Nonviolent Revolution and the Seeds of Change

Politics as usual will only produce more politics as usual.

We’re living in revolutionary times. And they’re revolutionary because they have to be. The way we are living on the earth, the way we’re organizing human civilization, is literally unsustainable. We know in our hearts that there must be a better way.

We shouldn’t be afraid of the word “revolution.” Think of it as evolution, but sped up. In the words of President John F. Kennedy, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.”

The question is not whether a revolution is going to happen; the seeds of radical change are already planted. Once a volcano has begun to erupt, the conversation moves past whether or not it ever will. The volcano is erupting now, as various aspects of our civilization are literally discombobulating in front of our eyes. The only choice before us is whether this eruption will create greater compassion and democracy and positive possibilities, or rather danger and violence and authoritarian fervor.

Clearly, both are possible. Both are already here.

This is not a time to sit back, to simply wait and see. We were not born to be mere observers to world events; we were born to be conscious actors. This is a time to make a serious commitment to whichever world we wish to pass on to our children. The forces of hate are already on the march; the forces of love now need to gather.

For anyone who might be thinking “But there’s never been a revolution based on love,” I refer you to the two biggest, most successful political movements of the Twentieth century: the Indian Independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and the American civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr.

It was Gandhi who first articulated the principles of non-violence, the political philosophy that guided the Indian independence movement and by which British colonialism there came to end. Dr. King travelled to India, studied those principles, and brought them back to the United States for application to the struggle for civil rights in the 1960’s. Both men refused to separate their political goals from their spiritual principles, creating the power to achieve results that were extraordinary in scope.

According to Gandhi, the purification of our hearts is core to nonviolent activism. In fact it is not only core - it is first and foremost. For whatever we do in infused with the consciousness with which we do it; “the end is inherent in the means.” Who we are, and how we do something, is as important as what we do.

Take a look at these Gandhi principles and instead of going “Yeah, yeah, I get that,” actually apply them to your life and ask yourself how you’re doing. Where are your thoughts and behavior aligned or not aligned with them? I don’t know about you, but on a scale of 1 to 10 I find myself coming in at around 7.

  1. All life is one.

  2. We each have a piece of the truth and the un-truth.

  3. Human beings are more than the evil they sometimes commit.

  4. The means must be consistent with the ends.

  5. We are called to celebrate both our differences and our fundamental unity with others.

  6. We reaffirm our unity with others when we transform “us” versus “them” thinking and doing.

  7. Our oneness calls us to want, and to work for, the well-being of all.

  8. The nonviolent journey is a process of becoming increasingly free from fear.

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I’m aware of the laughter this provokes within certain communities. “Oh my God, she doesn’t understand structuralism!” What naivete! That girl doesn’t know how things actually work!

But I assure you, I do. In fact, that is why I am saying these things. Anyone who thinks we’re going to transform this country through traditional politics alone - much less through violent ones - is deeply naive. Not me.

The system as it now exists does not know how to heal itself, because the system itself is the disease. A soulless way of doing things will only be transformed through the substitution of a soulful one, and a soulful way can only be created by people who are coming from a soulful place.

The soulful place within ourselves should not be separate or irrelevant to our politics; in fact, is should be the basis of our politics. That kind of politics - based not on money or power, but on the tenets of nonviolence - is key to transforming the world. The seeds of change lie within our hearts, and from there we will find our inspiration to dream, our power to articulate, and our capacity to act.


Today’s meditation:

Today I begin a new path forward,

by which I will try to make my life

a reflection of what the world could be.

I will try to become more peaceful and loving,

that I might be the change.

For thus I will become a conduit of love

in the lives of those around me.

I am willing to look with honesty and self-awareness

at that places where I’m not that now.

I am willing to change,

that as I transform

I can help transform the world.