Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2001 23:42:10 -0700
Subject: Non-violence more effective

"Gandhi the Man" by Eknath Easwaran ought to be mandatory reading for
World Transformation 101.  In it we learn that non-violence and transparency
are so much more effective in bringing about change than violence and
subterfuge.

A few years ago I had a chance to put Gandhi's ideas to the test.
International Forest Products had just clearcut to the shore of one of my
favorite small lakes, Bachelor Lake, in the mountain wilderness near the
B.C. coastal village of Sechelt.  They were set to do the same to Edward
Lake, another one of my favorite gems in what is now the Tetrahedron
Provincial Park, including also the watershed from which the entire local
community's potable water supply originates..  We decided to take action to
try to stop them.  I phoned up the Interfor Office to tell the manager there
that Denise and I opposed any further logging in the watershed and that if
they continued to log around Edward Lake, we would consider mounting a
blockade.  I told him that before taking any specific action, I would call
him to tell him exactly what we planned to do, what were our objectives,
etc. There would be no surprises.

A few days later, a process server was at our door with court papers summoning
Denise to court.  She was accused of planning to do injury, etc. etc.  I was away
in Powell River at the time and so they didn't serve me till Monday night when I
returned.  Tuesday, Denise went to Vancouver to court.  This petite young mother of
two faced Interfor's big city lawyers all alone (it was the first day of school and
I was teaching).  She told the judge that she had never harmed anyone in
her life and she had no intention of doing so and that she was insulted by the
groundless accusations of intending to do harm.  The judge chastised the sheepish
Interfor lawyers and awarded Denise costs.  When we got the cheque, she handed it
over to the Tetrahedron Alliance who set about winning protected status for the
area.  The editorial in the Coast News shamed Interfor for its slap suit,
intimidating approach and praised Denise and I for our dedication to the community.

I often imagine that the outrageous treatment that is sent our way, the
lack of respect for human rights worldwide, the killing, the injustice, the
bullying by "stronger" nations, the atrocities, are all a big test.  The test is to
see if we can be goaded into becoming violent, into becoming exactly what we
despise in our opponents.  The entire object of the game is to continue to oppose
actively, to refuse to yield to injustice, while at the same time to avoid getting
sucked into the spiral of violence, secrecy and hatred.  This is our challenge.  If
we can build a movement, as Gandhi did, with the courage to suffer police
brutality without responding in kind, then we will achieve our objectives.  In
fact, every time we refuse to retaliate in kind, we ARE victorious.

While I fully understand the activist who gets frustrated and impatient
and who turns to violence, I can't help but think it is a surrender.  When you
respond violently to violence, you are just making it stronger and legitimizing
it.  Imagine a massive demonstration with dozens of demonstrators beaten and
not one policeman hurt.  What a victory for the movement!  This is how Gandhi's
folks freed India.  This is how we will free the world.

Roger Lagassé
8146 Redrooffs Rd.
Halfmoon Bay, B.C.
V0N 1Y1
Rés:  604-885-4353

email roger_lagasse@dccnet.com