Monday, December 15, 2008

A Short Chat on Nonviolence


I prepared a short talk on the theme of nonviolence that I am hoping will be read at one of the sessions in the upcoming symposium on nonviolence at the Attagliano Park in Rome. It is basically composed of excerpts from two chapters of my book, Free Interpretation Redux, An Inquiry into the background of Vengeance, Violence and Nonviolence.



I had a nice online chat with one of the bloggers following my blog, "Free Interpretation -- An Inquiry into the Background of Vengeance, Violence and Nonviolence".

We were talking about free interpretation and its connection to nonviolence. And, as is usual, every time nonviolence is talked about, Hitler and the Nazis are almost always invoked. Even just for the sake of argument, they would always asked how nonviolence could have been used against Hitler and the Nazis. They say that nonviolence could have never won the war against the likes of Hitler. They would say that nonviolence could have never stop the Nazis.

Anyway, I told him that nonviolence is not trying to stop Hitler or the likes of Hitler. Nonviolence is trying to stop violence. I continued that, sure, the Allied Forces won the war and stopped Hitler and the Nazis, but certainly, the Allies did not stop violence. You must agree with me that violence is clearly still with us.

I concluded by saying that nonviolence is not just about going against the horrors of war; it is not just about going against all forms of discrimination; it is not just going against all forms of violence. It is more about working in favor of peace and doing something for peace. It is more about carrying peace within you and carrying this peace to others. It is more about reconciling with yourself and reconciling with others. It is about feeling the human in you and feeling the human in others. It is about humanizing yourself. It is about humanizing the other.

Finally, I said, nonviolence is about liberating yourself when you
treat others as you would have them treat you.


"But what is violence, really? And what about the 'survival of the fittest' – as some people would want us to believe." He continued to query.

So, I responded that it is not like that at all. Sure, sometimes, it is like a "jungle" out there, but people are not the same as the animals in the jungle. No, because people have freedom of choice – people have intentions. And this is the main difference between humans and the rest of the other living beings on this planet. Humans have intentionality; they have the freedom to choose. Each individual, each human group has intentionality. And very often, this is exactly where conflicts arise – when people choose to impose their intentionality on others.

When I impose something on another; I am actually choosing for the other. I am therefore negating his fundamental freedom – his freedom to choose. It could be as simple and as innocent as a censure – like stopping someone from saying their mind or voicing their opinion; or as extreme as choosing someone's death for him (murder) – the extreme case of stopping the other's intentionality (which is to preserve oneself and to continue living).

Violence then, is the appropriation of the other's choice or intentionality. Put in another way, violence is the imposition of one's intentionality on the intentionality of the other.

I can say then, that as long as one does not impose one's beliefs, one's faith, one's god, one's choice, one's intentionality, especially, one's stupidity on another -- then, one can freely do whatever one wants.


What about nonviolence – what is it exactly?

I answered that it is really not that complicated. If we know what violence is, then, nonviolence is non-tolerance of violence. In reality, we can say that tolerance of violence is violence.

If the human being is intentionality, and violence is going against that intentionality; then, nonviolence is to contribute to the enhancement of that intentionality. To put it simply, if the human being’s transformation is hindered by pain and suffering, and his basic project is the overcoming of this pain, this suffering – then, helping him alleviate his pain, his suffering, is nonviolence.

Helping him in his transformation, then, is the greatest active-nonviolence act one can do for another – the most valid of all actions!

It is life's project par excellence!


• In other words, to humanize is to act with nonviolence.

• The most important nonviolent act: to humanize the other.

• To humanize the other is to humanize the earth.

• To humanize the earth is to humanize yourself.

• Helping the other in his transformation is self-transformation.

• If you take this as your reality, as your mission, then nothing can detain you from your destiny, and you would have opened the other's future, his own destiny.


This, for me, is nonviolence.