Nonviolence is the personal practice of not causing harm to one's self and others under every condition. It may come from the belief that hurting people, animals and/or the environment is unnecessary to achieve an outcome and it may refer to a general philosophy of abstention from violence. It may be based on moral, religious or spiritual principles, but also the reasons for it may be purely strategic or pragmatic.
- By definition, civil society has to work within a framework of non-violence.
- Dr. King’s policy was, if you are nonviolent, if you suffer, your opponent will see your suffering and will be moved to change his heart. That’s very good. He only made one fallacious assumption. In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.
- Nonviolence begins with the insights that all life is sacred, that all human beings are children of the God of peace, and that as God’s children, we are under certain obligations. Of course, we should never hurt or kill another human being, wage war, build nuclear weapons, or sit idly by while millions of human beings starve to death each year. Nonviolence invites us, also, to reevaluate the way we treat animals in our society. While we resist violence, injustice, and war, and while we practice nonviolence, seek peace, and struggle for justice for the poor, we are also invited to break down the species barrier, extending our belief in Christian compassion to the animal kingdom by, among other things, adopting a vegetarian diet.
- There is no principle worth the name if it is not wholly good. I swear by non-violence because I know that it alone conduces to the highest good of mankind, not merely in the next world, but in this also. I object to violence because, when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary, the evil it does is permanent.
- Mahatma Gandhi, Young India (21 May 1925)
- By its very nature, non-violence cannot ‘seize’ power, nor can that be its goal. But non-violence can do more; it can effectively control and guide power without capturing the machinery of government. That is its beauty.
- Mahatma Gandhi, Young India (Feb. 7, 1931) p. 162
- Time and again, people struggling not for some token reform but for complete liberation — the reclamation of control over our own lives and the power to negotiate our own relationships with the people and world around us — will find that nonviolence does not work, that we face a self-perpetuating power structure that is immune to appeals to conscience and strong enough to plow over the disobedient and uncooperative.
- Nonviolence refuses to recognize that it can only work for privileged people, who have a status protected by violence, as the perpetrators and beneficiaries of a violent hierarchy.
- The imperative of nonviolence overrides the basic respect of trusting people to liberate themselves.
- Put quite plainly, nonviolence ensures a state monopoly on violence. States survive by assuming the role of the sole legitimate purveyor of violent force within their territory. Any struggle against oppression necessitates a conflict with the state.
- Permitting nonviolent protest improves the image of the state. Whether they mean to or not, nonviolent dissidents play the role of a loyal opposition in a performance that dramatizes dissent and creates the illusion that democratic government is not elitist or authoritarian. Pacifists paint the state as benign by giving authority the chance to tolerate a criticism that does not actually threaten its continued operation.
- Instead of raising a fist, pacifists raise their index and middle fingers to form a V. That V stands for victory and is the symbol of patriots exulting in the peace that follows a triumphant war. In the final analysis, the peace that pacifists defend is that of the vanquishing army, the unopposed state that has conquered all resistance and monopolized violence to such an extent that violence need no longer be visible.
- Pacifism simply does not resonate in people’s everyday realities, unless those people live in some extravagant bubble of tranquility from which all forms of civilization’s pandemic reactive violence have been pushed out by the systemic and less visible violence of police and military forces.
- Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
- There are thousands of people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and non-violence — against a government whose only reply is savage attacks on an unarmed and defenceless people. And I think the time has come for us to consider, in the light of our experiences at this day at home, whether the methods which we have applied so far are adequate.
- Nelson Mandela, Interview (1961)
- A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a point, one can only fight fire with fire.
- Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
- Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
- Barack Obama, nobel peace prize acceptance speech (2009)
- Most anarchists believe the coming change can only come through a revolution, because the possessing class will not allow a peaceful change to take place; still we are willing to work for peace at any price, except at the price of liberty.
- Lucy Parsons, The Principles of Anarchism
- You want to be nonviolent? That is good and noble. I think…I think I do, too. But I want you to understand what you’re asking of the people who take this necessary stance against white supremacy, the people who go to look evil in the face. You’re asking them to be beaten with brass knuckles, with bats, with fists. To be pounded into the ground, stomped on, and smashed. You’re asking them to bleed on the pavement and the grass. Some of them are going to die. And you’re asking them to do that without defending themselves.
- Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation.
- Non-violence is backed by the theory of soul-force in which suffering is courted in the hope of ultimately winning over the opponent. But what happens when such an attempt fails to achieve the object? It is here that soul-force has to be combined with physical force so as not to remain at the mercy of a tyrannical and ruthless enemy.
- Bhagat Singh, as quoted in The Sikh Review, Vol. 55 (2007), p. 173
- We who advocate peace are becoming an irrelevance when we speak peace. The government speaks rubber bullets, live bullets, tear gas, police dogs, detention, and death.
- Desmond Tutu, as quoted in Sunday Times Magazine (8 June 1986)
- Most Christians desire nonviolence, yes; but they are not talking about a nonviolent struggle for justice. They mean simply the absence of conflict. ... The church says to the lion and the lamb, "Here, let me negotiate a truce," to which the lion replies, "Fine, after I finish my lunch."
- Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way (2003), p. 4
- Historically, revolutions are bloody. Oh, yes, they are. They haven't never had a bloodless revolution, or a nonviolent revolution. That don't happen even in Hollywood. You don't have a revolution in which you love your enemy, and you don't have a revolution in which you are begging the system of exploitation to integrate you into it. Revolutions overturn systems. Revolutions destroy systems.
- Malcolm X, speech at the Congress for Racial Equality (1964)
- Concerning non-violence: it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.
- Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements (1965)
- There is nothing in our book, the Qur'an, that teaches us to suffer peacefully. Our religion teaches us to be intelligent. Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone lays a hand on you, send him to the cemetery.
- Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements (1965)