“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people”- Rosa Parks
We have had numerous nonviolent struggles around the world that not only were successful, but also avoided cycle of violence. Hence nonviolence is the only better option, no matter what the challenge might be. It may take time to get what we want, but worth the wait than to resort to violence. All needed is patience, perseverance, clear strategy and visionary leadership.
When we resort to nonviolence, every life matters for us. Even the lives of those we do not agree with. That is the bottom line and a great benchmark for organising ourselves to wage nonviolent struggles. As we design our strategy for our nonviolent struggles, the first and most important question that comes is, ‘would our struggle put the lives of others at risk?’ If so, we need to rethink and rethink again to avoid endangering the lives of others.
When we hear stories like that of Rosa Perks, who had the courage to refuse giving up her seat to a white passenger on the bus she was travelling on 1st December 1955, we would ask what happened next? Why did she do it and what was the outcome? We know that despite her action and subsequent arrest, it took coordinated actions and nonviolent struggles to stop the segregation. It took 13 months of bus boycott and sacrifice until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional
If we take the suffragette movements, they took a great deal of organising and nonviolent struggles to succeed. Despite the resistance these movements faced, those who led the movements did not resort to violence and didn’t endanger lives of others. We did in fact see some direct actions, including actions on properties, but that didn’t put lives of others at risk.
In the 21st century, however, we have seen more and more violence; and groups with differing views resorting to force and violence to fulfill their demands. The violence we have seen around the world have been very deadly, costly and have brought cycle of violence and mistrust. We cannot afford to be in such a cycle of violence; and hence have to reorganise ourselves in a nonviolent way as the only option for achieving what we want to achieve. We need to learn from our successes, work on our shortcomings and mistakes, and revisit our strategies to make our struggles fit for purpose, inclusive and contemporary. Tribalism, ethnic politics, the attitude of ‘I and my group are better’ would not take us any where; as it is an outdated thinking. It would not also help us to achieve our objectives as collective humans with unique personalities that are interdependent. Equally if we are stuck in the victimhood mentality, it is vital to have a rethink. After all, we are only once in this world and have a lot to work together as collective humans, with a world big enough for all of us to live in unanimity. If we are still in the thinking of ‘I and my’ instead of ‘we and us’ attitude, we need to rework on our paradigm without delay.
In nonviolent movements, we need to see who can be with us and strengthen our allies’ base. We need to be clear be on why our allies should be with us as we wage our struggles in a nonviolent way. What does it mean for them and consequently for all of us? Thinking about humanity in general, where everyone of us have a part and contributions to make. In our nonviolent struggles, the winners should be all of us; nothing less. Hence as we sit down to strategize, we have to think on ‘Why’ our nonviolent struggles are important. It should be noticeably clear on where we want to go together and how we would go there.
As we can see from Marin Luther King’s six principles for nonviolent struggles, we get even more enlightened on why we should resort to this form of struggles today more than ever. Here are MLK’s 6 principles on nonviolence:-
“Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people; nonviolence seeks to win friendships and understanding; nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice or evil, not people; nonviolence holds that unearned, voluntary suffering for a just cause can educate and transform people and societies; nonviolence chooses love instead of hate; and nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.”
Powerful message from MLK. Nonviolence is the only option to win and thrive together.