The popular method of resistance known as non-violence is one that speaks to us as a narratively informed method of changing the story. and is at the core of this next rule.
War, to be a meaningful act, demands a certain set of stories populated with Victors, Villains and Victims. Villains have to be this one group,aka “the enemy” who are characterized as beyond redemption. They are hideous monsters that the world will thank us for getting rid of. When we obliterate them or quarantine them into ghettos, we are dealing with wild animals or worse, vermin. These people are not even human. That means that if they are so vile, we are so virtuous. We are defending humanity and civilization and democracy. We are the “Good Guys.” Our army is not just moral but the “most moral.” in the world. etc
So long as people play the parts scripted by the story game called “War” then it all makes sense. But what if the characters begin to act against the script? What if the villains start to act like the virtuous, and the victors are revealed as nothing more than heartless and cruel tyrants? Then the story over time unravels. It loses is power to compel.
Martin Luther King Jnr knew that all too well when at the height of the Civil Rights struggle, white supremacists had spread the fear that blacks were violent and rapacious by nature. In contrast, the whites were the bible loving, gun defending Christians merely loving their neighbor and saving the nation from anarchy. Every time an activist threw a punch or a molotov cocktail, that story was re-enforced. “See. They are violent. We have to shoot them to defend law and order. ” Every picture of the sheriff at church or visiting the elderly re-enforced the picture that the police were all good decent people.
The bridge at Selma and the scenes in Birmingham soon gave the nation a different image- of police who were angry and out of control- white leaders who were leading the violence, turning vicious dogs and water hoses on defenseless children, and clubbing clergy and rabbis unconscious while they were praying. The roles in the script of “war” had been reversed. The government sent in the National Guard to defend citizens and the story of the white supremacists no longer made sense. The activists using the tactic of non-violence had deliberately provoked violence to show who was the real threat.
In war, for the story to hold up and make sense, people have to act their part. So the way to undermine the story sense of war is to refuse to play the part that the oppressor needs you to play. Don’t act into the story that your enemy is acting out of.
He is acting out of a story that you are the threat, the enemy the one that wants to kill. You do not deserve human rights. You possess no virtue. You are an animal. He is the one defending law and order, using legitimate force to defend innocent citizens from terror.
When one acts outside that script, refusing to hate, refusing to be provoked, refusing to endure in silence, but showing that ” We will not be moved” and singing “We shall overcome” as you are thrown in jail, then you have not just thwarted the oppressor. You have started to undermine their story. You show these self proclaimed “moral forces of the righteous” to be utter hypocrites. You expose the state as the source of the hate.
ultimately, one aims to show that war is for losers. War is the force that people who have no power have to resort to. Walls are not signs of strength, but of fear. In the fight for freedom, the battle is over stories. And so this is a key rule.
Never allow your enemy to script you into his story of why he wants to kill you. Act against the meaning that legitimizes his act of terror against you.