By Piero Falci // A book review of Ken Butigan’s new book Nonviolent Lives: People and Movements Changing the World Through the Power of Active Nonviolence
It’s time to teach nonviolence. It is time to flood the curricula of our schools with subjects that can improve human relations such as Nonviolent Communication, Nonviolent Conflict Resolution, Character Education, Mindfulness Meditation, Restorative Justice, Mediation, and Social and Emotional Learning. It is time to teach less about the violent warriors and more about the nonviolent peacemakers. “Nonviolent Lives,” a book by Ken Butigan, inspires its readers to consider that they, too, can be agents of change through nonviolent means.
This book highlights a group of individuals who dedicated themselves to bring about justice and peace through active nonviolent resistance. Although we can more easily remember the names and great feats of those heroes who risked and lost their lives, this book also brings to light other less known peacemakers, revealing that the path to justice and peace is mostly made of small and persistent acts of defiance. Many of the individuals mentioned in Butigan’s book didn’t do anything tremendously daring and heroic to begin with; they simply decided that they could not remain as bystanders and allow wrongdoing to go on. They had the courage to step outside of their comfort zone, speak up, and expose the perpetrators of injustices, day in and day out. And this is something that we all can do. By carrying out small acts of civil disobedience, protest, and resistance, they initiated waves of social change that brought us closer to achieving what should be the aim of mankind: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
“Nonviolent Lives” is a book that proves, through many examples, the great power of active nonviolent resistance to beget social change. This book is, also, a calling to the political involvement and activism so needed nowadays in this world of ours, a world plagued by all sorts of direct and indirect violence.
When will we put an end to social injustice, oppression, exploitation, bigotry, discrimination, exclusion, income inequality, and poverty,? When we will say “enough is enough” to human rights abuses, torture, environmental aggression, war, and the continuous development of weapons of mass destruction? When will we put an end to all this insanity? When will we pause and realize that this planet of ours is a beautiful place of immense abundance with more than enough for everybody? When will we realize that we can organize ourselves to live on it in gentle and cooperative ways that will allow everyone to have dignified, thriving and contributing lives?
The truth is that everything we do for justice and peace, no matter how small, adds up to bring about a culture of compassion and solidarity that one day will prevail in this world. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The stories in this book prove that this is absolutely true.
“Nonviolent Lives” takes us to walk on the same paths of those peacemakers who came before us. If we pay attention, we can hear them calling us to join them. Let us heed their calling.