Here, There and Everywhere

From Nation of Change
by Jake Olzen
29 December 2011

2012: The Year of Nonviolence?

If 2011 was the year of the protester, 2012 may prove to be the year of nonviolence. What’s the difference? It’s as great as between yes and no. A crucial awakening that envelopes humanity’s collective struggle for justice, peace and democracy is happening; it is an awakening that clarifies the circumstances we embrace with a yes and those by which we respond with a vehement no. Like many I know, I often teeter between despair and hope–stuck in a kind of uncomfortable tension resembling Wendell Berry’s poetic instruction to “be joyful though you have considered all the facts” –grasping for some measure of sanity to make sense of all that is happening.

It is tempting to succumb to despair, what with the onslaught of major media coverage telling us all the bad news, dismissing the promising news, and ignoring the good news. Consider the challenges: the unraveling violence of the Egyptian revolution, the 5,000 killed in Syria, climate change and the instability and disasters brought by extreme weather patterns and an ill-equipped global populace with inadequate leadership, the threat of random violence and terrorist activity–Norway, Belgium, India, the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq–and state and cultural violence against immigrants, women, refugees, the poor, GLBTQ persons, and people of color. So where is the hope? Well, in 2011, the fires of our hope were stoked by the global protest movements–the Arab Spring, the Indignados, Occupy Wall Street–of millions of people rising up to say: كفاية …Basta…Enough! Resistance was in the streets and occupations in city squares. A resounding “no” echoed around the world–what Bernard Harcourt has perceptively termed “political disobedience”–signifying contempt, dissatisfaction, and rejection of entrenched governments and status quo economics. Dictators were ousted in Egypt and Tunisia. Revolutionary fervor was sparked by nonviolent action in Libya, Syria and Yemen. South Korean activists are poised to possibly shutter the building of a controversial US naval base with profound geopolitical implications. Afghan youth are getting organized–an incredible feat considering all the challenges they face. Palestinian nonviolent resistance and the Free Gaza movement is growing as are Israeli protests for social justice. In the US, activists and organizers in Wisconsin and Ohio occupied their state capitals to protest budget cuts and GOP anti-unionism. Undocumented students–DREAMers–took it to the streets and Senators’ offices. Environmentalists, farmers, ranchers, students and citizens staged sit-ins at the White House to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline–whose fate is still TBD but the resistance is growing. And then there was Occupy Wall Street. The movement propelled American activism back into public purview and is proving to be the era where a generation of young people–equipped with the tools, knowledge and experience of the civil rights and anti-war generations–are cutting their teeth in nonviolent social change. We are telling ourselves that there is reason to hope because we incarnate it.

The protests of 2011 are the harbinger of what we’ve already known–what we’ve been waiting and working for–that neoliberalism’s carte blanche as signed by the Washington Consensus is on the way out. The days of political regimes that are not truly democratic (and, apparently, equitable) are–at the very least in ideological terms–numbered. In the 00s, there was an explosion of social commentary on globalization: Thomas Freidman, Naomi Klein, Paul Hawken, Vandana Shiva. Paul Kingsnorth, a British journalist, penned a book whose title has stayed with me: One No, Many Yeses. The catchy, chant-like title offers a simple way to reflect on the the historical moment we are experiencing. As symbolized by Time‘s “Person of the Year,” there is a global “no!” to anti-democratic governments and unfettered capitalism. But at the same time, that singular no of protest is united by the multitude of “yeses” whose global resonance signifies the arrival of a comprehensive vision of nonviolence.

This yes to nonviolence signals the awakening consciousness that summarily connects us to that which is most important in our lives and our communities: the desire to be connected, to live without fear, to be healthy and be in healthy relationships, to be free to have self-determining and mutually-supporting ways of living, working, parenting, learning, teaching, creating, and, yes, even dying. Never before have we witnessed the acute, raw, powerful desire for life in such a way that so many diverse peoples are willingly struggling for that way of being.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

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