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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best introduction yet written on Nonviolence., March 28, 2007
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This review is from: Nonviolence: 25 Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea (Modern Library Chronicles) (Hardcover)
Mark Kurlansky has written a very concise, fascinating and readable history of nonviolence as both a philosophy and an effective tactic for social change. He begins with a discussion of the spiritual roots of nonviolence in each of the major world religions and traces how each religion was subverted when it was co-opted by the state which began using it as an instrument to justify state power through warfare. We see this most dramatically with Pope Urban II's historic speech that began the Crusades. Variations of this speech, which asserted that the war was God's will and the obligation of every "good Christian," have been used by politicians ever since to drag their reluctant citizenry into bloody wars.

Kurlansky goes on to define common themes that have driven one war after another over many centuries from the Crusades through the current war in Iraq and concludes with 'The 25 Lessons,' including:

3. Practitioners of nonviolence are seen as enemies of the state.

4. Once a state takes over a religion, the religion loses its nonviolent

teachings.

6. Somewhere behind every war there are always a few founding lies.

8. People who go to war start to resemble their enemy.

9. A conflict between a violent and a nonviolent force is a moral

argument. If the violent side can provoke the nonviolent side into

violence, the violent side has won.

10. The problem lies not in the nature of man, but the nature of power.

11. The longer a war lasts, the less popular it becomes.

12. The state imagines it is impotent without a military because it cannot

conceive of power without force.

15. A shooting war is not necessary to overthrow an established power but

is used to consolidate the revolution itself.

16. Violence does not resolve. It always leads to more violence.

20. Wars do not have to be sold to the general public if they can be

carried out by an all-volunteer professional military.

21. Once you start the business of killing, you just get "deeper and

deeper" without limits.

22. Violence always comes with a supposedly rational explanation - which is

only dismissed as irrational if the violence fails.

25. The hard work of beginning a movement to end war has already been done.

I've read widely on the subject of nonviolence and this is this is the most concise, clear, pragmatic book I've read yet. This book also includes a bibliography of other classic works on the subject for further reading. Kurlansky has done an excellent job of writing in a language that Americans in particular will understand. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to anyone interested in peace and nonviolence and I'm confident it will change your thinking. Peace.
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