Not sure how I feel about this sentiment via Malcolm X. You?

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On the one hand, I subscribe to civil disobedience—that humble lineage of true heroes (akin to “bodhisattvas” in the Buddhist tradition) stretching back to Thoreau, through Gandhi, MLK, Jr., the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh and Aung San Suu Kyi. On the other hand, what if ahimsa (non-violence) doesn’t work?

Would Tibet, for example, have spared itself genocide and rape and pillaging and now 50 years’ suppression if it had mounted a real military defense, or had such a defense in the first place? Would MLK Jr. have succeeded if there weren’t the extreme, more violent weight of Malcolm X warning the mainstream to work with the more palatable, peaceful alternative?

Still, as Allen Ginsberg (consummate activist) put it, “aggression begets aggression.”

And does success—freedom—even matter? Or rather is one’s own refusal to succumb to violence the only fundamentally important thing?

As seen on Steve Fenberg’s wall, part two.


Here’s a quote I dig, more. Though, yes, easier said than done.


X videos:


Bonus bonus:

MLK’s response to X’s criticisms:


Bonus Bonus Bonus:

A more peace-loving Malcolm X emerged toward the end of his too-short life:


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About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


12 Responses to “Not sure how I feel about this sentiment via Malcolm X. You?”

  1. BenRiggs says:

    I love Martin Luther King!!!

    Essentially, the problem I have faced in discussing non-violent resistance with others is the very problem King mentioned in the video above.
    People fail to realize that violence and non-violence (not to be confused with pacifism) are both forms of resistance… That is to say that they are both solutions to a proposed problem. People like King and Gandhi suggest that violence is a bad solution. One that doesn't really get at the underlying problem. In this sense, one could see where an alcoholic drinks as a solution to his problems, but in the end never solves any of his problems, and in fact probably makes the situation worse. The same seems to be true of violence for the very reason Ginsberg alluded to in the quote you provided above, and King mentioned in the video. Using violence to fix a problem makes the problem worse, because you are using a form of oppression to deal with your oppression.
    Non-violence moves through all of this non-sense and gets to the issue. But as China is showing, it takes two to negotiate. So, if your non-violent approach is met with apathy or indifference there seems to be no real progress. But I suspect China will not be able to sustain their indifference forever, and sooner or later will have to sit at the table and talk about the issue.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Steve, amen…I thought he was saying it's inevitable, and justifying it by painting one side as bad, one good. ~ W.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    Mecca: Malcolm's statements are completely righteous and as he clearly states this is not about being violent simply to be violent! Interestingly Martin towards the end of his existence procured a gun. Ironically Martin, Malcolm, Gandhi all murdered yet they were standing against oppression…

    elephantjournal.com Righto, Mecca, but my question is, did the gun help MLK Jr., if indeed he did so? X renounced violence as he grew older and more independent. Does violence ever help? I think it does, probably, as with Tibet. Anyways, I'm just asking. ~ W.

  4. Joe Sparks says:

    At this time in history, white racism is central to keeping the class society operating on the basis of its main oppression, classism. People of color are the vast majority of the people of the world. The world majority population is exploited by the society using the world's minority of white people as its agents of oppression. The continued functioning of the world wide capitalist system is highly dependent on racism. Ending all forms of oppression, and classism in particular, requires the participation of the world majority ( people of color).
    Genuine revolutions are always directed against the structure of oppression and the irrational functioning which comprise it. A complete revolution will require the elimination of patterned behavior from the revolutionaries.
    We need to furnish a correct picture of reality and assist the people seeking wide-world change to heal and let go their confusions, ineffectiveness, and misunderstandings.

  5. Dave Zook says:

    "And does success—freedom—even matter? Or rather is one’s own refusal to succumb to violence the only fundamentally important thing?"
    Justice and freedom are fundamentally important. While there are myriad reasons for embracing non-violence, maintaining personal moral purity isn't one of them. If I truly believed that I could liberate myself or another with an act of violence, I would choose violence. Violence is always evil, but leaving someone who is persecuted or abused to their own fate in order to keep my hands clean would be evil of a higher order.

  6. jhon baker says:

    I am a firm believer in a non-violent approach and I also ascribe to the teaching that simply states – the very belief that violence may be unavoidable is itself a root cause of violence (paraphrased due to poor memory, nonetheless accurate) – however, I cannot respect anyone who would allow themselves to be beaten to death without resisting with potential force to preserve their own life or the life of another. It isn't upon us to be the aggressor and I would defy anyone who would initiate aggression be it verbal or physical – there does come a point though where walking away and talking is no longer feasible and action must be taken in such a way as to preserve the life of all involved.

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