There is an active commitment to peace and social justice (Principles of nonviolence 3)

This is a part of series on principles of nonviolence. The ten principles are listed here.

Nonviolence is built on an active commitment to peace and social justice. Nonviolence “springs from a commitment to and passion for justice” (Walz & Ritchie, 2000, p. 217). It is an action-oriented philosophy (Ritchie, 2001) and, at its heart, the philosophy of nonviolence is about creating a more just and peaceful society. Nonviolence involves a “battle with injustice” (McReynolds, 1998b) because injustice is seen as a form of violence, and even the failure to address injustice can be seen as a form of violence (Walz, Sharma, & Birnbaum, 1990). Gandhi (1958) suggested, “no man[or woman]could be actively non-violent and not rise against social injustice no matter where it occurred” (p. 89). He described social justice “as fairness to the individual, with priority to disadvantaged people” (Walz & Ritchie, 2000, p. 214) and expected his followers to work towards the end of untouchability, to be involved in politics and to work towards the elimination of poverty (Ritchie, 2001, p. 60).

King (1967) believed that true compassion was more “than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring” (pp. 187-188). King argued that structural change was needed to overcome racism, and that this would only be achieved through struggle and nonviolent social action (Moses, 1997). More recent nonviolent activists have continued to emphasise the importance of social justice. They have demonstrated that nonviolent action offers “an alternative to weak submission to wrongs and violent reaction against them” (Beck, 1991, p. 2) and that challenging injustice remains the focus of nonviolence. Its ultimate aim is to put an end to all forms of violence, injustice and oppression (Burrowes, 1994; McAllister, 1982; Moyer, 1995, 1999b; Ochre & Burrowes, 1995; Ryan, 1996, 1997; Starhawk, 1990; Woehrle, 1993).

Although not always explicitly stated, numerous writers addressing broad issues of peace and social justice are advocates for a philosophy of nonviolence. Ivan Illich, a protégé of Gandhi, wrote on a broad range of issues including education (Illich, 1973; Illich & Buckman, 1973; Illich & Lister, 1976), the power of professional élites (Illich, 1977a), gender (Illich, 1983), the practice of medicine (Illich, 1977b) and the nature of work (Illich, 1980). Other notable examples include Paulo Freire on adult literacy (Freire, 1973, 1998; Freire & Freire, 1994), Ernest Schumacher on economics (Schumacher, 1973) and Dorothy Day on poverty and workers (Day, 1933, 1960, 1961, 1963).

Adapted from
Stuart, G. (2003). Nonviolence and youth work practice in Australia. Unpublished PhD, University of Newcastle, Newcastle.

The reference list will be available after principle 10.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
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