, a good core project for our constructive/reconstructive program would gain something from having that kind of concreteness — and food certainly has that. The electoral event that I began with is going to require a great deal of a mix of efforts, some constructive, some obstructive.

I thought I’d mention here a couple of constructive efforts that are going on that have to do with two things: food and with the uplift of women. I think mentioned in our last episode that the indigenous women in Costa Rica have begun food swapping programs. This is a response to the pandemic. They’re collecting data on what food is needed, what food there is to give in their area, they send the data through WhatsApp to a central office which manages the exchange.They now have over 300 indigenous families who are donating crops to help the people of San Jose who are struggling with food security.

On a similar note, there’s a grassroots network of Lebanese organizations that’s been coming together to address food insecurity. Here, the problems are manifest. It’s the pandemic, of course, the Beirut explosion which you may remember happened back in August, and the worst economic crisis that they faced since the Lebanese civil war. So a lot of Lebanese are in a state of desperation.

Organizations like Food Blessed, these organizations hand out over 9000 hot meals every day, while others like Wahid (which means One), have helped raise over $50,000 for organizations in Tripoli since way back in the beginning of April. Here in California there is a meme going on right in our area which says, “Food as Climate Action.” This is not the first time I’ve seen this argument. They say that changing how we eat, how we farm, and reducing food waste, are some of the fastest and easiest ways to reverse climate change. I’m hoping that we may have an interview sometime with friends of ours who are in the vegan movement, mainly for environmental reasons, but also partly for humanitarian ones due to the way that animals are farmed in this country — a topic that we have touched on before.

Along with ours, Mothers Out Front, virtual California, a personal friend, Ranjini Manian who runs a very successful enterprise in South India, Talanad Jinay, called Global Adjustments. What they do is they facilitate transactions, mostly business transactions between non-Indians, typically Americans and Indians. This is a very successful model that’s been tried in various forms in many places, where you have an income stream from one source and you use that income, you siphon some of it off to feed a nonprofit enterprise that otherwise would not have a way to go.

They’ve launched a campaign that’s variously called, “Champion of Women” or “Gandhian Women,” and this is a quote from Ranjini: “We have 100,000 women and girls that we have impacted with our programs.” And she adds, “We have introduced passage meditation to all of them too.” Their goal is to uplift the 700 million women in India, and incidentally, this is just one of several efforts that I’ve seen recently to do that. It’s India’s own version of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, which highlighted the increased support for women and the increased role for them, which is extremely important. They do so well at it. There should be an extremely enhanced role for women in peacekeeping — as they say, “Women should be at the table every time.”

So, now let’s close with an item that deals with both climate and the election. The Sunrise Movement, whom you may have heard of – it’s the U.S. version of Extinction Rebellion, they launched a mobilization campaign in the swing states. This is strictly constructive programme. Their plan is to reach 1.5 million voters before election day, and this campaign is rolling on strongly. They say that getting the present incumbent out of office is the crucial first step in a greater effort to build their political power and address the climate issue.

There was a 12-minute ad that they released back Monday where a former Bernie Sander’s associate, whose last name is Martinez, rejects the common tactics used for decades by political strategists and politicians to encourage young people to vote — from attempts to make voting seem cool, through humor and celebrity endorsements, to efforts to shame them into going to the polls by accusing them of being lazy and unengaged.

Well, I’m really glad they’re revising these efforts. I don’t know exactly quite yet with what, but we will keep our eyes on that Sunrise Movement effort, because accusing people of being lazy and unengaged – now this may be counterintuitive — it does not make them energetic and engaged, it just drives them further away. And of course, adults trying to make something seem cool, I have learned not to try that anymore. Thats our news roundup for this episode of the Nonviolence Report. Amazing things are happening and I really look forward to having a similar conversation and a similar report with you in two weeks.

Ira Batra Garde: With thanks to the Metta Center for Nonviolence, I am Ira Batra Garde. I will be reading my poem:

Like This We March

Confronted on a train while riding in the first-class compartment for which he had paid,
soft-spoken, brown-skinned Mohandas Gandhi recognized his treatment by railway officials
as unfair, even barbaric. To their humiliations he would never choose to become accustomed.
Incredulous, he repelled the insults, refusing their demands to move to a second-class carriage.
He reasoned, “I have a ticket for this seat.” But, to no avail.
For his resistance, he was thrown from the train, his luggage tossed beside him.

Young barrister, stylish and suited in the English way, he had pride and courage; he knew his place
was not on the ground, nor in the gravel.
Mild-natured, he rose from the earth and took aim, determined to speak and demonstrate his Truth
without fighting back. Resolute, he took the blows when they came.
His conviction grew: that Right Action would prevail, and violence fail.
In this, he remained unshaken.

Intelligent, educated, most clever, yet simple,
he knew his foes in the struggle; he could think just like them. Thus, he came to expect equal treatment.
Trained in law, familiar with nuance, he understood the Magna Carta from which British jurisprudence flowed,
the laws and protections which governed the lives of English citizens.
His inner reasoning was sound: Like you, we are industrious, self-reliant human beings, just of different color.
As Indian subjects of the British Crown, your laws and protections should apply to us.

Collective memory had not yet faded, it remained deeply etched in the plain:
The grain from our mouths you have taken; hunger in our homes and famine on our land was in your name.
You have claimed the livelihood of our weavers and artisans. All our wealth you have drained.
Shooting down a peaceful gathering of our people, how came the orders for such shame?
No longer will we tolerate such cruelty, disregard or anonymity. You have treated us with disdain.
In all your battles, we stood by you; we gave our sons, brothers, fathers and husbands for you.
Our earth and hearts are stained; this arrangement can no longer be sustained!
The time of atonement is here, the moment of reckoning most near: for our true loyalty and deep affection,
our sacrifices in your name, the tough scars which remain and may never be slain, we demand you
restore us with our freedom!

As fervor for India’s independence grew, Gandhi became more sure-footed and unflinching.
He showed us that when we gather we must band together, hold hands for our Truth,
act with Spirit to rectify past wrongs, recover self-rule in every step.
He insisted that when we march, we act with caution:
We must resist the dark abyss of violence, he proclaimed;
he knew we must dodge this Demon, skirt it assiduously, to prevail.

Reverend Martin Luther King urged the same,
to lift voices skyward to our Creator, but not raise arms;
to sound the gavel, call for justice, hymn the praises of nonviolence and the Lord.
The Reverend and our Mahatma called upon us, both with their conviction and their passion,
to gather, to march, with love in our hearts
to take back what God already granted each one of us:
the salt from the sea, our equality,
an understanding of our humanity.

For our rights, for our mother earth, for those who are silent or invisible,
peaceably we march. We each matter, each one of us.
With our intellect and will, and wit as well, we elevate our voices to resist injustice.
Do not despair: we raise no arms, we will not kill.
We will speak, we will chant,
we will sing of the common life we share,
encircle those who need our protection,
take back the lands of which we are the rightful heirs.

We must nourish and protect our Truth,
cultivate our trust in the peaceful fight, the boycott power of our changeable ways.
Principle and perseverance our weapons,
clever strategic thought is our way.

To change the hearts of others, our compassion and humility must grow.
To change the laws of this country, we must believe in each other and our imperative,
resist the wrongs bestowed.

If hope dims, the struggle too long, then
inspiration we can re-discover.
Our humanity will unite us;
neither color, nor creed divide us.
Let humility guide us.

We are strong, we belong,
worthy resistance we can sow.

Like this we march.

Stephanie: Well, it’s that time we’ve come to the end of the show. Thank you very much to our mother station, KWMR, for making the show possible, as well as the Pacifica Network for syndicating and sharing the show on all of your different stations. Thank you very much. A special shout out to KOWS. I want to thank Matthew Watrous and Jewelia White as well as the University of Minnesota and Josef Woldense, also Ira Batra Garde, to you, our listeners and our friends out there.

You can find the show at WagingNonviolence.org with the transcript, and at any of the places you get your podcasts, so do tune in. And if you want to learn a little bit more about nonviolence or are inspired by what you’ve heard, go to MettaCenter.org for more information. Until the next time, take care of one another.


Transcription by Matthew Watrous.

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