4th Station – Sit Down to be Appreciated

Setup:

Find yourself a quiet space in which to work. You will need access to online reference sources, a pen and paper, and a copy of the Help not Harm worksheet and your Circle of Influence worksheet from Station 2 (if you started completing it there).

Download Help not Harm worksheet here>

Introduction:

When we talk about democracy we often talk about having a say, making our voices heard and effecting what we know to be right: having the courage to stand up to be counted and speak out to be heard.

But often the most effective way to bring about positive change lies in our refusal to act; in choosing to NOT participate in activities and processes that we know to be wrong.

Sometimes it takes more courage to step away from the crowd; to question norms; to go against the status quo – to quietly sit down when we are expected to stand up – but for those that pursue this course of action the courage invested is worthwhile: experience tells us that passive resistance and non-violent protest often has the greatest chance of success.

Throughout history this is demonstrated in examples set by change-makers such as Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, where activities such as civil disobedience (refusal to follow rules), boycotts (refusal to buy products or services), peaceful marches and rallies, letter-writing, leafleting and petition campaigns have brought about change.

If further proof is needed, research carried out by political scientist Erica Chenoweth collected data on 323 violent and nonviolent political campaigns since 1900, each involving at least 1000 people. She found that whilst violent campaigns had just a 23% success rate and completely failed 60% of the time, the reverse was true of nonviolent campaigns which succeeded 53% of the time had just a 20% rate of failure.

The Power of Nonviolent Protest:

Historically some of the most successful methods used in protesting against injustice and bringing about social change have been through nonviolent marches, rallies, boycotts and strikes.

Take a look at the following sources and carry out some online research of your own to find out more about boycotts, marches and strikes. As you conduct your research consider these questions, and make some notes against each:

  1. Can you identify at least three different reasons why boycotts and other forms of non-violent protest can be effective in bringing about change?
  2. We consider boycotts, marches, and strikes to be non-violent protest but is nonviolence ever guaranteed? Why? What other risks are involved in organising non-violent protest?
  3. What does non-violent protest tell us about how to inspire mass people-power, and the impact it can have?
  4. What lasting effects do we still feel today from the civil rights protests of the past? What have they made possible?

First browse through these four sources and make some notes:

  1. 10 boycotts that shook the world
  2. Successful boycott campaigns since 2000
  3. 10 attempts at activism that backfired spectacularly
  4. 5 peaceful protests that led to political and social change

Now choose one of the following historic examples of non-violent protest, or identify one of your own (this might be from your own country’s history and/ or that relates to an issue that affects you personally). Choose an example from at least 50 years ago. You might find some ideas here.

Through your research add further notes against the questions above, and use your example to illustrate your points:

CHOOSE AND RESEARCH ONE OF:

The Salt March (Mahatma Gandhi)

Delano Grape Boycott (Cesar Chavez & Dolores Huerta)

Montgomery Bus Boycott (Martin Luther King & Rosa Parks)

Suffragists and UK Votes for Women (Millicent Fawcett)

If you are working in an online group, discuss your answers to the four questions with your classmates. Discuss whether any of you ever participated in a protest, and if so, why. If you are remote-learning at home, find out what other members of your family think. Ask older members of your family or household if they have ever participated in a non-violent campaign, a boycott, strike or protest march or if they can tell you about an example that has happened during their lifetime.

Consolidate your learning:

Use the notes you made to write a short final answer to each of the four questions (1 or 2 paragraphs each).

Now think about the example you studied and consider whether it might have unfolded differently if social media had been available at the time… hang on to that thought – we’ll come back to it in a minute…

Six Steps of Nonviolence

Martin Luther King Jr summed up his philosophy on nonviolence in six principles set out in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. The King Centre has developed these into a sequential process of nonviolent conflict-resolution and social change, the steps of which are:

  1. INFORMATION GATHERING
  2. EDUCATION
  3. PERSONAL COMMITMENT
  4. DISCUSSION/NEGOTIATION
  5. DIRECT ACTION
  6. RECONCILIATION

Find your Help not Harm worksheet, which sets out the Six Steps of nonviolence.

Think back to the example of nonviolent protest that you researched earlier and the question that we asked: how might the protest have unfolded differently if social media had been available at the time?

Work through the six steps and consider the pros and cons of social media against each point. If you are working in an online group discuss each step with your classmates and compare your views.

Nonviolence as a way of life

Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy on non-violence was based on the principle of nonviolence as “a way of life for courageous people.”

But what does this mean?

When it comes to protest, a distinction is often made between strategic nonviolence, and principled nonviolence. The difference is that “strategic” is adopted merely because it is thought to be more likely to work than violence or because violence is not a practical possibility. Those adopting nonviolence in this way often reserve the right to go back to violence if they do not meet with success. The “principled” approach is rooted in deep-seated beliefs and considers that moral behaviour excludes the use of violence (i.e. nonviolence is a way of life).

In the same way that peace is more than the absence of war, principled nonviolence is more than a decision against using physical violence. Instead it is a positive decision to promote mutual understanding and peaceful resolution. It is this principled nonviolence that was lived and used by such role models as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and many others.

In Round Square we talk about the distinction between “doing Round Square” (participating in activities inspired by the IDEALS) and “being Round Square” (developing and exercising a Spirit of the IDEALS in all of our actions). In this way, having a spirit of democracy is about exercising a belief in the principles of equality, freedom, diversity, peace and justice in the decisions and actions of your everyday life.

At a micro level this might include refusing to participate in teasing or bullying, or perhaps not joining in with a group that is breaking the rules (especially when it might have harmful consequences), or choosing not to circulate information online that could spread fake news, or deciding not to buy products from unethical companies or boycotting the use of single-use plastics.

It can also be about listening rather than speaking, promoting the voices of others instead of using your own, or seeking to understand different opinions rather than attempting to defeat them with your own. And sometimes having a Spirit of Democracy is about personal sacrifice and acceptance for the greater good.

Think of an instance where you have brought about change or prevented a situation from escalating through refusing to participate, or made a personal sacrifice for the benefit of others.

Finally, think about whether you are facing any decisions or situations in your life right now where you have the power to effect positive change, or influence the achievement of a peaceful outcome by NOT joining in?

If you completed Station 2 find your Circle of Influence Worksheet and consider whether you have captured anything at this station to add to the circles.


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