Nonviolence from the Inside Out


Ah, so much to say and so little time. A few updates and things to look out for: I just returned from a trip to Havana! I have quite a bit to write about… But as I attempt to condense my thoughts on life without markets into 15 accurately sourced pages, in one week (eek!), and prepare for the UMass Social Thoery Forum, I haven’t many moments to put the finer points in writing. However, I wanted to throw up a quick post with something to think on.

In some ways I can’t believe I haven’t already shared this. I’m attempting to edit down my 60-page study on OWS to a 15-page manuscript for UMass, and then publication. As I was just working on that, I came across this paragraph, which effectively summarizes my findings:

The desire most consistently expressed within the OWS community and by OWS actions is for a system of decision-making and a governance structure, and a system for meeting the needs of society, or in other words, an economy, which manifests compassion, egalitarianism, and democracy. As Freire would argue, the only way to create these things is for everyone governed by them to build them. The working groups and assemblies of OWS are building a governance structure, and an economy, which has been described by many there as a community of care. The work at OWS is driven by creativity and care for meeting each other’s needs, rather than by profit. The idea that the manifestation of these principles – compassion, egalitarianism, direct democracy, inclusion, horizontalism, and nonviolence – in every social interaction will build the society participants envision is the Occupy Wall Street theory of change. A theory of change is an understanding of how and why a set of actions will lead to a particular, intended change.[1] OWS is attempting to rebuild the foundations of society without structural violence so that what results from these foundations will be nonviolent. This is not to say that OWS has realized a complete positive peace (a society without direct, structural, or any other type of violence), or even a complete negative peace (simply the absence of direct violence). But the working hypothesis is that practicing an even distribution of power at the most basic levels will develop the technology of nonviolence and egalitarianism needed to create nonviolent, egalitarian structures.

In conversation, I’ve called this an organically radical process. I thought this section was particularly relevant for Theory of Change, and that you might have some thoughts on it. There is so much more to say here. For example, the profit motive is real, inevitable, and in many ways useful. But it is also incredibly destructive. Extinguishing it would be like trying to rebuild human life without fire. So what do we do? Is power distribution the answer? What do you think?
More to come, of course…

[1] John Paul Lederach, Reina Neufeldt, and Hal Culbertson, Reflective Peacebuilding: A Planning, Monitoring, and Learning Toolkit. Joan B. Kroc Institute for Interantional Peace Studies, 2007.


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