by Rivera Sun
Writer, Dandelion Salad
September 13, 2022
We have a violence problem. It runs through our nation like an invisible road system, touching every front door, cutting through each town and city. Mass shootings kill our children in their schools. Forty-five thousand people will take their own lives this year. An additional 14,000 are likely to be killed by gun violence. Twelve million of our fellow citizens will experience intimate partner violence this year. More than ten million children face violence in the forms of maltreatment, verbal abuse, sexual assault, extreme neglect, and physical abuse.
And all this will continue, year after year … unless we take our violence problem seriously.
In 2014, an effort named Campaign Nonviolence launched to ‘build a culture of peace and active nonviolence, free from war, poverty, racism, and environmental destruction’. Each year, they hold an annual week of actions, bringing together the many efforts to address violence. In all 50 states and dozens of countries, more than 4,000 actions and events will take place between September 21st, the International Day of Peace, and October 2nd, the International Day of Nonviolence.
Tens of thousands of people will be organizing teach-ins, rallies, marches, protests, mural painting events, sermons on peace, trainings in nonviolence, violence prevention teams, overpass bannering, leafleting, vigils, street theater, and so much more. With hundreds of participating groups, the Campaign Nonviolence Action Days has become an annual reminder that the systems and structures that are currently churning out violence and injustice can be replaced with viable and realistic alternatives anchored in nonviolence.
Campaign Nonviolence defines violence as more than just physical. It can take the forms of cultural violence, systemic and structural violence, emotional and psychological violence, institutional violence and more. Conversely, the campaign also recognizes that a culture of nonviolence is constructed of structural/systemic nonviolent solutions — things like living wages, affordable housing, restorative justice, trauma healing, renewable energy, racial justice, and so on.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Bernard Lafayette put forward the idea of institutionalizing nonviolence in our schools, businesses, public offices, cultural beliefs and attitudes, and more. It’s a compelling notion to imagine that the output of our society could be healing, respectful, affirming, generous, fair, and compassionate. Social change has always come from those courageous enough to imagine it. Suffrage, worker rights, schooling for every child, social support for our elders, access for people with disabilities — all of these came about because of the vision, courage, and perseverance of people who longed for a different world.
Violence may be everywhere, but so are we. Tens of thousands of people will move into action between Sept. 21-Oct. 2 to bring a nonviolent world one step closer to reality. Will you?
Author Rivera Sun syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and the sequels, The Roots of Resistance, Winds of Change, and Rise and Resist – Essays on Love, Courage, Politics and Resistance and other books, including a study guide to making change with nonviolent action. She is the editor of Nonviolence News and a nationwide trainer in strategy for nonviolent campaigns. Website: https://www.riverasun.com.
From the archives:
Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train
The Problem is Civil Obedience by Howard Zinn + Matt Damon Reads from Howard Zinn’s Speech
End the Occupation of the Corporate State, by The Man From the North
Disrupt! Interrupt! The Ground of Resistance is Ours
How Nonviolent Action Is Protecting the Earth, by Rivera Sun
4,391+ Actions for a Better World: Campaign Nonviolence Action Week is Bigger than Ever, by Rivera Sun
Geo Maher: A World Without Police + Nonviolence and Restorative Justice (Must-see)
Beyond Voting by Howard Zinn + What Else You Can Do: 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action by David Swanson
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Children are taught from a very early age violence is acceptable via TV shows. The daily news is filled with violence domestic and non-domestic. Video games are more violent as each new one hits the market. Young people spend too much time playing into the violence by the creators who pretend it is entertainment. These are only a few of the ways violence becomes normal.
Absolutely. Some of the folks involved in Campaign Nonviolence are working on a team to come up with creative ways to break that cycle. It’s so important to stop the normalization of violence.
That was all well said. But the violence is only a symptom. We can’t end it until we address its root cause. And its root cause is something that almost no one in our culture is willing or able to see, because that cause is so very deeply embedded in our culture.
The following history is admittedly simplified, but I think it’s close enough to the truth to be useful. For our first 200,000 years we shared everything as equals. That’s still who we are, genetically. Any changes from that are merely a cultural overlay.
The big cultural change came 12,000 years ago, when the ice age ended and agriculture began. That made it possible — not necessary, but possible — for us to cease sharing as equals, and begin hoarding as unequals. That was our big mistake.
Since then our economic system has been based on separate property, which means “your loss is not my loss, and might even be my gain, and I don’t have to care about you.” If we don’t share, we must trade, and that increases inequality; then power corrupts. Hence poverty, plutocracy, war, slavery, genocide, all sorts of cruelties.
Thus, violence is not an interruption in normal life. Violence is inherent in what we have come to see as normal life. To end violence, we must change our lives on the most fundamental level: We must love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). Love must be manifested in our economic system.
I think many of the people involved in Campaign Nonviolence would agree with this, leftymathprofessor. They do identify the economic system and societal structures as part of the problem. Thanks for bringing it up.