Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea

Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea, first published as Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea, is a book by Mark Kurlansky. It follows the history of nonviolence and nonviolent activism, focusing on religious and political ideals from early history to the present. (Source: Wikipedia)

Kurlansky summarizes the Twenty-Five Lessons as follows:

  1. There is no proactive word for nonviolence [in English].
  2. Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them.
  3. Practitioners of nonviolence are seen as enemies of the state.
  4. Once a state takes over a religion, the religion loses its nonviolent teachings.
  5. A rebel can be defanged and co-opted by making him a saint after he is dead.
  6. Somewhere behind every war there are always a few founding lies.
  7. A propaganda machine promoting hatred always has a war waiting in the wings.
  8. People who go to war start to resemble their enemy.
  9. A conflict between a violent and a nonviolent force is a moral argument. If the violent side can provoke the nonviolent side into violence, the violent side has won.
  10. The problem lies not in the nature of man, but in the nature of power.
  11. The longer a war lasts, the less popular it becomes.
  12. The state imagines it is impotent without a military because it can not conceive of power without force.
  13. It is often not the largest, but the best organized and most articulate group that prevails.
  14. All debate momentarily ends with an enforced silence once the first shots are fired.
  15. A shooting war is not necessary to overthrow an established power, but is used to consolidate the revolution itself.
  16. Violence does not resolve; it always leads to more violence.
  17. Warfare produces peace activists. A group of veterans is a likely place to find peace activists.
  18. People motivated by fear do not act well.
  19. While it is perfectly feasible to convince a people faced with brutal oppression to rise up in a suicidal attack on their oppressor, it is almost impossible to convince them to meet deadly violence with nonviolent resistance.
  20. Wars do not have to be sold to the general public if they can be carried out by an all-volunteer professional military.
  21. Once you start the business of killing, you just get deeper and deeper without limits.
  22. Violence always comes with a supposedly rational explanation, which is only dismissed as irrational if the violence fails.
  23. Violence is a virus that infects and takes over.
  24. The miracle is that despite all of society’s promotion of warfare, most soldiers find warfare to be a wrenching departure from their own moral values.
  25. The hard work of beginning a movement to end war has already been done.

‘We Are Burning It Up’: Protestors Block Parts Of Speer For Global Warming Movement

Click on the link below to watch (and read) the CBS Channel 4 News Report on Saturday’s Extinction Rebellion (XR) non-violent, civil disobedience action, blocking parts of Speer Blvd for 20 minutes. I was honored to serve as spokesperson for the event.

The Five Key Elements of the Civil Resistance Model: Roger Hallam

The following 21:07 minute video by Roger Hallam, co-founder of the UK-based Extinction Rebellion (XR), was recorded on April 3, 2019, just a few days before the XR mass participation, non-violent, direct actions planned for April 15 in London’s Parliament Square.

Hallam says there are only three options for Climate Change Action, but that only #3 is a viable option:

1. Traditional campaigning – emails, phone calls, marches, demonstrations – is no longer an option because it has been tried for the past 30 years and it has failed – no reflection on those who participated in these activities. For 30 years, we’ve been doing that and during that time GHG emissions have risen 60%.

2. Violence would be a disaster, as it has always been.

3. Civil resistance– mass, non-violent, direct-action is the only viable option. Hallam outlines the 5 key elements of his Civil Resistance Model. If any one of these elements is absent, the action will be ineffective; no fundamental change will result.

  1. Mass Participation: There must be thousands of people (5000 – 20,000) – but not millions, millions are not necessary. Thousands of people must be mobilized and brought to the capital.
  2. Capital City: You have to go to the capital city of the country; that’s where the government is, that’s where the power is. You have to be “under their windows” and disrupt their work.
  3. Break the Law: There is absolutely no point in doing something for climate change if thousands of people aren’t breaking the law. But it must be non-destructive.
  4. Do It Day After Day: (This element is most important): disruption must go on for days, if not weeks. One day closing bridges or roads, one march, one demonstration, etc. will not cut it.
  5. Sustaining Atmosphere: there must be a festive atmosphere during the action. People must be socially, creatively, physically, and psychologically sustained during the action. People must have a good time.

My personal response to this video was very strong, partly because Hallam’s Civil Resistance Model is precisely where my own analysis was leading me.
I believe he is correct about these five elements: they are the sin qua non for effective and consequential action. His analysis helped me see why I’ve felt so much hesitation and emotional turmoil with efforts and actions that do not include all five key elements. Needless to say, my involvement and activities suffer from this uncertainty and hesitation.


“There isn’t a non-civil disobedience route here . . .”

Climate Scientist Kevin Anderson

Hallam helped me clarify this. He encouraged me to give more respect to my gut-level intuitions in regard to it. Political action for climate change must include all five of Hallam’s key elements: non-violent direct action; mass participation in the power centers of capital cities across the globe; breaking the law and doing it day after day; and broadly sustaining everyone while doing it.

That’s it. There are no other options. Watch the video and see what you think.

A Strange Kind of Consolation

Chris Hedges: “Revolution is not about catharsis. It is not about joining a masked mob to “get off” on property destruction. That is protest as adolescent narcissism. It celebrates a self-destructive hyper-masculinity that also fuels many in the police and military. It alienates those within the power structures who, if revolution is to succeed, must be pried away from defending the ruling elites.”

“Yes, our cries were not heard. Yes, it may be futile. But the fight is what makes us human. It gives us dignity. It affirms life in the face of death.” Read more . . .

Why you’ll never meet a white supremacist who cares about climate change

Rebecca Solnit: “As the news of the Christchurch mosque massacre broke and I scoured the news, I came across a map showing that the Friday morning climate strike in Christchurch was close to the bloodbath.


Climate action has been and must be nonviolent. It is a movement to protect life.

I felt terrible for the young people who showed up with hope and idealism, wondered whether the killer or killers chose this particular day to undermine the impact of this global climate action. It was a shocking pairing and also a perfectly coherent one, a clash of opposing ideologies. Behind the urgency of climate action is the understanding that everything is connected; behind white supremacy is an ideology of separation.” Read more . . .