Nonviolent Cities began six years ago as a project in Carbondale, Illinois with people who gathered together and organized to bring the concept of nonviolence to every aspect of their community, so that it would truly become a nonviolent city. Since then the idea has been picked up by Pace e Bene/Campaign Nonviolence and 40 cities across the nation are participating. Morro Bay is one of them.
What exactly are we talking about when we speak of nonviolence? Many people have difficulty relating to the term since they don’t believe there is violence in their community or they don’t recognize any violence within themselves. Violence is a difficult word. We are not necessarily talking about physical abuse or uprisings, although these are a part of violence and some cities see these things daily. But what about the time we said something unkind about our neighbor or one of our city officials? You may not think of that as violence. You may say it is only unfriendly or unpleasant. But how about the words “mean,” “harsh,” “cruel,” “wicked,” “callous,” “hurtful,” “heartless,” or “nasty?” Based on these descriptions it may be easier for us to see that an unkind remark is in fact a form of violence.
Carry that thought forward to actions or lack of actions. Is your town taking care of the poor? Are they really doing all they can for the homeless? Is it a welcoming city where everyone is accepted? Are your elected officials against war and supporting war? Is there any discrimination occurring? Has there been a murder or a suicide in your town? Are you taking care of your environment? Are your voices heard by your city fathers? Are your elections carried out with respect?
Many towns have programs for a variety of these issues as does Morro Bay. But can we truly say we are 100 percent nonviolent, peaceful, and respectful in relation to all of this?
Thus, the need for addressing together, violence in all its aspects, structures, and systems connecting the dots between a city’s violence and pursuing a more holistic, creative, city-wide nonviolence where every citizen is trying to practice nonviolence, promote it, teach it, and institutionalize nonviolence. We can seek to create a shift in consciousness, to uproot the culture of violence prevalent in our towns and country and transform it into a culture of nonviolence and peace, free from war, poverty, racism, discrimination, environmental destruction, and social injustice.
How do we do this? We organize. We adopt this mission and create a vision of what our city would be like as a nonviolent city. We do so first by discovering what is already working, what is the best of what is. We list all the programs and projects that are already in place. We search and look at every aspect of them. Once we are convinced we have recognized as many as possible, we move on to dream or imagine what could be. What more can we do or ask our city and its residents to do? Then we design a plan for what will be, not what can be, but what WILL be. We hold strategic planning meetings. We schedule trainings with organizations that have professional trainers available for us. We invite other civic groups, churches, students, schools, and political leaders to join us in trainings and planning. We set a new path for our community to end divisive behavior and one day become a culture of peace and nonviolence.
Finally, we create and act on what will be. We hold nonviolent actions in our town and in our county and in our country. We celebrate these actions especially during International Peace Week held during September every year.
This is new territory for us. It is both frightening and exciting. We realize that things might get worse in our city and our country before they get better. They will definitely get worse if we do not address the culture of violence, envision a new future, take bold action, and join together to commit ourselves to a nonviolent city and a nonviolent world.
You can learn more about Nonviolent Morro Bay through Yes We Can Peace Builders/Campaign Nonviolence on Facebook. Yes We Can Peace Builders meets the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at Massage & Bodyworks 736 Main Street in Morro Bay. Contact Coordinator Ruth Ann Angus at [email protected]