Tag Archives: nonviolent

The Face-Punching Waiter: Another Culture Wars Parable

We return once more to your stereotypical American diner. Seated in a booth by the window is yours truly, glancing over the menu while absentmindedly flicking my cigarette lighter on and off.

“Excuse me, but you can’t smoke in here.”

I turn to see a waiter standing over me.

“Beg pardon?”

“You can’t smoke in here”.

“But I wasn’t smoking.”

“Sir, you need to stop smoking in here.”

“But-”

At this, the waiter hauls off and socks me straight in the face.  He turns around and promptly walks off. Regaining my senses, I begin to unleash a torrent of confused profanities, leading the manager to saunter over and ask what what the problem is.

“That waiter just punched me in the face!”

A weary smile flickers over the manager’s face.

“Yes,” he says, “Well resolving conflicts with customers is part of the waiter’s job.”

“Yeah, I know, but he punched me! Did he have to punch me in the face?!”

“Waiters are given excellent training on resolving customer complaints.”

He punched me in the face!”

I lift my hands from the bruised cartilage of my nose, already beginning to turn a lovely purplish color.

“Ah,” said the manager, “well as we all know, waiters have a stressful and thankless job…”

SO!?!?”

“…And when you think about it, most waiters don’t go around punching people in the face. Most waiters are good waiters.” Continue reading

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Why Palestine Can’t Use Nonviolence

I’m sticking with this topic because I was asked, somewhat indirectly, to cover the tactics Hamas has been using. I don’t think I can do that without sounding like an apologist for Hamas- which I’m not a fan of, in spite of my constant proclamations of solidarity with the struggle of Gaza. Still, I wanted to deliver on some level, and the more I thought about it, the more I found myself returning to a quote of JFK’s- that “those who make peaceful protest impossible make violent protest inevitable.”

Whenever any conflict flares up enough in Palestine for the West to take notice, we’re inevitably going to encounter the idea that the Palestinians are to be blamed for not using “peaceful protest”. Such comments usually come from folks who can’t deny the plight of Palestinians but who can’t yet bring themselves to actually take a stand for them- but we’ll get to that in a minute.

At times like these, we tend to cite our own “peaceful protests”, conveniently only talking about the white-washed portions of it. We’ll talk about MLK Jr. all day long, and forget that even such “nonviolent” civil rights luminaries as Fannie Lou Hamer kept herself armed to the teeth. Heck, Hamer herself declared “I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom and the first cracker even look like he wants to throw some dynamite on my porch won’t write his mama again.”

Yes indeed. And only one of many such examples within the “non-violent” movements of the 50s and 60s.

Continue reading

Fighting the Good Fights

Earlier today there was a fight outside my apartment.

I say “fight” in the loosest sense of the word. From what I could gather, a woman had given the wrong address to a pizza delivery man, and the gentleman who the pizza had been accidentally delivered to had been sleeping at the time and was more than a little annoyed at being woken up and compelled to give the delivery man directions to the right place. It essentially boiled down to this man and this lady shouting at each other while the poor delivery guy stood awkwardly in between them with no clue as to how to proceed. Apparently the whole ordeal of having to deal with a mix-up between apartment block 2 and apartment block 20 is on par with genocide. Needless to say, seeing two people break down into three-year olds over something so trivial didn’t exactly reinforce any hope for the future of humanity.

But that sad incident isn’t what I’d like to talk about today- at least, not entirely. What first caught my attention when the whole hissy-fit was going down was the shrill screech of the lady that “‘He’ had better not lay a finger on her or he’d be going to jail”.

Now naturally, I don’t know the whole story, but from where I was standing, the gentleman in question hadn’t given any indication of violence- from all I could see, he was just annoyed at being woken up and having to help this delivery guy find the right apartment. It did grab my attention, though- and that’s what I want to address today.

Violence- we have a long standing love affair with it in this country.

We view it as the be-all-end-all solution to our problems. When all else fails, there’s no problem that can’t be solved with a good, old-fashioned butt-kicking. From the cowboys to the noir detectives to comic book superheroes, violence is the answer. For all our advocacy of non-violence, tolerance, empathy, and understanding, we do get a rush out of seeing “justice” dispensed by means of a vicious haymaker.

Just take a look at this video that’s exploded on the internet over the past 48 hours.

Now chances are, your only complaint after watching that is that the video doesn’t go long enough for you to hear the derisive laughter of all the onlookers as this jerk slinks off with his tail between his legs. Certainly that’ my only issue with it.

Take a look at this video from a few years back.

Now this one isn’t quite so clear cut. Yes, the smaller kid is clearly harassing the chubbier one- even getting violent, but nevertheless the beat-down that ensues is so visceral that I defy you not to feel a little twinge of guilt with your (probable) satisfaction in seeing the bullied kid defend himself.

There are, of course, more clear-cut fights. The video below offers a prime example.

For anyone who might be unclear- the guy with the tray is simply standing there, minding his own business when the other guy walks past and for no apparent reason simply decides to flip the first guy’s tray. No (knowable) provocation, no reason- just sheer, unadulterated spite.I don’t know about you, but I thought the guy falling flat was (1) hilarious and (2) a pretty strong argument for the existence of karma.

When is it ok to hit someone?

“When it’s in self-defense!”, I can hear most of you shouting, and do you know what? They’re right. All but the most hardcore pacifist would probably assert that when someone’s shoving you around, there’s really nothing you can be expected to do other than swing back. Of course, it’s never that’ clear cut.

Did the man in the first video deserve to be hit? He wasn’t presenting a clear and present threat to anyone around, unless you count wet willies as a instrument of destruction.  That being understood, did you cry out in indignation when the street performer knocked him down?

Again, probably not.

The street performer was very clearly being harassed by a guy who wrongly thought the street performer would just sit there and take it. But what if it wasn’t the street performer who had punched the guy? In the video, you can pretty clearly hear other people shouting “Leave him alone!”- what if one of them laid some smackdown? Would we be ok with that?Probably.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we’d all still applaud this guy getting punched, though the fact that justice is dispensed by some outsider rather than by the victim may potentially diminish the poeticism of it.

So what do we have so far?

Violence is acceptable in self-defense, acceptable (in some degree) when being harassed, acceptable when someone else is being harassed- where does it end?

I don’t say that in a disparaging tone- I am simply curious as to where that line of logic takes us. Is it ok for the average man to walk around and step in to defend people from being bullied? Do we accept full-on vigilantism?

It’s not as far-fetched an idea as it might sound. If it’s alright (if not straight-up admirable) to go around attempting to defend others, how do we address the laws that (supposedly) govern our society?

Again, we do have an absolute love of violence in this country, but for all our depictions of this:

And this:

Or this:

And even this:

We rarely ever show the dark side with something like this:

The reason we can all get together and applaud the punching of the guy harassing the street performer is because it appeals to our (almost) universal sense of what is and isn’t acceptable in society, and what is and isn’t a measured response. The moment you drift away from clear cut right and wrong, the waters get very murky very quickly.

And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.

Yeah, the idea of every man, woman, and child declaring “I am the law!” is more than a little unsettling…

…but is it really any worse than what we have now? America and her allies (including Canada, which has only just recently withdrawn from Afghanistan) are engaged in the longest war in recent history with- despite repeated reassurances from the president- no clear end in sight. Do I agree with these wars? Absolutely not.  I think the bad guys who actually should be deposed (and we’re talking about everyone from the Burmese junta to the executive boards of BP and Coca-Cola) are getting off clean. You could argue that the role of ensuring justice and security belong exclusively to the police, but what has their track record been?

All that’s to simply point out that you can argue that such an anarchic system means little or no accountability, but how exactly does that differ from what we have now?

I know it sounds surreal, but if right and wrong as so arbitrarily dispensed from on high, is it really that psychotic to suggest that the front line for security and human decency is in fact you?

It’s just a thought- I’m hoping we can actually start of something of a debate in the comment section (something I’d like to see brought up is a discussion of whether or not our society might benefit from the distinct possibility of getting stomped for being a jerk- anyone and everyone who’s ever waited tables knows what I’m talking about).

Now seeing as how this post pretty much escalated to a declaration of “blood in the streets!”, here’s a picture of a baby hippo.

Be sure to check in tomorrow for Evan’s Shame-Day (yes, we’re switching up the order again- just roll with it), and understand that not leaving a comment will be taken as silent agreement on your part of everything I’ve written!

February 25: What’s Not Being Talked About In The News

Back on October 15th of last year I ran a little piece on what’s not getting covered [enough] in the media. As I struggle in vain to fend off a nasty cold, I’ll be submitting a similar piece today.

Palestinians and Hunger Strikes

Today marked a massive hunger strike protest by Israeli prisoners, with over 3,000 inmates refusing meals in solidarity with another prisoner allegedly tortured to death. These strikes also call attention to the continued hunger strikes by four Palestinian inmates, the longest of whom has been on intermittent protest for 200 days, and is currently in critical condition.

While this is in the news (depending on the site), the importance of this story is that it marks a continued attempt by these prisoners at nonviolent protest- the kind many in the West proclaim would lead to justice for the Palestinian people if only they would attempt to use it. Well, here it is, and despite the attempts by these prisoners to emulate the tactics of Gandhi and MLK, they remain (surprise, surprise) rotting away in Israeli prisoners under “detainment”- that is, they may be indefinitely held without being charged with any crime. One might imagine that the attempts by the Palestinians to meet the demands of many in the west might merit some more attention.

Coca-Cola Vs Australia and the Environment

Recently in Australia legislation was passed to help meet the growing environmental issue of pollution from discarded soft drink bottles. Essentially the bill adds ten cents to the cost of each bottle, which will be refunded upon the bottle being recycled. Over 40 countries currently maintain such programs, and in Australia this legislation has doubled the local recycling rates. Coca-Cola, fearing that this environmental legislation may hurt its sales, has been campaigned viciously against this legislation and is currently suing the Australian government over it.

Let’s keep in mind here that Coke isn’t paying the ten cents- the Australian government is. Coke is simply that concerned that “tax,” for lack of a better term, is going to somehow hurt their profits.

Coke made 2.79 billion this year. I’m going to posit that 10 cents isn’t going to crush ’em.

Fracking Battle in New York

And to continue on with environmental news not in the news, the battle against fracking rages on in rural New York.

Fracking (see graphic above) is the process of extracting natural gas from the ground by piping in an as-of-yet undisclosed compound into the earth to widen natural fissures in the stones trapping the gas. The issue with this is that the process is pretty dang inaccurate, with gas (as well as the undisclosed chemicals) leaking into the local water supply, resulting in, among other issues, water catching on fire from all the methane in it. Now this is a fairly major issue, and one you’re almost certain to not see in the morning paper or the nightly news.

As before, people, it’s high time that we demand that our journalists actually act like journalists. What do you really want- news about major events affecting your life, or coverage of the academy awards?

Barring the people for whom the two are one and the same, but that’s a post for another time.