Often when we think about nonviolence, we think of practical strategies and techniques: How does one organize an effective sit-in or march? What is the appropriate language to use when addressing someone with whom we are in conflict? And indeed, understanding — and practicing — these tactics are essential. However, nonviolence goes much deeper than this. It is, according to Kazu Haga, “a principled way of life and how we view the world.”
This week on Nonviolence Radio, Stephanie Van Hook and Michael Nagler talk to Kazu Haga, author of “Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm,” to learn about his life, his path to nonviolence, and his current work of creating Beloved Community with the East Point Peace Academy. Kazu Haga reminds us that we all have the potential to do harm, to act cruelly — we all get lost. But this is not cause for despair. Rather, recognizing this part of our common humanity unites us, provides us with the very foundation that allows us to choose nonviolence as a way of life.
Stephanie: Welcome everybody to another episode of Nonviolence Radio. I’m your host, Stephanie Van Hook and I’m here in the studio with my co-host and news anchor Michael Nagler.
Today we’re going to be talking with Kazu Haga, who is a core member at East Point Peace Academy. I have in front of me Kazu’s latest book, “Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm.” Michelle Alexander has said of it that, “Kazu’s deep, nuanced, and principled commitment to nonviolence has challenged and inspired me and many others.” It’s a wonderful endorsement from Michelle Alexander. Joanna Macy says, “We need this book like oxygen. Kazu Haga is my teacher.” These are such beautiful endorsements. As I read it – and I am still reading it, slowly, slowly — it’s such a beautiful book. Welcome, Kazu, to Nonviolence Radio.
Kazu: Thanks so much for having me. Good morning.
Stephanie: I’d like to talk to you about some of the ideas that you share in “Healing Resistance” and where the rubber hits the road for those ideas in practice today. Jumping in, this seems to be the story of your own life, Kazu, as your own kind of pilgrimage to nonviolence really started with — you go into your life as a youth, but also this pilgrimage that you took much later. I was wondering if you could catch us up to speed about that in-between period of where you started in your life, and then how you made that pilgrimage to nonviolence that has just exploded in your world in so many ways.
Kazu: Yeah, like most people, I didn’t grow up with nonviolence as a central ethic in my life. When I was 17 years-old, I had an opportunity to travel with a group of Buddhist monastics who were really dedicated to nonviolence and social change work.
I ended up living in monasteries overseas for a year and doing a six-month walking pilgrimage with them. So my path in nonviolence started as kind of a spiritual commitment in a way. When I came back from that year-and-a-half that I spent with those monastics, I got involved in my social change work and various social movements.
My commitment to nonviolence shifted from a spiritual thing to a political thing, largely looking at nonviolence as a set of tactics and strategies. It’s really been in the last ten years or so that I’ve tried to bring those two things together. Understanding that nonviolence is a set of strategies and tactics, but also much larger than that. It is a principled way of life and how we view the world. I spent the last ten years trying to bridge that gap and trying to see what it could look like if nonviolence was both a worldview and a set of strategies.
Stephanie: That’s what they call, “principled nonviolence,” correct? That nonviolence is integrated into all aspects of our life. Do you want to speak more to that?
Kazu: A lot of people think that nonviolence is just a set of strategies and tactics. I write in my book that if our understanding of nonviolence is just about learning how to organize protests without throwing a Molotov cocktail, then we could argue that the Ku Klux Klan uses nonviolence when they hold their marches, right?
But with a principled approach to nonviolence, it’s much more than just the kind of strategies and tactics that we choose to use to try to create a political change. It really looks at every aspect of how we live our lives and how we relate to ourselves and how we relate to other people, including our families and including the people that we think of as “our opponent,” right?
A principled approach to nonviolence, I think, says at the end of it that violence itself is the enemy. That people are never the enemy. That violence itself is the enemy that we’re trying to defeat. It’s a different worldview.
Stephanie: I love the way that you throw in these thought experiments, you know, saying that the Ku Klux Klan could be performing nonviolent actions. You have that style in your book a lot – you’re reading along and then it makes you stop and say, “Whoa, wait a minute. What’s the long-term implication of my thinking?” I really appreciate that about you as a person and your writing style.
Kazu: Thank you.
Stephanie: Now, in the beginning of your life and before you got with those monks and started to study nonviolence, you talk in the book about how you felt like you were sort of lost for a while, that if somebody was a military recruiter and came to recruit you for the military at that same moment that the monks were there, or a cult leader came to town, you would have gone with them.
So, I was wondering if you could talk about that sense of searching for meaning and its relationship to why what those monks offered you and what you’ve been looking for had something to do with that kind of deeper searching that seemed to be going on.
Kazu: Like a lot of young people, when I was 14, 15, 16 years old, I was pretty lost. I came from a pretty broken home. I had dropped out of high school when I was 15. I was doing nothing productive with my life — just doing lots of drugs and drinking a lot.
I oftentimes talk about this, how at that point in my life, whoever reached out to me first and gave me a sense of purpose and community, I would have just gravitated towards. I think a lot of people are that way. I do a lot of restorative justice and trauma healing work in prisons today – and nonviolence work in the prisons – so much of that is about supporting and empowering incarcerated people. I acknowledge that, had my life gone a little bit differently, like instead of the monks and nuns, if I had met a gang leader, I would have joined a gang and I could have easily ended up in prison.
But on the flip side, if I had met a group military recruiters, I could have gone off to war. And then I would have come back from war probably traumatized, PTSD. I wouldn’t have even had a GED. And I could have easily become a police officer or a prison guard.
I think these kinds of experiences that I’ve had in my life really makes me realize that, as human beings, we oftentimes look at people with opposing views, or people who have caused harm and say, “I could never do those things” or “I could never be like those people.” But my experience tells me that that is actually not the case at all, that had my circumstances in life been slightly different, I could have very easily become any one of “those people.”
Luckily for me, it was the monks and nuns who were really committed to this idea of living out interdependence and peace and nonviolence and social justice. It was those people that found me first, right? And that gave me that sense of community. That gave that sense of purpose that I was really missing in my earlier days.
Stephanie: Kazu, do you feel like that’s part of what your work is today too, being that first person there to invite people into something that means something to them in your work and training in nonviolence?
Kazu: Yeah. I hope so. I remember years ago I was giving a lecture at a prison in the Central Valley. After giving my lecture a young man stood up. He said, “I wasn’t expecting to get anything out of this. I just came because I was bored and I wanted to get out of my cell.” He said something along the lines of, “I’ve never thought of myself as more than a criminal and a thug. And now that I’ve heard you speak, I realize that I could be more than that, and I want to change.”
This young man, I’m still in contact with him. He did end up changing his life. He’s doing well on the outside now. I just marvel at the fact that that’s all it took, right? That in 22 years of his life – at that time he was 22 – in 22 years no one had ever told him that he could be anything more than a criminal. That’s all it took was for one stranger to tell him that he could be more than that.
And so, yeah, I just think about all of the young people that are across this country, across the world that are just so lost, and all they need is just one person to reach their hand out and offer them something different.
Stephanie: Do you feel that people come to those workshops and come to your work with misconceptions about what nonviolence is? And what are some of those misconceptions?
Kazu: Yeah, 100 percent. I think it’s not just incarcerated people, but I think people who consider themselves to be advocates of nonviolence oftentimes come to our workshop with misunderstandings of what nonviolence is. The biggest misunderstanding that I talk about is this idea that nonviolence means simply to not be violent, and I write about this in my book too.
The idea that as long as I’m not being violent, I’m practicing nonviolence is probably the biggest and most dangerous misunderstanding of nonviolence. I oftentimes tell a story of a fight that happened outside of my house. I was taking a nap one morning and this fight was going on right outside of my window.
Eventually, I looked out the window and saw a woman on the ground who was getting beat, so I ran downstairs and ran across the street to break up this fight. By the time I had gotten down there, about 15 of my neighbors had heard the commotion and they had all come outside. They were just watching this woman get beat, not doing anything to help.
I always ask whether all of my neighbors who were just watching this woman get beat were not being violent, right? In that sense, they were being nonviolent, if that’s your understanding of nonviolence. In fact, you can argue that I was more violent than my neighbors were because I used some physical force to pull the two people apart.
If our understanding of nonviolence is to simply not be violent and to not do something, then it becomes very easy to use nonviolence as a veil to just be a bystander, and to witness all of the violence and injustice that we’re seeing in our society today and just say, “Oh, that’s none of my business,” and to “turn the other cheek and walk away.”
To me, nonviolence isn’t about what not to do, it’s so much more about what you’re going to do in the face of violence. When you see violence and injustice in your community, what are you going to do about it?
Stephanie: There are so many stories in your book that remind me of the bystander effect and what happened with your life after being in Oakland when Oscar Grant was murdered. And I wonder if you could speak to Oscar Grant’s influence in your development as a nonviolence trainer and wanting to get involved.
Kazu: Yeah, it was huge. So I started doing nonviolence trainings when I was 19 years old, largely around the globalization movement of the late 1990s, protesting the World Trade Organization and the IMF World Bank. A couple of years into that career I stopped doing it because I felt like something was missing in what I was facilitating back then.
Fast forward ten years, I took this two-day workshop on a philosophy called, “Kingian Nonviolence,” which is ultimately what the book is about. That two-day workshop just completely changed my life and changed my understanding of what nonviolence means. It answered all the questions about the things that were missing in the workshop that I was facilitating back when I was 19 years old.
I realized in that moment that what I was facilitating when I was 19 years old was the nonviolence civil disobedience training, which is an important component of nonviolence, but it’s just one small component of a much broader worldview of nonviolence.
When I took that two-day training in Kingian nonviolence, which is based on the teachings of Dr. King, my intellectual curiosity of nonviolence just blossomed. It was about two months later that Oscar Grant was shot and killed by the transit police, by the BART police, out here on New Year’s morning about a mile from my house.
I ended up on the steering committee of the coalition that came together to respond to the shooting. For the first six months of 2009 I dedicated my life to the Movement for Justice for Oscar Grant. It was in that movement that my intellectual curiosity of nonviolence just sank into my heart. I realized during that movement how deeply important it is to have a principled approach to nonviolence which allows us to build movements that are, in Dr. King’s words, “As disruptive and dislocative as a riot, but yet grounded in this interdependence and this love for, and dignity for all humankind.
It was really during that movement that I committed myself to nonviolence. And that commitment still stays today.
Stephanie: That was the first time that you were ever booed publicly. Can you speak to that? What happened?
Kazu: Definitely not the last. I had a couple of things. I think the first thing is that nonviolence as a philosophy is a really rich, deep philosophy. I had just taken this two-day workshop and so it was like I was a white belt in nonviolence. As a white belt, I was trying to articulate this deep philosophy to a room full of people who, rightfully, were really, really upset, right?
And not just about the shooting of Oscar Grant, but about 400 years of systemic racism against the black community in this country. And I was just not equipped. I was not trained enough to be able to articulate why I felt nonviolence was so important. I was just a really inarticulate advocate for nonviolence at the time. I couldn’t explain to people who were so filled with righteous anger, righteous indignation, why we should remain “nonviolent.”
I realized that I needed to do a lot more training before I was going to convince people of this.
Stephanie: You said that Johannes Mehserle, that morning, didn’t plan to wake up and kill somebody. Later you mentioned that one of your friends (who was also in the courtroom at his trial) looked at him and realized that, I think, through her relationship with you as well, realized that she didn’t hate him.
Kazu: Yeah. I think it’s easy to look at these police officers who shoot unarmed black people — or anybody for that matter – and I think we like to think of them as these cold-blooded killers that enjoy killing people and don’t have any remorse for it. I just don’t think that that’s true. I’ve worked with countless men who have committed murder and who have committed the most horrific acts that you can possibly think of.
I think there are times when they themselves are so traumatized and so far removed from their own sense of humanity that they can’t feel the remorse in that moment. But ultimately, after talking to countless men who have taken the lives of other human beings, I don’t believe that a human being can take the life of another human being without it somehow destroying your soul in the process.
In restorative justice there’s a saying that hurt people hurt people; that it’s when we’re feeling hurt, when we don’t have healthy releases and avenues for our hurt, that we take our hurt out on somebody else. But I think a flipside to that is that hurt people hurt people and hurting people hurts, right?
You can’t cause harm on another human being without it somehow hurting your own soul. I think we need to understand that the system of policing is violent towards the police officers as well. When your job oftentimes involves destroying communities and taking the lives of other people, like that’s not healthy for you either, right?
So to me, the individual police officers who pulled the trigger are not the problem. It is the system that trains them and pays them to do that work that is the problem.
I’ve done a lot of trauma healing workshops for prison guards and law enforcement as well. You hear their stories and you hear about the high suicide rates, and the divorce rates, and the alcoholism rates, and the domestic violence rates, and the depression rates among law enforcement professionals because their job is incredibly violent. It is not healthy for them, right?
So, again, it’s the system that is the issue and not the people who are caught up in the system.
Stephanie: That’s very beautiful, Kazu, and it’s based on so much of your experience as well – and science too. You bring in science into your research. I was looking at the study that you cite in your chapter on Beloved Community by Jay Van Bovel where he did a study of between dolls and the relationship of pictures and humanization. Do you remember that study?
Kazu: I do, yeah.
Stephanie: Can you tell us about it and how that relates to, unfortunately, the way that systems do condition us to dehumanize and to humanize?
Kazu: Yeah. They did a really fascinating experience where they took a bunch of college kids and showed them an animation of a picture of a doll that would slowly transform into a human being, like a real person. They would ask the students to hit a button at the moment where they felt that the doll became a real human.
They did this experiment on a bunch of students. Then in a second group of students, they told them that the human being that the doll was turning into was a student from a rival college campus. When they gave them that piece of information, it took the students longer to push the button recognizing the humanity in the images that they were seeing.
It’s one of lots of science experiments that showed that if you see a person as “the other,” whether that someone with a different political perspective or just someone who attends a rival college campus, then it actually becomes easier for us to dehumanize that person. Once we dehumanize people, it becomes easier for us to – it’s almost like preparing ourselves mentally to cause harm on that person, right?
The human mind is a really delicate thing and we like to think — a lot of people on the left or whatever, think of ourselves as, “Good people,” that we’re loving people. But it’s really important for us to have a relationship with the part of ourselves that is capable of dehumanizing others. It’s important for us to have a relationship with that part of ourselves so that we can work on it, and to not deny that it’s there.
I think it’s really important for us to know that we are all capable of dehumanization. We are all capable of violence so that we can work on those tendencies and have a relationship with it.
Stephanie: Instead of denying them. Then on the flip side, that study said that if they told them that this person goes to your college, or this person is like you in some way, they would humanize them earlier, right?
Kazu: Yeah. I think that’s so much of the work of nonviolence, right? Is like, yes, we do have differences. And differences are really important to acknowledge, right? It’s important to acknowledge different histories, different positionalities around the spectrum of power and privilege.
But if we start our relationship by acknowledging our differences, then we have no foundation to get through conflict. I think so much of nonviolence is about remembering that we actually have so much more in common with each other than we have in differences. What is it, like some 98.8% of our DNA is similar to a chair or something like that, right? Even with other species.
I think it’s important to acknowledge our commonalities first, so that when we start talking about what our differences are, we have that kind of shared understanding of our commonalities to fall back on. We have a strong foundation of unity so that we can actually have conversations of our differences.
I think a lot of nonviolence is about reminding ourselves of how similar we are first so that we can talk about differences.
Stephanie: You tell so many stories of people being able to interrupt violence in parks, and in front of their houses, and using really creative means to do that. There’s one story of someone who saw a fight taking place in a park and jumped the fence. People thought he was going to just join this fight, and instead, he starts singing, “This Little Light of Mine,” and people are like, “What is going on?” And the fight stopped, right?
Stephanie: You tell these stories that really help to see one kind of nonviolence in action. And yet, on the other hand, it seems to me that you’re also – I mean this work of building the beloved community is a thread running through your life and through the work that you’re doing and through your book. And so I was wondering, if Dr. King were in body today – because his spirit lives – but if he were in the body, how would he be working to build that beloved community? And what are you doing concretely in that regard? I know you’re building a network.
Kazu: I think Dr. King would have continued to – like if you see the arc of his life, you could see his politics both becoming more and more militant in terms of the tactics that he was choosing to use. When he was assassinated, he was organizing the Poor People’s campaign, and part of the Poor People’s Campaign was to create an encampment of poor people on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
His vision was to use that National Mall as the hub of operations for a mass campaign of civil disobedience that would cripple the infrastructure of Washington D.C. to demand billions of dollars a year from the federal government to fight poverty. So, you can see his tactics beginning to escalate.
I think we would have seen a continued progression of that. But he also never let go of his commitment to love and understanding and the dignity of all sides, right? I think he would have done a really amazing job of holding that tension of escalating our tactics of nonviolence or doubling down on a commitment of beloved community, which is really hard to do, right?
I’ve noticed that in my time, oftentimes the more we escalate our tactics of nonviolent resistance, the more we also tend to escalate this binary black and white, us versus them, good versus bad worldview. It’s actually that binary worldview of saying, “We’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys.”
It’s that very worldview that is destroying our planet right now. How do we escalate our tactics of nonviolence while doubling down on a commitment and an understanding of interdependence? I think Dr. King would have been a really important figure in showing us what that could look like.
A lot of the work that I’m doing now is about that experimentation. Specifically, I’ve been helping to build this network called, “A yet to be named network,” which is a national decentralized constellation of small teams of people engaged in direct action at the intersection of climate justice and racial healing.
It’s really the place where we’re experimenting with what it looks like to acknowledge, particularly in terms of the climate crisis, the scale of change. The scale of transformation that we need is so significant that we need escalated forms of nonviolent direct action to match the escalated forms of violence and disruption that’s happening in the world.
How do we do that coming from a place of love for all life? It’s not an easy thing to do. It requires a lot of intensive healing work and it requires a lot of training — “the yet to be named network” is the place where we’re experimenting with a lot of that.
Stephanie: And people can find out about that by searching, “Yet to be named network” online? Or go –
Kazu: The “Yet to be named network,” obviously, doesn’t have a name yet. We also don’t have a website. We’re considering having a website. It’s a network that’s trying to do things differently and trying to stay really close to the ground and close to the earth.
Some of our network practices are that when we meet in the evenings, we meet under candlelight. Not only do we turn off our phones and turn off our computers, but we don’t even use electricity. I think there’s ways that practices like that really slow us down. It changes the types of relationships that we’re able to build with each other. It changes the depth of work that we’re able to do with each other.
To me, it makes it easier for us to hear our ancestors because that’s how they’ve been meeting for hundreds of thousands of years, right? By gathering in a circle around a campfire. Pulling in some of these more ancestral practices allows us to do work at a different level.
So we’re not very googleable right now. And we hope to never be, in some ways. We do have some information on our website at the East Point Peace Academy, which is an organization that I work with. It’s EastPointPeace.org. There are other organizations like Climate Disobedience Center that have been very involved.
There is a zine that is kind of our main – the main way that our network has been getting the word out. You can find a copy of that on our website as well. We’re trying to do things differently. Unfortunately, we’re going to have our next onboarding training this coming weekend – not this weekend, but the following weekend. We just recently decided to postpone that with the coronavirus stuff, which is a whole other thing we could talk about.
Stephanie: On the coronavirus issue real quick, I did read an interesting piece that said that there are communities and advocates out there who are calling for people to cease, for the moment, putting others in prison right now because of the virus, which I thought was very important. If people aren’t going into their stores and to meetings, wouldn’t it be nice to put a hold on putting people in prison at this time as well?
Kazu: I’ve read that as well. I’ve read about some county jails that are starting to consider letting people, particularly with “nonviolent offenses” out, and things like that. It’s a scary time. Half of the work that I do is in prison with incarcerated communities. I’ve read some articles raising some real concerns about the overcrowding of the immigration camps on the border, and immigration jails throughout the country in general because of the conditions and the overcrowding there.
Like with any issue, I think coronavirus is going to impact vulnerable and marginalized communities first, right? And so, I think it’s important for us to be thinking about what it means to be in solidarity with those communities right now, and to the extent that we can, to be advocating for criminal justice reform, immigration reform, all these issues that make it hard for certain communities just to survive every day.
Stephanie: Absolutely. Thanks for saying those things, Kazu. And thank you for your work. At the end of the book – and you also do bring this out throughout – but this idea of weightlifting and nonviolence. What is nonviolent weightlifting and how is that a tool for us to better – to become stronger in nonviolence?
Kazu: I remember recently I was doing a workshop at a high school and we were talking about the student lunch counter sit-in movement during the civil rights era, where students would go to these lunch counters and they would sit there as people would beat them and cuss them out and throw food in their face. And they would just sit there.
The students were like, “How could they do that? I could never do that. How were they able to have that much discipline?” One of the things that we talked about was that they trained for that. Like a lot of these students train for months to be able to be ready for that kind of moment.
I oftentimes compare nonviolence to a martial art. You can take a two-day karate workshop, but if you think you can immediately take those skills and use them in a real-life conflict, you’re fooling yourself. The work of nonviolence is like weightlifting. You don’t start by bench pressing 500 pounds, right? You start by bench pressing 20 pounds and then work your way up to 50. And then 75 and then 100.
With nonviolence, I think it’s important for us to really consider the depth of commitment and practice that we need to nonviolence at this point in human history, that we need to be like working out, right? We need to be working out our nonviolence muscles every day – starting with lots and lots of repetitions of smaller weights and moving on to heavier weights.
Maybe a smaller weight might be to meditate for 5-10 minutes a day. Maybe a smaller weight might be to be more intentional about reaching out to your loved ones every single day or once a week or whatever. And slowly moving towards doing metta meditation and sending loving-kindness to people that you’re upset about, or even doing forgiveness dialogues.
There are a lot of different practices that you can do at various weights. I think it’s important for all of us to assess where we are in our own training. And wherever you are, just start there and work your way up, and to continue to build those muscles.
Stephanie: Beautiful. Thank you so much for joining us today, Kazu Haga.
Kazu: Thank you for having me.
Stephanie: We would love to have you back any time, and any way we can support your work, we’re happy to help.
Kazu: That’d be awesome. Thank you so much.
Stephanie: Thank you.
You’re listening to Nonviolence Radio and we were just speaking with Kazu Haga, author of “Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm.” He’s also a core team member at the East Point Peace Academy.
Let’s turn now to the Nonviolence Report with Michael Nagler.
Michael: Thank you very much, Stephanie. You know, I was listening to Kazu with such great interest and enjoyment. I was reminded that this morning at breakfast, people asked me who we were going to interview this morning. I told them Kazu Haga. They had just seen a close to finished version of the documentary that we’re creating on nonviolence, in which Kazu plays a fairly prominent part.
We said, “Oh, this morning, we’re interviewing Kazu Haga.” One of my friends said, “He was one of my favorites.” And I think we could see why. I have a funny feeling that that episode he refers to about bumping into those Buddhist monks instead of gang recruiters and so forth. He made it sound as if it was pure coincidence, but I don’t quite believe that.
Some years ago, I had Mubarak Awad come and talk to my nonviolence class. He had been one of the architects of the First Intifada, the 1980s uprising among the Palestinians which was very successful in itself. It led to the Madrid Peace Accords which were eventually – well, mangled out of existence by other players.
But the point is that Mubarak pointed out something that we never could have heard about through mainstream news sources, if they covered the Intifada at all, which was at the West Bank youth, the Shabab, who had been seriously involved in substance abuse, alcohol or mostly drugs. That abuse stopped practically overnight when they got involved in the nonviolent uprising.
So that really landed for me, it really stuck in my mind. And my mind has moved on from there in the intervening 20 years. I am kind of slow at some things. Now I have come to feel that getting involved in nonviolence in the sense that you convert yourself – you know, I like to define principled nonviolence as a state of mind – you do that work with your own mind and heart that Kazu was referring to.
And then moving that out into the social field, as nonviolent action is the most effective way for a human being to find a sense of meaning. I firmly believe that now. But that’s not news – except for me. Let’s move onto the news.
One of the stories that Kazu shared reminded me of an event that took place back in November in North Carolina, Morrisville, North Carolina, where ICE came to arrest someone who had been in the basement of that church as a refugee.
Church members surrounded the ICE truck. They were from the CityWell United Methodist Church. They sang Amazing Grace to stop the truck from offloading ICE members and picking this guy up.
It reminded me very forcibly of an experience I had in Dinklage, in Germany, where I visited a convent where the nuns were quite famous because a picture of one of them – or several of them, actually — kneeling in the street, blocking a German police car that had come to take away some Turkish refugees went viral, as far as you could go viral in those days before you quite had the Internet.
It reminded me a little bit of the famous photograph of the Tank Man. These pictures all show how they are a visual representation of the fact that spiritual power is greater than violent power, and all of it’s machinery and numbers and so forth.
Well, moving on now. I am going to be jumping around this morning. An attorney general has just launched something called, “The juvenile restorative justice program.” He believes the concept of restorative justice promotes public safety. That’s one of many ways – this is my own comment – that’s one of many ways that restorative justice is so superior to retributive justice as to indicate that it is the right way to go based on the right attitude, the right model of what a human being is. And with the retributive system that we’ve got now is based on exactly the opposite.
Now, that attorney general, his is name Karl Racine and he’s actually the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, so that’s getting pretty close to home. Our good friend, Pramila Jayapal, who is the congressional representative from District 7 in Washington State, is working on getting restorative justice elevated in congress itself. So more power to them and more power to restorative justice the way Kazu approaches it and others approach it.
In front of this next item that I was going to share with you this morning, I have written the word – it’s a German word, [German], because I remember seeing that when I was a student in a German university. There was a lecture I wanted to go to, but across the poster, someone had splashed the word, “[German],” which means, “Canceled.” But I wanted to share this with you anyway. A friend of ours, Safoora Arbab, from originally Afghanistan, was going to be speaking (and may again in some way, shape, or form) on the ecstasy and anarchy of nonviolence, Bacha Khan, and the Khudai Khidmatgars.
That was going to be this coming Sunday at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz. I just wanted to lift up Safoora’s work because she’s doing a PhD at UCLA — actually, has just finished at UCLA. What she has done is to take women’s poetry and write a very insightful study about it.
The point being that women had no way of expressing themselves in politics. They probably had not much of a way of expressing themselves on anything in public, even under what they call, “Pashtunwali,” or the code of conduct among the Bhatans — not to mention, what happened when the Taliban took power.
The only outlet they had was poetry. That’s kind of interesting, as you think about the role of music in nonviolence operating on various levels. But sometimes artists have license to express things that you could not express in a newspaper in simple prose.
Of course, this is very important in Southern Africa, where you have these [Riats] whose role it is to criticize the kings, And they could never get away with that just in an ordinary conversation.
On this subject of violence, there’s a project going on now called, “Changing how we think about violence” which is being run by our good friend, Kit Miller in Rochester, New York. Rochester Beacon for March 6 has that story, changing how we think about violence.
One of the reasons I’d like you to go have a peek is that the masthead of that story is a stunning photo of a Rochester bus with the Nonviolence Now poster on its side. We really are poking our way into the mainstream in one way or another.
But let’s move abroad now. I want to look for a second at Central America and South America, and the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict. They’re the people I really want to talk about and uplift with you today. First of all, they have a lot of opportunities for scholarships. There’s research scholarships of different kinds. If you want to go somewhere and study a burgeoning, growing nonviolence movement, they will very likely support you.
They have support for webinars, etc. If you just look at International Center for Nonviolent Conflict online, you’ll get access to those. But also, their Minds of the Movement blog is very good this week. A recent article is by a Venezuelan scholar/activist whose name is Maria Gabriela Mata Carnevali. She writes – this is a quote from that article that I wanted to share with you.
“Last year was a bustling year for societies around the world that took up the cause of civil resistance.”
Interrupting that quote for a second. Erica Chenoweth has actually said that it’s growing in intensity and effectiveness and volume. Nonviolent resistance, that is. To the extent that it’s becoming what she calls, “The technique de jour.” And violent resistance at the civil level is going out of style in a major way.
Okay, so to resume Maria’s quote: “Nonviolent actions for rights, justice, and freedom were incredibly diverse, energetic, and inspiring in Latin America where a peaceful popular awakening shook regimes, toppled governments, and captured the world’s attention.”
Across the region: in her native Venezuela, in Nicaragua (which is always important to me because my daughter-in-law is from Nicaragua), in Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Chile, Columbia, Bolivia. In all of these places. Finishing her quote now, “a spirit of determination continues to grow into the year 2020.” So this is a place to watch.
I always like to recover nonviolent episodes from the past to build up our history. In the Metta Center, we talk about the history and theory and science of nonviolence. It’s a history that’s been so neglected up until recently. I remember years ago reading the first edition of “Nonviolence in America” by Staughton Lynd, the new addition being by Staughton and Alice Lynd together.
Back then, Staughton, who was a social scientist said, “The way that this history has been overlooked is a disgrace to the social sciences.” Well, we are starting to recover. And last Sunday in a web article called, “The Daily Kos,” they talked about the February strike, which is when the Dutch struck against the Nazi holocaust.
That’s particularly important because what is question number one? Complaint number one that people will raise the minute you say, “Nonviolence,” they’ll say, “It never would have worked against the Nazis.” Well, in fact, it did. We talked about the podcast that was put on by Waging Nonviolence a couple of weeks ago about the incredible event that unfolded in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.
Here we find that on February 25, 1941 the communist party of the Netherlands called for a general strike which came to be called, “The February Strike.” Incidentally, it was going to be two years later, in February that the Rosenstrasse Prison Demonstration would take place right in Berlin. That’s another story.
This strike was a response to the first raid that was carried out on Amsterdam’s Jewish population. The old Jewish quarter in Amsterdam was cordoned off into a ghetto, and as a retaliation for a number of violent incidents that followed, incidentally, many people believe that there was virtually no resistance by the Jewish community, that they were passive.
Recent studies have shown that they were not passive. They were helpless, for the most part, and took to violence in some cases, and took to nonviolence in a couple of others, which were very successful.
425 Jewish men were taken hostage and eventually deported, and only two of those 425 actually survived the war. Many citizens of Amsterdam regardless of their political affiliation created this mass protest against the deportation of Jewish Dutch citizens. And the next day, factories in Zaandam, Haarlem, Ijmuiden, Weesp, Bussum, Hilversum and Utrecht joined in.
That strike was put down within a few days by German troops who fired on an armed crowd, killing and wounding people. But opposition to the German occupation intensified as a result of this violence against non-combative Dutch people.
And so, the only other general strike in Nazi-occupied Europe was the one in Luxembourg the following year, 1942. But the Dutch struck four more times against the Germans. Student strike in November 1940. A doctor strike, 1942, April. May strike in 1943. Railway strike in 1944. And of course, one of the most widespread activities was hiding and sheltering refugees and enemies of the Nazi regime, which of course, included Jewish families like that of Anne Frank.
I don’t know if it’s going to take place or if it’s going to be canceled, but there’s a talk coming up this coming weekend in Petaluma by a woman who was actually a step-sister of Anne Frank and who was incarcerated with her in Auschwitz but happened to survive.
So, the number of people that were cared for by this Dutch organization in July 1944 is estimated to be between 200,000 and 350,000. That’s one out of every 40 inhabitants of the Netherlands. And they paid for this, 1671 members of this organization did lose their lives during the resistance.
Well, let’s come back to the local area. There is a West Coast activist conference that’s being planned. Of course, whenever we say, “Being planned,” we have to carefully watch because a lot of them are also being canceled. But this one is planned to take place in Fresno. And you can find out more about it by contacting Gerry Bill – that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Or our friend Sudarshan Kapoor. Skapoor334@gmail.com to find out if that one is going to take place. It was scheduled to be part of the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth.
Now, March is marching in. This is a slogan for the Peace Alliance whose peacebuilding efforts are taking off this month. These are mostly online efforts, so they mostly will take place, and I wanted to tell you about some of them. The second Monday of every month, for example, back on the 9th at 7:30 PM Pacific time, there was a call on the California Department of Peacebuilding effort.
The second Tuesday of every month, there’s a national action call. The third Wednesday of every month, there’s another call from the campaign for the Department of Peacebuilding. I would like to remind you that a presidential candidate whom we know and love, Marianne Williamson was a member of Peace Alliance and has been promoting the creation of a Department of Peace Building for a long time.
This is an interesting effort that we might talk about sometime, how it eventuated after some difficulties and false starts. Actually, about a couple of hundred years of agitation because this idea was proposed by Benjamin Rush in something like 1785 in Pennsylvania, that there should be a Department of Peace.
It had spun off into this organization called, “The United States Institute of Peace,” which is far from a department, but a governmental organization. After some false starts, the first panel was appointed by then-President Reagan.
It has recovered and is now really, in some cases, excellent work. I remember way back in 1992 attending a conference there which was one of the important steps towards the building of unarmed civilian peacekeeping, one of the most important institutions in nonviolence in our world.
There’s also, on Sunday, planning for a climate activist community summit in Santa Rosa. These Daily Acts that you may be familiar with are from an organization headed up by Trathen Heckman, one of the groups that is calling for local leaders to speak out about the climate crisis and what we can do about it.
It’s going to take place (unless it isn’t) at the Odd Fellows Hall in Santa Rosa. And in general, this will be a big day for the climate crisis.
Wednesday, April 15th in San Rafael, there’s going to be a TED salon on climate change. I’m not sure exactly how that works, but you can find out by contacting Pete Gang whom we have interviewed on this program. He’s part of Marin 350.
And now, speaking of marches, I have this kind of – well, not a love/hate relationship, but I have some difficulty with marches. But I want to tell you about the mother of all marches that started back on October 2nd of 2019. Many of you will remember that date because that was the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.
So, there’s a group called, Ekta Parishad or Unity Organization. They gathered together 50 people from that organization and the started from the Raj Ghat Memorial which is dedicated to Gandhi in Delhi. And that was day one.
Day one of what will be a year-long journey on the Global March for Justice and Peace. They’re going to cover 11,000 kilometers. And this is one of those marches that has a very good constructive purpose. They were interacting with children who are learning about nonviolence from the Padayatris – that means the people on walking pilgrimage.
They are doing consciousness-raising which I think is the function of marches when – more useful, I think, than protest itself. Anyway, that I think should be our wrap up, Stephanie. I have time for one item more if you’re interested.
Again, I love to collect overlooked movements and I want to talk about one called, “Al-Hrak Al-Shababe,” which means, “The youth movement.” It’s taking place in the Negev, in southern Israel, Palestine, and it’s been extremely effective.
They have resisted efforts by the Israeli establishment to keep them separate from other Arabs. So, they started where you have to start – in unity among yourself, and then spreading out gradually, in Gandhi’s principle of swadeshi.
So, let me tell you a little bit more about that in a couple of weeks in our next episode of the Nonviolence Report.
Stephanie: Thanks so much for that, Michael Nagler. We want to thank Kazu Haga for joining us today. Our mother station, KWMR, to you, our listeners out there as well. We want to thank our staff and core team at the Metta Center for Nonviolence including Matt Watrous for transcribing the show. It’ll be up at Waging Nonviolence with the transcript in a couple of days, Annie Hewitt for editing that transcript, and to everybody, until the next time, remember the Western Sahara is occupied.
Until the next time, take care of one another.
Transcription by Matthew Watrous. Edited for Waging Nonviolence by Annie Hewitt.