What is YOUR Definition of Nonviolence?
In an effort to learn from others involved in the struggle for animal rights as well as other issues of social justice/injustice and nonviolence, I’ve always solicited comments and suggestions. Some of the most helpful have been from people not all that interested in animal rights.
Here are some of the most common reactions to Thinking Critically About Animal Rights:
- The word "Abolition" freaks me out (this is, of course, is from the average omnivore, but also from a couple of vegetarians). In response, I did remove it as a heading (in favor of Animal Rights in an attempt to take the phrase back from those who co-opted it), but I couldn’t delete the word everywhere (nor did I want to).
- The rights vs. welfare discussion was hostile. I was sort of at a loss with this one. I had asked (actually someone did this for me) a bunch of omnivores what they thought about animal rights and they universally thought it had to do with not using animals AND that PeTA doesn’t believe in any kind of animal use. Go figure. When a first draft was presented to them, they were able to articulate the difference between rights and welfare, but before that they didn’t know about the debate. It was, as you can imagine, vegans (dare I say welfarists?) who had the biggest problems with the discussion. And I have always said that if you’re a vegan, though I might love you for that, you’re not my target market. Heaven knows we’ve got plenty of brochures that walk the reader down a path that ends with decreasing suffering as paramount. My intention was to get readers to see the problems inherent in use that they ordinarily might not think about or consider unjust.
- By far, the phrase that activists had the biggest problem with and resulted in dozens of e-mails, some of which were rather um, not nice (euphemism alert!), was that nonviolence in strategy means that force, intimidation and property damage are not acceptable. Au contraire, as you know. Despite the thousands of downloads of TCAAR, I started to wonder how many of those people actually read the darn thing when suddenly, about a month ago, my mailbox was flooded with messages about my mischaracterization of nonviolence. I guess TCAAR was posted on some kind of forum and that launched a discussion about how I don’t know anything about nonviolence. I was referred to articles, DVDs, speeches, essays, websites and magazines, many of which I was already familiar with, in an effort to educate me about what violence (and nonviolence) really is. But here’s the deal: There are many definitions of violence, nonviolence and of course, terrorism. I changed the definition to say that harming people physically is never an objective in an attempt to not get into a discussion that deserves its own pamphlet.
I was going to write a post about terrorism (Will Potter got me going), and though I know this will be controversial, I’d rather everyone read Steve Best, Ph.D.’s essay "Defining Terrorism," which includes my favorite definition:
"Terrorism" is a word people use to refer to armed struggles they don’t like. (John Burdick, Associate Professor, Syracuse University)
What are your thoughts about sabotage, intimidation and property damage? (You can e-mail me if you don’t want to comment.) Are they violence? Should such force be included in our efforts? And if so, do you characterize that as counter terrorism? Do such tactics lower us to their level?
A Buddhist mentor used to say to me: If you’re walking down the street and someone clobbers you over the head, do you just stand there? Do you simply move out of the way? Do you defend yourself and clobber back? What if someone were hitting your child? Would you let them get away with that? Wouldn’t you fight back physically or intimidate them or do whatever you had to so they’d get the message that they’re not allowed to hit your child? This of course leads right to me being a speciesist if I would fight for a child (physically) but not for animals, despite the fact that one is direct and immediate (the child is there and the animals, whom I don’t even know, are elsewhere). Hmmmm. So much to think about.
I’m not advocating harming any person physically, and not because there’s a law against it but because I don’t think it’s right unless it’s immediate self-defense.
But what about property? Does violence include property in your mind (think open rescue and beyond), and should it be part of our strategy?