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A Belief in Non-Violence

Updated on December 3, 2014

My Initial Stance

When I was going up and into my mid-twenties I was not a non-violent person. I didn't get in fights but that doesn't mean I didn't advocate violence. I was pro-death penalty and had a general frame of mind that if someone was violent toward you then it justified violence back. As I started to mature more I realized that my ideas and my actions didn't match up. While I presented my ideas in often violent ways and supported violent solutions I did not personally use violence as a solution to anything.

Over the course of few months I would often just sit and think about my true views on violence and what I discover was that if I was to actually preach what I was practicing then I would be much more akin to a pacifist than someone who would support violent actions. While these days I usually do express my views as a pacifist, I wouldn't say the term 100% describes me. I would be much more comfortable just described as supporting non-violence.

The reason I make the distinction is that I cannot say I am 100% n pacifistic. I enjoy violent movies and video games and on top of that there are situations that I can see myself in that I would require the use of violence, albeit it a last resort. I am not able to say that every situation can be resolved non-violently, but I am willing to take the leap and say that if more people adopted a view of non-violence we would open up new avenues of discussion and understanding in highly charged and emotional situations.

Why Violence?

It's not hard to see why people become violent. When situations become highly emotional and difficult to process it is easy to take the primal route: anger and violence. These attributes exist in all of us. Some people seem more prone to violent behavior than others, but we all have it inside. The situation rarely matters, but often violence is caused my fighting with loved ones, arguments fueled by alcohol, hatred of another race, injustice in society, etc. In any of these situations violence becomes the answer when a person, or groups, willingness to cognitively deal with the situation is abandoned. Once we stop actively seeking an intellectual resolution violence becomes a feasible solution.

Don't take this the wrong way. I am not faulting everyone for their decision to be violent, I am just explaining from my own experience why I think people turn to violent instead of non-violence solutions. While I don't personally fault anyone, I should mention that in most cases of violence, I think it is the wrong solution. Violence begets violence. I believe this. If you authorize yourself the use of violence you then cannot complain when someone responds in kind. Once all parties have responded with violence where do you go from there? Usually a third party is now required to intervene and create peace. This peace can come in the form of a friend, the police, a treaty between nations. Even if peace is achieved it is always tentative at this point,, isn't it? Violence has already been deemed a viable solution, so why couldn't it be used again?

It is a vicious cycle. The only way to truly break the cycle to change the way people think and react. This is also a difficult task. People form their own thoughts, their own opinions, their own beliefs based on the experiences of their lives. It is no easy task to simply change your thoughts from violence to non-violent. Someone who grew up surround by violent activity will be more likely to view violence as normal than a person who was not exposed to violent behavior.

I will use myself for example. I grew up in a non-violent household. My exposure to violence was in the form of sibling bickering, video games and television. In almost all instances these forms of violence had a very mild effect on me. Even so, for the first 25 years of my life I held a belief that violent ends were justified. On top of that, it took months of contemplation and self-reflection for me to finally realize that the path I was choosing did not match up with my life-style. Even when I had realized this fact, it took even more time for my speech and how I presented my ideas to reflect this. If it was this hard for me, an individual not exposed to extreme violence, how hard must it be for those who are?


I want to briefly go over some situations that become violent and I will try to pull from recent current events.

Domestic Violence : Probably one of the most common forms of violent behavioral situations. This is sad on many levels, but mostly because people are causing violence to the those they apparently love most. In recent news and debate, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens was captured on Video in a hotel elevator punching his fiancé knocking her out. When she doesn't wake up he then drags her through the hotel lobby.

After this became public there has been a large outcry to stop domestic violence and abuse. Ray Rice was suspended from the NFL and at first had heavy charges held against him. More recently Mr. Ray has been re-instated to the NFL and the charges against him have been reduced to the point that anger-management classes will serve as his only other consequence. I am not hear to debate consequences though, it just help add to the view of domestic violence and violence in general in the United States.

Through this case in our legal system we see that domestic violence is largely accepted and unpunished. It took damning video evidence to make this high profile case go public and even then the consequences seem very light considering the crime. Despite the personal consequences, I do think that this situation has been helpful. Domestic violence happens all the time, but it is so often kept "in the family". This means that even though police may intervene, the crime is largely unpunished and does not become public. This creates an environment for the crime to occur again.

With the Ray Rice case, domestic violence has become an important topic. The NFL has been forced to acknowledge and deal with the situation and has created campaigns to shed light on the topic. In my opinion this is good. Hiding violence of this type on helps to perpetuate it in the future. By keeping it "in the family" you allow for it to happen over and over. These situations expose children to violence and teach them that it is acceptable.

I don't know that the punishment for domestic violence needs to be more harsh, but I do think the publicity of it should be greater. This would not just be to shame the abuser, but more importantly it would give voice and light on a subject that needs greater attention.

My next situation is much different. It involves the violence that has been occurring in Ferguson, MO for the past few months.

The beginning of the violence was with the initial assault between Michael Brown and police officer Darren Wilson. For the sake of avoiding unneeded and ill-placed arguments I am just going to say that no matter what you believe happened the story is now so convoluted that we will probably never know the truth. If Mr. Brown assaulted Mr. Wilson then we see provocation for Mr. Wilson opening fire. If that was not the case and Mr. Wilson simply open fire then the situation really does not change. A man is still dead and another mans life is ruined because of this violence.

If the destruction of two men's lives weren't enough, look at the community as well. The riots, the blow to local economics and distrust the situation has sowed ... and this last part doesn't stop at the local level, it has spread across the nation, polarizing people on the issue. Riots have occurred all over the nation, and a part of me understands it.

If Michael Brown did assault Darren Wilson in his car, that would stand as the first violent act in this scene (someone may argue theft as the first, but in this case we'll start with the physical assault). Then, instead of seeking non-violent resolution Darren Wilson pulls his gun, exits is police car and guns down Michael Brown. Months later, Darren Wilson is not indited by the grand jury and the community outrage spills to the streets in the form of riots. These riots spread outside of the local area and into other cities around the United States.

The paragraph above should only be seen as a basic timeline of violent events, not commentary or justification. But look at it again. The initial physical assault spiraled out of control the the point that parts of a nation turned to violent activity in response.

Many would point out that this case is unique, and they are correct. The situation above is racially charged. A white cop shot and killed and unarmed black man. This is a situation that happens all too often and in the case of Michael Brown it became very public. The black community has a right to be angry and outraged at the situation, but to perpetuate violence even farther should not be the answer. Protesting is admirable, and even riots will send a message, but in the end you have to determine if you message will be lost in the fires and looting. If it is, then all you have done is created more violence and anger and solved very little.

Unsavory Actions


My last situation focus' on a global level. There are so many examples to choose from that I don't think I will pick just one, but rather focus on violence and hatred in general.

The United States itself is involved in multiple world conflicts. Not all of them involve ground troops, but many involve bombing and killing at large levels. It is justified in the name of protecting democracy, defending allies and spreading freedom ... but it all comes down to violence and killing.

I support the United States military and am thankful for what they sacrifice to keep U.S. Citizens safe. I do not place blame on any individual soldier for the violence that happens from their hand. Their job is military and when ordered to fight it is their job to fight. The problem lies higher up. Not just in the United States but everywhere in the world. Our world leaders have so much hate for each other that bombing and killing and forcing submission is their best idea to solve the problem.

The flaw in this logic is that in order to succeed this way, you have to completely destroy that which you want to submit. Take Iraq for example. After years of war we pulled our troops out and turned the government over to the new Iraqi leaders, but we never finished the job there. Those that we wished to remove had simply left and waited for a chance to come back in and create chaos. The other flaw is that we assume that in other countries our form of thinking and government should work for them as well. As discussed earlier though, people's thoughts and ideas can't just be changed overnight. You can force democracy on any nation or people that don't want it, even if it is just a faction of people who don't. Those people, which enough of a voice will fight back to defend their own beliefs.

To commit American lives to a cause and war that is in essence not winnable is crazy to me. Why sacrifice the lives of our men and women like that. If diplomacy doesn't work, that doesn't mean we must turn to violence, it could just mean that we don't have diplomatic ties with that country. Truly, what is wrong with saying, "Sorry we couldn't work this out, we're going to leave you alone, do the same with us."

That may be a little too basic, but ultimately, if we just left the countries alone who "hate" us, that could temper some of the hate. The same goes with other countries. Don't commit terrorist acts against others. When you do that you are just asking for the violence to turn back toward you. It doesn't make sense. If you want people to leave you and your ideas/beliefs alone your actions should not draw the attention of everyone in the world.


Steps Required

All the situations above are example of extreme cases., but it takes a culture of violence, abuse or indifference to create those violent scenes. There are steps that can be taken to reduce violence. The two places steps are needed most are at an individual level and a global level.

As individuals we need to we need to stop accepting violence as a viable alternative to our problems. Violence should be the last resort, if violence is your first action then you have given up on all other options. Once you become violent you have raised the situation to that level and it is VERY difficult to defuse that situation with out more violence or simple hatred. Although it can be difficult individuals need to spend more time thinking of options and trying to work with those around them. I preach this in many forums and it fits here to: compromise. Sure, we all like to get our ways and do things the way we want, but is worth a fight or killing someone to get that? The ability to compromise is the ability to make a situation that everyone can be happy with AND compromise always leaves the door open for discussion and bargaining. Just because you have compromised doesn't mean you can't revisit the topic, it just means you've worked with others to find an agreeable solution without escalating the situation.

Globally we need to have more responsible leaders. In the United States that means getting rid of politicians that support war-mongering. We don't need to police the world and we don't need to be at war with the world.

If we start making changes individually ad globally we can start to slowly move out of the cycle of violence. I don't expect this to happen quickly, perhaps not even in my lifetime, but it is something that I hope for.

One large form of violence that I didn't touch on in this hub is violence done in the name of religion. I have plans in the future to touch upon this subject as it alone would require far more dedicated attention.

I hope you enjoyed this hub. It was a good one for me to write because my thoughts are often tied regarding this subject and it is difficult to write down. At a later date I will sit down and try to organize my thoughts even better and provide more specific events and analysis. Please let me know what you think!


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    • indianreel profile image

      HK 3 years ago from London

      hmm... Some examples would help I guess. But, all i am saying is passionate violence cannot be right..

    • Justin P Richards profile image

      Justin Richards 3 years ago from State College, Pennsylvania

      Hello indianrell, while I am a supporter of non-violence, I do understand the need for uprisings, revolts and, well, violence. That's why I don't subscribe to full pacifism. I think that non-violent solutions should be the first attempted and violence should be the very last result. In my life I have never had a situation that could not be resolved peacefully, but I know that there are situations that could change that. I hope they don't arise, but I know they exist.

    • indianreel profile image

      HK 3 years ago from London

      Good hub. Even I enjoy action movies. But, probably not because I enjoy the blood and the fact that someone is being harmed, but because of well composed sequences which is an art in itself. And on real life, violence as a form of resistance can be justified. Sometimes, non violence is the best and only means of resistance. But, passionate violence cannot be justified under any circumstances. Especially, when the ownership of something is ambiguous and you value the ownership of that particular thing more than not harming a fellow human being is difficult to justify as I feel other forms of resistance is more effective in such cases.