by Amber FrenchAugust 14, 2019
With bloggers writing from more than 30 countries in nearly all world regions, Minds of the Movement readers have gotten truly global exposure to today’s community of civil resistance thinkers and practitioners.
As blog managing editor, I’ve noticed a recurring theme in each of our exactly 101 blog posts to date: community—whether in the form of internal movement unity or movements engaging like-minded groups elsewhere. This prompted my reflection on a few ways we can engage in meaningful ways with the global community of civil resistance, regardless of our background or profile.
Glancing back over our posts, I've culled four ideas that bloggers themselves have put forth on how to do this.
to a nonviolent activist in another country whose work resonates with us in some way (build a community of care).
“Despite—or rather owing to—the government repression, the action [for environmental justice] even received support from various unions, religious organizations, and the Puerto Rican diaspora, including letters of support from the community in Colombia, the origin country of the coal in Puerto Rico.”
As Melendez and other bloggers point out, police and security personnel repressing nonviolent activists often draws sympathy to a movement, including from abroad.
Spend a few minutes this week doing internet research to find nonviolent movements with whom you share something in common: geographical location, language, social/political ideals, movement vision, or anything else.
Then dig deeper for contact info, for example via social media accounts of activists from that movement who are quoted in news articles—in particular activists who have recently reported government repression against them. Follow their accounts and/or send them a message expressing your solidarity. If you wish to take it a step further, you may also ask them what other actions you can take to show support.
to promote movement-led, not violence-led narratives (build a community of knowledge).
“…popular perception that violence is the only or main source of power benefits traditional powerholders, just as they benefit from popular ignorance of civil resistance history.”
In October 2017, I interviewed French historian Jacques Semelin about the impacts that past movements have on today’s society. It got me thinking about how spending time reading about movements challenges the dominance of violence-led media narratives. Violence is the language of oppressors, so building a community of knowledge through movement-centered media consumption can be a low-risk yet powerful act to counter oppressors.
As online news consumers, we have the choice to work against the grain in our own small way—by supporting news sites that channel alternative, civil resister perspectives of conflict, as well as heavy movement-centered coverage… other than Minds of the Movement of course:
This is not an exhaustive list, and ICNC does not necessarily share the points of view presented on these websites, but I wanted to share just a few with you in the spirit of, well, building a community of knowledge!
come prepared and know your place (build a community of action).
“Each Friday, volunteers prepare and serve couscous, the national dish, to protesters on the streets, along with bottles of water and vinegar to be used in case of tear gas. Amateur actors perform sarcastic plays outdoors, and it is not rare to see couples dancing on the streets during protests.”
“Israeli activists joined, and continue to join these struggles [in Palestine], traveling to nonviolent demonstrations on a weekly basis to confront the Israeli Defense Forces. From conversations I had, most of these activists were aware that they were attending as guests of the Palestinians and that the struggle would have continued without them…”
Movements rely on participation for success (Erica Chenoweth writes extensively about this). But for those of us external to a movement who wish to participate in a public protest or other concentrated nonviolent tactic, it’s important to know that extensive planning and preparation precede many of those actions.
Therefore, it’s best to get in touch with movement organizers in advance to ask if they offer nonviolent trainings (important for maintaining nonviolent discipline), and also how you can be most helpful during the action (for example, logistical support, bringing water and food for activists, etc.). In other words, don’t just show up to a protest.
When attending a protest as an ally from within the oppressor community, as Fleischmann points out above, be reminded that the main role of your presence is to protect activists from repression—not to speak on behalf of the movement or to be an organizer.
as a means of political struggle, and put that knowledge to use in our own daily activities (build a community of practice).
ICNC’s web presence (our homepage, our online courses, our online curriculum, our blog, our social media…) is a treasure trove of information about how ordinary people nonviolently struggle and achieve rights, justice, and freedom worldwide. While our mission is to support communities of care, of knowledge, and of action, our most unique mission is to build a community that understands the dynamics of strategic nonviolent conflict, and the value of embracing a strategic approach to waging nonviolent conflict.
One of the best ways to get your feet wet in this subject is watching the award-winning documentary film A Force More Powerful, which you can stream for free on our website. Identify a few takeaways from the film that apply to you, whether broad or concrete. For example, "when facing injustice, there's power in numbers"; or "I can boycott an unethical business and get my friends and family to as well"; or "there are so many nonviolent movements I've never read about." Then make a list of ways you can apply that takeaway in the next few weeks (read an article, tell five friends about your decision to boycott and why, and so on). Join the community!
We can engage with the global community of civil resistance through small acts of support, by improving our knowledge about movements, and by applying that knowledge in our daily activities and conversations. If profiles as diverse as an anthropologist in Puerto Rico, a director of a good governance NGO in Zimbabwe, a citizen journalist in Singapore, a National Minister of Culture in Armenia, a professor of peace psychology, and a front-line activist against modern-day slavery in Mauritania can do this, then ordinary, conscientious world citizens like us can too.
Amber French is Managing Editor of Minds of the Movement and Editorial Advisor at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. She is currently based in Paris, France, where she teaches classes on nonviolence, politics, and diplomacy at two universities and serves on the editorial board of Alternatives non-violentes. Amber is also a French to English translator and frequent contributor to Minds of the Movement and a number of French journals.Read More