One of the most common myths that justifies violence again and again, is the perception that the source of the conflict lies in the evil characteristics of the opponent. The opponent, being inherently evil is the enemy and cannot be changed. Therefore, defeating the enemy is necessary at all costs and the damage is justified. The nonviolent resistance approach argues that the enemy is not the opponent. Rather the struggle must be waged against systems of oppression and injustice. The assumption is not that they are bad and we are good, but that positive voices can be strengthened on each side in order to achieve common goals.
Many of the myths about nonviolence and nonviolent struggles are the product of ignorance and misinformation. We do not learn about it in schools nor do we hear about it in the media. There are always interest groups who would rather not allow ordinary citizens, workers, and activists to cultivate their power, expose injustices and demand their rights.
Below are a series of examples and the facts that contradict them:
"Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral.
It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all.
The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.
It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding;
it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert.
Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love.
It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible.
It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue.
Violence ends by defeating itself.
It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
|Nonviolence is passive and submissive
|Nonviolence is a consistent, committed and well-planned struggle which does not involve demonization and / or the use of violence
|Nonviolence is for pacifists and bleeding hearts - it's evading facing the challenge
|Nothing is farther from the truth. Nonviolence is a brave strategic choice and people who choose it are not necessarily nonviolent by nature and / or motivated by the desire to work for peace. Despite the desire to vent frustration through violence, they commit themselves to managing their emotions in order to achieve long-term goals.
|Nonviolence is based on the Christian religion - turning the other cheek
|Nonviolence is based on humanistic moral principles shared by all religions. A nonviolent struggle does not require any religious belief. This strategy has been successfully applied in a variety of cultures, nationalities, and faith-based communities around the world.
|Power derives from violence and can only be strengthened by more violence.
|In fact, power derives from sources in society that can be diminish by the public's refusal to cooperate. Even the power of dictators can be destroyed when people stop giving them support.
|Nonviolence means going like sheep to the slaughter
|Nonviolence is not non-action. Nonviolent systems just as violent military systems, require sacrifice. Scarifices of time, comfort and sometimes even life. According to world statistics, many more people lost their lives in wars and violence than in nonviolent struggles.
|Nonviolence is a naive approach whose existence is possible only in democratic societies or within those that avoid violence themselves.
|This view is far from the truth. Extremely diverse ethnic and social groups have made extensive use of nonviolent resistance throughout history. With nonviolence, ordinary people have managed to dismantle social barriers, topple cruel dictatorships, change government policies, win social rights, and paralyze an entire empire. They simply chose a nonviolent strategy to do so.
|If there is violent reaction to a nonviolent action it means that the strategy has failed
|Nonviolence expects violence as a response. In fact, governments and corporations tend to respond more violently to nonviolent actions as they pose a more serious threat to their power and status.
|Nonviolence is too long of a process
|Although nonviolent action requires patience, it is not necessarily slower than violent action in achieving the goal. Many violent struggles continued for years and generations before achieving their goals. On the other hand, it took a little over two years for the Filipino people to overthrow Ferdinand Marcos's regime, something the Communists tried to do since 1969 in a violent struggle.
|A nonviolent struggle requires a charismatic leader
|Many nonviolent struggles were led by ordinary people who were caught in a situation and responded spontaneously to an inner impulse to act.
|Any nonviolent struggle becomes violent at the end
|There were situations in which the adversary used provocateurs to undermine the legitimacy of a nonviolent struggle