Nonviolence: A Response #4

Last week we briefly identified three tactics which in-groups use against out-groups, tactics which do harm.  Today, we look at two more.

Defensiveness emerges as the in-group establishes a “fortress mentality”–a further distancing from those whom the in-group has identified as dangerous.  Historically, defensiveness has manifested itself in two main ways: a compound system and a retributive legislative mentality.

When Britain wanted to dominate indigenous people groups in India they built compounds and established clubs where only in-group members could fellowship.  Out-group persons could be servant staff, but never members.  The popular PBS docu-drama, “Indian Summers,” captured this practice well.  In the civil-rights era in The United States the same mindset established white-only country clubs, civic clubs, schools, churches, department stores, lunch counters,etc.

To insure that the compounds were preserved, laws were passed by the in-groups that defined and limited access by the out-groups–with clear and swift punishment for any violations of those laws.  The most pervasive were voting-restriction laws passed by individual States even though a national voting rights act had been passed.  These included the requirement for Negroes to pass tests which were so detailed that a professor at Harvard Law School could not pass it–thus insuring that only a tiny percentage of African-Americans were allowed to vote.  And even the few who passed the test had to be approved by a white-only panel, further reducing those permitted to vote.  In addition to this, additional laws were in place that elevated the defensiveness through a judicial process that was weighed in favor of the white in-group. [See Note below]

A fifth in-group tactic is deliverance.  The distortion, danger, distance, and defensiveness all come together in leaders and groups who can “save the day” and “fix” whatever breaches of control the out-group attempted.  Subjugation over the course of history has almost always been engineered by an individual or small group (self-avowed or group elected) to insure the preservation of the in-group.

With these tactics at work–combined with the in-group’s assumption that the general public will never expend the energy or take the time to explore things on their own–the in-group now  has great potential to do harm toward the out-group through efforts to establish, maintain, or restore in-group power.  The in-group has produced the causes that make the response of nonviolent resistance necessary.  They have established a scenario which only leaves nonviolent resistance as an option for those who disagree.

With the context of in-group dominance in place, we are in a position to examine the principles and practices of nonviolence, which is the focus of this series.  Next week we will begin that exploration.

[Note–John Lewis describes the legislative/judicial system that preserved racism in his book, ‘Across That Bridge]

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Nonviolence: A Response #4

  1. Bob and Sue Brady says:

    Just wondering how you and Jeannie are doing. We are back at FUMCO for good and were wondering if you ever come here anymore when you’re in town. Hope to see you!

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