A little while ago, I wrote about The ‘Energy’ of Violence, in which I suggested that violence can never be fully and truly defeated by violence; it takes something much more powerful.
In response to this, my friend labalienne reminded us that the sort of argument I advanced in my original post must take into consideration the violence against women that, scandalously, so often gets brushed aside.
In response to labalienne’s excellent response, I’d like to offer three points:
Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge that I was wrong.
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.”
On Holy Saturday of this year (April 19, 2014), more than 100 people came together for a peaceful, public, Christian prayer vigil for asylum seekers, outside (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) Scott Morrison’s office in Cronulla Mall.
The event—organised by a group called ‘Love Makes a Way‘—included elements of lament, confession, a statement of faith, readings from the scriptures, and prayer. Below is the text of the short sermon I delivered as part of the proceedings, reflecting on what it means to stand in solidarity with asylum seekers with a ‘Holy Saturday faith’.
I have been genuinely struggling of late in regards to how to engage with (or respond to) Scott Morrison MP. For those who don’t know, Mr Morrison is the Liberal Party’s Federal Member for Cook, in Sydney’s South, and, with his party being elected to Government in September, is now Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.
Mr Morrison also claims a strong Christian faith, which he has suggested plays an important role in every aspect of his life (including, obviously, his politics).
The basis of my struggle with Mr Morrison, in a nut shell, is because I think what he has done and continues to do in regards to asylum seeker policy (and public discourse on the matter) is evil (and, yes; I chose those words very carefully, in case you were wondering). It seems to me that he has deliberately been fostering an attitude that seeks to dehumanise those people who come to Australia by boat, and that this has been something of a central focus of his for some time now. I find his politics disgusting and, to be perfectly honest, it sickens me when he then claims a Christian faith.
A few months ago I attended some nonviolence training workshops run by Pace e Bene Australia, centred around the Engage: Exploring Nonviolent Living workbook. These fascinating workshops touched on both the theory and practice of nonviolence, and the format of the sessions ranged from information sessions, to discussion groups, to role-playing and more. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, contacting Pace e Bene is a really good starting point (in my opinion).
I’ve been thinking a lot about what we covered in the sessions, and want to reflect on just a few points here. The sessions (run over three full Saturdays) covered such a broad range of topics that there is really no way that I can summarise it all, but I thought I might just reflect on four principles of nonviolence that have been especially important in my thinking since participating in the workshops.