Mark Kurlansky, “Un?idea pericolosa. Storia della nonviolenza”, Mondatori, Milano 2007, pp. 249, euro 15,50. Prefazione del Dalai Lama
Dalla quarta di copertina:
L’esercizio del potere, democratico o autoritario che sia, ha da sempre bisogno di consenso. E se chi rappresenta il potere chiede di uccidere o di morire, deve essere anche in grado di persuadere gli individui che ne valga davvero la pena. Si può accettare il rischio di morire solo per una posta davvero alta. Così alta da “raggiungere” il cielo. Guerre giuste, sante, per la Libertà, per la Patria, per Dio. Comunque e sempre contro il Male. Da Urbano II a Churchill, dall’imperatore Costantino a Lincoln, da Maometto fino a George W. Bush, l’esercizio del potere è riuscito, attraverso almeno due millenni di raggiri politici e religiosi, a convincere gli uomini a prendersi a sciabolate e fucilate gli uni con gli altri. Un esercizio del potere talmente intenso e capillare da aver eliminato dalle lingue di tutto il mondo un vocabolo in grado di esprimere in modo autonomo – e non per negazione – l’idea e la pratica della nonviolenza. E da aver ridotto la sfida morale di chi ripudia la forza e l’omicidio come mezzo di risoluzione delle controversie a una posizione marginale, utopica, perdente. La nonviolenza non è un’inclinazione gentile dell’animo e non è neppure un rassegnato disincanto di fronte all’insensatezza della violenza e agli orrori della guerra. Al contrario è una prassi politica fatta di atti concreti, di non collaborazione, di boicottaggi, di informazione alternativa e – soprattutto – di instancabile determinazione al dialogo e al confronto. E come dimostra Mark Kurlansky ripercorrendo la storia di questa idea pericolosa, solo Mohandas Gandhi, nel corso della lotta cui ha dedicato tutta la vita, è giunto a darle un nome: ‘satyagraha’, forza della verità, pratica positiva e concreta di pace. Kurlansky ci insegna a riconoscere i tratti comuni di individui che mai si sono incontrati ma che sono stati guidati da un’identica passione; ci racconta, con la maestria dei grandi narratori e la forza di chi è spinto da una fede autentica, la storia e le idee di uomini che hanno voluto dire di no alla logica delle armi. Dai cristiani delle origini ai catari, dai legionari romani convertiti ai quaccheri d’America, dai capi tribù mahori ai movimenti pacifisti degli anni Sessanta, dal Mahatma ad Albert Einstein, da Martin Luther King a Michail Gorbacev, chi ha praticato la nonviolenza sa che è solo la guerra ad avere bisogno di santi ed eroi. Per la pace, è sufficiente la verità.
Ma il Re Sole era “non violento”. «L?amore per la guerra non è inscritto nei geni dell?umanità» di GIOVANNI DE LUNA
La «non violenza» non è la stessa cosa del pacifismo. Non è vero che l?umanità abbia inscritto nei suoi geni «l?amore per la guerra»; o se è vero, in quegli stessi geni si trova anche la spinta a «odiare» la guerra. Sono questi i concetti chiave di un libro di Mark Kurlansky, (Un?idea pericolosa. Storia della non violenza, Mondadori) che argomenta la sua tesi riattraversando la storia del mondo, prima con riferimento agli ambiti religiosi in cui il concetto della non violenza fu elaborato (praticamente a partire dal VI secolo a.C., in una traiettoria che da Buddha arriva a Gesù e a Maometto), poi collocandolo all?interno della politica così come si è definita con la nascita dello Stato moderno.
Sulle differenze con il pacifismo Kurlansky è categorico: «Il pacifismo è passivo, mentre la non violenza è attiva. Il primo è innocuo, quindi più facile da accettare della seconda, che invece rappresenta un pericolo… un mezzo di persuasione, una tecnica di attivismo politico, una strategia per prevalere». Quando Gesù afferma che la vittima deve porgere l?altra guancia predica il pacifismo. Ma quando dice che il nemico deve essere vinto con il potere dell?amore, predica la non violenza. Come strategia attiva, la non violenza va incontro a sonore sconfitte ma ottiene anche strepitosi successi; nell?introduzione al libro, il Dalai Lama cita in questo senso la caduta «non violenta» delle dittature comuniste dei paesi dell?Est europeo (e sono di questi giorni le incredibili immagini dei cortei di monaci buddhisti che in Birmania stanno sgretolando il dispotismo tirannico del governo).
Quanto all?«amore per la guerra» su cui insiste Hillman, nelle sue scorribande attraverso i secoli, Kurlansky cita molti esempi contrari. Se ne possono aggiungere altri. Nel 1986, l?Unesco indisse un seminario sull?aggressività innata, invitando alcuni tra i migliori psicologi comportamentali. Ne derivò la «Dichiarazione di Siviglia» che ridicolizzava i luoghi comuni sedimentatisi sul carattere geneticamente programmato dell?uso della violenza nelle relazioni tra gli uomini e sulla sua conseguente immutabilità.
Renè Girard ha a suo tempo sottolineato la forza del messaggio evangelico, la sua capacità di far cambiare di segno alla violenza dell?uomo, svelando la totale innocenza della vittima sacrificale, distruggendo la credibilità delle religioni mitiche, svuotando dall?interno la legittimazione del sangue versato nel sacrificio rituale, ingannevolmente fondata sulla colpevolezza del capro espiatorio. In una dimensione laica, è stata la cultura a combattere con efficacia l?«amore per la guerra». Con l?Illuminismo, in una stagione straordinaria della nostra storia, quasi per reazione alla tragicità dello scontro tra Riforma e Controriforma, si affermò una sensibilità collettiva segnata da una idea di moderazione, di misura, di tolleranza. Il Re Sole stesso non volle che l?esercito francese adottasse un nuovo tipo di polvere da sparo, più potente….perché era troppo distruttiva per la vita umana.
25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea
Written by Mark Kurlansky
Foreword by Dalai Lama
History – Modern – 20th Century | Modern Library | Hardcover | September 2006
In this timely, highly original, and controversial narrative, New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky discusses nonviolence as a distinct entity, a course of action, rather than a mere state of mind. Nonviolence can and should be a technique for overcoming social injustice and ending wars, he asserts, which is why it is the preferred method of those who speak truth to power.
Nonviolence is a sweeping yet concise history that moves from ancient Hindu times to present-day conflicts raging in the Middle East and elsewhere. Kurlansky also brings into focus just why nonviolence is a ?dangerous? idea, and asks such provocative questions as: Is there such a thing as a ?just war?? Could nonviolence have worked against even the most evil regimes in history?
Kurlansky draws from history twenty-five provocative lessons on the subject that we can use to effect change today. He shows how, time and again, violence is used to suppress nonviolence and its practitioners?Gandhi and Martin Luther King, for example; that the stated deterrence value of standing national armies and huge weapons arsenals is, at best, negligible; and, encouragingly, that much of the hard work necessary to begin a movement to end war is already complete. It simply needs to be embraced and accelerated.
Engaging, scholarly, and brilliantly reasoned, Nonviolence is a work that compels readers to look at history in an entirely new way. This is not just a manifesto for our times but a trailblazing book whose time has come.
Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling and James A. Beard Award?winning author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; Salt: A World History; 1968: The Year That Rocked the World; The Basque History of the World; and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell; as well as the novel Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue and several other books. He lives in New York City.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I just graduated from college a couple days ago and I?m not supposed to have finished a book already. Well, I did, and it was great! My friend and ministry partner in college, Jen Rogers, lent me the book Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea. And let me tell you?this is one of the best books I?ve read in a long time.
My sophomore year in college I was preparing for a summer trip to go to India. Earlier that year I had begun studying Martin Luther King, Jr. on a deeper level than I had ever been taught during Black History Month in school. I discovered that he was heavily influenced by Gandhi. So, in order to get a better understanding of why MLK decided to use nonviolent civil disobedience, and to learn something of India?s history and culture, I decided to dive into reading Gandhi?s autobiography, another biography of Gandhi, and several collections of his writings and teachings. I was amazed while reading his story and teachings that he was able to transform an entire sub-continent without ever raising a finger in violence, and that he was able to live out such stringent beliefs. It took a non-Christian to confirm in me that Jesus? teachings were livable.
After studying the lives, works and teachings of Gandhi and MLK, and reading John Howard Yoder?s The Politics of Jesus, I was convinced and convicted of the moral and practical insufficiency of violence in pursuing a just cause and became a believer in nonviolence. As a Christian I am convinced that I can no longer participate in, or support, violence in any way. It goes against the call of Jesus. (This was a big change for me. I grew up a military child and adored the courage of soldiers in war. War movies, and Arnold Scwarzenegger movies, were my favorites. I also grew up looking up to several gangster rappers who glorified violence, and as a little kid watched pro wrestling religiously. I believed a real man always fought back. I know it is hard for Americans to imagine violence being wrong, we were built on it!, but I did come to this conclusion. My world completely changed after this revelation.)
I have spent much of the time since then trying to discover exactly what that means. Am I a pacifist? Am I only against war? What about self-defense? How far should I take this? You can check a recent blog I wrote http://jimmymccarty.wordpress.com/2007/04/19/killing-violence/ to see some of my related thoughts.
Well?I know I am not a pacifist if people want to understand that term as meaning passive. I fully buy into the active nonviolence and civil disobedience that MLK and Gandhi used. Jen was aware of my conviction, and my struggles with defining that conviction, and therefore lent me Kurlansky?s book.
Kurlansky?s book, Nonviolence, is an interpretive history, and a very good one. It very briefly, it is only 184 pages, covers the history of nonviolence. The book explores four major interpretations of history: the rise and fall of nonviolent teachings in all religions (especially Christianity and Islam), the practical effectiveness of nonviolent resistance in world history, the practical ineffectiveness of violence throughout history and the ways that violence has been justified throughout history.
He does a good job in the brief space he has of fleshing out all of these interpretations. Especially important for Christians to read is his exposition of the decline of Christianity from a religion that wholly denounced and condemned violence into a religion, after Constantine?s corruption of the faith, that justifies and participates in violence on the worst level.
Some of the 25 lessons Kurlansky draws from history are:
1. There is no proactive word for nonviolence. (He explores how this is used by governments to discredit nonviolence as a legitimate option.)
4. Once a state takes over a religion, the religion loses its nonviolent teachings. (He demonstrates this in numerous world religions.)
6. Somewhere behind every war ther are a few founding lies. (He did not have to search long to find proof of this.)
8. People who go to war start to resemble their enemy.
9. A conflict between a violent and a nonviolent force is a moral argument. If the violent side can provoke the nonviolent side into violence, the violent side has won.
16. Violence does not resolve. It always leads to more violence. (As can be seen in WWI leading to WWII leading to the Cold War?.)
18. People motivated by fear do not act well.
24. The miracle is that despite all of society?s promotion of warfare, most soldiers find warfare to be a wrenching departure from their own moral values.
These are just a few of the 25 lessons that are brought to light by looking at the wars of history, and the alternative nonviolent resistance that was demonstrated alongside them. There are many more just as powerful, and they all have some historical backing in his presentation of them. My conviction in the moral and spiritual depravity of violence, and the superiority of nonviolence, has never been in doubt. I am fully convinced of that through my faith in the teachings of Jesus. However, my conviction in the practical effectiveness of nonviolence over violence in achieving desirable ends has wavered back and forth. Kurlansky?s book helped to confirm in me the beleif that nonviolent resistance is always preferrable to violent force both morally and practically.
I highly recommend anyone interested in seeing what history can teach us, and how it confirms what Jesus taught, read Mark Kurlansky?s Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea. It will change your view of the world, or at least challenge it. I know it did mine.
Interview: Mark Kurlansky
by Ian Sinclair December 12, 2006
WHAT, I wonder, inspired Mark Kurlansky, the author of a diverse range of books such as Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World and The Basque History of the World, to write Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea?
“I very much believe in the importance of political activism and the moral obligation to speak out,” Kurlansky tells the Star. This belief led him to actively resist the draft during the Vietnam war.
A genuine and humble man, Kurlansky explains that, although he applied for conscientious objector status, by the time that this had been rejected and appealed against several times, the war had ended.
“I sometimes regret that I didn’t just go to Canada to make the statement,” he laments.
The nub of Kurlansky’s thesis is that non-violence, when it has been used, has a pretty good track record of success. Violence, on the other hand, hasn’t. Asked to qualify the subtitle of his book, Kurlansky says: “It’s not so much that I think it’s a dangerous idea – it’s that established power has always thought that it’s a dangerous idea and has always thought of non-violent activists as extremely dangerous.”
He points to the example of Martin Luther King. “Now, all of these politicians get up and make these nice speeches about the great man,” but “King would have opposed most of these people and most of these people would have opposed him,” Kurlansky elucidates.
“King spent his entire activist life being hounded by the FBI because they regarded him as dangerous.”
Although he mentions the World War II draft resister Dave Dellinger as a key influence, he reserves his greatest praise for Gandhi – Kurlansky’s nomination for the most important person of the 20th century.
“Like most things that have to do with non-violence, it’s not studied very much, but the influence of Gandhi on the world was tremendous,” says Kurlansky. “The reason why there was so much non-violence during the 20th century was the impact of Gandhi.”
From the US civil rights movement to Czech dissidents plotting the downfall of the Soviet Union to the end of apartheid in South Africa, the influence of Gandhi is unarguable.
But surely Gandhi’s methods were only successful in India because of the moderate nature of the British administration? Kurlansky argues that this is a convenient myth that doesn’t stand up to the historical record. “A lot of Gandhi’s people were killed. They mowed them down with machine guns.”
Kurlansky also points to the successful non-violent resistance to nazi Germany. Indeed, he recently received an email from eminent US historian Howard Zinn – a World War II veteran himself – praising him for dispelling the notion of World War II as the great just war.
“It’s the war that everyone seems to love,” says Kurlansky. He says that he has always wanted to take it on, “because, when I go around and talk about this, it’s the one that always comes up. Everybody always says: ‘What about Hitler? What about World War Two’?”
But didn’t the allied war effort, while making it possible for the nazis to instigate the “final solution,” also stop it with the invasion of Germany?
“It only stopped it by chance,” retorts Kurlansky. “There are lots of cases of Jews being saved and the Holocaust being stopped for a moment by things the allies did, but it’s coincidental.”
He goes further. “The Allies not only made no effort but absolutely refused to do anything stop the Holocaust. It’s one of those things that gets passed down later.
“World War II was not about stopping the Holocaust. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Churchill – all these people, when asked, were very clear about that.”
He notes: “All you had to do to stop the Holocaust was bomb some train tracks.”
Like many progressives, Kurlansky is optimistic about the possibility for change. “I’ve seen amazing things in my lifetime. I see small signs of progress in the world, a lot of steps backwards, some steps forward.”
As an example, he cites the protests against the Vietnam war and what “a huge and shocking thing” it was to oppose your country. Today, “nobody thinks anything of that any more.”
He believes that there is a lot that people can do to stop the glorification of war in society. “They can change their school system. They can change the way history is taught. They can change what sort of monuments their municipalities erect in public parks.”
As a former newspaper reporter, Kurlansky realises the importance of positive news coverage to the continuing success of non-violence. For example, “Gandhi was very good at getting press attention. Before he did something, he called up the London Times and all the American papers.
“That famous picture of him picking up the salt – he made sure the cameras were ready. He was very media savvy.”
However, Kurlansky believes that the news media, along with other cultural institutions, generally marginalise non-violence.
“People in the news media are really in the political class with politicians. It’s the government, militarised power crowd. These are people who don’t believe in non-violence. They believe in military solutions.”
Kurlansky is less optimistic about the ability to effect change within the confines of the formal political system. He finds it “amazing the way the British people and the American people have made it so clear they don’t want the Iraq war and, in these democracies, these elected officials managed to completely ignore that and even get re-elected.”
Returning to the issue of the draft, I’m surprised to hear the draft resister and non-violent activist suggest that there some things to be said in favour of it.
“It’s more democratic and it makes the war everybody’s concern,” says Kurlansky.
He clarifies: “I’m not saying your sons should be drafted and serve in the military – I’m saying they should have the opportunity to refuse.
“I’m glad I had that opportunity. I think everybody should have that opportunity and take it.”
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky
is the book I selected for the Second Annual Dayton Literary Peace Prize. From the press release: “The Dayton Literary Peace Prize was established in 2006 as a legacy of Dayton?s stature as the host of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that brokered a negotiated peace for the Balkans. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the only literary peace prize awarded in the United States, honors writers whose works focus on the broad theme of peace and whose writing style and subject matter have an enduring literary value.
Mark Kurlansky will receive the prize for nonfiction and a $10,000 honorarium for his book Nonviolence: 25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea. Kurlansky discusses nonviolence as a distinct entity, a course of action, rather than a mere state of mind. It is a sweeping yet concise history that moves from ancient Hindu times to present-day conflicts raging in the Middle East and elsewhere. Exploring the revolutionary concept of nonviolence in an historical, social and political context, he presents twenty-five provocative lessons that can be used to effect change today.
Author Statement: ?I?m thrilled to receive this award because there?s no subject closer to my heart. It?s a valuable opportunity to ask people to rethink history, and I still believe the world can be changed.? Mark Kurlansky
Judge Citation: ?The smoothly elegant prose of Mark Kurlansky?s Nonviolence provides a cogent analysis of the vast sweep of the history of human conflict. Its thoughtful assertions and conclusions invite both contemplation and debate.? C. M. Mayo
Mark Kurlansky has also written Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; Salt: A World History; 1968: The Year That Rocked the World; The Basque History of the World; and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell.
The October 14 ceremony will be held at The Schuster Center, Second & Main Streets, Dayton, Ohio. For further information about the prize and the award ceremony, please visit www.daytonliterarypeaceprize.org.
The full press release is here.
Labels: Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Mark Kurlansky, Nonviolence
Michael Nagler, Per un futuro nonviolento, Ponte alle Grazie, Firenze 2006
Mark Juergensmeyer, Come Gandhi, Laterza, Roma-Bari 2004;
Roberto Mancini, L?amore politico, Cittadella.