We Need a Culture of Nonviolence

protestors with campaign nonviolence posterby Rivera Sun, Waging Nonviolence, June 11, 2022

The culture of violence is failing us. It’s time to change everything.

Violence is so normal to our culture in the United States that it’s hard to imagine anything else. Gun violence, mass shootings, police brutality, mass incarceration, starvation wages and poverty, racism, sexism, militarism, toxic factories, poisoned water, fracking and oil extraction, student debt, unaffordable healthcare, homelessness — this is a tragic, horrifying, and all-too familiar description of our reality. It’s also a litany of violence, including not just physical violence, but also structural, systemic, cultural, emotional, economic, psychological and more.

We live in a culture of violence, a society that is so steeped in it, we’ve lost all sense of perspective. We’ve normalized these violences, accepting them as ordinary conditions of our lives. To imagine anything else seems fantastical and naive. Even a society in alignment with basic human rights feels so far from our everyday experience that it sounds utopian and unrealistic.

For example, imagine a nation where workers can pay all their bills, children feel safe and nurtured in schools, seniors enjoy comfortable retirements, police are unarmed, the air is clean to breathe, the water safe to drink. In a culture of nonviolence, we spend our tax dollars on arts and education, providing free higher education to all young people. Every person has a home. Our communities are diverse, welcoming, and thrilled to have multicultural neighbors. Public transit — renewably powered — is free and frequent. Our streets are green, lush with plants and parks, vegetable gardens and pollinator-friendly flowers. Roving groups of people provide support for resolving conflicts before fights erupt. Every person is trained to de-escalate violence and use conflict resolution methods. Healthcare is not only affordable, it’s designed for well-being, working preventatively and proactively to keep us all healthy. Food is delicious and abundant on every table; farm land is vibrant and free from toxins.

Imagine a nation where workers can pay all their bills, children feel safe and nurtured in schools, seniors enjoy comfortable retirements, police are unarmed, the air is clean to breathe, the water safe to drink.

This imagining could go on, but you get the idea. On the one hand, our society is a far cry from this vision. On the other hand, all of these elements already exist. What we need is widespread, systematic efforts to make sure this vision is not the privilege of the few, but the right of every human being. Campaign Nonviolence was launched to do just that.

Nine years ago, Campaign Nonviolence began with a bold idea: we need a culture of nonviolence. Widespread. Mainstream. We envisioned the kind of culture shift that changes everything, that uproots our old ways of thinking and restores compassion and dignity to our worldview. We recognized that so many of our social justice issues are about transforming systems of violence into systemic nonviolence, often by using nonviolent action. (As Gandhi said, means are ends in the making. Nonviolence offers both the goal, the solution, and the method of bringing them about.) The challenges we face today are deeply entwined, so that solving something like poverty or the climate crisis necessarily requires a confrontation with racism, sexism and classism — all of which are also forms of violence.

We’ve spent years building this understanding with tens of thousands of people all across the world. During the Campaign Nonviolence Action Week in September 2021, people held over 4,000 actions, events and marches across the US.. and in 20 countries. Over 60,000 people participated in these events. This year, responding to the escalating crisis of violence that we face, we’re inviting the movement to deepen and focus. We’ve expanded our dates to stretch from International Day of Peace (Sept 21) to International Day of Nonviolence (Oct 2) — a sensible bookend, since we’re working to build a culture of peace and nonviolence!

In addition to welcoming action ideas from local communities, we’re working with groups to offer specific calls-to-action on each day. From divesting from weapons and fossil fuels to organizing ride-ins for racial justice, these actions are designed in solidarity with the work being done by colleagues at Divest Ed, World BEYOND War, Backbone Campaign, Code Pink, ICAN, Nonviolent Peace Force, Meta Peace Teams, D.C. Peace Team and so many more. By identifying issues to take action upon, we’re calling upon people to be strategic and collaborative. Connecting the dots and working together makes us more powerful.

Here’s what’s in the works:

Sept 21st (Wednesday) International Day of Peace

Sept 22 (Thursday) Clean Energy Day: Utility and Transit Justice

Sept 23 (Friday) School Strike Solidarity and Intergenerational Climate Action

Sept 24 (Saturday) Mutual Aid, Neighborhood Potlucks and End Poverty Actions

Sept 25 (Sunday) World Rivers Day — Protecting the Watershed

Sept 26 (Monday) Divest From Violence Actions and International Day For Elimination of Nukes

Sept 27 (Tuesday) Alternative Community Safety and End Militarized Policing

Sept 28 (Wednesday) Ride-Ins For Racial Justice

Sept 29 (Thursday) Housing Justice Day — Humanize the Housing Crisis

Oct 1 (Saturday) Campaign Nonviolence March

Sept 30 (Fri) Day of Action To End Gun Violence

Oct 2nd (Sunday) International Day of Nonviolence Teach-Ins

Join us. A culture of nonviolence is a powerful idea. It’s radical, transformative and, at its heart, liberatory. The way we get there is by scaling up our efforts and building momentum toward shared goals. Another world is possible and it’s time to take bold strides toward it. Find out more about the Campaign Nonviolence Action Days here.

This story was produced by Campaign Nonviolence

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