Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On being the "Peaceful Warrior"

This is a topic that's been on my mind for some time off and on, but it came to a head tonight while I was talking with my 13 year old nephew about fighting and why I abhor physical violence to the point that I don't engage in it, even when someone physically attacks me.

In all his 13-year-wisdom, he doesn't get it. What's more, people in my own family, grown adults don't get it either. My brother and I have always grown up with the instruction that if we are ever hit by a bully, we should hit back and defend ourselves. When I was eight years old, I was smacked in the face by my bully. I didn't hit her back. Some classmates thought I was an idiot for "staying hit". Twenty years later, people who are close to me still think I was stupid for not hitting her back.

I don't.

Anger, violence, fear, shame, and aggression are all the tools of the oppressor. Peace, courage, ideas, words, humility, and love are the tools of the oppressed. You can quote me on that. I didn't hit her (my bully) back for the same reason I didn't punch my 8th grade bully in the face during a class trip to Washington after he humiliated me:

What would it accomplish?

Violence only begets more violence. Bullies only want attention, and to get you riled up to make themselves feel better because now they have the power. Bullies also go by many names: Abuser, Batterer, Oppressor, Instigator... At the end, they seek to make you feel small in order to make themselves feel better. They are angry at the world and take it out on people they think they can prey on, those who are "different" for any reason. What's more, we let them. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Bravo, Mrs. Roosevelt. Bravo.

I may be over-simplifying things a bit. However, if anything in community psychology has been the most relevant to me it is the idea of context. It's not enough to see something or someone's acts at face-value, but understanding why that person acts that way. In my work with domestic violence, I often come across the idea that those who have been abused in childhood have a higher propensity to abuse or be allow abuse as an adult.

I could go on ad nauseam about statistics and give you the depressing, and disheartening facts on abuse and bullying, but that's not really my point. My point is that one needs not confront violence with more violence, aggression with more aggression. It wouldn't solve anything. When would it stop? For me, it stops when I stop responding to violence with more violence. Growing up I took to heart the teachings of some of my greatest heroes -- Jesus Christ, Mahatma Mohandas Ghandi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Siddartha Gautama (Buddha) -- people who changed history and the world with one simple rule: Respond to the violence with nonviolence and peace. These world and history leaders were known for being radical thinkers, changers, and warriors of justice and peace. But they never raised a finger against another, and instead embraced nonviolence. They were pacifists, and their words, their ideas, their lack of violent action changed minds, spurred action, and changed the world.

Inspired by these leaders and many others, I tried to explain to my nephew why I am a pacifist, and why I don't like violence. As I said before, violence only begets more violence until someone puts a stop to it. Some might say that a warrior is an aggressor, and uses violence as a tool. I disagree. I'm a peaceful warrior, a pacifist. I fight with my words, my ideas, my knowledge, and my beliefs. Some might think that's stupid. Others might think it's weak. I think that it takes more strength not to raise arms or fists, than it does to physically fight someone. There is nothing to be gained from physical violence save pain, more anger, possible issues with the law, suffering, and even death. When I fight with my words, I still retain the upper hand. When I fight with my intelligence I am finding other ways of doing battle. Being a Peaceful Warrior doesn't mean that I don't fight. It just means that I fight smarter.

Monday, February 4, 2013

One Billion Rising!!

There is a staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women will have been raped, beaten, assaulted, and/or abused in her lifetime. In a world that's roughly 7 billion people in the world, half of which are women, that number amounts to one billion women worldwide....

How does a person feel that's acceptable?!?

How does a person not want to change that?!?

I can't imagine not wanting to do something about it, which is why I'm a member of my local V-Day organization and taking part in the worldwide campaign known as ONE BILLION RISING on February 14, 2013!

As an aspiring community psychologist, I'm taught to think of myself as change agent in the world, and that by participating in grassroots events that tend to catch on (like Eve Ensler's V-Day campaign), I can essentially help change the world. That's what OBR is all about. We are dancing to show the world that women are not meant to be afraid and that we are rising above the limitations put on us.

This movement isn't just about women, though... There are men rising, too! In fact, his Holiness, the Dalai Lama is rising! And so are world leaders. That's pretty epic. At last count 196 countries out of the approximately 250 recognized countries in the world have a rising event going on.... That's more than half! Talk about a global movement for social change!!

If you feel as strongly as I do about this topic,  I suggest you go to the ONE BILLION RISING website, and find your nearest OBR event. If there isn't one, still do your part! "Dance! Strike! Rise!" is the rally cry for this event.

Rising means taking time on February 14 (yes, I know it's Valentine's Day, that's the point) and standing wherever you are for a minute of silence and reverence for those who have passed as a result of rape, abuse, and assault.

Striking means that you make some kind of public stance in your community, whether it's a flash mob, or marching while holding signs and making noise (that's what we're doing) to bring awareness to the cause.

And then there is the dancing. Alot of the theme of OBR is based around dancing and how it is a revolution for women all over the world, which brings to mind one of my favorite movie quotes -
"A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having," ~ V for Vendetta

And it is the truth. Dancing is a significant part of community, of expression, and of joy and pain. It encompasses emotions that are expressed through body movement and music and makes them a part of visual art.....

So... if you're not doing anything this year for Valentine's Day, or if you are really wanting to show your significant other how much you value him/her and his/her gender as well as social justice and gender equity, take part in the V-Day One Billion Rising campaign. It will be powerful, it will be cathartic.... It will change the world!

PS - If you are in northern Massachusetts/southern New Hampshire and wish to join us for our event check out our EVENT INFO page.