The other day the news reported Martin Luther King, III (the eldest son of Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King, Jr.) as advocating that we need “to create a culture of non-violence.”
Let’s assume, as do Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson in their book Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million Americans are Changing the World, that people can indeed re-cultivate the cultures that grow them into who they become.
Grant that our cultures shape us to a great degree via the language, customs, beliefs, mores and laws of our respective societies, to which we subscribe, often uncritically and unconsciously. But to MLK III’s point, sometimes we may wake up from those cultural spells that bind us and may recognize that some of the behavioral patterns molding us do not serve the world wisely, or even serve us well ourselves. The glorification of violence to achieve dominance over others is the example to which King speaks.
In a civil society, civility rules: respect and not coercion prevail, to the greatest possible extent. Because citizens participate in creating the rules and laws by which they are to govern their own behaviors, there should be little reason to feel coerced to do what is acknowledged to be reasonable and wise. This it the essence of participatory democracy.
A key distinction must be made between force and violence within a culture. While in any group of people there will be contending motives and intention—forces for this, and forces for that; such urgent opinions and causes must be judiciously arbitrated and wisely reckoned, lest chaos overwhelm civility and violence erupt.
Therefore, “to create a culture of nonviolence,” though no easy feat, seems not only reasonable but imperative, not just locally but globally. A Global Wisdom Culture (a term to Google) is premised upon such a principle, the same principle enshrined in MLK. Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force” and “to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
A culture of non-violence would not tolerate the use of aggressive and harmful force, nor countenance the hatred and wrath that foment violence. As Mohandas Gandhi famously said: “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”