My last post, Mental Peacebuilding, referenced Mark Kurlansky’s book Nonviolence the Twenty Five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea. At the end of the book he enumerates these 25 lessons in an easy to read manner. These are lessons about violence and nonviolence he has pulled from the pages of history as patterns reemerging continuously throughout centuries of narratives. They are strategically named lessons, and not patterns, because there is an assumption we need to learn from them and not just skim over them and then promptly forget their message. The implications of each are numerous and vast and learning from them to ultimately change our behavior may seem impossible, but don’t be discouraged and keep reading until the end.
The Twenty Five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea
1) There is no proactive word for nonviolence.
2) Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them.
3) Practitioners of nonviolence are seen as enemies of the state.
4) Once a state takes over religion, the religion loses its nonviolent teachings.
5) A rebel can be defanged and co-opted by making him a saint after he is dead.
6) Somewhere behind every war there are always a few founding lies.
7) A propaganda machine promoting hatred always has a war waiting in the wings.
8) People who go to war start to resemble their enemy.
9) A conflict between a violent and nonviolent force is a moral argument. If the violent side can provoke the nonviolent side into violence, then the violent side has won.
10) The problem lies not in the nature of man but in the nature of power.
11) The longer the war lasts, the less popular it becomes.
12) The state imagines it is impotent without a military because it cannot conceive of power without force.
13) It is often not the largest but the best organized and most articulate group that prevails.
14) All debate momentarily ends with an “enforced silence” once the first shots are fired.
15) A shooting war is not necessary to overthrow an established power but is used to consolidate the revolution itself.
16) Violence does not resolve. It always leads to more violence.
17) Warfare produces peace activists. A group of veterans is a likely place to find peace activists.
18) People motivated by fear do not act well.
19) While it is perfectly feasible to convince a people faced with brutal repression to rise up in a suicidal attack on their oppressor, it is almost impossible to convince them to meet deadly violence with nonviolent resistance.
20) Wars do not have to be sold to the general public if they can be carried out by an all volunteer professional military.
21) Once you start the business of killing, you just get “deeper and deeper,” without limits.
22) Violence always comes with a supposedly rational explanation – which is only dismissed as irrational if the violence fails.
23) Violence is a virus that infects and takes over.
24) The miracle is that despite all of society’s promotion of warfare, most soldiers find warfare to be a wrenching departure from their own moral values.
25) The hard work of beginning a movement to end war had already been done.
“The early 20th century French novelist Anatole France wrote: “War will only disappear only when men shall take no part whatever in violence and shall be ready to suffer every persecution that their abstention will bring them. It is the only way to abolish war.” As William Penn said in the 17th century, “Somebody must begin it.” One of the greatest lessons of history is that somebody already has.”