The power of non-violence

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Glasgow was named the most violent city in Europe

Glasgow was named the most violent city in Europe

The greatest revolutionary force

Article: Alec Salloum – News Editor

[dropcaps round=”no”]G[/dropcaps]wynne Dyer, a renowned Canadian journalist and historian, who is published bi-weekly in 175 papers in 45 countries, spoke at the U of R on Feb. 7. His lecture was titled ‘The Triumph of Non-Violence’.

Dyer explained that “[he has] been going to non-violent revolutions now for about 20 years…what [he] didn’t do until quite recently is line up all the dots… dealing with this as a major phenomenon that is transforming the globe politically.”

The focal point of the lecture was the Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia Dec. 19, 2010 with Mohamed Bouazizi. Bouazizi was a 26-year-old Tunisian man, who supported his family through selling vegetables, barely earning enough to live, “probably clearing about two bucks a day”. On Dec. 19, his vegetable cart was seized by police, for reasons not fully understood, and what happened next set the Arab world ablaze.

Bouazizi went to a nearby gas station, bought a jerry can of petrol, poured it over him and lit a match. He would succumb to the third degree burns, which covered over 90 per cent of his body, three weeks later. What Bouazizi did was the aggregate of a disillusioned generation; in Dyers ‘s, a generation with “not a lot to look back on with pleasure and nothing to look forward to with optimism”.

Horrifically, this was not an uncommon occurrence. Dyer explained that this was regular, “happening about twice a year,” but it was always young people, members of this disenfranchised generation. “The only difference on this occasion was that someone on the square had their phone out and they videoed it. They uploaded it to YouTube and it went viral” across the Arab world.

The next day, students, the young, the unemployed – the people of Tunisia – gathered in squares and town centers where they shouted “The people want the fall of the government.” Without casting a stone or hurling an insult, the government fell Jan. 14 2011.

This non-violent demonstration, witnessed across the Muslim world, spread. From Tunisia it spread to Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Bahrain and Jordan, with varied success. Here, Dyer emphasizes the importance of technology to these revolutions. Through broadcasting on television and through the Internet, the methods and ideals were able to find new populations subjected to similar grievances and thusly facilitate change.

From the Arab Spring, Dyer went on to discuss other instances of non-violent revolutions succeeding, namely in its Indian genesis. He discussed non-violence in India under Gandhi and how over three decades of non-violent protest led to sovereignty. From India the lecture went to the civil rights movement of the United States, 20 years later. Despite the movement not being a full on revolt seeking the government overthrown it did still succeed through non-violence.

When discussing the aforementioned examples, Dyer mused that “you wouldn’t try that (non-violent revolution) against a real dictator would you?” Yes, in fact would. He then goes on to discuss the non-violent revolutions of the Philippines in 1986. These non-violent demonstrations, dubbed the People Power Revolution, led to the deposition of Ferdinand Marcos, a dictator and member of a twenty-year authoritarian rule in the nation.

Like the Arab Spring, this revolution inspired several imitations in neighboring states, largely because this was the first time a revolution of this magnitude had been broadcast over satellite.

“For five days the entire planet got a tutorial in how to do non-violent revolution…in the next three years there six more (non-violent) revolutions.”

Ultimately, “the distilled wisdom” of almost a century of non-violence was passed on to the participants of the Arab Spring. Dyer closed discussing the stats of non-violent revolutions compared to violent ones, quoting a study done by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan. The statistics show that non-violent revolutions succeed twice as much as violent ones, 60 per cent to 30 per cent. Truly, non-violence has triumphed.

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