Sunday, July 06, 2008

Letter on Non-Violence from 1995

I have been thinking about how to teach non-violence for many years. My first experience with the subject, as a martial arts teacher anyway, was when I read my friend, Dr. Terrence Webster-Doyle's books. He wasn't very well known in the martial arts world at the time, but I read his first book and immediately contacted him and offered an invitation to a yearly training session I used to organize for Master Reyes and our West Coast MA association --in Squaw Valley, CA. We hit it off right away --and had a great weekend talking about violence and the martial arts.

Shortly thereafter, I began teaching my young students about the ideas of non-violence. Part of my program was using the words and writing of well-known people. The following letter is from someone I'd written back in 1995 --first the letter, then I'll reveal the source:

Dear Tom Callos,

Your idea of a wall covered with letters about violence is wonderful. Here is my little contribution:

As you know, my Babar books are and expression of non-violence philosophy! And is not because I decided to give a message, it is because I deeply feel non-violent myself. I am glad that the message comes through.

Violence is the most horrible disease of the human race. Of course, there is violence against animals also, but it is mainly because we must eat! What is despicable in human violence is that it comes from hatred, contempt, simply will of power (I should say "man's" violence, because women's violence doesn't generate destruction as man's does).

I believe violence arises when you don't know how to understand the "other," you don't know how to listen. Of course, one can say that if you want too much to "understand" you might become vulnerable.

I simply cannot forget that there are occasions when I wouldn't dare to patronize and recommend moderation. I am talking of persecution, aggression, rape.

Personally, since I rarely feel mad at someone, my problem is rather, as you say, "dealing with bullies." My way is to try not to stand against them like a wall, it is to let them push but, at the same time get them to understand that I am not impressed, I am not going to accept their views.

This is not easy and I am not saying that I am always successful!

The difficulty, a real challenge (particularly in politics), is to come to compromise without being unfair to your own thinking, to come to a compromise without dropping what you care about.

With my best wishes,

Laurent de Brunhoff

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