BECK index

Nonviolent Strategies

by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book BEST FOR ALL: How We Can Save the World.
For information on ordering, please click here.

The way to peace and justice is a way of peace and justice. To show that nonviolent methods can work to maintain justice we need to demonstrate that they can transform violent institutions and replace misguided leaders so that justice can be established with truly democratic institutions. The dangers of genocidal wars with weapons of mass destruction and steady environmental deterioration with diminishing resources while human population is increasing challenge this generation with a global emergency that we must alleviate, or else conditions will continue to get worse. Most people do not want violent change because it tends to make things worse quickly as others react with more violence. Yet as Gandhi and Dr. King showed, we must be active in our nonviolent efforts to make the needed changes happen. A few martyrs have been going to prison to protest wars and weapons of mass destruction. Yet the number of people who have made a full-time commitment to working for these goals of peace and justice is still quite small, though millions more agree and protest in marches occasionally. Placing one's body on the line and going to jail is not the only way to work for peace, but it is a dramatic witness and directly affects the expenses of the offending government.

Most of all we need a change in consciousness. Even a small group that makes such sacrifices can influence many others to evaluate more closely the wrongs being protested. Yet if people who are opposed to wars and injustice continue to act only symbolically while continuing to pay taxes to the government that is oppressing us and the world, then their net effect is actually supportive of that regime. If we truly want peace, we must stop paying for war. In the United States that means not paying federal income tax, half of which goes for weapons and the military. With the enormous debt of eight trillion dollars it will not take much more to push the US Government into a financial bankruptcy that matches its moral bankruptcy. Not paying federal income tax does not mean going to jail, because individuals have rarely been prosecuted for that unless they cheat or lie. Usually the Internal Revenue Service tries to take the money from the person's bank account, assets, or salary; but there are limits, and they are not allowed to leave anyone destitute. Thus being a tax resister in that way is not compatible with being financially wealthy. In my view the best way is to live on a low income so that no tax is owed to the government. Those who make more than that can contribute the excess to those in need or non-profit organizations. This is perfectly legal and is the way of the saints.

Those who refuse to pay taxes and live on a limited income usually find that they can do so more frugally and efficiently by living in community with other people. In such peace communities people can share their resources and have more interesting lives. In the difficult times ahead with increasing emergencies such communities with organic gardens and orchards that are more self-sufficient will also have much greater security. Also people with assets can benefit spiritually by helping others who are less fortunate. Those who do go to prison can be supported by others on the outside and be well taken care of after they get out of prison. Some may wish to travel to spread the message of peace as the early Buddhists, Christians, and Sufis did. By their presence on the streets in front of government buildings or military installations or in churches, temples, mosques, and various civic organizations these peacemakers can help educate people to the changes we as a society need to make. People can work together on media productions and publish books and pamphlets to awaken others.

The articulate can run for office to educate voters of the political reforms we need. The Green Party has detailed platforms with excellent positions on many issues. Some may choose to run in Democratic or even Republican primaries to give voters in those parties a better choice. People can work for instant runoff voting and proportional representation so that voters can have better choices in the elections. Some may even sit-in at the polling places to protest the unjust voting system and awaken people to the need for those reforms.

The Internet and other means of communication can be used to spread the ideas of reform such as a Federal Earth Democracy, a Global Disarmament Treaty, and a revised US Constitution. I believe we need to go beyond criticizing the problems and mistakes to leading with a positive vision for a better future. We can be flexible in our strategy and tactics but always persistent in our principles and goals. For example, if the small states refuse to agree to a revised US Constitution, then perhaps large states such as California and New York could secede from the United States and establish nonviolent nations that might be joined by other states. Such secession would not lead to civil war as long as we use only nonviolent strategies. People need to realize that we have power. When governmental leaders of a corrupt political system abuse their authority, then it is our obligation to withdraw our support from their wrongs. The United States itself was formed by revolutionaries who refused to pay taxes to the British empire so that they could establish their own democratic self-government.

In addition to people all over the world not cooperating with governments that refuse to disarm their weapons of mass destruction, economic leverage can be used by boycotting offensive corporations that make weapons, pollute the environment, or exploit workers with inadequate wages. In special circumstances strikes can be employed to hold out for specific objectives. More people may realize that we can vote every day by how we work for justice and spend our time as well as our money. We can speak out with our friends and those we meet in various situations.

I have also written the Nonviolent Action Handbook as a guidebook for organizing and carrying out direct action. The ways we can improve our personal lives are described in The Art of Gentle Living. I am writing the series of volumes on The Ethics of Civilization so that we can learn from the history of human behavior in politics, economics, philosophy, literature, and theater.

I hope that you will join our efforts to bring about the major reforms we need to establish peace and justice in the world. Many groups are working for these goals from global nongovernmental organizations to neighborhood meetings. Choose the organization you like best or form your own local group to educate yourselves and others while you work for peace and justice with liberty for all. Working together we can save the world and pass on a better place to our children and grandchildren.

Copyright © 2005 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book BEST FOR ALL: How We Can Save the World.
For information on ordering, please click here.

Global Emergency
Alleviating Poverty
Disarming Weapons of War
Creating Global Democracy
Reforming the US Constitution
Restoring Justice
Sustainable Economics
Freeing Communication
Spiritual Awakening
Nonviolent Strategies
Global Disarmament Treaty (first draft by Beck)
Constitution of the Federal Earth Democracy (first draft by Beck)
Constitution of the United States Revised (first draft by Beck)

BECK index