Excerpt From The Book, “Power Under”

This is how I want our community to respond to violence.

Excerpted from this chapter. Thanks to Steve Wineman for generously sharing this book online for free.

Nonviolence and the Health of Social Change Organizations

Imagine progressive social change organizations in which:

  • There are no personal attacks.
  • There are no opposing camps.
  • No one is treated as an enemy.
  • In the face of disagreements, we maintain full respect for each other as valued human beings.
  • People listen well to each other and actively consider the possible validity and value of other perspectives – particularly the perspectives of those with whom we disagree.
  • People have effective conflict resolution skills.
  • There is a robust capacity to deal with differences based on class, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other kinds of life experiences.
  • Even when confronted with behavior we believe to be oppressive, dominating, or in other ways unacceptable, we maintain full respect and resist that behavior nonviolently and with compassion.

This of course is an ideal description of a healthy social change organization – one that realistically is not entirely achievable. The practical question is how close we can come to achieving it, and what kinds of resources can enable us to come close enough to have robust, well-functioning organizations and movements.

To develop useful resources along these lines, we need to identify the sources of organizational dysfunction. Trauma – particularly in its expression as power-under – is one of the major obstacles to the healthy functioning of social change organizations (as I have tried to show in Chapter Four). I am thinking specifically of the ability of our organizations and movements to weather crises, to resolve in-fighting, to forge wider alliances and coalitions, and to humanize our adversaries.

Your thoughts?


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