For #1000Speak: On Compassion and Nonviolence

(Welcome, compassion bloggers! I am a host, so there’s a linky at the end of this. If you have a compassion post and you are looking for a linky, do scroll to the bottom without reading and add your link. I don’t mind, and this post is will be here whenever you have the time for it.)

I signed on to publish a post about compassion just a day or so after Lizzi inspired Yvonne to start the Facebook group. I discovered it as early as I did thanks to my friend Gretchen. I knew this was a good idea the minute I saw it, but I had no clue so many other people would come along. I am thrilled to be a part of it, and grateful to all the friends who not only signed on but have given a little of their time and social media space to help spread the word (especially you #WeekendCoffeeShare peeps).compassion_nonviolence_Emma_Quayle

I knew before I even clicked “Join Group” that I wanted to write a post about compassion and nonviolence. I’ve studied political theory and social movements more thoroughly than just about any other areas of knowledge. I rarely get to blog about that stuff, because I am a geeky, audience-building blogger, and social science blogging is a tough market to break into for a dude without a Ph.D.

When I talk about nonviolence, I am talking about more than just abstaining from physical violence. I’m talking about a way of doing positive social change (which I think we could do with a bit more of in my own country). It requires a specific way of thinking and living to be effective. Basically, you have to develop a clear understanding of your ethic and train yourself to live it. And it has follow certain principles, but still be right for you.

If you adopt the the principles of nonviolence as a code and work at the living by them until you master them, you will gain personal power.

The principles and methods were developed by Gandhi during his resistance to colonialism in South Africa and India. Martin Luther King, Jr. applied them to the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and his experience persuaded him to speak out publicly against the Vietnam War.

Nonviolence lends itself well to a religious approach, but I don’t believe you have to be religious to practice it. It requires an intellectual journey and a moral transformation, though, even if you are not a spiritual person. It is not an easy thing. Here’s the power it gives you.

  • Power to accept suffering without anger when it’s unavoidable and to grow as a result of the suffering.
  • Power to endure violence without retaliation.
  • Power to speak the truth, even when you know speaking up must have dire personal consequences for you.

martin-luther-king-jr1For the sake of clarity. Nonviolence as I am using it here does not require you to surrender your right to self-defense against criminal assault or become a political pacifist.

You obviously want to defend your person and property against outlaws and rapists, and sometimes military action is just a necessity. But if you are committed to nonviolence, you want to be on the lookout for chances to support efforts to address problems that lead to criminal assaults. Things like youth violence, sexual assault, and drug control policies that create incentives for organized crime.

“Without retaliation” applies to situations where you see something that needs to change and you say so, but saying it provokes violence from authorities or political opponents. In those situations, you can’t respond with violence because that only leads to escalation, which turns into a cycle of violence and resentment. And the next thing you know, what started as a peaceable attempt to help some people who are being abused is causing either riots or organized civil conflict. Which gives the authorities an excuse to ramp up the violence in the name of keeping order and to arrest people for speaking out.

This applies not only to physical violence, but to rhetoric as well. So no dehumanizing labels for people. No coercion, no threats, and no passive aggression in the service of a social or political cause. Challenge that stuff when you see happening in a forum where a challenge is appropriate. Report it if it’s actionable.

If enough people endure political violence without fighting back for opposing a specific injustice long enough, the injustice will be addressed. Here’s why.1000speakLizzi

  • Authorities can only mete out so much unjust public violence without losing their legitimacy.
  • The average human being can only look at so much of it before they start screaming that it must stop.
  • In societies where people are educated to value democracy, some will view the oppression as done in their name and be motivated to work against it.

That’s the basic theory. It works.

Here’s how nonviolence relates to compassion – and what makes this a #1000Speak post. When we talk about social injustices, we are talking about systematic behavior that children learn from their parents and from institutions. Everyone is caught up in the system, and everyone involved in oppression is damaged by it. Even passive witnesses. Even the people who are carrying out the oppression. So it is important to empathize with the oppressors even as you resist them. And that kind of empathy requires loads and loads of compassion.

This is why I often say “attack ideas, not people,” and I do my best to police my own behavior. I’m not perfect and my own transformation is not complete. But I give it an honest try, both online and off.

Meme discovered at Eco-Style Life Beau Monde

Meme discovered at Eco-Style Life Beau Monde

The reason nonviolence lends itself so well to Hindu and Christian approaches (and Buddhist and Jainist approaches, for that matter,) is that it’s founded on the principle of Ahimsa. That translates well into a concept that Christians who take “love thy neighbor as thyself”seriously can understand and apply.

I don’t come at it from a religious perspective because, even though my spiritual leanings inform my ideology, I don’t mix religion into my politics. A rational, secular approach to politics is a core commitment for me. I’m an emotional idealist, but I am an intellectual realist, and there is no war quite so nasty as a religious war.

Thankfully, human rights is a well-developed school of thought with its own lexicon. Here are King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence. The first five are no-brainers. They fit simply and easily into the human rights discourse. The sixth one bears a bit of discussion. I chose King’s principles rather than Gandhi’s for this because I am an American who grew up in a Christian household, so I have a better frame of reference for them.

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
  2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
  3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
  4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
  5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
  6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

I am just not sure about that last one. I am inclined to think that the universe is what we make it, and justice is a concept we define through social interaction. Now, don’t get me wrong. Injustice offends me, and I am good at sniffing it out. Justice makes me happy, and I know it when I see it. But. justice_quickmeme_by_geneo

You have to believe in some form of natural law to believe that the universe is on the side of justice. Any time I try to believe in natural law, though, I run smack into the Melian Dialogue, and I think Thucydides has the right of that argument. It’s great when a bunch of people get together and decide to make the world better, and they all have a god to rely on and help them along and it works. It is even greater when a bunch of people just decide to speak the truth and take the beating instead of giving in and living the lie. Because those first five principles allowed them to find it within themselves to do it.

Bonus: King’s Six Steps to Positive Social Change.

  1. Information Gathering (The step at which I decide whether or not to blog about something.)
  2. Education (This is where I put it out on the social media and see what kind of feedback I get.)
  3. Personal Commitment (Where I decide whether to run with the idea and keep educating people or to let it go.)
  4. Discussion/Negotiation (In which I explain stuff to people and try to make friends.)
  5. Direct Action (We all do something together. Yay!)
  6. Reconciliation (We see where we are after the action and decide what to do next.)

Those of you who have been following my quest to teach myself the art of online collaboration for the last year might recognize the process. I use variations of it all the time to float ideas and figure out which ones to run with – even nonpolitical ones. It is useful for all kinds of things which require people to come together and cooperate. I apply other theories to sort out things like how much feedback constitutes support, whether timelines are doable, and when to make direct appeals as opposed to just mentioning things.

I’m steeped in theories, folks. I don’t blog about them much. But I am applying theories all the time on the Internet. Aside from a few things I do just because I’m hooked on the publish button, I have a reason for everything I do online. (Ask Diana if you don’t believe me.) I’m willing to teach friendly bloggers everything I know about this stuff, given enough time and interest, and always happy to answer questions or chat about it on a thread.

Happy World Day of Social Justice. Do let’s find a way to do something about all the human trafficking that happens in our world. Let’s at least acknowledge that it goes on. It is a settled fact that people should not be owned. But many are. By traffickers.

The person most responsible for me having all the knowledge to be applying the social theories on the internet and offering to teach the rest of you the magic spells spent most of his career explaining the evil that is human trafficking and searching for solutions. And that is all I am saying about that. I care about it, for several reasons.

Whatever else you do today, spread some sincere love. You never know when a random act of kindness might save someone’s life. When it does, you usually don’t realize how you affected that other person until much later. If ever. Sometimes you save peoples’ lives, and they never cross paths with you again. This is true. More than one stranger who I can never find, ever again, not even to say thank you, has saved my life.


Photo by Gene’O And ask permission before you use this one, plz!

Credits – Principles and Steps are from the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The images are all donated to #1000Speak as uncredited art, from the Public Domain, or credited in the captions.

49 thoughts on “For #1000Speak: On Compassion and Nonviolence

  1. A wonderful post, Gene’O; extremely moving and the perfect example of why we should be working together to spread the message. Your knowledge is always appreciated and here it adds weight to what so many of us believe – what we live. The final paragraph sums things up beautifully and your point – ‘More than one stranger who I can never find, ever again, not even to say thank you, has saved my life,’ this just says it all. What we can do for one another, just one simple act of kindness, has the power and strength to see us through.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post is very informative.
    I have been eagerly awaiting February 20th since catching on to this whole thing within days of its inception.
    I have since been madly speaking and thinking about compassion, writing compassion themed posts on my blog, sharing, reading other people’s posts, and tweeting.
    I am visually impaired and bad with technology, a bad bad mix.
    I am just a little worried I won’t be able, after all this, to join in fully with everyone. I hope to get my sister’s help to figure out how to do the link-up thing.
    I will keep this post bookmarked though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Gene O,
    Wow! It’s so exciting that the 20th February is finally here and the first posts are starting to roll in. I am still finalising my post for 1000 Voices but I posted about the need for clemency for two Australian convicted of wanting to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia and time is rapidly running out. After reading your post, I think you’d really find some of the issues quite interesting. I’m at
    Best wishes,


    • I am just getting a chance to answer these, Rowena! Thanks, and I will surely check it out! Be sure and use #1000Speak! That is the way to get it seen by other people who are doing these if you do twitter. #1000Voices is a different thing — we investigating using that one early on, but it is taken.


  4. Hey Gene’O,
    #AWEsome post. I like your approach to things. I study martial arts, not so that I can go and beat up people that are doing wrong to me or my family, but to have the mental, physical and moral strength of character to calmly address the issue. It was my training that allowed me to keep my head when I was held up at gun point and allow both parties to escape unscathed. I think all of us are capable of violence in a particular setting, but I think that we also have a choice. I like you prefer a non-violent solution. However, unlike Gandhi, I will still resort to the minimum violence necessary when given few other choices. Perhaps this is still an area of growth for me. Thanks for sharing and for being one of the #1000Speak hosts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you , Shawn. I practiced shotokan a bit when I was in my early 20s. I get the martial arts-as-moral-discipline, and am a firm believer in using your powers to help everyone find the exit in one piece, but only ever dabbled in the actual physical part.

      I was (still could be if I took it up again) quite a skilled fencer, though, and I understand the spiritual side of things as well as a person with my background can. I at least have taken the time to gain a (very basic) understanding of Buddhist and Taoist thought.

      I am a diplomat at my core. And a very key principle of diplomacy is that if you want to make a just and lasting peace, you must offer your adversary a seat at the table and entertain the possibility that you can stop being enemies.

      I am coming at this from many angles. Looking for win-wins is my whole game.

      And yes, we are all capable of violence. That is why nonviolent schools of thought are so important.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s #AWEsome Gene’O! I’ve always wanted to take up fencing, probably the saber variety and not the foil, but maybe both. I prefer believing that we can solve things non-violently and that we really need to encourage all schools, homes and governments that is not just important, but critical to our survival as a species.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes. The only reason to learn techniques of violence is to keep the peace until we figure out how to teach proper conflict resolution.

          I prefer the saber, but what I really like is short, straight, cut-and thrust swords. The best of both worlds, there.

          My first rule of close, armed combat, just so you know, is “never fight with your off-hand empty.” A rolled-up newspaper or a jacket wrapped around your left arm is better than the classic fencing technique of holding the off-hand behind you and using int for balance.

          An arming sword and a cloak are a good combination.


  5. Yes! *fist in the air* I was going to spend the entire day writing my post (procrastination at it’s best) but now I feel no need. You pretty much said it all and said it way better than I could. I am always eagerly lapping up the connections you make that are based on social science. It’s an area that I’m not well versed in but have always found intriguing.

    My view on King’s sixth principle for nonviolence is that it is ultimately correct. I believe in karma and that somehow, someway the universe rewards justice. In the broader scheme of things. And I may be completely wrong, but if I am I don’t want to know. I want to stay wrapped in my optimistic ignorance if that’s what it is.

    Great job, now off to post and tweet this one!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you very much for the sharing of this, and for the *fist in the air*. I have been grinning from ear to ear all day about that. I do not get to write something like this very often.

      If you like the social science connections, I will certainly continue to make them. It is not necessary to become well-versed to learn to apply the principles. Like you never have to explain the theories or pass a test. Just learn to use them, and that comes down to simple rules of thumb more often than not.

      Our ever-so-slight difference on the attitude of the Universe toward justice boils down to this. I WANT to live in a universe (a Multiverse would actually suit me better) that favors the just. I am just not sure, when I look at myself and my surroundings, that I actually do. And the starting point is everything. No matter how you thing things ought to be, you have to start with a clear understanding of how things actually are.

      I hope the post is going well, and that I am not interrupting your writing with a WordPress notification!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Non-violence is not always the easiest way but it is always the best way. Thank you for sharing your own knowledge as well as Dr. King’s principles. I learned something here today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are very welcome, and thanks for the comment. I am glad you learned something, and I agree about nonviolence being the best way.

      btw, I was frantically trying to find your blog last night. I was in a mad rush to reload the hashtag before the linky went up and looking for some stuff of yours to share. All I could remember was the “Gardens” So good that you commented on this post! I can find you for sure now, and will make sure to add you to lists and stuff once this thing slows down a little. I admire your work. Everything I have seen of yours so far has been pleasing.

      Liked by 1 person

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    • I honestly only grasp Ahimsa intellectually. It translates well into something I can understand, and I am so happy for that. But I do not live up. My everyday actions do too much harm. There is the spending of money to consider. If I buy something that was produced in a sweatshop, I am doing harm. And those products are so ubiquitous, I cannot escape them.

      I am applying myself to the challenge, though. Ahimsa is not something I am able to say I practice, really. But it is definitely something I aspire to.

      Thank you very much for the compliment! I am glad you liked it enough to say!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. you don’t need a phd to blog about such things. Your theories are very challenging to the mind. I tend to not think too much on these things. I feel on these things. Compassion just is for me. Okay I do have days that I contemplate it all. Those days I usually write beautiful blog posts. πŸ™‚

    Human trafficking, is a horrid thing. And it happens. This saddens my soul.

    And yes, to the random acts of kindness. One really does not know how such small things can affect someone. Little things have ripple effects, and to explain better would be hard to me. I hope someone reading this can understand what I’m getting at.

    (hugs) keep on writing these things. And perhaps one day we can have a discussion on the fact /theory that the universe is on the side of justice.

    Liked by 3 people

    • (hugs right back).

      Thanks for your help on Twitter last night and for all the sharing today, and you are not the only person who has gently corrected me about the universe on this thread. I am willing to be persuaded about that, but I must see it to believe it (I’m a bit empirical). And I actually prefer to call it the Mulitverse, lol.

      Yes to the ripple effect and yes on the human trafficking.

      I will keep writing them, since you are the second person who has expressed an interest, but they are not usually this long, and they just pop out whenever. Usually when I am in the middle of a big collaborative thing.

      But this post right here is the core of it all. This is the Rosetta stone for decoding all the crazy world domination and pirate and conspiracy and ninja metaphors. This is what it’s about. There will be Robin Hood metaphors, and Jewel Heist metaphors, and eventually, Avenging Angel metaphors if this thing keeps going the way it has for the last year.

      This is shaping up to be such a fine weekend πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much for saying! There is much going on beneath the surface to occupy our thoughts.

      I am especially happy that you found it though-provoking. I am trying to learn the art of provoking thoughts. It’s like a corollary of “attack ideas, not people.” “Provoke thoughts, not people.” πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

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  16. Gene’O…

    I am slowly working through the Wikipedia article for Ahimsa. I’m more familiar with the Chinese Eastern paths than I am the Indian ones, but as my Sifu-of-Sorts recommended that I read the Gita as well as the Tao Te Ching, I’m at least passively aware of the Hindi and Buddhist branches. (His paradigm is Zen Animism.)

    I am a practicing Latter-Day Saint (Mormon), but I have deeply embraced philosophical Taoism as a day-to-day reflection of my religious beliefs. (And I don’t mind secular pragmatism. Honest.) I don’t know if you’re more of an activist than a sage, but I do invite you to come and read some of my thoughts on the Tao, that I might be enlightened by your feedback. And I don’t mean just rhetorical discussion, of course; I welcome your thoughts on the Living Force, as it were.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like some Taoist thinking, and I’ve read the Tao Te Ching, but haven’t really studied it deeply. The only religion I’ve studied deeply is the Protestant branch of Christianity, and that’s mostly because I grew up as an active church member. But sure. Would love to read some of your thoughts on Taoism.

      I am more activist than sage, for sure. A social organizer, is what I am if I have to pick only one label to describe what I am doing with the blogs. I don’t do that much politics, but I am always looking for collaborative projects that are a good bet for me to promote.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fair enough. I think your approach is a good one– to simply bring people together. I think that’s where blogs and social media really shine; we have a chance to talk about things of intrinsic and internal worth. Mass media seems caught up in what they can sell us.

        Kenneth Justice has written about some of this– check him out at his blog. He’s invited me to guest for a video podcast discussion on community mental health. He’s actually done some travelling to meet his readers, and wrote a lot about that, as well as his day-to-day observations, especially in his background as a social worker. I think he’d be right up your alley to connect to, if you haven’t heard of him already– Suzie81 and other WordPress bloggers I know have been part of his audience.


  17. Ah. Gene’O, I come from the land of Gandhi, and yet being non-violent is not a credit I can take. It’s just that these days you need to shout to be heard. I think, we need to go back to a time where raising your voice did not make it right, unless the cause was worth fighting for. Your in-depth article made me question myself on various levels. Let me tell you, I don’t have the answers right now. In an ideal world, I would, perhaps. And I so agree about how government systems should work, in tandem with the needs of the people. Truly, if we are compassionate of each other, we would not need to keep reworking on a history we’d rather not have. Kudos.


  18. This is very, very interesting. I was particularly interested in the way you explained why people will eventually stop political violence and when I think about it, I can see many examples that back that up. I hadn’t thought about it before, and it is reassuring somehow.
    As for a natural law of the universe, I don’t believe in karma so much as in balance. At least not karma in the sense that it’s often understood, meaning that if you do something bad it will come back at you in punishment whereas good is rewarded. This, to me, makes no logical sense since most people do “bad” things because of fear, and of how they were treated as children. (I can’t remember the percentage but a huge number of the homeless have grown up in care or abusive homes.) But when we believe life will treat us badly, it does seem to turn out that way. (Again referencing the homeless, some I speak to don’t even access the services they could because they don’t expect to be treated well, or think they won’t be wanted.)
    Thank you for King’s steps for positive social change. I haven’t seen those before and I might have to paste them and pin them up somewhere because I like them so much!
    Thanks for all you are doing!


    • You’re welcome!

      I have to think about some of this but I will say:

      Do give more attention to the steps. There is a serious understanding of people’s cognitive processes going on there. If you want to change the world, you must have some rudimentary understanding of how the average human mind works. The steps are good for that, and they are adaptable.


  19. So many great comments here…there is nothing I can add that hasn’t been said already so I’ll just say this: I am so so sorry I’m only getting to yours now. I love this. Absolutely love this. My favorite bit: I’m an emotional idealist, but I am an intellectual realist… I often describe myself in very similar terms. Yes to that – absolutely. I’m saving this to come back and read again because there is so much here that I want to think about more. Great one. Glad to have connected through this awesome 1000Speak group.


    • yes, yes, yes.

      And I understand about the just getting to it. My actual reading of posts score is pretty low. Someone has to spend most of their time writing graffiti all over the internet for something like #1000Speak to work, and that is apparently my role in the thing πŸ™‚

      Would love to talk with you more about the intellectual realism/emotional idealism sometime. That is a hard bargain, but it seems the only way to go.


  20. Excellent stuff. I’m impressed by how systematic you are about it. Will consider further — generally I think I don’t have it in me to be systematic about things, that I am literally unable to do it, but as soon as I think that someone will randomly tell me I’m the most systematic and logical person they know. So I’m still experimenting and theorizing about how to apply other people’s theories and systems, but I very much like the fact that you have them. πŸ™‚


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