Tag Archives: Dr. Margaret Flowers

Partial Blueprint for Becoming Citizen Journalists, by Djelloul Marbrook

 

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A Partial Blueprint for Becoming Citizen Journalists

By Djelloul Marbrook

The Atlantic’s recent story that libraries are moving to fill the vacuum left by the corporatization and consolidation of local news media is one of those rare American occasions when good news bores a hole of light through the maelstrom of bad news.

The idea is as promising as it is challenging. Local libraries depend on local political support, and politicians are unlikely to greet any improvement in local news coverage with enthusiasm. The lack of transparency caused by media consolidation into the hands of six right-wing oligarchs suits politicians just fine, even the so-called progressives among them.

But all news is essentially local, even when it comes from Washington. And the destruction of local news coverage by the greed-driven movement to consolidate the press is nothing less than a national tragedy. Here’s a modest example. When I was a news editor at The Washington Star our newsroom quickly noticed that almost to a man the Watergate villains came from places where the press was less than diligent, less than aggressive.  The Watergate perps were accustomed to getting away with corruption and they brought that corruption to Washington, just as some of them (notably Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, former Baltimore County executive and governor of Maryland) had brought it to county seats and state capitals. That’s how important a vigilant, independent press is.

Libraries with their space and high-speed Internet connections may not be the only resort for citizen journalists who aspire to fill the dangerous vacuum left by corporate greed. Bookstores, art galleries, indeed all commercial and public spaces devoted to community are potential headquarters for informal committees or individuals producing blogs, email reports and websites to share news and opinion.

Citizen journalists can be recruited from all walks of life—retirees, students, veterans. They can be nurses, lawyers, accountants, cops, farmers, anyone interested in finding out what is really going on in a community, not what the politicians tell you is going on. Those politicians leave paper trails of their good deeds and their wrongdoing, and those paper trails are public records accessible in town and city halls, county administrative buildings and other places where public records are kept. Those records, not what politicians tell constituents and reporters, tell the story of a community’s real life, its hidden life, the life all too many politicians seek to keep hidden. They may consist of town council or school board or zoning board minutes, or departmental reports to mayors and managers and supervisors, or accountants’ analyses, or the recommendations of consultants, or the budgets of the police, fire and other agencies. They’re all public, and they all tell much more than any politician is apt to tell you.

Television, and to some extent print media too, depends on talking heads, on imagery to convey the news, and all are often more concerned with dramatization than enlightenment. But the Founding Fathers left us a failsafe, the public nature of the proceedings of government. What is really happening is in the fine print. When government approves a contract, for example, that contract is on record somewhere, and an under-the-table deal between some local official and the contractor will suggest itself in a study of that contract and who signed it. This is exactly the kind of reporting the media are no longer doing, and their negligence is a danger to the republic. You can change that, not at the polls every two years but right now.

You don’t have to be a journalist to ferret out this information, to read and understand it, to share it, to comment about it. You just have to be curious and dogged. It doesn’t matter how well a story is written, it only matters that the story is written. Over time such citizen groups will become skilled if self-taught journalists persist, journalism schools and their high-priced classes notwithstanding. I promise you this, because I’m self-taught and a veteran news editor and reporter. Your experience will teach you.

The Internet, just as envisioned by its founder, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, is the shining hope of journalism, with constraints of its own, but not the financially daunting constraints of newspapers and TV stations, which require massive financial backing. Today the real estate of most newspapers is worth more than the newspapers.

Retirees and all our aging population are an incredible resource for this citizen project. Who better to study the decisions of a town council, for example, than a retired lawyer? Who better to study the police budget and annual report than a retired police officer? Who better to consider the local health care situation than a retired nurse? But they must not be daunted by their lack of reporting experience. If they can speak intelligibly they can do this job, they can rise to this challenge.

Many independent stores, such as booksellers, are trying to find ways to attract people to them, and this is one way they can do it. For example, the local book dealer can mount a 26-inch screen in the shop window to display local news and opinion and photographs. That’s journalism, that’s news reporting, and it counts. It can transform your community from a fiefdom of politicians to an implement of change for the better. It can keep local government honest. For example, what about that broken traffic light at Sixth and Newton? When will the town fix it? How much will it cost? What about that pothole at the corner of 8th and Columbia that has already blown out dozens of tires? Why did Tom Smith see the town’s snowplow clearing the private driveway of the mayor before all the main streets were cleared? Just asking the questions helps clear the air. Ask them. People will provide the answers as on the TV show “The Wisdom of the Crowd”.  It’s called crowd-sourcing.

The news can be delivered in all sorts of ways: on digital screens, by email, in blogs, websites, almost any way you can imagine. The screens can be placed anywhere the public can see them. And the information can be revised at any time—corrected, improved, deleted.

An excellent example of such a blog, delivered by listserv to our email address every day, is the lively Gossips of Rivertown in Hudson, New York, which as of now is getting more than 12,000 page views a week. It covers the city council and many issues of interest not only to Hudson residents but also to residents of a wider area.

Think how exhilarating such a project can be, how it can inspire students to become journalists and inspire ordinary citizens to become active in their communities, how it can give hope to the voiceless, to the ignored. All you need is a computer, perhaps a tablet, a camera, and your own common sense.

Above all, don’t buy into the idea that journalism is for professionals. It’s not. It’s about refreshing the republic. It’s about keeping American government at all levels honest. It can do much more to change things than electing a demagogue who promises you everything while lining his own pockets. Take the responsibility for cleaning up American governance into your own hands, not on election day but right now. Every day. And, by the way, have fun.

djelloulDjelloul Marbrook is a member of the Writing for Peace Panel of Advisers and is serving as our Young Writers Fiction Judge. Marbrook is the acclaimed author of five books of fiction, five books of poetry, and five more books are currently forthcoming from Leaky Boot Press, United Kingdom. Marbrook maintains a lively presence on Twitter and Facebook. A U.S. Navy veteran and retired newspaper editor, he lives in the mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn. His newspaper career included the Providence (RI) Journal, the Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, the Baltimore Sun, the Winston-Salem Journal, the Washington Star, and Media News dailies in northeast Ohio and northern New Jersey. He is the editor-in-chief of Arabesques, a trilingual online and print literary quarterly.

Nothing True Has a NameMarbrook’s latest book of poetry is Nothing True Has A Name, published by Leaky Boot Press. These alchemical poems challenge our compulsion to categorize and pigeonhole. They inquire deeply into the passion for containment symbolized by classical Greek vessels. The poems seek to define the idea of ennobling elixirs. The image of galleys sailing on the winds and laden with Greek amphorae tied to each other by their necks haunts this collection. The poet concludes that names inevitably mislead us. He urges us to transcend them, not revel in them.

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From Writing for Peace Adviser Dr. Margaret Flowers:

 

New Defense Strategy: War With Great Nations & Arms Race

Dr. Margaret FlowersThis week, following the recent announcement of a new National Defense Strategy that focuses on conflicts with great powers and a new arms race, the Pentagon announced an escalation of nuclear weapons development. The United States’ military is spread across the world, including several dangerous conflict areas that could develop into an all-out war, possibly in conflict with China or Russia. This comes at a time when US empire is fading, something the Pentagon also recognizes and the US is falling behind China economically.

2018 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace challenges young writers (ages 13-19) to expand their empathy skills by researching an unfamiliar culture and writing from the point-of-view of a character within that new world, while exploring social, political, and environmental pressures, and universal themes.

  • The deadline for entrance is April 1st, 2018.
  • There is no fee for participation.
  • Writers, ages 13-19, may submit in one of three categories – poetry, fiction, or nonfiction.

Check out the complete guidelines here.

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Why I can’t unsee what I’ve read about 9/11, by Andrea W. Doray

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Why I can’t unsee what I’ve read about 9/11

by

Andrea W. Doray

 

I haven’t watched the videos of the recent slayings of American journalists. I read the news accounts and the still photos were horrific enough for me, and I knew that I could never unsee it.

But in the theater of my mind, I did see it; in fact, I see it over and over. I see it because I’ve read accounts in the news about what happened, just as I did about the mass shootings in Aurora, CO, and Sandy Hook, CT, the innocent civilian casualties in armed conflicts around the world, and the transports and death camps of the Holocaust. I wasn’t a physical witness to any of these, and yet I can see, I can see, I can see these wicked events taking place.

Such is the power of words.

In September especially, but often throughout the year, my mind returns again and again to the images of the Twin Towers. Like most of us, I watched first in disbelief, then in growing horror, anger, and helplessness. Because of the immediacy, even 13 years ago, of real-time news reporting, I watched September 11, 2001, unfold as I was clustered around a television with dozens of coworkers. The planes, the fires, the collapsing buildings…all seared into our shocked and grieving collective consciousness.

I don’t remember if I watched this next part actually taking place, but I’ve seen the photographs of people leaping from the flaming buildings, caught by the still frames of a camera. And as much as these images haunt me, it’s what I have read that frequents my memory and deepens my sorrow on September 11.

I’m referring to a critically acclaimed poem by Brian Doyle, entitled “Leap.” Doyle’s opening line, “A couple leaped from the south tower, hand in hand,” sets the scene. If you search the Web for this topic, as I did for this column, you’ll find that some people think the images of a man and a woman holding hands as they fell are a hoax, claiming the pictures are photoshopped. But Doyle relies on eyewitness accounts from people who did the seeing – not just of this couple but also of others, very real people forced to make those harrowing desperate choices.

Doyle gives us descriptions from horrified spectators, descriptions made even more chilling in their spare language: “people ‘leaping as they flew out.’ ” And “ ‘falling over themselves’ … ‘too many people falling.’ ” Doyle also relates the events on the streets below, where pedestrians and a firefighter were killed “by people falling from the sky.”

Doyle ends the poem by speculating about the moments leading up to the hand-in-hand plunge. To paraphrase: did they know each other…friends, colleagues? Or were they strangers “thrown together at the window at the lip of hell,” strangers who “held on tight, and leaped….”

Through these unblinking words, I make more of a human connection with the victims than I ever could by watching videos or viewing photos. And it’s because I have read “Leap” that I can’t unsee their desperation, the agony in their final acts. But perhaps that’s what needs to happen, so that these victims, too, will never be forgotten, to keep this tragedy in the theaters of our minds.

Such is the power of words.

 

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About Andrea W. Doray

Andrea Doray, Writing for Peace Board Member

Andrea W. Doray is a member of the Writing for Peace board of directors, and a writer who, not surprisingly, sees things in words. You can find “Leap” at PBS.org, and can hear Brian Doyle read his work on YouTube. Contact Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com if you would like the links.

A version of this article appeared in Colorado Community Media newspapers and is reprinted here with permission.

 

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Writing for Peace News

Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf
Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

What Will It Take To Create Climate Justice?

by Writing for Peace Adviser Margaret Flowers, and Kevin Zeese

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserAll of the elements required to create climate justice seem to be in place. Activists are well organized, polls indicate public support, and overwhelming consensus among the scientific community, so why aren’t governments taking appropriate action to address climate change? Read the article here.

 DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest JudgesOur Young Writers Contest is now open! To date, Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

he recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf
Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act

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The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed.

– See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

Support Writing for Peace By Purchasing Our Latest Edition Of DoveTales

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” edition, is now available for purchase. The 2014 issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Gentle Strength, by Robert Kostuck

Writing for Peace is excited to introduce three wonderful new members of our advisory panel: Robert Kostuck, Djelloul Marbrook, and Patricia Jabbeh Wesley. Each of our new advisers has achieved an inspiring level of personal integrity in their work, and dedicated their writing toward the advancement of truth, justice, and peace.

In this first of three introductory posts, meet Writing for Peace Adviser, Robert Kostuck.

Gentle Strength

Robert Kostuck, Writing for Peace Adviser“Becoming a member of Writing for Peace will put me in closer contact with like-minded individuals who promote compassion through communication. I believe that we serve by example in our daily lives; that writing can be a record of our service and examples and go beyond the moment/s of our inspiration.

“On a personal level, I believe that when gender parity is achieved in all human cultures, we will begin to address all of our world’s ‘problems,’ i.e., starvation, disease, lack of medical care, religious-based conflicts, economic disparity, and so on. Through my writing I try to create tiny worlds where girls and women go from being victims to becoming survivors; and thereby achieve a type of parity. Creating characters who draw on their strengths and wisdom and, hopefully, inspire readers to do the same.”

~Robert Kostuck

Robert Kostuck is an M.Ed. graduate from Northern Arizona University. Recently published fiction, essays, and reviews appear or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, The Southwest Review, Kenyon Review Online, Louisiana Literature, Tiferet, Alimentum, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Crab Creek Review, So To Speak, Flyway, Silk Road, Zone 3, EVENT, and Saint Ann’s Review, Roanoke Review, Concho River Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and Concho River Review. He is currently working on short stories, essays, weavings, a novel; and the primary series of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga. His short story collection is seeking a publisher. He lives near an ocean; his heart belongs to the Chihuahua and Sonora deserts.

Learn more about Robert’s work here.

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Writing for Peace News

Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf
Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now The United Nations Has Failed To Act

by Writing for Peace Adviser Margaret Flowers, and Kevin Zeese

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserThe recent report by the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 national Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. It’s affects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. Read the article here.

 DoveTales Call for Submissions

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is now accepting submissions for our 2015 “Nature” edition of DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Read our guidelines and submit here.

Young Writers Contest Now Open!

2015 Young Writers Contest JudgesOur Young Writers Contest is now open! To date, Writing for Peace has received entries from young writers with a passion for peace from 24 countries. Go to www.writingforpeace.org to meet our previous winners and learn about our wonderful panel of judges: Antonya Nelson, fiction; Stephen Kuusisto, poetry; and Steve Almond, nonfiction. Read the full guidelines here.

he recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf
Climate Alarm Is Ringing – And Until Now the United Nations Has Failed To Act

 13  0 reddit0  2

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed.

– See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

2014 DoveTales “Contrast” Edition Released

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most worrisome so far. Paired with data from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, there is no question that the climate crisis is here and is accelerating at a faster pace than predicted. Its effects are widespread and dangerous, yet real solutions are being suppressed. – See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/climate-alarm-ringing-%E2%80%93-and-until-now-united-nations-has-failed-act#sthash.GrDFZqEW.dpuf

2014 DoveTales, "Contrast" Edition2014 DoveTales, “Contrast” edition, is now available for purchase. The 2014 issue is themed “contrast” and includes the beautiful black and white photography of Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence Paula Dawn Lietz, as well as the 2013 Young Writers Contest winners, and the following contributors:

Jordi Alonso, Cassandra Arnold, Maggie Bàra, Henry Braun, Lorraine Caputo, William Cass, Lorraine Currelley, Colin Dodds, John Garmon, Diane Giardi, Mark Goad, Veronica Golos, Sam Hamill, Dawnell Harrison, D. Iasevoli, Ed.D, Allan M. Jalon, Shelley Kahn, Richard Krawiec, Paula Dawn Lietz, Cory Lockhart, Shannon K. Lockhart, Veronica Marshall, Sandra McGarry, Iwona Partyka, Sy Roth, Andrew Sacks, Carol Smallwood, Julia Stein, Samantha Peters Terrell, Bänoo Zan

Copyright © 2014 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Militarism and Violence are So Yesterday, by Flowers & Zeese

By Writing for Peace Adviser Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

Last week, in our article titled “Armed Drones Becoming the Norm? At the Crossroads of Robotic Warfare,” we wrote about concerns that robotic warfare combined with the global “war on terror” was making violence the quick and easy way to respond to conflicts. We wondered whether the bloody 20th (and beginning of the 21st) century could be put behind us and if the time had come to move to an era of peaceful solutions.

Many factors make this an opportune time to move toward greater use of nonviolent practices. The most obvious, of course, is that the United States and the planet can no longer support American Empire and its endless wars. We cannot continue to spend more than $1 trillion each year on the military and national security state while the basic needs of our population are not being met and our domestic infrastructure is crumbling. The empire economy quite literally is killing us.

And our bloated military is not just killing us and others around the world, mostly innocent civilians, but it is killing the Earth, too. This report published by Project Censored calls the US Department of Defense the worst polluter on the planet. It states: “This impact includes uninhibited use of fossil fuels, massive creation of greenhouse gases, and extensive release of radioactive and chemical contaminants into the air, water, and soil.” And that does not include the private military contractors and weapons industries.

The era of American Empire is coming to an end. The signs are everywhere. Latin-American countries are no longer tolerating bullying tactics by the United States. Obama failed in his attempt to attack Syria. The world leaders at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in October did not seem to mourn President Obama’s absence at all. In fact, the failing Trans-Pacific Partnership shows that the United States is no longer in the driver’s seat of the Pacific economy. And even former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski is lamenting “that American domination [is] no longer possible because of an accelerating social change. … ”

Brzezinski is concerned that growing access to information and popular uprisings are making it more difficult for the global financial elite to control the masses. All around the world, people are standing up to oppressive governments and destructive practices, and they are increasingly doing so with nonviolent tools. The newest data show that nonviolent tactics are not only more popular, but they are also more effective than violent ones and nonviolent struggle is more likely to result in lasting democratic structures.

In the book Crises of the Republic, Hannah Arendt wrote, “The chief reason warfare is still with us is neither a secret death wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression … but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.” That is changing. People around the world are putting nonviolent practices to use to create democratic societies and are employing peaceful methods of conflict resolution. It is imperative that we reject imperialism and militarism and make peace a reality.

Creating a Culture of Nonviolence        

We live in a time of transition that some call the Great Turning. Joanna Macy calls it the “essential adventure of our time: the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.” The reality is that our resources are declining and we can no longer operate within a system that demands constant growth and sacrifices people and the planet for profit as capitalism does.

The Great Turning is a period of maturation of our species. Biologist Elisabet Sahtouris writes in Earthdance: Living Systems in Evolution that evolution is not linear but is a cycle “of unity to individuation, through which arises conflict, negotiations happen, cooperation is arrived at; and we go to unity again at the next higher level.” If cooperation is not achieved, the species simply goes extinct.

She compares this process to the stages of human development. Essentially, humans are in the adolescent phase. Our task at this stage is cooperation, or as David Korten writes, to go from “violent domination” to “peaceful partnership.” To accomplish this, we will have to shift from a militaristic society to a culture of nonviolence. This will have to be done with intention.

If we look around us, it is easy to recognize the ways that militarism is ingrained in our culture. It is prominent in the games that our children play, especially video games, in television and movies and in the clothes they wear. Children as young as 12 years can attend residential programs that simulate basic military training. Members of the military are treated as heroes everywhere we go. At the airport, they are invited to board the plane first and walk across the red carpet as the “premier” members do. At sporting and cultural events, they are given special recognition.

To counter this deep indoctrination, we will have to be more honest about the role of the military. General Smedley D. Butler, one of the most decorated generals of all time, called war a racket. He said. “I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to major-general. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

We will need to develop new cultural entities, practices and institutions that teach and promote peace and nonviolent practices. We will need to recognize people who contribute to building a more just society as the ones we want to emulate. In addition to the usual people that we think of such as teachers and nurses, we will need to include those who feed the hungry in areas where it has been declared illegal, who stand in solidarity with homeowners who are facing eviction and who lock themselves to heavy machinery to prevent mountaintop removal for coal, pipelines for tar sands and hydrofracking for methane gas.

Recently, we spoke to three people who are actively engaged in building the culture of nonviolence: author-activist-actor Rivera Sun and Stephanie Van Hook and Michael Nagler of the Metta Center for Nonviolence. Sun uses fictional characters to teach the principles of nonviolent resistance. In her newest book, called The Dandelion Insurrection, she uses “fiction to project ahead just around the corner of today” and tell the story of “the transformation we are going through.” The Metta Center provides tools, books and educational events to teach nonviolence.

All three incorporate stories into their work. Storytelling is an integral part of transformative organizing. We all see the world through the lens of the stories we tell ourselves. Stories are so important to us that when people are presented with facts that conflict with their story of the world, they are more likely to reject the facts and insist more strongly that their story is the truth. Our decisions are largely made at the emotional level, and so stories that reach our emotions can begin to shape our worldview in a new way.

Sun studies strategic nonviolence and nonviolent struggles. She incorporates important concepts and themes into her stories. She breaks the concepts down in a way that is easy to understand and remember. For instance, in The Dandelion Insurrection, the phrase “Be kind, be connected, be unafraid” is repeated throughout the story. To hear our interview with Rivera Sun, click here.

The Metta Center provides a movement tool called the Roadmap Compass. It serves the goals of providing a strategy in a way that is also easy to comprehend and shows how the different components of the movement are connected. The top one of the six sections of the Roadmap is “New Story Creation.” Nagler says that if we “formulate the story in a way that is non-threatening” and we each start telling the story in a similar way, then we will reach a tipping point. The Roadmap Compass is an interactive tool that facilitates communication between people who are working on specific areas such as food security, renewable energy or nonviolent conflict resolution.

Practicing Nonviolence

As we learn the principles of nonviolence, we can start putting them into action in our daily lives. Van Hook reminds us that it is as easy as slowing down enough to make some connection to the people we encounter such as when we go to a store. She adds that we can employ nonviolent tactics when a conflict arises. The first step is to recognize the humanity of the other person by making eye contact.

Van Hook coordinates the Shanti Sena Network of peace teams based primarily in the United States and Canada. Specifically, the peace teams are composed of people who work in communities to use “nonviolent ways of resolving conflicts without the potentially violent intervention from ‘law enforcement’ or the military.” In the words of Gandhi, this is a form of constructive program – building alternative systems to replace the old systems that no longer serve us.

To get involved, people can begin by signing the Peace Draft. To start, the only requirement is a commitment to deepen one’s study of nonviolence. Van Hook describes the beauty of the Peace Team is that there is something for everyone to do no matter their circumstances. If a person cannot participate actively in conflict resolution, they can serve other functions such as providing education or support.

Conflict resolution is a growing field. Schools as early as the elementary level are starting to incorporate conflict resolution into their curriculum. And international peace teams are being used in areas of violence and armed conflict. One group that does this is Nonviolent Peaceforce. Its teams are invited by communities to provide assistance in resolving conflicts and protection.

Conflict is complex. A violent approach to conflict resolution only has one tool – domination through force. The nonviolent approach has multiple tools. And instead of being imposed from above, the tools are chosen by the community that is affected. The Peaceforce does not take sides in a conflict. A large part of the Peaceforce’s work is listening to communities to understand the particular complexities of their situation and then applying common-sense approaches. Van Hook writes in more detail about the Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan.

Currently a US-based peace team from Veterans for Peace is in Palestine, where it is building relationships with the Palestinians, who are trying to protect their land from the encroaching Israeli settlements. On its second day, it accompanied local villagers into an Israeli settlement and started playing soccer. When the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) arrived, the athletes invited the young soldiers to join them in the game. The Veterans for Peace spoke to the IDF about their experiences of being in the military and realizing that the wars they were fighting and the orders they were following were wrong. They hoped to develop connections with the IDF and to facilitate awareness of their shared humanity.

Violence is a Sign of Weakness

In her 1969 essay “Reflections on Violence,” Hannah Arendt wrote that “Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent.” She explains that power is derived from the support and consent of the people. When those who are in power are compelled to resort to violence, it is a sign that their power is disappearing. She adds, “Power springs up whenever people get together and act in concert, but it derives its legitimacy from the initial getting together. … ”

One aspect of the Great Turning is moving from a hierarchical/patriarchal society in which people see themselves as separate from each other to a society that is non-hierarchical in which people feel connected to each other. Violence was acceptable in the old worldview because it was felt to be necessary and effective. That is no longer the case. Not only is violence destructive, but when we harm others, we cause harm to ourselves.

At the heart of the practice of nonviolence is the recognition that we are all connected and that we are stronger when we work together and through consensus. Van Hook and Nagler emphasize that being connected does not mean that we are the same. At the surface level, people are different, and that diversity is appreciated. But inside, we are related to each other.

Nagler tells the story of a gay pride parade in Michigan in which a member of a local neo-Nazi group started harassing people at the event. Somebody broke a bottle over his head and peace team members quickly moved in to protect him and bring him safely to an ambulance for care. The man’s partner was so touched by their actions that she said something along the lines of, “I used to hate you people, but now I believe that the same blood runs through all of us.”

It’s time to stop glorifying war and violence and replace them with greater knowledge and practice of nonviolent techniques. It is possible to do. The “Cross-Legged Strike” is one example that occurred in 2006 in a very violent area of Colombia, the city of Pereira. Men in the city joined violent gangs because they believed that it made them more sexually appealing. In response, their female partners decided to teach them otherwise by creating a popular campaign to withhold sex because they preferred to have their partners alive for themselves and their children. The campaign included a popular rap song calling for the men to give up their weapons.

We must similarly act to build a popular cultural campaign against violence. As American Empire declines, we must show the world that we are ready to join the global society as a partner rather than a bully. Our aggression is a sign of weakness and will no longer be effective against the rising tide of nonviolent resistance. Let’s begin in our communities to make to peace a reality.

To hear Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers’ interview “Building a Culture of Nonviolent Resistance for Democracy” with Rivera Sun, author of the newly released book The Dandelion Insurrection, and Stephanie Van Hook and Michael Nagler of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, click here.

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-host Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the PopularResistance.org. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication. Reprinted with permission by Dr. Margaret Flowers.

Dr. Margaret Flowers, Writing for Peace AdviserDr. Margaret Flowers

Dr. Margaret Flowers is a Maryland pediatrician who left practice to advocate full-time for single-payer health insurance. Despite broad citizen support, Dr. Flowers was stunned by the institutional opposition to the single-payer solution during the national health reform process. In response, she organized protests and was arrested three times for peaceful acts of civil disobedience. Now she is determined to not only change our national healthcare system, but to build an independent, nonviolent broad-based social, economic and environmental justice movement to transform this country. Says Dr. Flowers, “One of the greatest drivers of poor health is wealth inequality.” Learn more about Dr. Margaret Flowers here.

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