Peaceful protest is much more effective than violence

Washington Post

Political scientist Erica Chenoweth used to believe, as many do, that violence is the most reliable way to get rid of a dictator. History is filled, after all, with coups, rebellions and civil wars. She didn’t take public protests or other forms of peaceful resistance very seriously; how could they possible upend a powerful, authoritarian regime?

Then, as Chenoweth recounts in a Ted Talk posted online Monday, she put together some data and was surprised by what she found. “I collected data on all major nonviolent and violent campaigns for the overthrow of a government or a territorial liberation since 1900,” she says — hundreds of cases. “The data blew me away.”

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This article on the psychology of hate in Salon illustrates the power of identification:
Interviews with U.S. soldiers in World War II found that only 15 to 20 percent were able to discharge their weapons at the enemy in close firefights. Even when they did shoot, soldiers found it hard to hit their human targets. In the U.S. Civil War, muskets were capable of hitting a pie plate at 70 yards and soldiers could typically reload anywhere from 4 to 5 times per minute. Theoretically, a regiment of 200 soldiers firing at a wall of enemy soldiers 100 feet wide should be able to kill 120 on the first volley. And yet the kill rate during the Civil War was closer to 1 to 2 men per minute, with the average distance of engagement being only 30 yards. Battles raged on for hours because the men just couldn’t bring themselves to kill one another once they could see the whites of their enemy’s eyes. Even General George Crook’s men had this difficulty. At Rosebud Creek on June 16, 1876, his men shot 25,000 musket balls but hit only 99 Native Americans, wounding just 1 person with every 252 shots. Modern armies now know that they have to overcome these empathic urges, so soldiers undergo relentless training that desensitizes them to close combat, so that they can do their jobs. Modern technology also allows armies to kill more easily because it enables killing at such a great physical distance. Much of the killing by U.S. soldiers now comes through the hands of drone pilots watching a screen from a trailer in Nevada
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Two Kinds of Peace

blissWhen people talk of peace, they have one of two things in mind: inner peace or social peace.

Which comes first? Which is more important?

If everyone had inner peace, the idea of war would be unthinkable. Yet peace in the world would not guarantee inner peace for all.

So inner peace wins out, and the Peace Poll should instead be teaching meditation?

Not so. Both are important. How can you have inner peace when there is still conflict  in the world? You can’t. So here at Peace Poll we advocate for social peace, yet our questions are personal, not political. We do not ask if you believe world peace is possible; we ask about your desires and intentions, and in this way, link the personal to the outside world.
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Why World Peace is Possible: Identification

Destroy This Mad Brute—Enlist (1917) by H.R. Hopps was an American Recruitment poster.

American Recruitment poster, 1917.

When men fight (and it’s always men), they align according to tribe, religion or nation. Our natural fear of the unknown has been exploited by those who benefit from war to portray the enemy as different, threatening and scary, and by so doing, create support for war.

The old media of books, film and television are one-way, and their message largely suits the interests of the owners. Alternative views have had little influence. Your letter or op-ed only appears with the approval of the editor. Samizdats and subversive books have been banned or marginalized.

But now there are new channels that are drastically changing the balance of power. Look at these introduction dates.

LinkedInMay 2003
MySpaceAug 2003
FacebookFeb 2004
DiggNov 2004
YouTubeFeb 2005
RedditJun 2005
TwitterMar 2006

Only in the last eight years have people around the world had a simple unmediated way to communicate with each other. Two effects stand out. Firstly, it allows communication and organization between people, for instance in the Arab Spring, see here and here. Twitter has a collection of stories made possible by tweets.

But there is a second effect that is a major driver towards world peace. The communications come directly from the source; they are not sanitized, filtered, edited, suppressed. We can see that others are just like ourselves; they have needs, feelings and families, too. We can feel empathy for their situation. The group of people with which we identify expands to encompass everyone – the whole human race. And once that identification takes place, the earlier identifications with tribe, religion and nation fall away.

This is happening. In music, look at the international collaboration involved in Stand By Me or the Virtual Choir. Organizations like One World and World Citizen Foundation have sprung up. The era of world peace may take some time to fully arrive, but arrive it will.

Posted in Internet, Peace