Make the Problem Better, Not Worse: How to Protest Through Words, Not Violence

     “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”

William Faulkner

     We are humans, and like all other animals, we have to live to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  Every once in awhile, other people will pose threats against us through their words or actions, and we fight back by leveling down to that of an animal through the use of violence.  What we sometimes take for granted is that we are a more sophisticated animal species, in that we have the ability to speak, which other animals do not possess.  In fact, Douglas Kenrick is author of The rational animal: How evolution made us smarter than we think, in which he discusses how we have the tendency to forget about the power of words and we use violence instead, making the initial problem worse, not better.

    During her training as a political scientist, Erica Chenoweth was taught to assume that the most effective tool for achieving political goals is violence.  She was taught wrong.  Chenoweth and her co-worker Maria Stephan completed a study in which they gathered data on 323 violent and nonviolent political campaigns since 1900.  Apparently, when Chenoweth started out, she was fairly certain that the violent political campaigns would be more likely to accomplish their goals.  But she was wrong.  The shocking results of the study show that nonviolent campaigns have a 53% success rate and only about a 20% rate of complete failure.  Violent campaigns show the opposite outcome, which is that they were only successful 23% of the time, and complete failures about 60% of the time.  Violent campaigns succeeded partially in about 10% of cases, again comparing unfavorably to nonviolent campaigns, which resulted in partial successes over 20% of the time.  Fortunately, according to Chenoweth, when a government is overthrown nonviolently, the new government is more likely to be democratic, and less likely to itself be overthrown, as compared to those that won using guns and bombs.  Nonviolent campaigns receive more participants, especially women and older people, as well as people who do not want to carry the burden of walking around with guns but will communicate government cruelties and take part in boycotts and protests that do not involve violence.

     Mental health is another factor that contributes to violence.  According to a 2011 article called Why Do People Resort To Violence?, by Kathryn Seifert Ph.D., Ted Bundy, a killer permanently etched into American history, was tried and convicted of multiple murders and executed in 1989. He confessed to killing 30 women although he is suspected of killing up to 100.  Bundy had psychological issues and was born into a family where his mother was so young that she and her family convinced him that she was his sister.  Ted’s grandfather was mentally erratic and abusive, and so Ted learned some of his grandfather’s habits.  Ted was exposed to a lot of negativity throughout his life and felt revengeful towards many people, including his girlfriend, to whom he proposed marriage but then dumped her because he was upset with her for breaking up with him in college.  In fact, Ted was so upset that he dropped out of college.  He was able to fool women with his handsome looks for a long time, but eventually, he could no longer control the dark fire within him, and Ted started a murder spree that would last four years, spanning from Washington State to Utah to Florida.  Ted had many emotions spewing inside of him, just waiting to be expressed, but he let them out in the wrong way, and he let his emotions defeat him when he was killed as a result of his crimes.

     As much as it seems as if knives and guns will solve people’s problems and help fighters to gain power, violent fights wind up defeating their assumed purpose.  People on the receiving end of the gunshot will listen, but they will listen to the wrong sound, and as a result, they will fight back, causing the original problem to turn into a bigger conflict.  We have words.  We can speak against what is offending us.  If we just use the gift that we were given, we can come together as a species and make a real change.  Life is too short to dwell on the little problems and even shorter to create bigger ones, and that is what we will do if we engage in violence.  Words are more powerful than a thousand weapons combined, and if we use them, then we can avoid a lot of trouble.

     Of course, even though non-violence is the better way to go for most people, some other people support violence, and we need to respect that too.  According to an article called “Antifa Protestor Yvette Felarca Says Violence Against the Far-Right Is ‘Not A Crime,’” by Ian Miles Cheong, Yvette Felarca, the Berkeley area school teacher and militant left-wing protester responsible for organizing the riot at the University of California, Berkeley in February 2017, claims that violence against the far-right is “not a crime.”  She and her compatriots took part in violent protests against the far-right Traditional Worker’s Party, and according to the article, in July 2017, the police charged Yvette Felarca of “assault by means of force likely to inflict great bodily injury, participating in a riot, and inciting a riot.”  Felarca, however, argues that she and her compatriots did not commit a crime, but rather they acted out of self-defense.  The people whom she fought against were Neo-Nazis and were planning on killing them.  Felarca explains that she and her colleagues had no choice but to physically defend themselves and it was therefore not a crime.  The activist made similar statements during her appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” where she described conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos as a “fascist” and urged others across the United States to organize mass violence against people like Yiannopoulos to shut them down.  Although violence is not helpful in most situations and it does not benefit anyone, it can serve as self-defense, and so people who are against violence have to respect the fact that their beliefs differ from other people’s and understand that they use violence as a form of self-defense against people who make an effort to hurt them.

     It has been said that some people have actually supported or encouraged the use of violence.  It is not that they have supported it, because violence is unjust and does not help anyone or anything.  What is true, however, is that people will not make any efforts to stop the violence from happening and reporting the abuser for fear that it might get worse.  The organization “LoveisRespect” presented an article that discusses people in abusive relationships and why they stay.  The article is broken up into four main reasons, which are “conflicting emotions,” “pressure,” “distrust of adults or authority,” and “reliance on the abusive partner.”  People usually stay in an abusive relationship for fear that if they leave, their partners will abuse them even more.  This is not good; someone needs to speak up soon but for now, no one is speaking up, and so that is why abuse still goes on.


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