Monday, July 23, 2012

Nonviolence Lesson 101

In honor of one of my favorite Professors in college, John Darby, I wanted to write a short piece on nonviolence. Professor Darby passed away this year but I will never forget the lessons of nonviolence that he taught me. Nonviolence is often labeled as "taboo" or "impractical" but when looked at in depth, actually reveals itself to be quite effective.

The force of nonviolence has not only been a powerful force against injustice but also a commonly misunderstood topic in the world. When people first think of nonviolence they immediately think of pacifism or something of that similar "soft" nature. The Gandhian method however looks at pacifism through an entirely different lens. Gandhi used it as a way to overcome injustice and alter political objectives while still staying true to moral principles.

Another one of my revered Professors, David Cortright states it another way, "he (Gandhi) helped to bridge the gap between pure pacifism and resistance to evil by turning religious principles into methods of social change."

Gandhi himself had many inspirations for this movement including the teaches of Jesus as well as the Jain and Buddhist traditions. It does not matter what if you are religious, spiritual or atheist... pacifism is a value to be shared as much as it is a movement. The Gandhian method centers itself around taking different perspectives and putting them through the medium of nonviolent social action into a higher truth.

One of the true merits of nonviolence is its ability to achieve "victory" or end to conflict without malice or bitterness. This was exemplified in the "relatively" peaceful Indian independence from the British in 1947. A common misconception today about nonviolence is that it is a passive exercise where people just let oppressors walk over them or kill them. This is simply NOT true about nonviolent movements. Rather, they are an active force of pressure and love as well as another option rather than war or inaction to fight against injustice. It is a respect for the adversary with defiance of his policies or agendas. Gandhi himself said that there is nothing passive about resistance to social evil. This is exemplified in his education in Satygraha- a concept that essentially involves action and willingness to change while accepting new understandings of truth.

One key importance in making a nonviolent resistance successful is the piercing of the consciences of the adversaries AND third parties. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. shared a common philosophy that the first step in every nonviolent campaign must be collecting all the facts and publicizing the issues. The true effectiveness of the Gandhian method lies within the combination of moral persuasion and social pressure.

The topic of sacrifice is also debated amongst the followers and critics of nonviolence. Nonviolent followers who stand up to repressive authority will face hardships and may even suffer physical harm or death. This is what Gandhi states as true strength. The oppressors who resort to violence are displaying weakness and desperation while the nonviolent resistors are showing strength. Cortright said that the ability to shed fear is the key to gaining freedom while Gandhi and MLK believed that cowardice was a greater evil than violence. This was not to condone violence in any way but it was a call to people to have personal bravery in their fight against injustice and violence. Love is transcended through nonviolent actions and hits the hearts of the oppressors as well as third parties.

Human love crosses all boundaries of religion. Agape, which Martin Luther King Jr. emphasized in his teachings, is love for the sake of love and the unrestrained giving of self.

THE TRUE essence of nonviolent action: Resist with Love not Hate.

RIP Professor Darby.



  1. Dear Jeb, Sadly the late Prof John Darby was my former father-in-law (common law) and his son Michael had beaten, kicked, punched, slapped and spat on me for 8 years in a terrorizing domestic violent relationship. John Darby knew of his son's escalating mental illnesses and violence against women for over 5 years but repeatedly chose to ignore human rights violations occurring in his own family. He also exposed his own sons to violence in schools throughout the Northern Irish Troubles which clearly explains why his sons grew into extremely dysfunctional and dangerously violent men. The Darby Family and the Kroc Institute of International Peace, Notre Dame have denied me restorative justice and I therefore continue to live with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have lost my chance to have my own children which is an injury I struggle to come to terms with.

    I have never been afforded the luxury of experiencing "THE TRUE essence of nonviolent action" that you speak of so eloquently in your article here as Ending Violence Against Women was never an issue worthy of addressing neither by the Professor John Darby, his family nor by the Kroc Institute of International Peace at Notre Dame.

    Your Peace Pandemic is a nice idea however, peace will never be achieved whilst notable peacebuilders deny justice for women who are violently abused in their own families and communities.

    I hope you will join me and many others true peacebuilders in promoting "White Ribbon" and "UNITE Say No" campaigns to End Violence Against Women which is now a global epidemic.

    Kat Henaway

    1. Kat,

      Thank you very much for your comment. I first must apologize for the horrific things that you have had to experience in your life with men and as a man I can honestly say this is something that Peace Pandemic really focuses on. The treatment of women is our main point with young boys when we say, "the true test of a man is how he treats the women in his life." My entire heart is with you and all other victims of domestic violence and will be the first to say that Peace begins at home.

      Nothing will change if we don't teach young boys and girls the true physical and emotional effects of violence. Thank you once again for your comment Kat and just like you, I will stand against domestic violence as long as I live.

      All my love,


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