June 17, 2009
I am completely floored by these scenes of silent protest in Iran. From an eyewitness report:
…the cry goes up: Shoar nagoo! Don’t shout slogans! Hands are up held up instead. It is quiet. Here and there a voice, unable to restrain itself, begins to scream “Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!” He is met instantly with hisses and whistles—-saket! saket! quiet! quiet!—-and the voice falls silent again.
Such calm confers dignity — and also utility, of course. Matthew Yglesias explains:
If you were to try to fight the security forces — shoot some policemen, say — you’d encourage a more serious crackdown. It’s through nonviolent resistance that you heighten the psychological contradictions, and encourage the regime and its enforcers to blink. From the Velvet Revolution to Tiananmen Square to the Orange Revolution to what’s happening today in Iran, the brave dissidents are essentially daring the security forces to beat or kill them.
If you haven’t read Unconquerable World by Jonathan Schell, now’s the time. It’s about, among other things, the world-shaking changes that have been wrought by nonviolence in the 20th century.
I don’t read too many books more than once; I’ve read this one three times. Schell is not — I need to emphasize this — not a pacifist, and he’s not naive. But even so, he looks at the evidence and concludes: There exists in the world an unstoppable force. And it looks something like this: