Nobody is born nonviolent

World without Wars and without Violence aims to develop a worldwide commitment to nonviolence as a methodology of action, as a social system and as a lifestyle. Its objective is to achieve a world free of wars as well as physical, economic, racial, religious, sexual, psychological, ecological and moral violence. “Human beings are historical beings whose mode of social action changes their own nature” (Silo). This is the root of both our responsibility and our freedom. And it opens our future.

Nobody is born violent... Or nonviolent for that matter. So Gandhi's "Be the change you want to see in the world" is a great invitation to get rid of the rubbish this violent system has fed us and transform ourselves into the intentional beings that can create the world we all want. See the
Active Nonviolence Training (ANVT) exercises. World without Wars and without Violence international site is on

Friday, 26 August 2011

ANVT 9 - Valid Action

Is it the same to do one thing or another? Are all actions the same? Or if we ask in another way: Do all the actions we do have the same value? If this is not true, how can we know what action has more value, what is better and what is worse or what is “good” and what is “bad”?
In our experience, not everything is equal. There are neutral actions that make us neither better nor worse – they are more or less habitual or pleasant. There are others that harm us, which are contradictory. And finally, there are other actions which are very positive and which we call “valid actions”.
In New Humanist thinking, the foundation of valid action is neither given by ideology, nor by religious commandments, beliefs or social legislation, even when these things may be very important. The basis of valid action is not given by any of these things.  It is given by the internal register of the action.
And what is the register of a valid action? The register is one that we experience as unitive.  We feel good and in agreement with ourselves because we are thinking, feeling and acting in the same direction and we are treating others, as we would like to be treated.
The register also gives us the sensation of internal growth: the sensation that something has improved in us when we acted that way.
And it is also something that we want to repeat, something that we would do a thousand times over if we could. It extends into the future and gives us a project for the future in the sense that if we could repeat this action something would continue to grow and improve inside of us.
To summarise, valid action is characterised by:
·         Thinking, feeling and acting in the same direction.
·         Treating others, as we would like to be treated.
·         A desire to repeat the action.
·         A feeling of personal growth.

If my thoughts, my feelings, and my actions are in agreement, if they all go in the same direction, if my actions do not create contradiction with what I feel, then I can say that my life has coherence. But though I am true to myself, this does not necessarily mean I am being true to those in my immediate environment. I still need to achieve this same coherence in my relationships with others, treating them the way I would like to be treated.
Of course there can also be a destructive type of coherence, which can be seen in those who are racists or fanatics or in those who are violent or exploit others. It is clear, however, that their relationships with others are incoherent, because they treat others very differently from the way they desire to be treated themselves.
When we experience differences between thinking, feeling and acting many different emotions arise some of which are described in the following table:

Internal register

Employees realise their company pollutes the water but pretend not to see it in order not to lose their job, needed to feed their family.

Liking a leader to the point of following him/her without applying a critical enough perspective to the proposed policies.

Regression of the action
Doing the right thing for the wrong reason, e.g., participation in an NGO to meet famous people who promote it.

Accepting charity from those who violate one’s rights or create poverty, disadvantage, inequality and dependency.

Being aware of the need for profound transformations in an unjust and violent system but feeling too busy or tired to do anything.
Vengeance, Envy, Disheartenment, Boredom, Nihilism
Allowing negative mechanical tendencies like cynicism to dominate all aspect of one’s life and making others responsible for all our difficulties.
Coherence and a sense of Meaning
Making intentional positive choices that can open the future in any situations we happen to find ourselves in, always trying to find the most positive aspects in others.

Use the table below to chart the level of coherence/contradiction present in various aspects of your life. (This should not be taken as self-criticism but in order to pay attention to aspects of one’s life where change is needed).

What I think
What I feel
What I do





Exercise 2 – Solidarity
The universal principle to “treat others the way you would like to be treated” appears today to be totally ignored as competition and individualism promotes social fragmentation.  This principle exists in all cultures and religions in their most humanist moments and it has been known as “The Golden Rule”.

On XIV century BCE Akhenaton was already pointing out that “If thou be industrious to procure wealth, be generous in the disposal of it. Man never is so happy as when he giveth happiness unto another.” This was followed by Confucius: "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself", a number of Greek philosophers including Socrates, Plato and Pythagoras’ disciples, Buddha: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful”, Judaism: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbour as yourself” and Christianity: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Similar precepts appear in the Bahá'í Faith, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Quakerism and the Native Americans’ tradition: "Before you judge a man, you must walk a mile in his shoes." Silo introduces a further reinforcement to the Golden Rule in his “when you treat others as you would have them treat you, you liberate yourself”

- List moments when you treated other people in a negative way
- List moments when you treated other people in a positive way
- Imagine yourself at the receiving end of both positive and negative actions described above
- Compare registers
(Note that it is very common to teach children not to do to others what they would not like done to them, but it is not so common to teach the positive, i.e. to realise how much they like to be treated well and to do this to others)

- Make a short list of actions you regret.
- Make a short list of actions that fulfilled the 4 qualities of valid action.
- Compare register
- Group Discussion
- Plan for the week: intentionally plan actions towards others that contain these points and observe your registers. Make notes about social contradictions and their effect on you and people around you.

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