How do we as citizens of this planet manage our thoughts and feelings about the world we live in? How do we respond to the endless stream of violence in our state, our country and the world? How do we resist the strong temptation to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that issues of war, poverty, domestic assaults, racism, environmental destruction and the epidemic of violence do not affect us nor our family and friends?
I look at my grandchildren, a granddaughter born in 2001 just a month following the 9/11 attack on New York and Washington, D.C., and a grandson born three years later, who have never known a world without war, without environmental destruction and so many other catastrophes. They have never known a life in which the evening news is not filled with images of school massacres, police assaults, climate change crises, terrorist attacks, suicide bombings and mothers and children fleeing their homelands because of war.
We live in a culture where the use of violence has become the norm and to our great diminishment as human beings, it seems to have become acceptable. The media consistently highlights violent acts, offering graphic details as well as video footage. We are bombarded with visual images that stay indelibly imprinted in our minds. The entertainment industry makes billions each year on films featuring horrendous violent acts. In electronic games so popular with our youth, the highest level of accomplishment is achieved by killing off their opponents.
Just recently our governor said he would like to duel a lawmaker and goes forth without consequence. How is this acceptable? What is the lesson for our children and young adults?
In the face of so much violence, the temptation to give in to a feeling of powerlessness is very strong. At the same time, the issues of violence that confront us cry out for a new paradigm, a new vision for a culture of peace and nonviolence. Those of us who grew up in the 1960s are well acquainted with the concept of a “counterculture.” Today’s world requires us to counter the culture of violence, to resist it at every level, personal, community, nationally and internationally.
Nonviolence is not merely the absence of violence nor is it a passive approach to conflict. It is an extremely effective active strategy for social change as well as an ethic for living. Some question the efficacy of nonviolence. Can we honestly look at our world over the past few decades and say that violence has been an effective way to resolve conflict?
There is significant academic research to demonstrate the efficacy of nonviolent action for social and political change. Researcher Erica Chenoweth, in a study of conflicts worldwide since 1900, found that campaigns of nonviolent resistance were twice as effective as their violent counterparts. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed that “the ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral; begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.”
Pope Francis will address this topic in his message titled “Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace” on the World Day of Peace on Jan. 1, 2017. The pope said in a recent address that “in our complex and violent world, it is truly a formidable undertaking to work for peace by living the practice of nonviolence.”
The practice of nonviolence is indeed a formidable yet worthy undertaking on a global scale and truly an attainable one on a personal level. The most effective antidote to feeling powerless is to take action.
Our children, grandchildren and all children across the globe deserve to know a world where we live together in peace as one human family interested in and working toward the well being of everyone.
Mary Ellen Quinn is co-coordinator of Pax Christi Maine. She has worked as a social worker in Bangor for 35 years.
Reposted with permission from Bangor Daily News – http://bangordailynews.com/