These days, it’s relatively common for me to get myself in conversations about the ‘effectiveness’ of nonviolence. The discussion usually goes something like this:
Someone: “Look, I like the idea of nonviolence, but in the same kind of way that university students like the idea of Communism: it’s nice on paper, I guess, but it just doesn’t work in the real world.”
Me: “Right. So we’re talking about whether or not nonviolence can be an effective strategy, yeah?”
Someone: “Correct. It might be fine in certain situations, but it’s just not going to work in the face of full-blown evil.”
Me: “Leaving off for a moment a couple of points that could be challenged from what you’ve just said, you might be surprised to learn that nonviolent movements have, historically, proven to be more ‘successful’ than violent ones.”
Someone: “Right. So what you’re saying is that you’re going to fly over to Iraq to have a cup of tea and biscuits and ‘discuss’ options with I.S.? Good luck with that! With the reality of I.S., or Boko Haram—or Hitler and the Nazis—we’re dealing with pure evil. That kind of evil cannot be reasoned with, and it won’t be stopped by everyone sitting around singing Kumbaya! There’s only one language that these monsters understand, and it’s one that’s communicated through the barrel of a gun.”
…and so on and so forth.