June 15 2007
Building the Culture of Non-Violence in Queens - Forum June 9, ‘07
On Saturday, June 9th, more than 100 individuals representing 21 organizations came together for a day-long forum on “Building the Culture of Non-Violence in Queens.” Including workshops on violence in schools, anti-racism, immigrant rights, homophobia, violence against women, and other themes, the forum culminated in the collective endorsement of the “Jackson Heights Remonstrance,” an updated version of the famous 1659 Flushing Remonstrance which appealed for religious tolerance. The modern Remonstrance calls for an end to all forms of discrimination and denounces the current persecution of immigrants currently underway in Queens in the form of police raids, informants, and random deporting.
On this occasion, Chris made the following comments within the opening panel presentations.
Building a Culture of Non-Violence
I’m very happy to participate in this forum with the theme of building the culture of non-violence. To me, the title seems very fitting since I think it’s important to remember that non-violent action does not happen spontaneously and to recognize that building a new culture is what we’re doing together today.
I have been asked to give some context to our work from the perspective of New Humanism, a current of thought and action inspired by the ideas and guidance of Silo, a movement spanning almost 40 years of work and struggle to overcome all forms of violence and discrimination and to place human freedom as the highest value. It’s also interesting to remember that this movement is made up of hundreds of thousands of individual people, who have taken on the challenge of changing themselves, at the same time that they struggle to transform human society.
Since the theme of this forum is building a movement toward non-violence, maybe I could begin by quoting some excerpts from the discussion of Violence in the Dictionary of New Humanism:
“Today, violence has become pervasive in all aspects of life: it appears continually and on a daily basis in the economy (exploitation of some human beings by others, discrimination against women in the workplace, child labor, unjust taxes, etc.); in politics (domination by a single or small number of parties, the exclusion of citizens from real participation in decision-making, war); in ideology (the imposition of official viewpoints, subordination of the communications media to private interests, the manipulation of public opinion, propaganda of ideas that are inherently violent and discriminatory but convenient to the ruling elite, etc.); … in the family (exploitation of women, dictatorial control over children, etc.); in culture (censorship, prohibition of innovative currents and movements, etc.)…”
Sometimes, in the rush of our hectic lives, all of this could seem “normal” but in fact it could be said that we live in a culture of violence. And in such a world, human beings cannot help but suffer. We suffer from the de-valuing of human life, where each day 20,000 children die needlessly. We suffer from the Tyranny of Money (imposed by a few over the majority of humanity) a Tyranny of Money that blocks our aspirations and suffocates us with fears for our job security or health care. Money which buys politicians, money which buys mass media, money which buys weapons and private armies to use them, money which breeds itself! Of course it’s not actually the money that does all these things but those who control it. And as an escape and distraction from this monstrous joke, we’re force-fed the empty cult of consumerism, as if we could shop ourselves out of noticing what is happening (on credit of course).
But all of this is not just a structure of economic and political relationships. More than that, it’s a structure of beliefs. And since human beings are open to the world — continually influenced by it and also influencing others — we share in these beliefs. We also carry violence within ourselves and transmit it to others. Perhaps in feelings of nihilism or guilt, lack of faith in the future, treating others badly or taking advantage of them. And in this way, the violence of society becomes a psychological violence expressed in the destruction of people’s faith in themselves, in each other, and in the future.
Some years ago, Silo said: “Without inner faith, there is fear; fear produces suffering; suffering produces violence; violence produces destruction. Therefore, inner faith prevents destruction.”
In that sense, the work we are doing today has great importance, great strength and great potential. Because in reality we’re seeing expressions all around the planet of people clamoring for non-violence and rejecting violence. And by coming together to build this movement, we express and strengthen our faith in that future. Even if it may only appear to be 50 people in a room it’s the best possible work a human being can do today. And to the extent that our work continues and broadens in future projects, its strength and possibilities will multiply. And in that new future, why not imagine real changes? Changes in the structure of things, instead of just the name of the party in the White House? For example, enacting real democracy with laws of political responsibility so that politicians who don’t respect the wishes of their constituents can be removed from office; or changing the absurd relationship between capital and labor so that workers share equally in the profits produced by their labor, and even more important, have a real say in how those profits are re-invested.
Our work can reach very far. And by inspiring each other, sharing ideas and experiences, clarifying our best sentiments and working together in common projects, we change ourselves and the world.
Thank you very much