On nonviolence and the moral appeal

It is commonly argued that non-violent activism is about a moral compass. That it seeks to trigger the sense of moral outrage in those who are not members of an oppressed group and spur them to action.

While true, this is misleading.

Nonviolence is preferable because violence is the tool of the oppressor.

This includes social violence, verbal violence, emotional violence.

All of those are violence. We see them, most often, in the form of microaggressions. In the slurs, hostility, and use of the language, cultural norms, and even legal institutions in many cases (such as trying to pass or supporting the passage of some policy or law that targets a given group), in the ostracism and neglect of people.

We call these things racism, homophobia, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, ableism, islamophobia, and related concepts.

They are all forms of Oppression, each of them composed of the same core elements:

Anxiety — the worry or concern

Aversion — the desire to avoid or push away

Animus — the intense dislike of

Any one or any combination of those three things.

Added to:

Social, cultural, structural, linguistic, institutional, symbolic, interpersonal, economic, or systemic powers, singly or in any combination.

That combination of systems — either contained in one person who uses it against others, or in a collective group of any form that engages in a repeated, historical pattern — is what creates the cruelty of Oppression.

All of this is violence.

Which means that when those who are oppressed are subjected to violence, they must act to defend themselves — self defense.

They turn to the least visually violent method — words — and they are treated as if they reacted with physical violence.

Because the oppressed are not allowed to retaliate with any kind of violence, whereas the oppressors are able to without the same degree of consequence.

This is why police are always a risk, even when they themselves are members of an oppressed group.

They are the tools of the system, and if the system is oppressive, it is the task of the Police to enforce that oppression, to symbolize that oppression, and to further that oppression.

Because policing always serves to support the status quo.

So the next time someone says nonviolence is never going to work, or that times have changed, or that it isn’t the best way, remind them that it is not about morality.

It is about survival, and it is about getting the most to live through the violence that is being opposed.