"There is no excellent beauty, that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." - Francis Bacon
Monday, November 21, 2011
An Open Letter to those Seeking a “Nonviolent” Resolution from the Occupy Oakland General Assembly
As a young person that identifies as a nonviolent activist, I am disturbed by the messages coming from ‘advocates ofnonviolence’ in the Oakland community.
I studied Peace & Conflict Studies formally for two years at UC Berkeley, most of my mentors are elders in the field ofnonviolence, and I continue to study nonviolent communication. That being said, I have found much of what is being said under the banner of nonviolence to be entirely erroneous and the actions that are being taken, and not taken, abhorrent.
Many claim that Occupy Oakland has not taken a strong unilateral stand against violence. However, any advocate ofnonviolence would see that Occupy Oakland has, despite it’s very early stages, taken a strong stance against many of the root causes of violence including political, economic, cultural and social inequalities which produce individual incentives to engage in direct violence.
From my understanding, nonviolence theorists emphasize that violence is inherent in political structures such as patriarchy, capitalism and the state. Unlike democratic socialists who argue that socialists should win political power by constitutional means, nonviolence theorists usually share the anarchist aversion to state power in any form. For those whom have evoked Gandhi in the last few weeks, it is important to remember that he thought that the apparatus of the state is deeply rooted in force and violence—in fact, that this is the essential nature of the state. Gandhi believed that the state represents violence in a concentrated and organized form.
Like Occupy Oakland’s current stance of honoring a diversity of tactics, nonviolence theorists are interested in a comprehensive strategy of resistance and disruption, coupled with the creation of a vast network of cooperative organizations which will ultimately undermine patriarchy and state power.
Yet, what I have heard over and over again since the November 2nd General Strike is that until Occupy Oakland passes a resolution that adopts a “nonviolent” stance, the majority of Oakland residents will not support the movement.
To me, this is an embarrassing excuse to remain complicit in the face of state sanctioned violence.
As a volunteer on the facilitation committee there have only been two proposals that have so far addressed the recent topic of “nonviolence.” With much respect to the individuals that submitted these proposals, each proposal attempted to distill nonviolence into an overly simplistic anthem. The proposal that was presented to the General Assembly on Wednesday, November 9th began the much needed conversation, and was received with well thought out and insightful criticisms.
I would also like to point out that upwards of 40,000 people participated in the General Strike in Oakland yet under 100 people participated in acts of vandalism. The Occupy Oakland General Assembly has not since passed any resolution condoning the actions of vandalism. The only acts of physical violence against human beings that have involved community members of Occupy Oakland have been perpetuated against community members of Occupy Oakland by the Oakland Police Department.
During the last raid the police attacked the peaceful protest with flash grenades, tear gas, sound cannons, and rubber bullets.
Occupy Oakland is anticipating another violent raid. If, like me, you believe that nonviolent methods are effective, I invite you to model the power of non-violent resistance. The next time the riot cops begin a military assault on the legitimate political demonstration that is Occupy Oakland, I call on you to organize and resist.
Remember that nonviolent action is not an attempt to avoid or ignore conflict. Nonviolent activists believe that whatever the issue and scale of a conflict, nonviolent action is a technique by which people who reject passivity and submission, and who see struggle as essential, can wage their conflict without violence. It is one response to the problem of how to act effectively in politics, especially how to wield powers effectively.