December 4, 2017: Non-Violence
I’ve been thinking a lot about non-violence of late. I’ve been thinking of Gandhi, inspired by a whole history of women and feminists, who took up the mantle of non-violence. I love this quote in a much longer article by Pam McAllister where she says:
“Men like Thoreau, Tolstory, Muste, Gandhi and King usually get the credit for the development of active nonviolence, but women — around the world and from the beginning of history have consistently experimented with ways to resist oppression and challenge injustice without endorsing violence. In fact, most of what we commonly call ‘women’s history’ is acutally the history of women’s role in the development of non-violent action.” (“Women in Non-Violent Action“, 21)
I’ve been thinking about what non-violence and the love that it is grounded in has to contribute to radical energy transition politics that demands social justice and energy justice as an outcome.
I’ve been thinking of the early days of eco-feminism, born of women’s anti-nuclear and pacifist movements. Of the clarity with which they say the exploitation of nature and the exploitation of women as born of the same logic and part of the same system of oppression — something still so easy for me to see, everywhere I look, in the present. Something we need to continue to fight to change in the future.
I think of Vandana Shiva’s Staying Alive (1989) where she “reminds us that modern chemical pesticides are an adaptation of war technologies such as nerve gas, and she contrasts their use with women’s uniquely non-violent skill in pest control by nurturing resistance within plants rather than attacking pest species from the outside” (Ariel Salleh, reviewing Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development Hypatia-Salleh-Staying Alive Book Review, p. 209).
And, I’ve been reading Arundhati Roy’s 2002 speech, “Come September“, written a year after 9/11–talking about the possibility of the future. 15 years ago, she wrote: “The time has come, the Walrus said. Perhaps things will become worse and then better. Perhaps there’s a small god up in heaven readying herself for us. Another world is not only possible, she’s on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.”
And, I read the words of a Stephanie Van Hook, published in 2012–10 years after Roy’s talk, and five years prior to this moment. She writes that “I used to call myself a ‘radical feminist.’ In many ways, nonviolence has made me more so. While radical feminism wants to get to the “root” of oppression, nonviolence is the seed we want to sow when we get there.”
I too hope that I can hear that small feminist god breathing and that non-violence, and the love and care that inspires it, might be the way forward to hopeful futures where we’ve not only stayed global warming at 1.5, but perhaps begun to reverse it by regenerating the planet.