Nonviolence in Violent Times: Exploring militant antifascism, eco-defense, and property destruction
Miami University/Peace and Justice Studies Association
Contemporary social movement employ a variety of tactics within their strategic maneuvers to create change. From the physical blockading of buildings, to the use of vandalism and arson, the decision for a movement to use one tactic versus another is key in understanding a group’s logic. Many notions of what constitutes nonviolence have shifted radically in the past half century and most severely in the last decade. In this session we will explore contemporary activist networks—Earth First! and the Earth and Animal Liberation Front—as well as two tactical traditions—militant antifascism (i.e. antifa) and black bloc—to discuss the changing nature of nonviolence. We will use these examples to explore the notions of violence as am means of protecting life, the strategy of escalating risk and injury, the notion of community self-defense, and critiques of private property. In the end I will argue that what may appear to be aggressive, risk-prone and even terroristic methods are in fact strategic deployments of force designed to limit coercion and challenge systems of violence. I hope to present challenging notions of solidarity and accountability for potential allies, and to discuss how we can create diverse and broad-based movements while not perpetuating the criminalization of militant resistance.
Thomas Merton and Pope St. John XXIII: 20th Century Apostles of Nonviolence and Peace
Ashland Theological Seminary
Two surprisingly revolutionary twentieth century religious figures, one a monk, one a pope, both Roman Catholic, challenged their own church and the world with their stances on peace and nonviolence.
From the seclusion of his abbey in the hills of Kentucky, Thomas Merton moved from contemplation and exclusively devotional writing to publishing articles and books on civil rights, justice issues, peace and nonviolence. An early critic of the Vietnam War, he influenced a generation of activists including the Berrigans, and corresponded with social justice advocates like Dorothy Day. Before his untimely death in 1968, Merton progressed from an isolated monastic to a world-recognized Christian witness to nonviolence.
Expected to be a caretaker pope because of his advanced age at election, Angelo Roncalli chose the name John XXIII. Calling the Second Vatican Council to invigorate his time-bound church, he showed his reluctant advisors his intent by throwing open a window in the Papal Apartments, “I just want to let in a little fresh air.” Many felt he invited a hurricane of change! Under his leadership the Roman Catholic Church came to grips with its liturgy, scripture study, ecumenical relations, world religions, indeed the world in which it existed. John’s most profound writing is the encyclical Pacem in Terris,”Peace on Earth”. This would become a twentieth century visionary classic addressing peace and nonviolence.
Merton and the pope never met. John was familiar with Merton’s writing; Merton sent the pope letters. Shortly before his death in 1963, John XXIII sent Merton the stole worn at his coronation as a token of his esteem. In The Thomas Merton Archives at Bellarmine University, Louisville, the stole, white satin embroidered with gold, rests in the same display case as Merton’s reading glasses, camera, and monastery workboots. All memorabilia of these twentieth century apostles of peace.
Does Nonviolence Even Have A Future?
North Central State College
Some would argue given human nature, the history of man’s inhumanity to man, how war is glorified and satisfies a deep longing in us, the current state of world affairs, and the level of consciousness in our species that nonviolence or peace has a poor prognosis or, at best, a guarded one. In this session we will explore the role of psychological and spiritual factors in this pessimistic outlook and the promise of these same factors in the future of nonviolence or peace. The emphasis will be on the necessary psychological and spiritual evolution that must take place in individuals before nonviolence has a chance. Specifically, we will consider the role of the “Big Five” traits that characterize human personality and the true nature of spirituality vs. its confused counterpart religion. All the many forms violence takes can be understood from the perspectives of psychology and spirituality.
Reborn in the Salvadoran People: Oscar Romero and the Future of Nonviolence
October saw an event that many Catholics worldwide believed to be long overdue: The slain archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, was finally recognized as a saint. Ironically, Romero’s status as a saint was not in question for the many campesino Salvadorans in whom Romero promised to be resurrected as he anticipated his own death. The poor of El Salvador already believed Romero to be a saint. It is fitting, therefore, that the lessons Romero taught about nonviolence are pertinent not just for the Salvadoran poor, but for those living at the socio-economic global center, who finally recognized Romero’s importance thirty years later.
Romero’s importance for the future of nonviolence cannot remain solely with the poor of Latin America. The theme of Romero’s life – conversion to the poor – is essential for convincing those of us who benefit from privilege to challenge the very structures of violence from which we benefit, though often unknowingly. After all, it was the death of Romero’s close friend, Rutilio Grande, that abruptly prompted the conversion that defined Romero’s life. It redirected his own efforts toward fostering a preferential option for the poor and nonviolent revolution.
The message of nonviolent resistance is arguably more important at the global center than in countries more visibly divided by injustice. Like Romero, those at the center must come to terms with perhaps the most challenging, and often most ignored promise of Christian life: Follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps of nonviolent resistance to structures of violence and you too will ultimately be led to the cross. To place one’s self on the side of the poor is to place one’s self in opposition to those who control social structures that privilege the few at the expense of the poor.
Panel on Rethinking Democracy and Nonviolent Power in Dangerous Times
Colins Imoh, The University of Toledo
Janet Gerson, International Institute on Peace Education
Dale Snauwaert, The University of Toledo
Jeff Warnke, Walsh University
We will consider nonviolence in responding to and potentially countering the current authoritarian trends in politics that constitute a potential threat to the US Democratic system of governance. The panel will focus on nonviolence as not only a form of contentious politics – resistance and rejection – but also in light of strategic non-cooperation (Gene Sharp) and a relational conception of justice (Rainier Forst). As examples, we will contrast ideological paradigms of competition and cooperation in democracies (David Held). Our discussion will question how nonviolence can be the basis for the struggle to resist authoritarian politics in the US and empower the struggle to democratize and seek a more just society.
Peaceful Identity: A Critical Evaluation of Giorgio Agamben’s Philosophy
Mount Vernon Nazarene University
Giorgio Agamben has provided a great deal of critical insight and theory into a variety of contemporary political problems and violence. In response to these political ailments, Agamben offers a new theory of identity for the expressed purpose of reconfiguring modern politics itself. Identity, according to Agamben, is a source of contemporary political violence (immigration/refugees, colonialism, racial violence, the camp). Agamben’s new political identity is a “Heideggerian” recasting of identity in a state of pure potentiality. Agamben’s potentiality resists the meaning that is actualized into the bodies of individuals by political violence. My paper will question the ability of Agamben’s theory to achieve an adequate political praxis against the very violence that Agamben describes. In short, Agamben’s new identity is impotent in its ability to articulate a world beyond political violence and silences the voice of victims to give an account of their identity. I offer instead a different account of identity informed by “home” that provides not just a theory of identity, but also a set of concrete practices. Utilizing critical race theorists, the work of proponents of strategic-nonviolence, and the recent work of Matthew Desmond, I argue that home offers a better identity that enables a peaceful resistance to political violence.
Political Theology, Martin Luther King, Jr., & Frantz Fanon: Can “the apostle of nonviolence” & “the apostle of violence” meet?
The Ohio State University
My presentation comparatively analyzes two contemporaneous freedom fighters: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. radical Civil Right’s activist—also known as, “the apostle of nonviolence” —and Frantz Fanon radical Algerian anti-colonial activist—also known as, “the apostle of violence”. Through their significance to the Black Freedom Struggle this paper considers a surprising similarity they carry which pushes forward the discussion of religion and politics, shedding light upon something else going on at the fundamental humanistic level. In brief, it claims though there are vast ideological differences and divergences in tactics there is a deeper point of convergence in their struggle for humanity and freedom. Divergences aren’t as sharp as supposed by many, but each share a common ground. Oppositional mischaracterizations enervate political discourse and constrain how religion/politics is understood. Such a binary even veils a particular racial order, that is shot through with antiblackness, and seeks to govern/manage/rule Black emancipatory politics. Without a critical stance to this racial order one unwittingly offers it endorsement. Consequently race is obscured, and also both organizing and broader coalitions for social justice are obscured as well. Thinking comparatively instead beckons the occasion to rethink rigid distinctions. Possibilities emerge in a deep connection between these religious and secular thinkers, which is deeply political, humanist, and sacred/theological.
Violence and Expulsion as Obstructions to Asylum: Questioning Obstacles
This paper explores the relationship between varying understandings of violence and how they connect to expulsion, national sovereignty, and asylum. At the basis of these understandings lies the assumption that violence is employed for political goals that lead to new governments and ultimately new societies. Violence can lead, in the end, to political stability whereby a newly established society employs its own resources of violence to maintain power and legitimacy. Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt have written theories of violence that reflect this understanding, which lies at the basis of the world’s geopolitical system. Benjamin and Arendt’s theories apply most readily to moments of upheaval in the 20th century.
However, the world system, as it goes awry in the 21st, century requires a more comprehensive notion of violence and its political fallout. Étienne Balibar and Judith Butler both advance theories of violence that include its more improvident and less politically tangible applications, indeed a violence that is not dialectical. For Balibar violence as political instrument “converts” (68) to a new society. But he and Butler both identify violence that still has political effect but does not convert. Many refugees are not viewed as eligible for asylum in western democracies due to the kind of violence they experience. They are victims of cruelty and brutality, that lead to expulsion, but this is not violence that leads to a new society. This paper argues that asylum should be considered for victims of expulsion because, as Thomas Nail writes in his migrant book of 2015, expulsion is the expansion of power (22), revealing violence and expulsion as political as well as economic strategies of sovereign power. Violence for homogeneity is political even though it is frequently not recognized as grounds for asylum. I argue that a change in thinking is necessary.
And God Said to Them: How Radical Anthropocentrism Does Violence to God’s Gift of Creation
John Carroll University
This paper utilizes a broad understanding of violence as “anything avoidable that impedes human realization, violates the rights and integrity of the person, and often is judged in terms of outcomes rather than intentions.”* This theory of violence allows for a concept of violence that includes larger systemic practices that disproportionately burden specific groups of people and prevent human flourishing. Within this context, this paper argues that radical anthropocentrism of the past two centuries has done violence both to the non-human created world and to people of color who suffer most from the current environmental crisis.
First, this paper offers a brief exegesis of the Genesis creation story to help unpack what the text means when God says, “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth” (Gn. 1:28). Within a radical anthropocentric worldview, humans have used God’s command of dominion – a world that connotes power and authority – to justify an improper belief in human ownership over the created world that does violence to creation.
At the same time, this anthropocentrism largely has favored white humans such that the privileging of white people as the “apex” and “owners” of creation also has done violence to people of color around the globe. This paper will conclude by addressing emerging ideas of “climate colonialism” and “climate debt”** to identify the ways in which environmental degradation does violence to people of color that is leading to an acute human and civil rights crisis.
*Larry Ray, Violence and Society (London: SAGE Publication, 2018), 9.
**Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda, Climate Chante as Climate Debt: Forging a Just Future (Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics) 36:1, 2016.
Lead, the brain, and violence
One of the major environmental tragedies of the twentieth century was the widespread dissemination of lead into the environment through the use of lead in paint and in gasoline. While these uses of lead have largely been eliminated in the US, exposure to lead remains an avoidable but serious problem in the US and many other countries. Lead is extremely poisonous to young children, at levels of micrograms (millionths of a gram) per deciliter of blood. The impacts on children of most concern include damage to the brain itself – damage which new studies show can be permanent and can impair the decision-making capabilities of individuals, leading to a greater proclivity toward antisocial and violent behavior. Studies have documented strong correlations between lead exposures as a child and criminal behavior when the child reaches adulthood, and other studies in which lead-exposed individuals have been followed since birth have demonstrated damage to the brain that can be measured into the adult years. This paper will review recent research on the impact of lead on the brain during development, and the lifelong effects that can result. This research implies that work to eliminate lead exposures to children is not only important to helping them achieve their full potential, but can also contribute to reducing the level of violence in our society.
Love as the Moral Foundation of Nonviolence
University of Findlay
In attempting to identify the moral foundation of nonviolence, one of two views is typically offered: consequentialism or deontology. Consequentialist nonviolence is the view that nonviolence is the preferred moral option because nonviolence results in better consequences (i.e., a better balance of good over evil) than the alternatives, all of which involve war and/or violence. Cost-benefit analyses are required on consequentialist nonviolence and include a consideration of both long-term and short-term outcomes and how going to war and/or perpetrating violence affects governments, systems, and those individuals involved (e.g., combatants, non-combatants, aggressors, victims/targets, bystanders). Deontological nonviolence, on the other hand, is the view that nonviolence is the preferred moral option on the grounds that it alone satisfies some fundamental non-consequentialist moral principle that governs our moral lives. For example, a proponent of deontological nonviolence might adopt a Kantian principle such as never treat others as a mere means to some end, and then argue that war and/or violence treats humans as objects to be used and exploited as opposed to subjects to be valued and respected. In this paper, I argue that adopting loving others as the fundamental moral principle allows us to bring together both consequentialist and deontological concerns and thereby provides us with the moral foundation of nonviolence. Insofar as loving others requires us to strive to promote the flourishing of others for their sake, to work to contribute to their overall well-being, we must take into account the outcomes of our actions and all relevant cost-benefit analyses. Insofar as loving others requires us to regard as inviolable the equal intrinsic worth, value, and dignity of all others, we must treat all others as ends in themselves, subjects to be valued and respected. To develop this position, I consider the work of Wolterstorff, MLK, and Merton, among others.
Ekklesia Jenkins and Tyler Olson
Cuyahoga Community College
Gender inequality is a problem across societies for a lot of reasons. One being the act of using language interchangeably such as sex and gender. Through the education of sex versus gender, the purpose of this essay is to help the reader gain a better understanding of what gender is and the vital role it plays among societies. This paper will focus of the high levels of gender stratification that people face in the United States of America. The paper aims to raise awareness of gender stratification and its connection to violence against all genders. By examining the learned behaviors and attitudes that are considered appropriate for each gender, we can study how the high stratification negatively affects the individuals of this society structurally and culturally.
The paper will take a look at how societies are affected when high levels of stratification are present. This will be achieved by examining the evolution of past societies that originally had lower levels of stratification that were transformed into societies with higher stratification levels, and explore the impact this had on nonconforming individuals and groups.
We will also take a look at societies around the world who currently have lower levels of stratification and analyze the amount of violence genders in those societies face. This will highlight the connection between high stratification and violence. Our intention is that by studying other societies’ approaches to gender language, one can recognize the value of inclusion through increased fluidly among gender stratification. We will conclude by offering suggestions for how a shift in our gender lexicon could provide a positive step in the right direction towards reducing gender violence and creating a more holistic and inclusive future of nonviolence.
Religious conviction in Antiwar Identity
Ohio Dominican University
This research examines the relationship between religious identity status at age 18, adult religious experience, and identity change from a militaristic to an anti-war or a pacifist identity among U.S. military veterans. In-depth interviews with 114 veterans concerning their views on the appropriate use of war at age 18 versus their adult years reveals more than attitude change but a shift in identity. Major catalysts for this identity change include combat experience (38%), religious conviction (21%), higher education 22% and betrayal by U.S. military or government (19%). This presentation examines differences in religious identity status and religious experience in adulthood between the four catalyst groups to explain why religious conviction served as the catalyst for some veterans identity change and not others.
Christian Literary Witness & Non-violence
University of Dayton
In the debate about gun control, conservatives typically think liberals naïve about the reality of threat and the potency of evil. In recent times, such conservative convictions have been knit into comprehensive ideological packages that reach beyond traditional conservative gun culture such as what psychologists Stroebe et al. identify as the phenomenon of “belief in a dangerous world.” (Wolfgang Stroebe, N. Pontus Leander, and Arie W. Kruglanski, “Is It a Dangerous World Out There? The Motivational Bases of American Gun Ownership,” Personality and SocialPsychology Bulletin Vol. 43, no. 8 (2017): 1071–1085.) Still, perhaps conservatives have a point, and moreover liberally minded persons have motivations to suppress or ignore these phenomena that so captivate the imaginations of conservatives. Drawing on the work of Flannery O’Connor, I explore in this paper how Christian literary witness can show liberals who advocate for gun control how to name our forms of naivete and thus prepare us to be better dialogue partners with conservatives for whom gun rights are dear.
Some Thoughts On Justice, Responsibility and Violence
The University of Toledo
This discussion considers three forms of violence in the guise of injustice as a failure of responsibility. Iris Marion Young importantly distinguished two forms of responsibility and injustice seeking a way to understand societal and global harms or injustices. Exploitation in sweatshops producing cheap garments or in farm labor supporting cheap food and high profits are two examples. The standard blame or punishment model of responsibility is not adequate here. Instead, Young offered a social connection model of responsibility contrasting it with the liability view as not concerned with individual blame or punishment but rather with social acquiescence in harmful background conditions of agency and with a moral expectation for those accepting them to rectify those conditions. A prior condition for such rectification is factual-moral reflection leading to a choice of causes to take up. This introduces the third form of violence-justice-responsibility.
Agents must be developed and aided in putting to good use the skills and sensibilities needed to function as members of social groups integrating and organizing their behavior as moral agents accountable to each other for acceptable reasoning as they make their decisions and meld their actions. Agents need to become and be sustained as responsible individuals who look out for and hew to what is called for, or for what normative parameters there are in the choices to be made and opportunities to consider. Such responsibility is fragile, susceptible to many and various pressures arising with numerous dependencies, weaknesses of family life and local support systems, shaping of the social environment by disturbing or dangerous mythoi, and on. This will be discussed as the pro-responsibility view of injustice, violence and responsibility. The aim here is to distinguish this view from the social connection view discussing their relationship within the larger theory of responsibility.
May 4, 1970: Is Reconciliation Possible?
Kent State University
The shooting of unarmed students by National Guardsmen on the Kent State University Campus on May 4, 1970, was "deemed unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable" by The President's Commission on Campus Unrest. Despite this finding, the parents of the four students killed and the nine wounded students have never truly been satisfied with the finding nor the university's handling and lack of acknowledgment of the events that continues today as we approach the 50th anniversary of the shootings, which could be an opportunity for true reconciliation.
For many years the university tried to do everything possible, including an attempt at changing the name of the university, to distance itself from the events of May 4th, 1970. After close to 50 years after the tragedy, we are no longer hiding the events that happened and are beginning to embrace May 4th, 1970 as an important piece of American History, but more importantly, the history of Kent State.
I will argue that while some attempts at reconciliation have been made, there is still more that needs to be done for true reconciliation. I believe now the conflict is ripe for reconciliation and could benefit from such things as finishing the unfinished memorial, bringing the Abraham and Isaac Statue to its proper home, have a community dialogue about the events and most importantly a Truth Commission where we can come to a shared truth and history and possibly and what I believe is most important, an apology.