I have another perspective of nonviolence when it comes to demands -- along side some global historical context. It is a view that questions (and expands) the way we are typically taught in NVC circles.
As I understand it, NVC was originally derived from the works of Martin Luther King (MLK), Gandhi, and other marginalized group leaders of colour. (And then later compiled and refined by Marshall Rosenberg).
Apparently there's something called Kingian Nonviolence (via MLK) which leaves space for nonviolent protest in "demand" form.
In what I would call the "NVC status quo" perspective, there's the assumption that any demand is considered alienating (i.e."violent"). Generally, I am on board with this view.
And I would made some exceptions.
For example, I would not want to require:
- Chanel Miller to check in with Brock Turner who raped her and laughed about it, whether or not he wants her to publicly address the distortions that he, the media, and his lawyers publicly made when they framed him as the victim and as her at fault.
- Whistle blowers nor documentary filmmakers to get the go-ahead from the industry or agency that they are exposing when there are human/animal rights violations (or harm to society) that the public needs to know about in order to protect those who are innocent.
- Greta Thurnberg nor other climate protesters to inquire with governments and the elite if they want to hear protests from the climate emergency movement.
- Protesters to check in with the oil and gas companies about if they want to hear their protest.
Monica Lewinsky to poll the public on whether or not if they want her to reclaim her narrative, and speak out against bullying that can result in suicide.
Oprah to clear it with her childhood rapists about if she can use her platform to speak out on what happened to her, and campaign for greater awareness and change around sexual assault and rape.
Anyone who could become victims of any potential holocaust, nor victims of any coming slavery movement, to get the go-ahead from those they would suffer at the hands of, about whether or not they can speak out in effort to reshape the enemy images, evaluations and any other gestalts that would justify their ultimate demise.
I would not want these marginalized people/groups to check in about willingness from the other side to hear the flip side of the story -- and then for those who are marginalized, to marginalize themselves further by silencing themselves if they hear a no.
I would say what these cases above have in common is that they are igniters or contributors of social justice movements -- movements and voices that I see as necessary. Movements that look to shift the common, and harmful gestalt.
I also see that they would get much push back when they are up against a behemoth sized status quo. Resistance as a likely outcome when the oppressed are wanting their humanity known, registered, and held.
And they are thus prone to being framed as the one being divisive.
I think there's a difference between creating violence (ie. being "divisive"), and making the violence that's already there more visible and audible (saying a clear no to the violence).
These oppressed voices are voices that I want to be audible no matter how much resistance they get. No matter how much of a "no" they encounter.
If anyone in NVC communities proposes to care about needs, I would propose that we also care about mitigating actions that have harmful impact on needs. And that includes being vocal about questioning gestalts that lead to such impacts.
I'm not on board with demands, and I want people to ask for willingness/consent, when such choices lead to harmful impact. I'm in support of demands when it's about mitigating harmful impact, or when we want to highlight there's something further to investigate about the common narrative that would lead to harmful impact.
Sometimes resistance needs to be confronted, and worked through, before we can come out the other side to see the materialization of a revolution.
This is a question of who commonly gets to write and shape the script that has direct impact on others lives.
And who is not given room to contest it.
As I see it, the way we teach NVC has power to shape the collective community consciousness. So it carries with it a degree of social responsibility.
I care deeply about social responsibility and social change being given a chance to enrich lives. And I would not want the way NVC and demands are taught, to negate the importance of nonviolent protest in its various forms. This is why I want to call attention to this.
I would not want the NVC teaching to contain within it silencing mechanisms, particularly when it comes to matters of social justice and inequity.
Does any part of what I'm saying resonate with you?