Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

Why I believe in non-violence

I believe in non-violence.

That means that I don’t stand for any organisation or belief that encourages or perpetuates violence.

I think of feminism as a non-violent movement to end sexist oppression. I think of being a part of the environmental movement as a non-violent movement to protect the animals, plants and air that we love, live on and breathe. I’m a vegetarian because I don’t believe in violence against animals. I also believe that these two movements align really well with one another and that if we don’t take care of our planet, the resulting droughts, floods and famine will mean more violence against women.

I don’t think you can be a good person if you advocate violence in any form. Not against the baddies. Not against those who are violent. Not against murderers, rapists or giant corporations that don’t listen to the voices of those who should. I think now more than ever we must eschew violence, however tempting it may become to get back at those who have wronged us, or who we believe have wronged a group or association that we belong to.

Because the bottom line is that violence breeds violence. Violence creates hate and hurt and pain. Violence never achieves positive ends. And if you’re a member of a non-violent community and espousing violence elsewhere, then you’re not really non-violent. This doesn’t mean you justify violence against yourself but it means that you must recognise that you are part of a system that encourages violence. You are part of the cycle.

You can’t be a peaceful person with hate in your heart. So let it go. You can’t create a system of non-violence if you are violent. So start with yourself and break the cycle.

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  • 34 Responses to “Why I believe in non-violence”

    1. Zeph #

      Violence is what we are, where we came from, and unfortunately where we will go to: It is our nature – We are ‘red in tooth and claw’.
      Recognising violence is a large part of us (if you witness mob justice that realisation is all to real) and embracing that realisation is the first step to being non-violent.
      But heck, after a lack of sleep and a long day sitting in traffic, it all too easily starts bubbling up.

      November 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm
    2. iamiam #

      No, violence is not what we are, it’s what we have become.

      Also, I don’t see feminism as a movement to end sexist oppression. I think there are different levels of feminism. I see radical feminism is a form of vengeance against men. I have two sisters who are radical feminists and I promise you the situation is not very pretty.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm
    3. Mr. Direct #

      We are just animals at the end of the day…

      We think we are civilised, but when it comes down to it, we are merely intelligent animals…

      November 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm
    4. Yaj #

      You are absolutely correct. Gandhi stated that poverty was the worst form of violence and I believe he could be right because people are deprived and kept poor through violent means by a monetary system that impoverishes them and enslaves them. This iniquitous debt-based money system of compound interest and, fractional reserve banking is the root cause of all poverty, violence, wars and debt peonage and environmental destruction. Without fundamental reform of this dysfunctional money system to one which is more benign,democratic and humanitarian (ubuntu), nothing will change -there will be no peace. We need a monetary reform to a full reserve banking system and social/public credit. So , my advice to you, is if you are really serious about peace and non-violence and hatred-please start educating yourself about the iniquitous and dishonest nature of our current money system and why and how it needs to be reformed/transformed. A good start would be http://www.moneyasdebt.net or http://www.positivemoney.org.uk or http://www.sane.org.za and please see the doccie “Four Horsemen”

      November 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm
    5. Jens Bierbrauer #

      This is a matter I have revisited in my thoughts recently. I used to hold the same views as the writer. I no longer do.

      In November 2009 I was stabbed four times while one of the assailants tried to drag my partner away to rape her. Would it have been better if I hadn’t kicked him in the testicles? Am I contributing to a world of violence when I say I don’t regret it for an instant?

      My conclusion is that sometimes violence is the ONLY answer.

      November 21, 2012 at 6:23 pm
    6. Rich Brauer #

      Jen, I *violently* disagree!

      I kid, of course.

      @iamiam: “No, violence is not what we are, it’s what we have become.”

      I have to disagree. Even our closest relatives, chimps, have been observed committing infanticide and even cannibalism. We may have killed off the Neanderthal. And war has been a part of all of human history (using “history”, in this sense, as what has actually been recorded in some kind of written form).

      I think Jen’s point is that it’s possible that we’ve sufficiently evolved to the point where, from a logical, and, in a sense, deeply human, point of view, we have the ability to stop being violent.

      I’m not sure I agree with her on that — there are a lot of indicators that suggest that we haven’t. Even seemingly otherwise well-adjusted people with no reason to be often get a thrill out of violence in various media, for example. I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to get entirely away from what *seems* to be a genetic predisposition to a certain level of violence. But I think we can agree that it’s a worthy goal.

      Re: feminism — I don’t doubt that there are “man-haters” out there. I *know* that there are even more misogynists, and that they’re a far larger problem. I know a guy who was physically abused by his wife. But he’s in a small minority.

      Did you read Koketso Moeti’s post, “Conference Sex”? We need a lot more feminists, particularly on the XY side.

      November 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm
    7. The dictator to save you from yourselves #

      How is vegetarianism non violent? Clearing and tilling land destroys ecosystem communities of the original inhabitants and introduces “colonialist” pests, viruses and pathogens who have to be combated by using toxic chemical warfare. That in turn making multinationals rich and dominant in the market place – legally stealing the rights of others. This in turns creates resentment and a feeling of being cornered which in turn leads to the animal instinct of fight or flight. Flight is not possible for many (as these same multinationals buy all the land), so fight it becomes….

      Now if you were an hydroponic vegetarian…. – but wait where would the input nutrients come from. Aquaponics – maybe killing fish is okay? Which species that we need to kill doesn’t count as violence?

      Footnote: The popularity of 50 shades and its’ sado-masochistic aspects is alarming . Why are woman so into this sensio-domination trash? 40 million copies and climbing is not an exception. Can’t take it…will have to join a catholic monk-ery. mmmm on second thoughts, ow, definitely not.

      November 22, 2012 at 12:06 am
    8. just a thought #

      The premise of your article is good but unfortunately you overlook a key point: We have canine teeth that are designed to tear flesh, so by default we would need to kill an animal to supplement an omnivorous diet. I strongly agree that battery fed operations are inhumane and wrong, but unfortunately the fact that we moved away from a nomadic lifestyle towards urbanisation means that we have to provide food for large numbers of people in smaller area.

      Additionally, we are animals and we need to look at the animal kingdom to draw parellels with how we live. Animals kill eachother for entering into their territories and fight for dominance. Male monkeys will kill baby males because they can be a threat in the future. I guess where we are different is the level of violence that we are exposed to. There is the issue.

      It is a bit naiive to think that we could live in a non violent society because we are ultimately animals who possess a thinking brain that can assess and mull over our actions before or after we have done what we are naturally programmed to do.

      November 22, 2012 at 8:05 am
    9. Stephen Browne #

      An excellent sentiment until you start living in a world where people regularly try to physically harm you and yours.

      November 22, 2012 at 8:43 am
    10. Mike Baillie
      Mike Baillie #

      Another serious problem with resorting to violence for a particular cause is that often the violence is what then gets focussed on — the cause fades into the background, or is actually weakened by the presence of violence.

      Furthermore, there is very little in life that is certain. What may seem wholly defensible today, and might seem to warrant violent intervention, may not be something we’d choose to support tomorrow.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:01 am
    11. @Jen: I guess you’ve never heard of the suffragettes? And what about umkhonto we sizwe? The black panthers? Indian resistance against British rule? The slavery abolitionist movement? Contemporary indigenous resistance movements around the world?

      In each of these cases, what we call ‘violence’ is a just response to the greater violence (direct and/or structural) that those defending themselves, resisting or fighting back are faced with. I find it particularly bizarre that you do not advocate violence against rapists. Is the person being raped supposed to simply accept their fate? Should they not fight back (with a knife or gun or whatever they have available to them)?

      There’s a kind of pathology in this fundamentalist pacifism, something Ward Churchill talks about at length in his book, Pacifism as Pathology. ( http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/derrick-jensen-pacifism-as-pathology-introduction). There’s also a dubious kind of privilege embedded in the blanket invocation of pacifism in all times and in all places (i.e., in the mantra-like way you’re using the term); this is best summed up by the following graphic: http://www.meme.co.za/pacifism.jpg

      I shouldn’t be so hard on pacifists though…even the most fundamentalist pacifists will still cheer during Avatar when the little blue people smash bulldozers to prevent their planet being pillaged. There’s something quite profound in that, don’t you think?

      PS: You should go vegan if you abhor violence to…

      November 22, 2012 at 9:09 am
    12. Joe Soap #

      Thanks Jen. Lovely read. A breath of fresh air.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:10 am
    13. Summary of Ward Churchill’s argument:

      1) Pacifism has never succeeded in affecting major social change, much less revolution. Even movements that pacifists claim as their greatest successes, the black civil rights movements, the Indian independence struggle, and the movement against the Vietnam war, were only ‘successful’ because of concurrent violent struggles or the threat of violence if the pacifists demands were not met.

      2) By abstractly condemning all violence as dehumanizing and wrong, pacifists equate oppressed and oppressors, since to them engaging in violence makes someone “as bad” as the people you are fighting. In this moral calculus, the Jews who took part in the Warsaw Ghetto rebllion were as bad as the Nazi SS, or the black slaves who rebelled in the 19th century were the same as the white masters who put them in chains.

      3) Pacifism for the most part is an expression of racial and class privilege. What really lies beneath a lot of pacifist sentiment in American activist circles, Churchill argues, is the fear that if bourgeois white activists were to engage in militant armed action against the US government and/or corporations, or even militant civil disobedience, some of the violence that the US capitalist state routinely uses against poor blacks and Latinos in the inner city and against countless people abroad would be redirected against them. Although this would impede the machinery of Empire, such a course would be a renouncement of privilege.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:10 am
    14. Robert #

      @Zeph. ‘Violence is what we are, where we came from, and unfortunately where we will go to: It is our nature’

      The common appeal to nature to justify our actions is not valid. Modern humankind has evolved past many of the aspects of our primitive nature. There is no reason why we cannot evolve beyond using violence.

      November 22, 2012 at 9:13 am
    15. Just a thought #

      I also appreciated the dictators statement about vegetarianism. To add to his point it is a well known fact that if all humans were vegetarian there would not be enough land for agriculture. So do we forsake our grasslands, forests and savanah? I don’t think so.

      The answer is never as simple as lets all be passifist vegetarians.

      November 22, 2012 at 10:21 am
    16. Zeph #

      No Robert…we have evolved through millions and millions of years of violence…our sanctimonious past few thousand years does not override that.
      Cultural restraints keep us in line. Remove everything and be desperate and we all will revert to our true base nature in which violence plays a lead part.

      November 22, 2012 at 10:24 am
    17. Very wise words Jen. Your first article that I actually agree with! It takes a lot to arrive at such a belief system as “non-violence”. Yaaay!

      There is still much for us to learn from Gandhi’s teachings that offers a revolutionary approach to countering injustice.

      The flat earth thinkers like Aragorn Eloff, Stephen Browne et al have a long way to go (or as eastern thinkers would say, many lifetimes) to evolve their thinking. History has shown repeatedly that empires built on false belief systems e.g. violence, racism, slavery, apartheid, imperialism etc. are sure to crumble with devastating consequences to future generations. Brings to mind one of my favorite songs by Coldplay – Viva La Vida http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvgZkm1xWPE
      The current formation of our new world order is proof of this.

      November 22, 2012 at 10:57 am
    18. greatgodpan #

      absolute non violence is a wonderful ideology that can only happen in a perfect world…….another ideology…….passive resistance is in its own right a form of violence……that does not work when you encounter the likes of hitler…non violence does not work when you are confronted by a violent enemy………..

      November 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm
    19. @just a thought: ” it is a well known fact that if all humans were vegetarian there would not be enough land for agriculture”.

      Are you sure? I thought it was a well-known fact that quite the opposite was the case, especially given how much agriculture is used to feed livestock ;-)

      @Dave Harris: I’m not sure what you’re replying to when you call me a ‘flat earth thinker’, but it certainly doesn’t bear any relation to anything I’ve actually said. A discussion of resistance that moves beyond fundamentalist pacifism in the face of greater violence is not at all the advocacy of a ‘false belief system’ like racism or slavery. To conflate violent resistance with forms of structural violence (e.g., apartheid) is really odd.

      As for Gandhi: “It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.” – Gandhi

      November 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm
    20. Zeph #

      @Dave Harris – so tell me Dave: What empire has ever been created or lasted any significant period that espouses non violence? Again the answer should give you a clue to what we really are…

      November 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm
    21. Lennon #

      The Roman Emperor Nero decided that he would confront a rebellious army in the then-Roman province of Gaul through peaceful means by meeting their force with art and subsequently took a legion of musicians, actors and other entertainers with him.

      The last time I checked, this didn’t pan out too well for him.

      November 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm
    22. ntozakhona #

      Violence is against our very nature. It brings pain, mourning and deepens poverty. The violent ones have wreaked havoc in Africa and the rest of the world enslaving masses of people, colonising them in their own countries and depriving them of resources for a sustainable living.

      It cannot be correct to say that because thieves have stolen all my property I must resort to robbery too. Our option should always be a negotiated resolution of problems and conflict. Oliver Tambo had said ” Why destroy in order to build”.

      November 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm
    23. Enough Said #

      @Just a thought

      Animals products for food are a huge waste of our resources and source of carbon dioxide and methane emissions. It is far more practical to feed a world of vegetarians than a world populated by meat eating humans. There is plenty of good data on that if you care to investigate.

      November 23, 2012 at 8:34 am
    24. Enough Said #

      @Dave Harris

      You talk such garbage its impossible to unravel. I really think you are losing it.

      November 23, 2012 at 8:36 am
    25. @Aragorn Eloff
      So if you believe that violence is a normal part of human nature, I suppose this justifies survival of the fittest/strongest/meanest etc. Would you like to live is this kind of world? Like the apartheid state, the Nazis too this to the logical extreme that resulted is one of the greatest evils unleashed on humanity.
      You are conflating self defense with violence by quoting Gandhi out of context here. http://www.mkgandhi.org/nonviolence/phil8.htm

      Your kind of primitive thinking is the genesis of evil that festers in our world.

      @Zeph
      These “empires” built on false beliefs that you seem to admire so much are just castles built on pillars of sand – to quote Coldplay. ;-)

      @Lennon
      Last time I checked the decline of the Roman Empire was due to their own infighting – violence in their final act when they started feeding on each other! And we call that “civilization”??? Eish!

      @ntozakhona
      Well said! Africa has borne the brunt of centuries of violence but still survives and thrives!

      November 23, 2012 at 11:02 am
    26. Lennon #

      @ Dave: Since you were not paying attention, let me explain it to you…

      I was talking specifically about and incident involving Nero, not the Empire in its entirety.

      PS: Nero ruled long before the Empire went into permanent decline.

      November 23, 2012 at 12:50 pm
    27. Consider #

      What you say sounds good and noble, but the unconditional rejection of force (a better word than violence), even to defend yourself or to stand up against evil, is not as noble as it seems. Nobody should condone violence. However, there are many thuggish or violent people who will delight in your perceived weakness, or unwillingness to stand up and defend what is right. If you see a bully attacking a child or an old person, do you just stand by and wring your hands in the spirit of non-violence? Was Chamberlain right to cower before Hitler hoping for peace but accepting the dishonour it brought? In the end he got bothe war and dishonour. All the European anti-war movements and so-called peace movements in the 70′s were no more than cowering apologists for the USSR, who delighted at their weakness and saw it as cowardice – no doubt the USSR would have overrun Europe if the whole Western world had been as weak. And you need to accept that never being prepared to stand up for right or defend yourself, your family, or the weak is as morally compromised as being a bully oneself. Things are not as simple as they seem. And often the real bullies, or thugs, will rejoice in your proclamation, delight in your weakness, and despise you for it whilst pretending to encourage and applaud you.

      November 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm
    28. Consider #

      What you say sounds good and noble, but the unconditional rejection of force (a better word than violence), even to defend yourself or to stand up against evil, is not as noble as it seems. Nobody should condone violence. However, there are many thuggish or violent people who will delight in your perceived weakness, or unwillingness to stand up and defend what is right. If you see a bully attacking a child or an old person, do you just stand by and wring your hands in the spirit of non-violence? Was Chamberlain right to cower before Hitler hoping for peace but accepting the dishonour it brought? In the end he got both war and dishonour. All the European anti-war movements and so-called peace movements in the 70′s were no more than cowering apologists for the USSR, who delighted at their weakness and saw it as cowardice – no doubt the USSR would have overrun Europe if the whole Western world had been as weak. And you need to accept that never being prepared to stand up for right or defend yourself, your family, or the weak is as morally compromised as being a bully oneself. Things are not as simple as they seem. And often the real bullies, or thugs, will rejoice in your proclamation, delight in your weakness, and despise you for it whilst pretending to encourage and applaud you.

      November 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm
    29. Juju Esq. #

      @Dave Harris

      1) You say – “Last time I checked the decline of the Roman Empire was due to their own infighting – violence in their final act when they started feeding on each other! And we call that “civilization”??? Eish! ” – sounds very much like what is playing out in the ANC in South Africa right now doesn’t it?

      2) AND – In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88), Edward Gibbon famously placed the blame on a loss of civic virtue among the Roman citizens. – Hmmmm – also sounds like modern day South Africa.

      EISCH – AGAIN!!!

      November 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm
    30. Historian #

      There is also a paradox that many movements that pretend to be non-violent, or at least to reject force when used by Western states, from the Soviet Communist USSR, to socialists movements in the third world, to many liberation movements in Asia, the Middle East and Africa from the Viet Cong and the Khmer Rouge to certain African movements from Somalia to Southern Africa, are in fact among the most violent movements ever, but find it convenient to proclaim non-violence to reinforce a sense of victimhood. Mao Zedong himself commented on their cynicism and hypocrisy on a number of occasions.

      November 23, 2012 at 2:56 pm
    31. Ghandi #

      It is rather amusing that the aggressive, abusive and perennially insulting Harris pretends to support non violence. What this really means is that aggressive people can’t stand it when others have the guts to stand up to them. Makes you think, doesn’t it.

      November 24, 2012 at 11:01 am
    32. Kerensky #

      Harris notes ‘empires built on false belief systems e.g. violence, racism, slavery, apartheid, imperialism etc. are sure to crumble with devastating consequences to future generations’. Sounds like Harris is describing his own beloved USSR, probably the most evil empire the earth has ever seen, which included every tyranny ever known, and which is still admired and sadly missed by communist propagandists like Harris himself.

      November 24, 2012 at 11:14 am
    33. Max #

      Dave Harris who is the most abusive, emotionally violent and aggressive commentator on thoughtleader now sees himself as Mr. Nonviolence. That’s real pathology, folks. It would be funny if wasn’t quite so sad and pathetic.

      November 24, 2012 at 10:13 pm
    34. @Kerensky, Ghandi, Max
      C’mon guys, play the ball and not the man. Eish!
      Even Juju Esq has the sense to do that even with his puerile arguments that are his personal opinions and references from dodgy imperialist historians with political agendas.

      November 25, 2012 at 1:01 pm

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