When I was a nonviolent soldier in the US civil rights movement, it was not exactly a majority activity. As a young student, I had little thought of being a hero or even someone who was particularly admirable. History does wonders for those who manage to gain victories by being in the right place at the right time.

Yes, I was in Nashville, Mississippi, Selma, Birmingham, and Chicago, but I have no laurels to rest on. There were lots of others who paid great prices and did more creative thinking and devised more ingenious means of trying to defeat the virus that is still sadly abroad. Racism, like other diseases we thought we had conquered, persists.

Because this is so, we need urgently to shelve the notion of nonviolence as the choice of the Kings and Gandhis among us. It should be our only choice, all of us. And it should not be that big a deal. Nonviolence is not being violent.

Triadic thoughts

Justice today signifies to many our system of justice, our legal system, and our prison system. If that is all that is signified, we are in deep trouble. Triadic understanding accepts three values that can be fruitfully applied to our justice system.

We see on TV images of a commercial prison enterprise that seems dedicated to promoting violence. That's partly because we are said to have an appetite for mayhem and to delight in images of prisoners doing each other in. Intolerable is the label that should be applied to a prison system that is punitive and commercial.

Helping

The second value, helpfulness, would be right on if prisons made their first order of business education and their next order of business enablement. These are the two aspects of helpfulness that give the most bang for the buck, to use the violent lingo we live with. Our entire Justice System has little sense that the job of justice is to assist people in becoming decent and contributing members of a universal humanity.

The third value is democracy and it seems threatened in a number of ways by our justice system. Rights are stripped from prisoners. Courts are stacked with justices whose qualifications are secondary to their willingness to serve the interests of a very small slice of our population, something under two percent. The application of tolerance, helpfulness, and democracy to our justice system is not encouraging.

What now?

Why then should triadic nonviolence be of any interest? Because we are reaching a binary impasse. We are facing social breakdowns due to factors that are predictable and dire. They have to do with binary conditions called wealth and poverty, climate and denial, and conflicts among nations and religions. These bear the prospect of nuclear incidents.

We must say a proper no to this and triadic nonviolence must be a starting point.

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