Gene Sharp and Non-Violence

January 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have not dedicated enough time to reading or formulating an opinion in regard to non-violent means to protest, conflict, or revolution. Today, however, I read an interesting essay on Gene Sharp, the very well-known scholar of non-violence. This essay was written for the NewStatesmen (a british political paper) by John-Paul Flintoff. Sharp is founder and senior scholar of the Albert Einstein Institute, and his prolific writings have been said to have influenced recent revolutions around the world (though some believe that these influences are overstated). Whatever the case, taking a moment to learn about a man who appears to live a rather solitary life dedicated to a rather underestimated philosophy is worth your time. It is a long essay, so in the very least I offer excerpts here:

“…[As a young man] living in a shared house on All Saints Road in Oxford [UK], Sharp started to accumulate examples from what turned out to be a vast history of the pragmatic use of non-violent struggle. With hindsight, this may not seem such a remarkable idea, but the eventual effect of his researches was hugely significant.

For Sharp, a principled belief in non-violence was necessary for the techniques to work. Yet his research showed that non-violent struggles were overwhelmingly waged by people who did not have ethical or religious objections to violence. He first became aware of this while sitting in a library and examining newspaper accounts of the use of non-violent protest in India. “I was copying by hand descriptions in Indian or English newspapers of what was happening in one of these conflicts. It became clear that the resisters were acting non-violently without that belief. I stopped taking notes. Should I write that down or skip that part? I wrote it down. In time, I realised this was not a grave problem but an immense opportunity. It will not be necessary to convert masses of humanity to believe in principled non-violence before abandoning violence in conflicts.”

Often people who have tried to make change in the past have done so spontaneously, and intuitively. How much more effective might they have been, he wondered, if they’d had a better idea of what had been done before?”

The author of this essay, Flintoff, goes on to cite examples from Sharp’s “magnum opus,” which laid out 198 forms of non-violence:

“Taken as a whole, the list of 198 methods of non-violent action can be divided into three categories. The first comes under the general heading of “protest”, or “raising awareness”. The second is described by Sharp as non-cooperation – ceasing to have dealings with systems or people you dislike (for instance, not buying items made by companies that exploit their workers, or refusing to fly in order to reduce CO2 emissions). The third group comes under the heading of active interventions to disrupt the status quo, perhaps by building alternatives to what is available. These innovations need not be especially “alternative” in the pejorative sense. Nor are they always negative, in the sense of involving withdrawal or hostility. Japanese trade unions, working for employers who used just-in-time delivery, invented the “go-faster” strike to support their demands for better pay. When in 2011 a library in Milton Keynes was threatened with closure because of budget cuts, local people joined forces to withdraw every single book there, leaving the shelves bare: they opposed the planned closure by showing that they did use the library.

“Sharp’s litany of examples challenges us to ask whether there is something that we should be doing today, about something that is going on right now….Sharp has never said that every use of every method of non-violent action will bring success. “But people who say it can never work at all seem to use a higher standard of success for non-violent struggle than they do for war. How many wars have been lost, how many people have died in wars without getting the results for which they fought?”  – John-Paul Flintoff

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RWANDA = Beautiful

January 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

RWANDA from MAMMOTH on Vimeo.

A comment by one Rwandan on Vimeo for this video: “This is amazing . Am a Rwandan filmmaker based in the United States and i gotta say that you captured everything that i miss & cherish about my country , the people . I left Rwanda for my studies 5 years ago and this video had me in tears !”

All Trials Registered, All Results Reported

January 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

The following was recently posted on the EBSIOxford blog, and I am reposting it here for the sake of importance:

It’s time all clinical trial results are reported. Patients, researchers, doctors and regulators everywhere in the world will benefit from publication of clinical trial results. Please sign the petition:

Thousands of clinical trials have not reported their results; some have not even been registered.

Information on what was done and what was found in these trials could be lost forever to doctors, pharmacists and researchers, leading to bad treatment decisions, missed opportunities for good medicine, and trials being repeated unnecessarily on people and animals.

All trials past and present should be registered, and the full methods and the results reported.

We call on governments, regulators and research bodies to implement measures to achieve this.

All Trials Registered, All Results Reported is an initiative of Sense About Science, Bad Science, BMJ, James Lind Initiative, the Centre for Evidence-based Medicine and others from research, patient groups and medicine.

This is an 8 page briefing note on missing trials, prepared by Dr Ben Goldacre with Dr Carl Heneghan (CEBM), Dr Fiona Godlee (BMJ), and Sir Iain Chalmers (JLI): Missing trials briefing note.

Sign the petition HERE.

Connection and Interaction Design

January 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Connecting (Full Film) from Bassett & Partners on Vimeo.

I’m not completely sure how this documentary ties to Bell Tolling, although its crux lies in the concept of connectivity (i.e. “ask not for whom the bell tolls…”). Regardless, it is well worth watching for a bit of entertainment and philosophizing. In the words of Vimeo, “[this] documentary is an exploration of the future of Interaction Design and User Experience from some of the industry’s thought leaders.” As well, I recommend perusing the blog of Blaise Agüera y Arcas, who is one of the featured speakers of the film. Besides being impressively articulate, the blog shares some insightful commentary about a myriad of topics and some wonderful restaurant suggestions for those with wanderlust. Blaise is currently an Architect at Bing Mobile, but he has been published in theoretical biology, neuroscience, and history–in addition to being the creator of Seadragon and Photosynth; truly a  brilliant mind (bio).

Voices United for Mali

January 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Malian musical traditions are derived from the griots [who I highly recommend learning more about and] who are known as “Keepers of Memories”. Malian music is diverse and has several different genres. Some famous Malian influences in music are kora virtouso musician Toumani Diabaté, the late roots and blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré, theTuareg band Tinariwen, and several Afro-pop artists such as Salif Keita, the duo Amadou et MariamOumou Sangare, and Habib Koité.” To read a bit more about the rich and vibrant history of Malian music, click here.

Recently, over 40 of Mali‘s well-known musicians recorded a song that pleads for peace in their country–a nation in which Muslim separatists hope to ban music. Any funds raised by the googleads of this video will go to helping Malian refugees.

 1 Wikipedia “Mali”
 2 Breaking news from Mali

Cyberbullying: “Shaming,” Suffering, and Social ill

January 24, 2013 § 1 Comment


In a recent NPR podcast (listen), a rookie 16-year-old reporter (Temitayo Fagbenle) presented a brilliant and disturbing account of obscene current trends in cyberbulling against young women (i.e. “slut shaming”).  It was a podcast that, for me, sparked hours of research and a number of humbling shocks.

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In general, “cyberbullying” can be defined as the use of technology (e.g. the internet and cellphones) to harm or harass others. New as it is, cyberbullying is largely understudied and unfortunately growing faster than our understanding can compete with to construct viable and effective interventions, laws, and policies. Yet still, the social, emotional, verbal, and psychological abuses that comprise cyberbullying are unconscionable.

In many ways cyberbullying is similar to conventional bullying, but in important ways it is distinct.  For example, the perpetrators of cyberbullying are often anonymous or perceive themselves to be anonymous; unlike localized conventional bullying, cyberbullying has the potentially to garner an infinite audience and to leave behind a unending record; and furthermore, the perpetrators of cyberbullying are regularly absent from witnessing their victim’s immediate reaction. Such modern and cowardly qualities can exacerbate the potential of cyberbullying to inflict severe harm. Victims can experience depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, poor grades, and negative physical health symptoms.1,2

Now, we’ve all been children/teens, we all know children/teens, and many of us have or will have children and teens in our home. It is within our interest to keep up with the threats against them. I, for one, can’t imagine what it would have been like if the kids (in my case, girls) at school had had more immediate, permanent, and public means by which to torment one another. And although parents may think that they have this issue under control, Mishna (2008) reports that while over 80% of parents believed their child would tell them if he/she were being cyberbullied, only 8% of victims did tell their parents.

Indeed, the probability of an immense heartache associated with the discovery that your child is either a victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying can be diminished by taking action now: by learning about the issue, by talking to your children and teens often and honestly, by supporting research, by calling on government officials to devise evidence-based solutions, and by helping children, teens, and their adult supervisors better understand why cyberbullying is inappropriate and supremely risky. If you know of any teachers or bus drivers , perhaps print them  a copy of these useful toolkits for preventing bullying.

But of course (and in closing), cyberbullying is not a problem extant only between the ages of 10 and 21. It takes place in the workplace and personal lives of adults as well. This was publicly witnessed by the response of news anchor Jennifer Livingson and by the recent lawsuit by female victims against a “revenge-porn” website and GoDaddy.com:

If you are one who is being cyberbullied, please know that you are not alone. The bullying is a bad reflection of others–not you. There are many people and organizations eager and happy to help you find a way out….And there are ways out with their help.

If you are one who engages in cyberbullying, please recognize that your actions can have immense and tragic consequences. Stop now.


1 For another free and informative academic article, click here.

2 Stopbullying.gov;  kidshelp.com; contact a friend, therapist, social worker, principle, boss, manager, parent, relative…

Martin Luther King, Jr. – ‘I Have a Dream’

January 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

It is a wonderful tradition to listen to this speech, on this day, each year.

Both the progress and the perpetual inequality are worth a pause and an act of gratitude or change.

(fun fact: born in 1929, Dr. King skipped both the ninth and the twelfth grade–going on to college at the age of 15).

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr./Inauguration Day.

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