The Point is Non-Hate
I am also concerned about our moral uprightness and the health of our souls. Therefore I must oppose any attempt to gain our freedom by the methods of malice, hate, and violence that have characterized our oppressors. Hate is just as injurious to the hater as it is to the hated. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Many of our inner conflicts are rooted in hate. This is why psychiatrists say, “Love or perish.” Hate is too great a burden to bear. -MLK
As is so often pointed out these days, “MLK preached nonviolence” is an unhelpful and perhaps cynical criticism of violent resistance. People are in no way obliged to practice nonviolence — nobody is obliged to meet cruelty with compassion, oppression with forgiveness, violence with nonviolence and hate with non-hate. It’s the ugliest hypocrisy for oppressors to tell the oppressed that they’re obliged to nonviolence.
Nonviolence is a choice to be made freely. It is a choice to release one’s rightful claim to retribution. It is a choice to “turn the other cheek.”
What’s more, the bravery and forgiveness required for this choice differ widely between groups and situations, as does its consequences. I have made this choice myself before — e.g. to not hate and not seek retribution from the man who abused me — but this choice was easy compared to the choices made by the courageous nonviolent heroes of our past & present.
All that being said, nonviolence is not a sacrifice of self at the alter of compassion for others. The reason: hate is poison. But like anger, hate has “honeyed tip and a poisoned root” — which is to say, hate is not without appeal. However, this appeal is superficial and the poison malignant. Worst of all is that the siren song of hate never lets up, no matter the superficiality of the pleasure it gives: which is to say, we humans don’t want to give up our hate even after we’re sick with its poison.
What’s more, nonviolence should not be taken as dogmatic refusal to draw blood. As MLK said, “[self-defense] has never been condemned, not even by Gandhi.” It goes further than that: there are times in which violence may be necessary, as Obama discussed in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Some people are doubtlessly skeptical about this, and I don’t blame them. Is violence, beyond interpersonal self-defense, really ever the only option?
This is how I make sense of it: non-hate is the bedrock of the philosophy; nonviolence is just its most critical application. To practice violence is to flirt with hate, because violence desires its comforting companionship. It makes the decision of violence easy. Hate allows us to replace ambivalence with conviction and bypass our natural sympathy for our fellow humans. Hate allows us to choose violence yet still sleep well at night.
Choosing violence should keep one up at night. I think it did keep Obama up at night. The decision to violence is a decision that must NEVER get easy. If sleep is easy, beware that Hate may be singing the lullaby.
“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” ―MLK
“Nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation.” ―MLK
“It never helps to draw a line and dismiss some people as enemies, even those who act violently. We have to approach them with love in our hearts and do our best to help them move in a direction of nonviolence. If we work for peace out of anger, we will never succeed. Peace is not an end. It can never come about through non-peaceful means.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
“Merely to resist evil with evil by hating those who hate us and seeking to destroy them, is actually no resistance at all.” — Thomas Merton
“[Nonviolence] is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing the evil. It is evil that the nonviolent resister seeks to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil.” — MLK
“Overcome the devils with a thing called love. — Bob Marley
“Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong.” — Mahatma Gandhi
“It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.” — Mahatma Gandhi
“The first principal of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating.” — Mahatma Gandhi
“Eastward and westward storms are breaking, — great, ugly whirlwinds of hatred and blood and cruelty. I will not believe them inevitable.” — W.E.B. Du Bois
“What about evil, you may ask? Aren’t some people just evil, just monsters, and aren’t such people just unforgivable? I do believe there are monstrous and evil acts, but I do not believe those who commit such acts are monsters or evil. To relegate someone to the level of monster is to deny that person’s ability to change and to take away that person’s accountability for his or her actions and behavior.” — Desmond Tutu
“We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.” — Obama
“More dangerous than guns or bombs are hatred, lack of compassion, and lack of respect for the rights of others. As long as hatred dwells in the human mind, real peace is impossible.” — The Dalai Lama