Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Early Years of the Dalai Lama

Lhamo Thondup was born on July 6, 1935 in the small farming village of Takster in the Qinghai province. At the age of three, the young boy was recognized as the tulku, the reincarnated essence, of the thirteenth Dalai Lama. Upon this recognition, Lhamo Thondup, the fifth eldest of sixteen children born to farmer parents, was renamed Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso. These six names described the qualities that the re-born Dalai Lama was to possess: Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, and Ocean of Wisdom.

The Buddhist tradition of samsara holds that the cyclical passage from life to death and back to life again can only be escaped through Awakening. As such, Tibetans today strongly believe that the current Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of the spirit that has embodied previous Dalai Lamas. This belief was no different in the case of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

After he was identified as the tulku of the Precious Victorious One, Tenzin Gyatso spent his childhood and adolescence under the tutelage of Buddhist monks, living in the Potala Palace and Norbulingka Palace (the summer residence of the Dalai Lama), located in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Despite mounting tensions between Tibet and the Chinese government, Tenzin Gyatso was kept relatively shielded from Tibet’s political affairs, left instead to study the five major disciplines of a Buddhist education: Sanskrit, Tibetan culture and art, medicine, logic, and philosophy. However, no amount of knowledge of ancient languages or philosophical ideals could have prepared the young spiritual leader for the ramifications of the impending end to centuries of Tibetan isolation.

The escalating hostility between China and Tibet culminated in the expulsion of all Chinese citizens from Tibet in July 1949. Due to the impending conflict with the People’s Republic of China, on November 17, 1950, at the age of 15, Tenzin Gyatso was granted full governing powers as Dalai Lama, three years earlier than Tibetan governmental tradition specifies. The newly enthroned Dalai Lama’s subsequent attempts to peacefully resolve the China-Tibet conflict, including the ratification of the China-designed Seventeen Point Agreement for Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, were met with nothing but further aggression. In 1959, following a major uprising among the Tibetan population, suspicions arose that the Chinese government had plans to assassinate Tenzin Gyatso. At the urging of a trusted oracle, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet on March 17, 1959, entering into an on-going exile in India, where he has led the Tibetan government-in-exile and headed a peaceful movement for a free Tibet.

Tenzin Gyatso’s nonviolent perspective is founded on the principles of Buddha and is also greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. After visiting the Rajghat, the site of Gandhi’s cremation, the Dalai Lama said,
I wondered what precious advice I might have received if he were still alive. I felt deeply that he would have devoted his wholehearted energy and personal charisma in a non- violent campaign for the freedom of the Tibetan people. With deepening fervor, I regretted not being able to meet him in this world.[…] I renewed my decision to follow his example, no matter what the obstacles. And more than ever, I resolved to never associate myself with acts of violence. 
This commitment to the principles of nonviolence is briefly examined in Claude B. Levenson’s Tenzin Gyatso: The Early Life of the Dalai Lama.

Levenson’s biography of this Tibetan spiritual and political leader expertly details the events and circumstances surrounding Tenzin Gyatso’s formative years. Chronicling the occurrences from Gyatso’s birth until his exile at age twenty-four, Levenson simultaneously provides a comprehensive memoir of the Precious Victorious One’s life and elucidates the traditions of Buddhism and the lineage of the mystical Dalai Lama. The author’s extensive knowledge of Buddhism and Tibetan history, as evidenced by her numerous other works on the subject, is a major strength of this biography. Additionally, the personal conversations recounted in this biography between Levenson and the Dalai Lama provide insight into and humanize this almost god-like figure.

Although strong in its factual components, Tenzin Gyatso: The Early Life of the Dalai Lama lacks analytical depth. Levenson briefly mentions the influences of Buddhism on the Dalai Lama’s pacifist nature; however, as the biography concludes with Gyatso entering into exile, the reader is not afforded the opportunity to learn about the peaceful progressive movement led by the Dalai Lama, or the nonviolent methods used as part of this movement. Levenson’s biography serves more to illuminate the enigmatic process by which Lhamo Thondup came to be Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso rather than to examine the Dalai Lama’s work as one of the twentieth century’s most renowned nonviolent leaders.

Upon reading Tenzin Gyatso: The Early Life of the Dalai Lama I felt unsatisfied. This, however, is a credit to, not a detriment of, Levenson’s biography of the fourteenth incarnation of the Dalai Lama. I was so captivated by the humility and intelligence of the Dalai Lama, as portrayed in Levenson’s memoir of Tenzin Gyatso, that I was not content to learn simply about the first twenty-four year of his life. I instead felt compelled to further explore the life of Tenzin Gyatso and his efforts in the struggle for a free Tibet. Claude B. Levenson’s Tenzin Gyatso: The Early Life of the Dalai Lama serves as an excellent starting point in a journey to understand the life of this great spiritual and political leader.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Israeli Pacifist: The Life Of Joseph Abileah

For decades the Palestine-Israel conflict has caused innumerable casualties and atrocities on both sides. Amid this violent dispute, numerous proponents of peace have advocated nonviolent alternatives to the bloody skirmishes between the Palestinians and Israelis. Joseph Abileah is one of these advocates for peace and has spent the majority of his life working to end this conflict through nonviolence. In Israeli Pacifist: the Life of Joseph Abileah, Anthony G. Bing carefully outlines the life and works of this persistent peace-maker.

Bing stresses that Abileah was an ordinary man. Joseph Abileah was born to a Jewish couple in Austria, where he lived most of his childhood. Since an early age, Abileah loved music and he later became a skilled violinist. His adoration of musical harmonies drove him to strive for the same kind of harmony in real life. As a small boy, Abileah moved to Haifa, a town in Palestine where Arabs and Jews lived together in peace. These childhood experiences showed Joseph that peace between these two disparate groups was possible and realistically achievable. As a young man, Abileah reveled in sight-seeing and found a new connection with the land. This connection helped him to see the common brotherhood between the Jews and the Arabs, “The fundamental brotherhood of Arab and Jew appeared to him as an almost mystical union, and his experiences with the land on both sides of the Jordan River convinced the young Abileah that the land should be as undivided as the kinship” (19). This belief in the brotherhood of Arabs and Jews strongly influenced Abileah in his future work as a peace-maker.

By an early age, Joseph formed his worldview based solely on his own experiences. He was convinced that fear was intertwined with hatred and once fear was eliminated, hatred could be forgotten. Furthermore, he firmly believed that a Jewish state should not be established on the basis of violence. With this worldview, Joseph embarked on his quest for reconciling the Jews and the Arabs through nonviolent alternatives.

Joseph devoted himself to work camps, where Jews, Arabs, and foreign volunteers worked together to rebuild villages and help bridge the gap between Palestine and Israel. He also made frequent excursions into Palestine to supply homeless Palestinians with essential materials. Soon Joseph began to involve himself in organizations with like-minded people and ideals. These organizations included the War Resisters International (WRI), where he was elected to the International Council of the WRI, the League for Human and Civil Rights (LHCR) and the American Friends Service Committee, to name a few. One of Joseph’s major contributions was his memorandum to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). This memo advocated rejection of the partition plan, the union of Palestine and Transjordan under the ruling of King Abdullah, total disarmament, and multiple other proposals dealing with education, health, and economics. This plan was considered by UNSCOP and Abileah was invited to make an oral presentation to the committee. Although this invitation was withdrawn some months later, Joseph remained true to his memo and advocated these proposals throughout his lifetime, especially the union of Palestine and Transjordan. Another major happening in Abileah’s life was when he was asked by the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights to represent the organization at the UN’s special hearing on suspected Israeli infringements on human rights in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Although Abileah was a little reluctant, he testified in two hearings in front of the UN Committee. At these hearings Joseph, like always, spoke of his own experiences and interviews with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Joseph was later noted as being especially helpful. Finally, Abileah is particularly proud of his formation of the Society for Middle East Confederation. The establishment of this society had been a dream for Joseph and he successfully accomplished it. The Society for Middle East Confederation is centered around “solving the Middle East conflict by cooperation of Arabs and Jews on the economic and political level. These range from a BENELUX pattern (economic cooperation) to a full confederation of states, providing equal status and representation to each of the member-components” (156). The accomplishments of Joseph Abileah are numerous and his persistent optimism and belief in nonviolent methods is unwavering. Bing portrays Abileah as a true peace-maker and a strong individual who deserves the admiration of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

This book is incredibly well-written and Bing does an extraordinary job at outlining the life and labors of Joseph Abileah. The beginning of each chapter conveniently includes the dates in which the events of that chapter occurred and multiple pictures and primary sources are helpful in understanding the writings and events in Abileah’s life. Furthermore, Bing is careful to explain the historical events surrounding Joseph’s life. By providing a historical context and background to Abileah’s works, Bing shows the hostile environment in which Joseph was advocating peace and nonviolence. The only qualms I had with this book was that there were not enough quotes or opinions from Joseph’s close friends and family. Although there are a few, I felt that it would have been helpful to see his friends’ and family’s perspective on his works and personality. Overall, this book was a very interesting and easy read for anyone interested in the nonviolent life, or even those who wish to learn about a great man that should be admired the world-over.

This book truly made me want to learn more about the lives of other pacifists and nonviolence advocates. This bibliography has shown me the meanings of true courage and steadfast perseverance. I was struck by Joseph’s unwavering faith in the goodness of the human heart and I am interested in reading more about supposedly normal individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to humankind. For me, this book was a launch pad for my journey into learning more about, and hopefully embracing, nonviolence.

9/26/08 Reflections

  • To be successful in diplomacy and action, we must be aware of our opponents' thoughts and culture
  • As tea did in America, salt freed India
  • Making a statement that you don't necessarily believe can force a conversation
  • You can't do it alone - must build support
  • Inspiring image of Gandhi's followers walking towards salt works, aware they would receive physical abuse
  • Still amazes me how one man can mobilize a country in a nonviolent way
  • I enjoyed Gandhi's overwhelming emphasis on truth, and the ways he would forcast his activities
  • Nonviolence, like the invention of electricity, has the potential to permeate the world
  • Try just to think about 30 minutes a day

Colman McCarthy: Inspiring Non-Violent Activism

Colman McCarthy’s I’d Rather Teach Peace opens with his description of the first course he ever taught. Mr. McCarthy explains how an invitation to speak at a children’s high school in Washington, DC in the spring of 1982 transformed his life, bringing challenges, but also opening the limitless possibilities to teaching peace. Upon deciding to enter the classroom, McCarthy had already accrued fourteen years as a syndicate columnist with the Washington Post. A Roman Catholic, McCarthy spent five years in a Trappist Monastery previous to his role as a journalist. This solid contemplative foundation is evident in the genuine, thought-provoking ideas Colman presents in his autobiography, I’d Rather Teach Peace.
To the politically moderate reader, a book as honest as Mr. McCarthy’s might be either shocking or disregarded as ideological banter or both. At its core, McCarthy’s book takes great strides in challenging the reader to think outside of a conformist and obedient society. These jabs are very intelligently constructed avoiding insult or condescension. In one succinct sentence of his preface, Colman states his objective in teaching, “Alternatives to violence exist and, if individuals and nations can organize themselves properly, nonviolent force is always stronger, more enduring, and assuredly more moral than violent force” (McCarthy xiii). Throughout his book, McCarthy expands on this idea, emphasizing the power of peace.
Taking place across a semester, McCarthy journals about his experiences in several different schools, ranging from Oak Hill Youth Center in Laurel, Maryland to Georgetown Law School. While a sizeable portion of the book follows from McCarthy’s thoughts and ideologies, the meat of the narrative is derived from McCarthy’s students and their reactions to his teachings. This is a particularly strong aspect of I’d Rather Teach Peace for the way in which it allows McCarthy to respond to doubters while also physically illustrating the potential for his theories on peace and its study. These responses enable McCarthy to fluidly analyze many aspects of non-violence theory, while incorporating his witty humor and vast experiential knowledge. This format, combined with McCarthy’s natural style, makes for an incredibly fascinating and engaging read.
Despite the strengths of McCarthy’s book, I have difficulty naming it as one of the best pieces of literature I’ve ever read. Pondering this in disappointment, it seems that one of the books strengths, its accessibility, may also double as its greatest weakness. Mr. McCarthy speaks directly and honestly. These qualities give the book a unique flavor that make its read feel as though you are sitting next to the author as he shares the narrative aloud. The ideas presented are heavy, yet tangible and real. Mr. McCarthy steers clear of literary devices typical to the humanities, symbolism, metaphor, and other thematic elements. As a result, I have difficulty taking Mr. McCarthy’s book for anything more than surface value. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it remains a very powerful read. But regardless, this style seems to take away from the imaginative and interpretive qualities found in some of literature classics, from Shakespeare to Twain.
Nonetheless, Mr. McCarthy’s book most certainly leaves the reader wanting more. While it may not provoke second and third readings in search of deeper analyses, it remains a very discussable book. What McCarthy’s book lacks in interpretive substance, it more than makes up for with the inspiration it leaves the reader. After a strong initial impact, the book does not conclude without creating a legacy for itself within the reader.
It is difficult to objectively analyze this legacy because it is likely different for every reader. However, there are several points that seem to build the foundation for the book as an eternal guardian in the conscience of the reader. McCarthy presents many of these ideas in his chapter titled “Ideas to Practice, Not to Mull”, long before the Epilogue. One of McCarthy’s most poignant passages is his response to a student’s speculation about the use of non-violent strategies against Hitler.
"Sound bites don’t do it. I feel like a math teacher who chalks the blackboard with calculus equations and then a student – who has never taken a math course before and has been told all his life that 2+2=423 – rises to say that nothing on the board makes sense. But make it clear with a quickie answer. Right now."
McCarthy, 82 
This is impossible of course. Yet, this scenario seems to drive the objective of McCarthy’s book.
        He works throughout his memoir to nullify the notion that, “2+2=423,” and slowly prove to the reader that it, in fact, equals four. Not in a demeaning or patronizing way, but in the methodical way any teacher would help a student who didn’t understand a concept from class. The legacy of the book lies in McCarthy’s revelations and the tools he gives the reader for further questioning and understanding. So sure, McCarthy’s book isn’t Tolstoy, Gandhi, or Merton. But, it’s a start. And change must start somewhere.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

International Day of Peace: Temporary Ceasefire in Afghanistan

What chance does peace have against the realities of war and violence in today's world? Sunday, September 21st marked the annual anniversary of the International Day of Peace as declared by the U.N. And while for most people in the U.S., the Day of Peace might not have had any dramatic effects on everyday life - there were some demonstrations (like Pinwheels for Peace), and the usual lectures and local events - in Afghanistan the Day of Peace had a profound impact nation-wide.

The U.S., NATO, the Afghan Government and the Taliban all agreed to put down their weapons for a day in observance of the Day of Peace. For 24 hours, there was to be no violence, shootings, raids, or attacks of any kind in a country that has been engaged in a nearly constant, bloody struggle.

The day was widely celebrated with sports, a polio vaccination campaign (taking the opportunity of a ceasefire to vaccinate 1.8 million children in an area prone to violence), and marches. One street was renamed "Peace Avenue," and Afghan orphans marched with Afghanistan's first Olympic medalist through town.

The day, while largely successful according to Afghan police and US military, still saw one attack by Taliban militants who killed two guards. However, in a year where over 4,500 people have already died (that's about 17 a day), the Day of Peace clearly made a substantial difference - take that Rush Limbaugh. Afghanistan's observance of the Day of Peace, at least for me, is a powerful indicator of the practical power of nonviolence. If all the actors in one of the most war-torn countries in the world can agree to renounce the use of force for 24 hours, why can't others? Why not 48 hours, or 72? A week of peace? A month?

Relating back to our initial discussion on the possibility of a nonviolent society or a nonviolent world, I think the events of the Day of Peace in Afghanistan serve as a fantastic example of the real, tangible possibility of nonviolence. The country not only refrained from violence, but also its people used the opportunity to embrace positive peace with demonstrations and medical aid. Can you imagine the things that could be accomplished if the entire world could agree to 24 hours of peace?

*photos from the Associated Press - see second hyperlink

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bayard Rustin Book Review

In Bayard Rustin and the Civil Rights Movement, author Daniel Levine does an admirable job of describing a key figure in US history whose name is too often forgotten. The book is Levine’s response to the public’s lack of familiarity with Rustin beyond the occasional recognition of his importance as “some civil rights guy.” The text is equal parts sympathetic biography and informative history book, but it does an admirable job of introducing the uninitiated to one of the most influential men in the fight for civil rights.

In 1912, Rustin was born in Pennsylvania where his grandmother and grandfather raised him. The concepts of compassion and social justice were familiar to Rustin from day one, as his grandparents assisted African-American families migrating from the South. More directly, Rustin’s grandmother’s activities – NAACP member, creator of an integrated gardening club, and co-founder of a black children’s nursery, nurse’s association, and community center – clearly influenced his development as an activist. Moreover, it is important to recognize that as a child, many of Rustin’s neighborhood friends were white, and included several Jewish children. This may explain some of Rustin’s actions later in life, and particularly his strong support for the state of Israel.

Looking back on Rustin’s early life, the first instance where he engaged in nonviolent direct action (NVDA) to resist segregation was as a student athlete in an integrated high school. Rustin and one of his friends refused to compete in a race unless they were permitted to stay in the same hotel as their white teammates, which they were subsequently allowed to do. High school was also the time when Rustin began to consider the possibility that he was gay, although he asserts that he did not fully realize this until his college years. As a star student, athlete and musician, it seemed natural for Rustin to continue his studies at a City University in New York, but his overwhelming dedication to activism prevented him from committing to his studies and earning a traditional degree. Ironically, numerous universities later recognized Rustin for his activism by awarding him honorary degrees.

In 1936, Rustin joined the Society of Friends and became a peace activist the following summer, traveling around the country and speaking out against war. Shortly after, he also joined the Young Communist League (YCL) of City College, primarily a peace organization at the time. When the YCL told Rustin to abandon his work to end discrimination in the military, however, he left the group and became a harsh critic of communism. In search of new organizations to which he could dedicate his time, Rustin then found the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) lead by A. J. Muste who introduced him to NVDA, and the March on Washington (MOW) movement led by A. Phillip Randolph, who introduced Rustin to Gandhi’s work. Rustin’s exposure to Randolph’s leadership, as well as his experience as the youth director of MOW were both valuable in their ability to teach him the organizational and communication skills that he would utilize repeatedly as an activist for the remainder of his life, primarily working alongside Muste and Randolph. This period also marked the beginning of Rustin’s involvement with the two goals which he would spend years working on, dividing his time alternately pursuing international peace and an end to racism in the U.S.

Rustin’s self-assigned role as social activist was not an easy one, and he was subjected to physical violence and arrest on numerous occasions throughout his life. Imprisoned as a rebellious Conscientious Objector (CO) during WWII, for example, Rustin fought segregation in the prison by spending time on the top floor with white CO’s, which earned him a beating to which he refused to respond. Similarly, long before the Freedom Riders, Rustin was beaten by policemen and dragged from a bus for peacefully refusing to sanction an unjust law by moving to the back of a bus. Doubtlessly, Rustin’s work was made even more difficult because of his sexual orientation. After his arrest in California on a “morals charge,” Rustin’s identity as a homosexual was public knowledge and was used by his opponents, along with his brief support for communism, to discredit his work and to force him to hide behind leaders like Randolph as he continued to fight for civil rights. This, more than anything, may explain why Rustin is not as well known as other civil rights activists. Moreover, once Rustin faced the censure of fellow Quakers and Christians for being gay, religion began to fade in importance for Rustin.

Although his life was not without suffering, Rustin certainly had his share of successes. He organized the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947 to fight segregation on inter-state bus travel. He traveled to India to learn about NVDA first-hand. He assisted the independence movement in what is today Ghana, organized the Youth March for Integrated Schools, repeatedly advised Martin Luther King, organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott, co-organized the March on Washington in 1963, organized the New York School Boycott, worked with SNCC, CORE, and SCLC, and struggled with organized labor to open unions to minorities. A thorough list of all of Rustin’s accomplishments, some great and others small, would take pages to list.

However, it is important to note that while his goals remained relatively constant, the tools that Rustin used to achieve them evolved over time. Communism, Quakerism, and international pacifism diminished in importance to Rustin as he aged and began to embrace democratic politics as the best means to reaching the end of equality. Further, he emphasized the need to work with the federal government in assisting the poor – black and white – if racism and violence were to ever to be overcome. For these positions, and for his rejection of Black Nationalism and separatism, Rustin found himself becoming increasingly ignored as no longer relevant to the “black agenda” as time passed. During his final years, Rustin’s contributions to the causes of refugees, free and fair elections, and, to a certain extent, gay rights, were all but ignored by a nation that considered him “a grand old man” whose relevance did not extend beyond the mid-1960’s. Rustin died in 1987 from cardiac arrest; he was seventy-five.

In presenting his account of Rustin’s life, Levine succeeds more often than he fails. The book is clearly well researched, presents a fascinating behind-the-scenes view of the civil rights movement, and incorporates brief glimpses of humor and personality into a discussion of Rustin that help portray him as human. Additionally, the reader cannot help but come away from the book with knowledge about other key civil rights activist beyond Rustin; much of the book is spent discussing figures like Randolph, Muste, King, and others. By mentioning uncomplimentary details like Rustin’s affected accent, his occasional arrogance, and his break with pacifism to support military aid to Israel, the author also gains credibility. Levine should be commended too for his inclusion of Rustin’s homosexuality – a topic that other authors have sought to ignore at the expense of providing a true and accurate depiction of Rustin’s life.

However, Levine’s work is not without flaws and his writing can at times be repetitive. His treatment of Rustin’s gay identity frequently seems self-conscious and awkward, referring to “Rustin’s indiscreet, almost defiant, homosexual activity” while first incarcerated, and including the strange note that “there was no homosexual incident” while Rustin worked on a chain gang, hypothesizing that he “was too exhausted for much besides work.” Levine would also have benefited by including his definition of pacifism in the book, as his assertions that Rustin was or was not a pacifist during certain parts of his life have little meaning otherwise. Certainly, more information about Rustin’s personal life would have added to the biography too, painting Rustin as a full human being as well as an accomplished activist.

After finishing Levine’s work, I was surprised by how attached I felt to Rustin despite the primarily historical tone of the biography. Somewhere along the way, I found myself rooting for Rustin, and saddened by his eventual removal from the “black agenda” and the national stage. Certainly, I would like to learn more about Rustin, perhaps by listening to his speeches or reading more personal accounts of his life. Ultimately, the biography opened my eyes to the realities of the civil rights movement in the U.S.: the compromises that had to be made, the conflicts and dissent among activists, the successes and the failures on nonviolent action, and the overwhelming amount of planning and strategy that went into every event, demonstration, and movement that Rustin planned. And while I walk away from the book knowing significantly more about Rustin and the civil rights struggle, I am more aware than ever about how much there is to learn.

Lone Alaska Protester with Powerful Presence

Here's a great idea. You're one person, you really want people to know that not everyone in Alaska loves the governor, but what's a way to get the message out? Here's the story of one man maximizing his exposure: holding his sign down at the cruise ship dock. He summarizes:
All in all, I'd say about 70% of the folks who saw me were in favor of my little protest (out of probably 200-250 people). My picture was taken about 50 times, and I was featured in a couple videos. I was passed by the local police once and cruised by U.S. Customs once (both probably unrelated). My ass was threatened with a "kicking". My back was patted and my hand was shaken. I was even given a thumbs-down by a 70-year old woman who looked at me, pursed her lips and gave me "the raspberry". I was called a liar, and also called "my hero". So here I am at home pouring over the news and thinking... I should go out there again.
There'd been an earlier rally of 1500, protesting in front of a local library in downtown Anchorage. What do you think of this complementary action?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thoughts from today 9/19

  • Were 6 million people powerless under the law of a few menor was their power merely unexplored.
  • "I know the war is lost, but i am still going to win my war." -Eichman
  • I was impressed by the numerous methods for non-violent resistance generated by Gene Sharp.
  • Erode the base of a tyrant's power and everything else crumbles.
  • Non-violence must have grassroots, it must have its inception in the people to be successful.
  • Don't forget about the power of wives.
  • How can we have more instances of conversion and not disillusion.
  • in front of violence your only arm is intelligence.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

GU Young Voters Forum Crowd

The crowd included various students, staff, and proponents of peace. 

GU Young Voters Forum

Simply put, the GU 2008 Young Voters Forum was an interesting display of democracy and an excellent example of nonviolent action.  The Georgetown Young Republicans and Democrats sat on opposite sides of the room (on the right and left, respectively).  Republican Congressman Wilson from New Mexico, who represented John McCain's point of view, spoke with eloquence and honesty.  She expressed the importance of bipartisan action and strong leadership.  Democratic Congressman Davis from Alabama represented Barack Obama with strength and fervor.  He emphasized system change and progressive thinking.  It was a spirited debate and fittingly demonstrated the diverging views in the upcoming election.
Further, it showed the relatively peaceful nature of our election system.  While the two representatives had the obvious ideological clashes, they both maintained a respectful debate.  And significantly, they came in the spirit of bipartisanship.  Wilson remarked that Davis was one of her closes friends in Congress.  Lauren, a Georgetown sophomore and close friend of mine summarized it correctly when she said, "The point that we have this kind of discussion in this country is what makes us inherently nonviolent- we don't need to use violence as an outlet".

Sunday, September 14, 2008

1500 vs 93 in Alaska: Women Against Palin's Policies

Here's a nice little video of a rally that caught my eye while scanning Daily Kos. The dirty tricks used to try to derail the rally didn't stop folks from making their voices heard. This was a brighter spot in a day where I haven't see the pundits pick up on the scathing NY Times story on Palin's cronyism and vendettas.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Reflections from 9/12

  • Do you or do you not directly or indirectly want to kill or assault?
  • We contribute to violence and nonviolence everyday in ways that we often overlook.
  • How many lives have I indirectly killed or assaulted?
  • Be more conscious of how I contribute to violence in my every day actions
  • Although many view different religions as a source of conflict, there are nonviolent tendencies in every religion that are frequently overlooked
  • Though brief, I really enjoyed researching the nonviolent traditions of Islam, especially Jihad
  • It is disturbing to think how different my life would be if I refused to contribute to violence
  • Camus - we must raise our voices, we must make a choice to delegitimize violence
  • Can torture be legitimized by the goal of saving lives?
  • All nonviolence stems from finding our true nature

Survival of the Selfless

Darwin's argument actually goes towards cooperation for survival, not competition, from NewScientist.

Who has the power? Joker Interrogation scene

It's odd to use a clip from the latest Batman movie to make a point about the power of nonviolence, particularly when it's being used by the villain! But take a look . . .

It certainly isn't an example of principled nonviolence, but you get a sense of who has control and power using what. At least the ferries scene fares better for human nature!

Are the nonviolent struggles of Buddhists in Tibet and Burma promoting peace in other areas of the world?

From the Slate article, the question arises:
Are the nonviolent struggles of Buddhists in Tibet and Burma promoting peace in other areas of the world? These struggles obviously have not gone unnoticed on the international scene or here in D.C. where vigils and protests have been held over the past year. Now the Dalai Lama has become probably the most famous world religious leader in his campaign for support of Tibet and, along with the struggles of his people, sparked a popular interest in Buddhism. Many Buddhists criticize the Dalai Lama for becoming a media spectacle and an object of consumerism, but maybe this really is an efficient strategy for disseminating the story of nonviolence that is Tibet. Consumerism is not really the Dalai Lama's fault anyway, and picking up Buddhism from the internet or a bookstore is really not as superficial as it may sound to many practicing Buddhists. I speak from personal experience when I say that buying a popular book about Buddhism and reading about Buddhism online can transform inner violence: no doubt, I would not be writing this message otherwise.

It is important to remember that, as I indicated, Tibet and Burma are not just tragedies of violent oppression, but also examples of nonviolence in action. We must thank those who uphold nonviolence as an end in and of itself and not merely a strategy to be discarded when it fails to conquer the oppressors, for, like Jesus when he forgave the Romans on the cross, they are role-models for humankind. This so-called nonviolence should not come only in the form of negation, but as an affirmation.

Contributing to the popular influence of the events are media that increasingly portray this aspect of affirmation alongside that of the negative: CNN's show "Buddha's Warriors" gave air to a monk who had been clubbed on the head by police. "How do you respond to that?" asked the interviewer. "Respond with love," he answered.

And now it is our turn to respond to this message with a love of our own in support: here is the cycle of love and compassion upheld by principled nonviolence. Can we devise any more strategies to improve the efficiency of delivering this message?

Friday, September 5, 2008

One thing from today . . .

  • Once we let go of our fears, we become more powerful than weapons
  • Ordinary civilians have the power to stop violence
  • Image of Chilean protesters - I hope I'll feel as passionately as they did about their cause
  • Incredible amounts of emotion that ebb and flow and overwhelminly unite people in struggles of nonviolence
  • From the film, funerals are where violence is born
  • How can we make powerlessness a weapon?
  • Give our own lives rather than taking lives is the greatest strength of nonviolence
  • It requires a lot of perseverance to achieve one's goals through nonviolence
  • Nonviolence has to be about more than just regime change to jhave a lasting effect on peoples' lives
  • People become violent to be heard in a world where they feel dispised

Compare the Protests

John McCain accepted the Republican nomination last night. There were two sets of protest. Compare and contrast, and comment on the effectiveness of both in achieving their goals, (oh, yes, what were their goals?) and in building sympathy for their cause . . . or the candidate.