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Archive for the ‘Non-Violent Communication (NVC)’ Category

The Challenge of Connecting Dots


by: on September 16th, 2016 | 7 Comments »

Alice Walton and Jim Walton, children of the Wal-Mart founder, at the 2011 Wal-Mart shareholders meeting. Each has assets of over $30 billion.

I am often haunted by moral questions or conceptual puzzles, sometimes for years on end. In the last couple of months, I made some leaps in my understanding about several such issues.

For many months now I was haunted by my inability to understand, from within, members of the Walton family, the owners of Walmart. This practice, of understanding from within, is one of the core foundations of how I do my work, both when engaging with people and when writing. I do not include anything analytical in it, because the analysis separates, and I am looking for connection, for the felt sense, the vibrant humanity. And I couldn’t apply it to the Waltons, because I couldn’t find a way to explain to myself how, as a Walton, I would live with the knowledge of having billions of dollars to my name while my full-time workers need food stamps to cover their most basic needs. I couldn’t fathom what I could only understand in terms of a colossal lack of care.

Last week, I finally put the pieces together and “solved” the puzzle. What I realized in a moment of sharp and instantaneous insight that came from nowhere and hit me at the core was utterly simple: the Waltons and Iseea different reality.


Understanding Unconditional Love and Forgiveness from The Gospel of Simon


by: Victor Narro on September 1st, 2016 | No Comments »

In my book Living Peace: Connecting Your Spirituality with Your Work for Justice (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014), I reveal how the life and teachings of St. Francis of Assisi shape my work for justice, teaching me the way of peace, love, humility, and service. I talk about how my Franciscan spirituality has been enriched by the teachings of spiritual leaders of other faiths, such as Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, poet, scholar, and human rights activist.

John Smelcer’s new book, The Gospel of Simon (Leapfrog Press, 2016, also available in Spanish as El Evangelio de Simon), speaks of the concept of unconditional love and peace through action. The book is a powerful and vivid narrative account of an encounter two thousand years ago during a public spectacle where an itinerant Jewish preacher named Jesus was being brutally crucified and a man named Simon was being forced by a Roman soldier carrying out the crucifixion to help him carry the heavy cross through the crowded streets. Through Smelcer’s powerful storytelling narrative of that encounter and the relationship that developed between Jesus and Simon, this book is able to provide deep insights into the teachings of the Gospel, not so much from the approach of preaching, but as a story that provides us with invaluable lessons. This book is storytelling at its best, and it can apply to all faiths and spiritual teachings. The book’s simple and eloquent prose invites the reader to read it deeply with an open mind and heart.

For me as a social justice activist and scholar, what moved me the most is Smelcer’s emphasis, with much simplicity, on how our spirituality or faith can be a force for justice in the world. Faith is how we choose to live our lives, mindful that we dwell in the presence of a higher spiritual being – a higher good. It begins with the simple act of loving. Because there is a higher Goodness who loves you, you cannot have faith until you love yourself. Through a conversation between Jesus and Simon, this book teaches us that it is the inward expression of love that matters. You must look into your own heart. What you adorn your body with outwardly is of no consequence and does not prove love. The contents of your heart and your acts of kindness are all that matter. Compassion is the soul in action. Compassion triumphs because it is endless.


Social Justice and Theater at a Time of Crisis


by: on July 14th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Augusto Boal at Riverside Church, NY City, in 2008

All of last week I was at a Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) training. I was drawn to the intensely evocative and provocative forms first created by Augusto Boal in the 1960s, designed to support marginalized groups in creating social change. Intuitively, I sensed these practices could support the rudimentary role play forms that are part and parcel of learning Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and dramatically (pun almost not intended) enhance NVC’s social justice applications.

This week became a thick, rich, powerful, challenging entanglement of the personal, the symbolic, and the political as a group of 36 of us from across many social divides and several countries grappled together with our experiences and all else that unfolded that week. By necessity of care for our agreement to protect the specifics of what happened in the room, most of the below is only about my own experiences and lens.


Trump and the Truth About Bullying


by: Charles Derber on July 11th, 2016 | Comments Off

Donald Trump is revealing inconvenient truths about bullying and American culture.

Adult bullies shape bullying by kids. Political leaders and major national institutions encourage bullying values. Despite the anti-bullying programs in schools, and the controversy about his own bullying, Trump’s success shows how deeply bullying influences kids and resonates among major sectors of the general adult public.

According to a major 2016 survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), teachers across the U.S. are reporting an alarming rise in bullying by school children against Latinos, Blacks, Muslims and other groups targeted by Donald Trump. Teachers say the bullies “seem emboldened” by Trump to taunt and insult while the bullied kids are terrified that they will be walled off, deported, or even killed.

The SPLC study did interviews with 2000 teachers. They received 1000 comments reporting heightened incidents of bullying explicitly in response to Trump’s rhetoric.

In New Hampshire, one high school teacher wrote that  “A lot of students think we should kill any and all people we do not agree with. They also think that all Muslims … want to kill us.”

A Wisconsin middle school teacher wrote that “At the all-white school where I teach, ‘dirty Mexican’ has become a common insult … Before election season it was never heard.”

A Michigan junior high teacher reported at a school assembly on bullying: “I had students tell me it [insults, name-calling, trash talk] isn’t bullying, they’re just ‘telling it like it is.’”


We Can Stop This Violence


by: Michael Nagler on June 17th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

During the G. W. Bush years a friend of mine lamented, “We have a war President, a war economy, and a war culture.” Yes on all three; but he might have gone on to add, the key is culture. If our culture did not promote violence the way it does we would not elect a war president, we would build our economy on very different, sustainable and just principles; we would find ways to avoid conflict and use robust, creative ways of dealing with it when it surfaced. In all this our belief system, or mindset is the key three-quarters and there are signs that we’re beginning to notice it.

I have been teaching, writing and speaking about peace for close to forty years; I founded a non-profit that long ago to educate people about nonviolence. I therefore do not make this statement lightly: I feel that we are beginning to see a breakthrough. If we widen the crack there may actually be a silver lining behind the mass shootings that took place last week in Orlando, the latest and worst we’ve yet endured.

The new awareness I’m referring to is admittedly slight, but it’s enough to make a three-quarter difference  if we seize the opportunity it represents. Two examples showed up in my local paper, the Santa Rosa Press Democratic on June 13th: the editorial board writes, tellingly, that nothing will stop these massacres “unless something changes in our culture, our conscience or our Congress.” On the same page, a cartoon by “Venn Detta” from theWashington Post shows Uncle Sam bowing his head (in grief ? shame? both?) before three circles labeled “Terrorism, Homophobia, Islamophobia.” They intersect a central circle called “Hate,” and the caption explains, “What ties it all together.” Why do I say that these might be signs that we’re turning a corner? Because up to now the responses to every one of these tragedies has followed a script, almost ritualized, and the one thing they have never included is any look at our culture or any attempt to probe some of its underlying forces. They have been at best irrelevant and at worst a sure way to provoke the problem. Most of them, to be sure, still are: statistics, “This is the largest number of victims in a mass shooting;” details, “Here are the names of the victims,” “Police are reconstructing the timeline,” and labels, they are “searching for the motive” so they know what kind of label to slap on the event, thus shielding us somewhat from its emotional impact. We’re being lead to relive the massacre instead of understand it.


An Instruction Manual for and about Dissenters


by: on April 13th, 2016 | Comments Off

A few weeks ago I posted an entry about how dissent strengthens collaboration. In that article I spoke some about how to respond to outliers – the people who express a divergent opinion, persist in not trusting, or in some other way stand apart from a group. While some may call them “dissenters,” when my colleague Lisa Rothman started referring to them as “outliers” I immediately took to it. The word “outlier” for me describes something wider than dissent. It can include being apart from a group even if in general agreement with it, and is more emotionally evocative for me. This is not a finished discussion, and I welcome your comments about it.

At the next Fearless Heart Teleseminar, a number of those present were grappling strongly with the topic, introducing an entire new angle: if any of us is an outlier, what can we do from that perspective, so we don’t have to wait for a facilitator or leader to be skilled enough to invite us in? This post was born on that call.

Why Outliers Matter

For the longest time, I figured that the reason to respond to outliers with kindness and interest is simply to model those qualities and to support people’s well-being. I didn’t even pause to think about the topic, even though I myself have been an outlier for as far back as I can remember. It wasn’t an epiphany that brought me to my current thinking, only a painstaking, incremental learning through practice.


What Will We Do if Trump Is the Next President?


by: on April 8th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Dorothy Thompson in 1920

In late 1931, Dorothy Thompson, then one of the US’s most respected foreign correspondents, interviewed Adolf Hitler. She spoke of “the startling insignificance of this man.” Although she could foresee the possibility that he would create a coalition government with centrist politicians, she nonetheless said: “it is highly improbable that in this case he will succeed in putting through any of his more radical plans.” Within a year of the article’s publication, he began doing exactly that. In 1934, after writing many articles against Hitler and exposing the reign of terror he instituted, she was the first foreign correspondent to be expelled from Nazi Germany.[Source]

In 1922, when Italy’s king reluctantly invited Mussolini to form a government after the liberal prime minister resigned, he didn’t imagine that Mussolini would dismantle democratic institutions and establish a dictatorship that would last about twelve years. He and his advisors apparently were hoping that Mussolini’s popularity within the military might support them in their attempt to “restore law and order in the country, but failed to foresee the danger of a totalitarian evolution.”[Source]


What Can We Learn from the Presidential Race?


by: Michael Nagler on March 23rd, 2016 | 2 Comments »

I have never voted Republican, but I stand with those Republicans today who are aghast at what Donald Trump has done to the level of political discourse in this country and the future of their party.  I also stand with the smaller number – but I will have more to say on this in a second – who realize that Mr. Trump did not spring from nowhere but is in fact the logical extension of the direction in which this party has been going for some time.  After all, as Rosalyn Carter said astutely of then-Governor Reagan when her husband was running against him, “The trouble with that man is that he makes us feel good about our prejudices.”  Is this not exactly what Mr. Trump is doing?  The only thing different now is the greater openness of the appeal to egotism and prejudice.  And therein lies its value as a teaching moment.  A number of people, most recently the President of Mexico (of whom I’m not otherwise an admirer) have compared Mr. Trump to Hitler.  Well, to use an important term in the field of peace studies and nonviolence, Hitler inadvertently did one useful thing: he delegitimized racism by carrying it out on such a scale that the world was shocked.  To delegitimize is not necessarily to eliminate – that takes a bit more work; but the possibility here, if we would only make use of it, is that this year’s campaign could delegitimize prejudice, vulgarity, and incivility (they’re closely connected).  As conservative columnist E.R. Dionne writes (March 7, 2016), “the crudest, most vulgar, and most thoroughly disgusting campaign in our nation’s history.”  It has therefore created an opportunity for us to restore some dignity to our political culture.

To do that, however, we have to get deeper into what is driving this race to the bottom that has made this year’s campaign a national disgrace.


Strengthening Collaboration through Encouraging Dissent


by: on March 18th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

Tom Atlee

The first time I heard that groups thrive on dissent, I didn’t like the idea. It came up in conversations with Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute, back in the mid-1990s. Tom was clear, based on his experience in activist movements and especially on a cross-country peace march, that dissent is essential for groups to function intelligently. So much so that if a group had too little dissent, he advocated for actively cultivating it to keep the group fresh and creative.

At the time, I was still holding on to a different dream: that we can find, somehow, the “right” people, and then a group can finally collaborate because of enough alignment and harmony. Agreement, I imagined, would serve as the glue that brings people together. In this dream, dissent was a form of conflict, and as such, I saw it as a distraction, sapping energy from a group and diverting focus away from the shared purpose.

This dream stayed with me, unexamined, through my earliest years of learning and sharing Nonviolent Communication (NVC), which later became part of the root system for the Center for Efficient Collaboration. I now can see that I was thinking of NVC as a tool for preventing rather than transforming conflict. Somehow, I believed, if only everyone could just speak their feelings and needs and make clear requests – the central skills I was teaching – disagreements would diminish if not disappear altogether.


SF Police Murders (Murderous Police in the City of Love)


by: Rebecca Gordon on February 25th, 2016 | Comments Off

The original post can be found here at TomDispatch.com.

 Murderous Police in the City of Love

Posted by Rebecca Gordon

In one of the widely circulated cellphone videos of the killing of Mario Woods by San Francisco police in December, you can hear the young girl filming his death screaming. “Are you fucking serious?” she shrieks over and over at the crowd of cops encircling the young black man. According to police, Woods had refused to drop a kitchen knife they claim he was carrying. He was nonetheless attempting to walk away from the officers. “You had to shoot him that many fucking times?” the girl cries.

The Supreme Court has ruled that police officers are justified in using deadly force under two circumstances: either to protect their own lives (or the life of an innocent person) or to prevent a suspect from escaping as long as the cop believes that suspect is about to kill or seriously injure another person.

Did the officers really believe that Woods — who appears in the video to be much smaller than the five officers who fired on him, and who is clearly trying to get away — would have suddenly lunged at them all and killed one or more of them? Did they truly believe that Woods, who had already been pepper-sprayed and pummeled by bean-bag rounds, was about to immediately slay an innocent bystander?

Both scenarios sound absurd, but the law puts great faith in the credibility of a police officer’s fear. Under the legal standard governing police use of lethal force, the existence of an actual threat hardly matters, as long as the officer has an “objectively reasonable” belief that there is such a threat. In that belief, there’s plenty of room for unconscious racial bias. It may be hard to accept that those five officers couldn’t have found another way to neutralize Woods short of death, but as Vox‘s Dara Lind noted in December, “There are plenty of cases in which an officer might be legally justified in using deadly force because he feels threatened, even though there’s no actual threat there.”

Add one more factor to this mix: police officers are trained to shoot to kill, not injure. They are taught to fire at the chest because it improves their chances of hitting their target. Combine the unimpeachability of an officer’s judgment under the law with the racist impulses virtually none of us can escape and a kill-not-capture modus operandi, and you end up with the startling figure of 1,134 killings by law enforcement officers across the U.S. last year, a figure you would expect to come out of an actual war zone.  Of those who died at the hands of the police in 2015, young black men were nine times more likely to be victims than other Americans.

No city is immune from the American epidemic of police killings that has only recently begun to gain wide attention — not even a liberal bastion like San Francisco. In her latest post, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, whose new book, American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, will be published in April, takes a look at officer-involved killings in the “City of Love.”