THE PEACE CHRONICLE SPRING 2017-FALL 2017
A Book Review of The Tao of Nonviolence
When Michael invited me to share my book, The Tao of Nonviolence - Why Nonviolence Matters with PJSA members, I
said, “I can’t review my own book!” He suggested I let students who have been reading it speak, so I decided to try. I want
you to see this book - and, if you will, let me know your thoughts about how it might be useful.
I see the book as supplementary to more particular nonviolence and related classes and trainings because, whatever the
specific focus, a systems perspective will provide an inclusive foundation and help beginners see “why nonviolence matters.”
The Tao of Nonviolence is part local case study that shares examples of how to practice nonviolence, every day; and, most
of it illustrates the holistic thinking that connects the actions. I use an overarching framework of organic balance within
living systems to reveal nonviolent “ways” all of us can act to bring about positive, personal transformation and social
change; and, importantly, I suggest how our seemingly disconnected actions, together, add up to “the change we wish to see
in the world.”
I developed the materials that are now this book for an Introduction to Nonviolence Studies course I called “Every Day
Nonviolence.” At the end of each semester since 2010, I have ask students to list 10 things from the book that caught their
attention so I could see what they were seeing.
Although 90% of students come to recognize the value holistic thinking and to see how what we think connects with how
we act, there is surprising variety among individual lists. Anais Nin’s observation, “We see the world as we are, not as it is”
became so evident it inspired me to leave some redundancy among the lessons.
My aim has been to use something akin to storytelling; to use ideas from anthropology, physics, ecology, spirituality,
traditional nonviolence -- like stepping stones in a stream -- to show beginners a logical, nonthreatening, demystified way
to update the either/or problem solving model that leads us to extremes with an holistic model that leads toward system
This is not a traditional text. In fact, Michael Nagler (who kindly wrote a blurb for the book jacket) told me he liked the
book, “But where is the nonviolence?” I said, “You wrote that book!” With the morass of random information bombarding
us daily and with so many new activists who risk perpetuating the dualistic mentality that brought us to such imbalance in
the first place .... in my opinion, what we need to do today is help people understand how nonviolence can help make and
maintain healthy balance at every level of living relationship.
I should say that I’m an anthropologist but, at the time I began this book, my job was director of a women’s “crisis center.”
It didn’t take long to realize our traditional problem solving “MO” (i.e. wait for a crisis to act) was not only not reducing the
violence -- we could do what we we’re doing the rest of our lives and never change the status quo! I became convinced that
people will become more able problem solvers only when we learn to see the bigger picture and plan accordingly.
THE PEACE CHRONICLE SPRING 2017-FALL 2017
When I had the opportunity to start a nonviolence program in 2000 -- surrounded by the immediate need to address
violence in my midsize, mid-western community -- I searched for a book that could introduce holistic thinking, attract
beginners, and be put into practice starting that very day. I couldn’t find one so I began this one.
Since 2010, when I began teaching my course online, I’ve collected responses from scores of students. As all of you know,
nonviolence studies students self-select and tend to be such thoughtful human beings, it is hard to decide what to share.
I could use nearly any of their comments as examples. To make my selection random, I’ll simply share the first two, unedited,
lists from this semester. I’ll add a couple of longer observations that also come in regularly. (Pages numbers vary
because each semester I used a newer version of the book.)
Concentric circles provide a simple outline of human relationship systems at every level- p.6. I really liked this
visual and how it showed the layers of relationships. It also reminded me of the Social Penetration Theory model
from my communication studies theory class.
-Ganesha- page 8. Ganesha is the little elephant who embodies the heart of nonviolent action. I had never head
of Ganesha or seen the drawing of the elephant before reading this book. I think it’s interesting and clever. I also
like how the elephant is a he or a she.
-Popper’s Spotlight- page 21. The visual of planes flying and the use of a spotlight was an impactful metaphor for
me. Seeing the either peace of war in the traditional worldview made me think about how I view the world.
-The Organic Balance Model- page 30. I though the flow chart from dualistic to holistic ideas in nonviolence was
neat. I was able to see the shifts in thought between each of the sections.
-Koyaanisqatsi- page 39. The graph made me think about the imbalance in my life. It was a great demonstration
of warning sign of imbalance and gave clear examples for each area.
The overarching Nonviolence Movements Works….- page 41. I used this page in comparison to page 39. Seeing
all the levels of life where nonviolence could be used was very beneficial to me. I plan on implementing some of
the ideas in my own life.
-Envisioning Holistic Problem-Solving- page 67. This model of how real life is more complex and not usually linear
was very impactful to me when I read it. I had just been at church and heard a sermon about how life is not a
perfect line. I was able to relate the image to my experiences.
-Season for Nonviolence- page 73. I had never head of the Season of Nonviolence before this class. I think it is
cool how the death dates of famous nonviolent activists start and end the season.
-Looking Upstream- page 95. I thought this text very thought-provoking. I found “if we agree to wait for the
crisis before we act to manage our problems we can never change the status quo” to be very powerful.
-References- page 100-101. I am a very logically thinker so having references is important to me when I learn.
Seeing the long, well put together, list of references gave the book more credibility to me.
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membes who contributed content to this edition of The Peace Chronicle .
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