Part of A Retrospective Series on the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions 2014 as we approach the Week of Actions 2015.
by Rivera Sun for Campaign Nonviolence
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk and Buddhist teacher, was once participating in a large peace demonstration. Walking slowly in the march accompanied by monks and laypeople, a gap widened between him and the rowdier, angry group of protesters in front of him. When asked about it, Thich Nhat Hanh commented that the way to make peace was not to yell at politicians to declare peace, but to practice peace, here and now, without ceasing to move toward social and political change.
In a culture where I’m so busy is equated with I’m so important; and stress is an indication of one’s value to society, being peaceful does not seem to receive a lot of cultural reinforcement. In movements for change, being outraged is raised up as an indication of one’s righteous suffering and becomes a measurement of one’s commitment to ending injustice. Our culture seems to be at a loss for ways to quantify the intensity of peaceful, yet determined efforts toward change. Our media, in particular, latches onto violence and chaos as news while ignoring calm dedication – even if it is proving effective.
During the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions Sept 21-27th, 2014, several groups organized peace walks, peace vigils, and peace circles, highlighting the practice of being peace as an act of nonviolence. To some, these actions seemed inconsequential in the face of the systemic, terrifying crisis that our world faces. Yet, anyone who has examined the effects of interpersonal violence, generational trauma, cultural oppression, or childhood abuse recognizes that the practice of being peace, here and now, is preventing generations of cyclical violence. Many historical tyrants have a history of being abused; if their parents or elders had practiced nonviolence instead of abuse, what might have occurred in our world?
Breaking the cycle of violence takes a conscious act of nonviolence. It requires neither passivity nor violent fighting, but rather engaged nonviolent action. The practice of nonviolence in the midst of a world in crisis is certainly not easy! Yet, if we can work steadfastly toward change and be a living embodiment of peace and nonviolence, then we have begun the process of creating deep change, right here and now.
Being peace in the midst of the crisis also serves to model practices for our friends and neighbors during these challenging times. Our culture teaches us to respond to crisis with horror, outrage, stress, and often, self-centered behaviors focused on our own survival. Outside spiritual centers or therapy sessions, few US citizens are exposed to teachings of peace. In our schools, media, entertainment, workplaces, and other activities, practicing engaged, active nonviolence is rarely spoken about.
Campaign Nonviolence is a long-term movement calling on people in all 50 states and beyond to practice relentless nonviolence toward ourselves, all others, and the world through joining the global grassroots movements for change. And when we put these three areas of practice into action, what might that look like?
It will look like you, me, our friends, neighbors, and perhaps, like Thich Nhat Hanh walking peacefully, yet indomitably toward ending war and violence, and bringing the presence of active nonviolence to every part of our lives.
Thousands nationwide will be engaging in nonviolent action during the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions Sept 20-27th, 2015, to end war, poverty, the climate crisis and all forms of violence. You can participate and join with others in your local community! Learn more, find a local action, or add an action here.
Author/Activist Rivera Sun is the social media director for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. She is the author of three social protest novels, The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha, and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars. She is the cohost of Occupy Radio and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. Her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. Rivera Sun lives in an earthship house in Taos, New Mexico.www.riverasun.com