Advice for all Activists: ‘Fighting with Non-Violence’

If you have the time, watch this powerful talk. I am in awe of such a rational woman and her approach to these intensely overwhelming global issues.

Let me just say: Scilla Elworthy is probably one of my biggest heroes now. Like, wow. Really? Such a human exists?

But let’s get down to what she discussed here:

Scilla Elworthy, three time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, worked towards issues she believed in her entire life. Most relevant to this blog is her work in negotiating with nuclear policy makers to promote a safer world for generations to come. On her website, you can find out more about her current projects. I encourage you to take a moment after you’ve read this post to visit the site and absorb all the tips on advocating for your cause that  she has to offer- even if it’s not for nuclear nonproliferation. Her words can touch every aspect of your life and dealing with any adversary, whether it be a person or an opposing idea.

In this Ted Talk, she walks through the process she finds most effective when dealing with the opposing parties. But she is not the only activist who promotes this forgiving approach; in my earlier interviews with Lyndon Harris, responsible for The Garden of Forgiveness here in Asheville and Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, they stated this almost verbatim.

This idea of spearheading violence with more violence simply does not work.

Elworthy aptly stated in her talk, “What about anger? Wherever there is injustice there’s anger. But anger is like gasoline, and if you spray it around and somebody lights a match, you’ve got an inferno. But anger as an engine — in an engine — is powerful. If we can put our anger inside an engine, it can drive us forward, it can get us through the dreadful moments and it can give us real inner power.”

When Harris taught me about the process of making the first step to forgiveness so that the victim can then rebuild, he spoke about this idea of anger having a time and a place. Anger is very natural, but we must get over that stage in order to forgive and come up with a lasting solution.

The next step can then be the one that changes the entire game. I cannot begin to paraphrase such an enlightening statement, so I will quote her again: “I learned this in my work with nuclear weapon policy-makers. Because at the beginning I was so outraged at the dangers they were exposing us to that I just wanted to argue and blame and make them wrong. Totally ineffective. In order to develop a dialogue for change we have to deal with our anger. It’s okay to be angry with the thing — the nuclear weapons in this case — but it is hopeless to be angry with the people. They are human beings just like us. And they’re doing what they think is best. And that’s the basis on which we have to talk with them.”

This idea of overcoming the anger so that an effective dialogue can take place is, in a nutshell, what Restorative Justice is. And Elworthy has been overwhelmingly successful in her efforts through this approach. You can read more of her accomplishment here in her Personal Biography. In her biography, she argued that the most effective mediations she had with these mediators was not in a stately conference room. The effective dialogue occurred when she had created a comfortable environment for discussion.

 This Ted Talk with Scilla Elworthy is beyond relevant when working towards nuclear nonproliferation. But, clearly, the approaches she has adopted throughout her career in activism works for any issue one decides to advocate. Personally, I am going to eat up every word she says. I might be in intellectual love.

I urge you to read more about her here:  Scilla Elworthy Website