FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Non-Violence Uses Love as Force

Photo by www.GlynLowe.com | CC BY 2.0

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored…there is a type of of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth.…So the purpose of the direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitable open the door to negotiations.”[1]

The Civil Rights movements’ primary strategic approach was non-violent mass civil disobedience. The major advances of the civil rights movement can be linked to the marches — sometimes in defiance of court injunction — sit-ins, freedom rides, attempts to vote or register, and demonstrations that landed thousands of people in jail and some in their graves.

Martin Luther King placed civil disobedience within a framework consistent with the inside/outside strategy. The disruptive nature of direct action and the seemingly more orderly process of negotiations may be tactically different but part and parcel of the same strategy. The outside game is the precondition for the inside game. Without outside pressure negotiations are reduced to begging and pleading or rest on puny legal claims.

If this is all we learned from King it would be enough.

It may seem simple, but despite tremendous efforts of a small number of people the level of direct action is not of sufficient scale or character to win major concession let alone transform the basic structures of power. The new civil rights movement and Standing Rock are sure signs that things are changing. But, until we bring more people power to the table we will be left with reason, morality and truth, all necessary but far, far from sufficient to make history.

The primary role of reason, morality, and truth is not to convince power but to help build a movement massive, daring and visionary enough to force change from the system. The civil rights movement strongly suggests that such a movement will not be based on anger, outrage or criticism alone — although those are just and right. But it can be based upon Love. Blush. Nonviolence is how the civil right movement helps us to connect disruptive and militant political action with universal values of love.

Love as Force

“Our white brothers must be made to understand that nonviolence is a weapon fabricated of love. It is a sword that heals. Our nonviolent direct action program has as its object not the creation of tensions, but the surfacing of tensions already present.”[2]

Love is a potent weapon. King states repeatedly that love does not mean the feeling we associate with friendship or romance and it certainly does not mean liking your enemy. The love that motivated the movement was grand redemptive love. Love was “agape” from the Greek.

“Agape is understanding, redemptive, creative, good will to all men based on the mutual interests that derive from the interrelatedness of all people.” [3]

Love, by King’s definition, approaches the best understandings of “solidarity”— enlightened self-interest based on mutuality and interconnectedness. In King’s view, truly: “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Gandhi’s innovation infused politics with love through the concept of satyagraha. Satyagraha is love-force or truth-force which the American movement revised into soul-force. While this big love is as difficult to grasp in its ultimate form as are other ideals, such as freedom or equality, we can glimpse love embodied in the civil rights movement.

Christ’s directive to “love your enemy” gathered new meaning as soul-force. The civil rights movement gave love to its enemies in the form of non-violent force: sit-ins, occupations, marches, strikes, picket-lines, boycotts. It is love because it is non-violence in the service of freedom and democracy; it is love because it targets the institutional structure of oppression, not the person; it is love because it recognizes we are all —all— trapped and diminished by the system; it is love because it dreams redemption as inclusive community. Love is a dangerous and demanding taskmaster.

I realize that this approach will mean suffering and sacrifice. It may mean going to jail…. it may even mean physical death. But if physical death is the price that a man must pay to free his children and his white brethren from a permanent death of the spirit, than nothing could be more redemptive. This is the type of soul-force that I am convinced will triumph over the physical force of the oppressor.[4]

Speaking truth to power — without truth-force — has been a pitiful failure.

Instead speak love and truth to power in the language of direct mass action and dedication to the difficult work of organizing. But, how can we endure the years of struggle it takes to give force to love and truth? King’s example: find something great and grand to give us purpose and confidence.

All King quotes and citation are from, A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King. ed James M. Washington

Notes.

[1] Letter from a Birmingham Jail. 291-2.

[2]Playboy Interview: Martin Luther King, 349-350. See also p. 526.

[3] Love, Law and Civil Disobedience,46-47. See also 16-20, 256, 335

[4] Rising Tide of Racial Consciousness, 149

More articles by:

Richard Moser writes at befreedom.co where this article first appeared.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
Brian Horejsi
Bears’ Lives Undervalued
Thomas Knapp
Lung Disease Outbreak: First Casualties of the War on Vaping?
Susie Day
Dear Guys Who Got Arrested for Throwing Water on NYPD Cops
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail