.Nonviolent Power: Myths and reality

A commonly held myth is that war concludes well with peace. In fact, conflict research shows that the losing side may accept defeat in a public-facing manner, only to fester and plot to get revenge later.

Violence and war generally lead to further violence and war. Although it may lead to short-term “peace,” violent conflict rarely works to build sustained peace.

But what if the war could have been avoided in the first place?

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose

It is true that conflict is inevitable. War and violence are not. Where violence leaves winners and losers, constructive ends that foster working relationships are never constructed from violence. It is nonviolent action that produces working relationships. Nonviolent action as a response to conflict is essential to building and sustaining a culture of peace. But what is nonviolence? When has nonviolence been successful? And how does it contribute to building sustainable peace?

Indeed, there is empirical research by Harvard professor Erica Chenoweth and former State Department official Maria Stephan on the many cases in which nonviolent insurgency overthrew dictatorships at a success rate nearly double that of successful violent uprisings.

Key to nonviolence is the strain it creates on the ruling elites that challenges the dominant structure. Collective social strain forces leaders, militaries and perpetrators to change their methods. In the Chenoweth and Stephan study, they found that if 3.5% of a population become involved participants in a nonviolent campaign, the likelihood of success is almost guaranteed. Imposing costs on those in power can be done without shooting anyone.

With this, power is taken from the few, and the power is dispersed among the people. Because of this, nonviolence also can contribute to building democratic societies. Once the world knows about the power of nonviolence, ideally, they will see it as a viable, and vital, option in the face of conflict.

To quote Martin Luther King Jr., “At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love.”

Haley Morrow is a conflict resolution master’s candidate at Portland State University.


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