The Power of Non-Violence in Social Movement

by Saki Hirama

There was the famous photo that showed a police let his dog bite the man who did not resist against it. That photo captured a moment of the Civil Rights movement in America, and it made worldwide people pay attention to the movement. I think world attention was one of the most necessary factors to achieve the goal. And now, here is the question, what is the power of non-violence in social movement?

Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. are known as leaders of non-violent movement. They led various movements like boycott, sitting and marching without any violence. It was said that even though they were attacked by police or others, they never resisted it. Journalists reported it, and we can find the photo or film still now. When I saw these, I was shocked and had question about the justice of police or others because activists did not do anything bad. Similarly, the people who watched the report at the time might have had such kind of feelings. It might encourage people’s support in the movement, and also became pressure for government. I think this is strong power to show the ambition for the goal of social movement, and make the opposition an object that should be blamed.

However, we can imagine how difficult non-violent social movement is, and actually there have been many movements depend on violence. I think social movements are established with the existence of opponents, and activists sometimes have strong anger or hatred against it. Therefore, the movements tend to use violence.  Once they use violence, however, it gives reasons to arrests or criticizing. Keep non-violence can not only prevent from giving the reason, but also can be gathered people’s attention by sympathy or empathy. Non-violent movement is seemed that it has power more than the movement with violence.

Recently, more and more social movements came to be non-violence, like anti-Iraq war movements and Arab spring. These movements could get achievement. However, when we think about the case of Japan, even though the movements are totally non-violence, they hardly achieve the goal. In my opinion, the difference is caused by smaller scale and less attention. Japanese movement is much smaller than that in the world, and too well- regulated. We rarely find the huge social movement enough to get overwhelmed, and rarely find the movement that becomes the obstacle to something. Moreover, Japanese have been too accustomed to non-violence, so non-violent movement could not get enough attention. I think the problem of less attention in Japan can be deal with expansion of scale that involving more and more people.

After all, non-violence is effective way for the movement, and non-violent social movement should be improved. If it becomes more fascinated and ingenious, the power of non-violence might come to be stronger.

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