Today, the Metta Center for Nonviolence released its latest issue of monthly e-magazine, Emergence. The issue focused on Roadmap, a way of making the movement of movements visual. Roadmap is also a set of tools we can use as activists. It is Metta Center’s attempt to offer three things to help create an unstoppable movement: unity, strategy, and nonviolent power. The Vol 6 of Emergence will be a great “one-stop shop” for those seeking to learn more about Roadmap or simply trying become familiar with nonviolence and Metta’s work.
For this exciting issue, I helped compile all the pieces as a guest editor, and also contributed an article on “New Story,” one of the six wedges of Roadmap and one on which Metta Center places a great emphasis. It was also very timely that the latest issue of Yes! Magazine featured “The Power of Story.” The issue contains some powerful quotes on the need for new narratives that would remind us of our human dignity and interconnectedness with others.
Below is my article, “Story of New Story,” as published in Emergence. I hope you enjoy it and also read the rest of the issue!
Stories are powerful. When I first started studying nonviolence, I was deeply touched by the story of Karen Ridd, a Canadian who volunteered for the Peace Brigades International in El Salvador in 1989. She was suddenly arrested by the Salvadoran National Guard, along with her friend Marcela from Colombia. Through a successful negotiation activated by the international network of PBI and the Canadian government, Karen was released a few hours later. But knowing that her friend was still captured and being interrogated, she walked back into the barracks she was just released from. To the soldiers who were surprised and startled, she explained why she had returned: “You know what it’s like to be separated from a compañero.” Shortly after, the two women were released together.
Karen’s story illustrates that nonviolence works at such a deep level in our interactions with others that we sometimes cannot comprehend. It also shows that nonviolence is not a weapon of the weak, but rather it’s a power yielded by the courageous. Her story is inspiring and dignifying.
At Metta, we call this “New Story.” Many aspects of Metta’s work puts a great emphasis on this concept. So much so that, for example, our Certificate in Nonviolence Studies follows the Roadmap and starts the curriculum with exploring New Story. In the Roadmap Mandala, New Story sits at the topmost wedge.
So what exactly is “New Story”? Before we answer the question, we must first explore the current narrative that dominates people’s worldview. Michael Nagler explains this in his short article on New Story:
The explosive growth of scientific thought that began in the West with the Renaissance and ultimately led to industrialism on a global scale, has brought humanity many benefits, but at a mounting cost. The problems that seem to be rising on every side today, from personal to environmental, can largely be traced to an increasing lack of clarity about ourselves — who we are, why we are here, and how we are to relate, ideally, to one another and the natural world. The “story” that accompanies industrialism and has made it possible – the underlying narrative that’s implicit in our textbooks, newspapers, and films – has it that we are material entities compelled to seek satisfaction in the consumption of increasingly scarce resources. (http://mettacenter.org/nonviolence/newstory/)
This raises some serious challenges. First, it implies that we are separate entities – from people around us and the planet we inhabit. Second, as Michael writes, it encourages consumerism and suggests that the consumption of material resources leads to happiness and satisfaction. No wonder why violence is considered a “natural” solution to conflicts. The current paradigm supports and justifies violence.
To counter this narrative, we need “New Story,” or what I also like to call story of truth, because the prevailing paradigm of materialism is far from being true. At Metta, we keep in mind the following key points in this work:
- we are body, mind, and spirit
- as spirit, we are deeply interconnected: if I injure you (or any living thing), I injure myself
- we can never be fulfilled by the consumption of external things, but by deep relationships of service to the sacred life within and around us
- we have inner capacities, largely untapped, that liberate us from dependence on consumption and competition. They include our human capacity for nonviolence.
Why is this important? For one, “New Story” gives rationale for nonviolence. If we realize that we all are interconnected, we can naturally conclude that violence is not the answer. Similarly, New Story illustrates why nonviolence works, by going beyond the analytic framework colored by the current paradigm (and unfortunately, studies of nonviolence at times faces limitations by trying to operate in this same framework).
New Story also helps us envision and articulate a world we are striving to create. For instance, if you are working on restorative justice, your story may convey: “we do not get security from locking people away; we become secure by helping others to be secure.” And most importantly, anyone can participate in New Story Creation, no matter where you are in your journey for nonviolence.
I am sure there are many stories similar to that of Karen Ridd’s, that are waiting to be told. Imagine how encouraging it would be if we saw such stories in our news every day. How the world could be if this became the prevailing story. We will then realize that we are much more than selfish, violent, destructive creatures.
What is your new story?