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Creating Peace on the Level of Action

The movie I drawn upon for this month’s webinar is Gandhi, starring Ben Kingsley (1982). This movie brought the life and important work of Mahatma Gandhi to a global audience. The theme from the movie that I use is "Creating Peace on the Level of Action: Nonviolent Direct Action."

Gandhi’s work to liberate India from English rule essentially defined and characterized the “Nonviolent Direct Action” approach to peaceful social change. For Gandhi, social change meant gaining greater autonomy and freedom (opportunity). Nonviolent Direct Action works by appealing to the humanity of those with whom one seems to be in conflict.

In order to appeal to the humanity in others, one must remain constantly in touch with one's own humanity. This requires considerable emotional stability in the face of verbal or physical aggression. This do this, one must have one's goals (what you want) and purposes (why you want them) clearly in mind. One must share these goals and purposes with others, so that they become common goals and purposes. Education and inspiration constitute much of the process of Nonviolent Direct Action. One appeals to both the heart and the mind — to humanity and reason — and to conscience — the sense of justice — in undertaking a campaign for social change. The appeal to the deepest, shared values of society moves the process while minimizing the fear associated with social change.

Communicating with those with which one appears to be in conflict creates opportunities for discovering shared values and common humanity. It also reduces the chance of a violent confrontation. When I worked with the Peace Movement in opposition to the war in Viet Nam, we always made sure that the police knew exactly what we were going to do. We also spoke directly with both the plainclothes and uniform police at the scene of any demonstration or public event so they knew that the organizers were friendly and cooperative. Of course, we also encouraged our participants to be respectful, speak without excitement and move relatively slowly in the presence of police or military personnel.

Creating peace on the level of action takes a long time because one is trying to produce a change in social attitudes (the collective consciousness of society) at the level of thinking and feeling. It works more rapidly when integrated with approaches on the level of subtlest manifestation and on the level of BEING. Integration of approaches can produce really amazing results, evolving society quickly and painlessly toward freedom and opportunity.

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