Technology for non-violent struggle?

100 Years of Non-violence

100 Years of Non-violence, campaign that invites citizens around the world to attend and organize screenings of the movie Gandhi on September 11, 2006 organised by New Yorkers for a Department of Peace and the M.K. Gandhi Institution for Non-Violence is one well worth promoting.

Flyers and other promotional material are available here, while the website developed for the campaign has other useful material and background information as well.

One of my first readings on non-violence and technology remains, to date, one of the best on the topic – Technology for nonviolent struggle by Brian Martin, the full text of which is available online as html or pdf. Of the entire book, the most interesting chapter for me to read is Brian’s exploration of the theories of technology, ways through which technology is understood, designed for, used by and evolves within communities.

This contextualisation of technology within a particular zeitgeist is extremely useful in order to ascertain how technology in general and ICTs in particular can aid peacebuilding.

Firstly, we have to acknowledge that most technology is not designed for peacebuilding – the most obvious example being the internet, which was initially designed for as a failure resistant communications system to support nuclear war.

Secondly, let us not in the celebration of non-violence eschew other viewpoints, perhaps equally valid, on the limited uses of violence to promote peace. As peacebuilders, we often show a marked disdain towards violence, which we on account of our avowed pacifism consider as unacceptable in any form under any circumstance.

This I feel need to be problematised, difficult and controversial a suggestion and process as this may be.

Technology for Peace, in other words, needs to look at ways through which the same platforms suggested for peacebuilding can motivate people to become violently motivated for democracy and peace. Rallies and civil disobedience campaigns that, as with the case of Nepal’s people’s movement recently, are on occasion violent for the specific purpose of strengthening democracy, need to be seen as inherently violent processes for a greater good.

This is interesting terrain, since it requires us to envisions ways through which technology can actually help people rise up in arms against repression.

My interest here was to provoke the imagination of those who say that non-violence is a movement or guiding principle that is easily applied in any context of conflict.

It is not.

I’ve also questioned how non-violent methods work after protracted conflict in the absence of hope. Socio-political and historical conditions that allowed the space for the most referred to non-violent successes, such as Gandhi’s own struggles against colonialism, are an ill-fit with the means despots and tyrants today have at their disposal – from WMD’s to more insidious means of oppression, such as torture and extra-judicial killings.

ICTs, as a social construct, need to be seen as supportive of both violent as well as non-violent social change. The central challenge of this blog, as well as the larger corpus of research and practice on ICT4Peace, is to find ways through which the creation of hope and the strengthening of democracy and peace are best supported by ICT on a sustainable basis.

It is in this light that violence is untenable in the long-term – it’s emphasis on the goal as opposed to the process is severely detrimental to the social fabric it weaves to cover the wounds of injustice.

ICT4Peace is about the exploration of ways through which Gandhi’s central vision is articulated and strengthened through technology – that peace is a process, not a goal, and one that can be supported in a myriad of ways through the creative use of ICTs.

3 thoughts on “Technology for non-violent struggle?

  1. I cannot deny that Gandhi achieved wonderous things but if only he had not said the following words, he would have been one of my heroes who ended up being placed on my Favorite People page.

    “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.” – Gandhi

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