"Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages." Thomas EdisonIt’s human nature for those who are suppressed to look at those who suppress them in a rather self-centered and myopic way. In doing so we become prone to adopt the same justification for violence that we claim defines our suppressors. We must practice higher ethics and awareness of the common good, which, if one considers it closely, rejects the tactics of and use of violence.
You only become like your enemy when you accept the idea that violence is somehow justified as part and parcel of civil disobedience. “In some cases non-violence requires more militancy than violence”, Cesar Chavez said. You also lose in the court of public opinion when you use violence in response to violence. The average American will sympathize with protest if they believe the protesters cause is just and the protester acts in a dignified way in making their point. One of the most powerful statements one can make is to demonstrate compassion and empathy for those who mean you harm.
I'm not a pacifist, I'm a pragmatist.
Pictures of Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez and countless others being arrested or enduring brutality yet accepting such treatment stand as timeless examples of how one should act when confronted with force. Their non-combativeness and silence demonstrates their righteousness and speaks volumes about their ideals and ethics. These images have endured because they appeal to the highest ideals of humanity. It appeals to a wider audience of people who maybe sympathetic to the cause and who also desire justice and true democracy.
On the other hand, anonymous Blackblock window breakers who cover their faces and run wild in the street attempting to spread fear with their ideological based brand of unfocused and pointless violence and property destruction are the antithesis of the nonviolent civilized citizen patriots who are exercising their constitutional rights of speech and assembly in the public square. In effect one act of violence by these individuals has the effect of reversing months of hard earned public support and sympathy for the movement.
If it is really true that “the whole world is watching”, then one must demonstrate discipline in the face of police overreaction. Any thinking demonstrator realizes that being arrested or even brutalized by the authorities is part and parcel of a movement that challenges the power and authority of the entrenched oligarchy and the paramilitary police that protect them. It’s naive to believe you will not be arrested or brutalized by the police state when you question their authority. It you believe reacting violently in the face of this predictable response from the police is acceptable you only lower yourself to the level of those who feel justified in dishing-out such brutality.
In this country and around the world the battle the Occupy Wall Street movement is trying to win is not only in the streets but is also simultaneously taking place in the court of public opinion. As supporters and demonstrators who are involved in the movement we are called upon to demonstrate a higher standard of conduct and responsibility than what maybe required as an individual citizen. What you do and how you act from moment to moment speaks for the entire movement. Remind yourself that the occupy movement is not about you or even your inner-circle of misfits. We are not here to simply stir up trouble or create chaos. We are trying to change the world.
The goals of the movement must transcend our personal selfishness, ideology and politics. We are fighting for the 99% and in the broader sense humanity itself. At the root of this movement is the ideal of nonviolence and the power, eventual effectiveness and success of this movement will be compromised the moment we believe, based on superficial reasoning, that violence is somehow justified to achieve the change we desperately need.